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Title: Is Polite Society Polite? - and Other Essays
Author: Howe, Julia Ward, 1819-1910
Language: English
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[Illustration: Photo of Julia Ward Howe


Yours very cordially,

Julia Ward Howe.]

Is Polite Society Polite?

And Other Essays


[Illustration: colophon]



Lamson, Wolffe, & Company


Copyright, 1895, By Lamson, Wolffe, & Co.

All rights reserved


I REMEMBER that, quite late in the fifties, I mentioned to Theodore
Parker the desire which I began to feel to give living expression to my
thoughts, and to lend to my written words the interpretation of my

Parker, who had taken a friendly interest in the publication of my first
volumes, "Passion Flowers" and "Words for the Hour," gave his approval
also to this new project of mine. "The great desire of the age," he
said, "is for vocal expression. People are scarcely satisfied with the
printed page alone: they crave for their instruction the living voice
and the living presence."

At the time of which I write, no names of women were found in the lists
of lecture courses. Lucy Stone had graduated from Oberlin, and was
beginning to be known as an advocate of temperance, and as an
antislavery speaker. Lucretia Mott had carried her eloquent pleading
outside the limits of her Quaker belonging. Antoinette Brown Blackwell
occupied the pulpit of a Congregational church, while Abby Kelly Foster
and the Grimke Sisters stood forth as strenuous pleaders for the
abolition of slavery. Of these ladies I knew little at the time of which
I speak, and my studies and endeavors occupied a field remote from that
in which they fought the good fight of faith. My thoughts ran upon the
importance of a helpful philosophy of life, and my heart's desire was to
assist the efforts of those who sought for this philosophy.

Gradually these wishes took shape in some essays, which I read to
companies of invited friends. Somewhat later, I entered the lecture
field, and journeyed hither and yon, as I was invited.

The papers collected in the present volume have been heard in many parts
of our vast country. As is evident, they have been written for popular
audiences, with a sense of the limitations which such audiences
necessarily impose. With the burthen of increasing years, the freedom of
locomotion naturally tends to diminish, and I must be thankful to be
read where I have in other days been heard. I shall be glad indeed if it
may be granted to these pages to carry the message which I myself have
been glad to bear,--the message of the good hope of humanity, despite
the faults and limitations of individuals.

That hope casts its light over the efforts of years that are past, and
gilds for me, with ineffaceable glow, the future of our race.

The lecture, "Is Polite Society Polite?" was written for a course of
lectures given some years ago by the New England Women's Club of Boston.
"Greece Revisited" was first read before the Town and Country Club of
Newport, R.I. "Aristophanes" and "Dante and Beatrice" were written for
the Summer School of Philosophy at Concord, Mass. "The Halfness of
Nature" was first read before the Boston Radical Club. "The Salon in
America" was written for the Contemporary Club in Philadelphia.



Is Polite Society Polite      Page 3

Paris      37

Greece Revisited      77

The Salon in America      113

Aristophanes      133

The Halfness of Nature      161

Dante and Beatrice      181

Is Polite Society Polite?

WHY do we ask this question? For reasons which I shall endeavor to make

The life in great cities awakens a multitude of ambitions. Some people
are very unscrupulous in following these ambitions, attaining their
object either by open force and pushing, or by artful and cunning
manœuvres. And so it will happen that in the society which considers
itself entitled to rank above all other circles one may meet with people
whose behavior is guided by no sincere and sufficient rule of conduct.
Observing their shortcomings, we may stand still and ask, Are these
people what they should be? Is polite society polite?

For this society, which is supposed to be nothing if not polite, does
assume, in every place, to set up the standard of taste and to regulate
the tone of manners. It aims to be what Hamlet once was in Ophelia's
eyes--"the glass of fashion and the mould of form." Its forms and
fashions change, of course, from age to age, and yet it is a steadfast
institution in the development of human civilization.

I should be sorry to overstate its shortcomings, but I wish I might help
it to feel its obligations and to fulfil them.

What shall we accept in the ordinary sense of men as politeness? Shall
we consider it a mere surface polish--an attitude expressive of
deference--corresponding to no inward grace of good feeling? Will you
like to live with the person who, in the great world, can put on fine
manners, but who, in the retirement of home, manifests the vulgarity of
a selfish heart and an undisciplined temper?

No, you will say; give me for my daily companions those who always wear
the best manners they have. For manners are not like clothes: you can
mend them best when you have them on.

We may say at the outset that sincerity is the best foundation upon
which to build the structure of a polite life. The affectation of
deference does not impose upon people of mature experience. It carries
its own contradiction with it. When I hear the soft voice, a little too
soft, I look into the face to see whether the two agree. But I need
scarcely do that. The voice itself tells the story, is sincere or
insincere. Flattery is, in itself, an offence against politeness. It is
oftenest administered to people who are already suffering the
intoxication of vanity. When I see this, I wish that I could enforce a
prohibitory ordinance against it, and prosecute those who use it mostly
to serve their own selfish purposes. But people can be trained never to
offer nor to receive this dangerous drug of flattery, and I think that,
in all society which can be called good, it becomes less and less the
mode to flavor one's dishes with it.

Having spoken of flattery, I am naturally led to say a word about its
opposite, detraction.

The French have a witty proverb which says that "the absent are always
in the wrong," and which means that the blame for what is amiss is
usually thrown upon those who are not present to defend themselves. It
seems to me that the rules of politeness are to be as carefully observed
toward the absent as toward those in whose company we find ourselves.
The fact that they cannot speak in their own defence is one which should
appeal to our nicest sense of honor. Good breeding, or its reverse, is
as much to be recognized in the way in which people speak of others as
in the way in which they speak to them.

Have we not all felt the tone of society to be lowered by a low view of
the conduct and motives of those who are made the subjects of

Those unfortunate men and women who delight in talk of this sort always
appear to me degraded by it. No matter how clever they may be, I avoid
their society, which has in it a moral malaria most unwholesome in

I am glad to say that, although frivolous society constantly shows its
low estimate of human nature, I yet think that the gay immolation of
character which was once considered a legitimate source of amusement
has gone somewhat out of fashion. Sheridan's "School for Scandal" gives
us some notion of what this may once have been. I do think that the
world has grown more merciful in later years, and that even people who
meet only for their own amusement are learning to seek it without
murdering the reputation of their absent friends.

There is a mean impulse in human nature which leads some people to toss
down the reputation of their fellows just as the Wall Street bear tosses
down the value of the investments whose purchase he wishes to command at
his own price. But in opposition to this, God has set within us a power
which reacts against such base estimates of mankind. The utterance of
this false tone often calls out the better music, and makes us admire
the way in which good springs up in the very footsteps of evil and
effaces them as things of nought.

Does intercourse with great society make us more or less polite?
Elizabeth Browning says:--

    First time he kissed me he but only kissed
    The fingers of this hand wherewith I write,
    Which ever thence did grow more clean and white,
    Slow to world greetings, quick with its "Oh, list,"
    When the angels speak.

This clearly expresses the sanctification of a new and noble interest.
How is it with those on whom the great world has set its seal of
superior position, which is derived from a variety of sources, among
which wealth, recognized talent, and high descent are the most

I must say in answer that this social recognition does not affect all
people in the same manner. One passes the ordeal unscathed, is as fresh
in affection, as genuine in relation and intercourse, as faithful to
every fine and true personal obligation in the fiery furnace of wealth
and fashion and personal distinction as he or she was in the simple
village or domestic life, in which there was no question of greatness or
smallness, all being of nearly the same dimensions.

The great world may boast of its jewels which no furnace blast can melt
or dim, but they are rare. Madame de Staël and Madame Récamier seem to
have been among these undimmed gems; so, also, was Madame de Sévigné,
with a heart warm with love for her children and her friends in all the
dazzle of a brilliant court. So I have seen a vessel of the finest
glass, thin as paper, which a chemist left over his spirit-lamp, full of
boiling liquid, and, returning the next day, found uninjured, so perfect
was the temper of the glass. But for one such unspoiled world-favorite,
I can show you twenty men and women who, at the first lift of fortune,
forsake their old friends, neglect their near relations, and utterly
ignore their poor ones.

Romance is full of such shameful action; and let me say here, in
passing, that in my opinion Romance often wears off our horror of what
is wicked and heartless by showing it as a permanent and recognized
element of society. This is the reverse of what it should do. But in
these days it so exceeds its office in the hunt after the exhausted
susceptibilities of a novel-reading public that it really thumps upon
our aversion to vice until it wears it out.

De Balzac's novel called "Father Goriot" tells the story of a man of
humble origin who grows rich by trade, educates his daughters for
fashionable life, marries them to men of condition, portions them
abundantly, and is in return kept carefully out of what the world knows
of their lives. They seek him only when they want money, which they
always do, in spite of the rich dowry settled on them at their marriage.
_Father Goriot_ sells his last piece of silver to help them, and dies in
a low boarding-house, tended by the charity of strangers, tormented to
the last by the bickering of his children, but not cheered for one
moment by their affection.

I have heard on good authority that people of wealth and position in our
large cities sometimes deposit their aged and helpless parents in
asylums where they may have all that money can buy for them, but nothing
of what gratitude and affection should give them. How detestable such a
course is I need not say; my present business is to say that it is far
from polite.

Apropos of this suggestion, I remember that I was once invited to read
this essay to a village audience in one of the New England States. My
theme was probably one quite remote from the general thought of my
hearers. As I went on, their indifference began to affect me, and my
thought was that I might as well have appealed to a set of wooden
tenpins as to those who were present on that occasion.

In this, I afterwards learned that I was mistaken. After the conclusion
of the evening's exercise, a young man, well known in the community, was
heard to inquire urgently where he could find the lecturer. Friends
asked, what did he want of her? He replied: "Well, I did put my brother
in the poorhouse, and now that I have heard Mrs. Howe, I suppose that I
must take him out."

Need I say that I felt myself amply repaid for the trouble I had taken?
On the other hand, this same theme was once selected from my list by a
lecture association in a small town buried in the forests of the far
West. As I surveyed my somewhat home-spun audience, I feared that a
discussion of the faults of polite society would interest my hearers
very little. I was surprised after my reading to hear, from more than
one of those present, that this lecture appeared to them the very thing
that was most needed in that place.

There is to my mind something hideous in the concealment and disregard
of real connections which involve real obligations.

If you are rich, take up your poor relations. Assist them at least to
find the way of earning a competence. Use the power you have to bring
them within the sphere of all that is refining. You can embellish the
world to them and them to the world. Do so, and you will be respected by
those whose respect is valuable. On the contrary, repudiate those who
really belong to you and the mean world itself will laugh at you and
despise you. It is clever and cunning enough to find out your secret,
and when it has done so, it will expose you pitilessly.

I have known men and women whose endeavors and successes have all been
modelled upon the plane of social ambition. Starting with a good
common-school education, which is a very good thing to start with, they
have improved opportunities of culture and of desirable association
until they stand conspicuous, far away from the sphere of their village
or homemates, having money to spend, able to boast of wealthy
acquaintances, familiar guests at fashionable entertainments.

Now sometimes these individuals wander so far away from their original
belongings that these latter are easily lost sight of. And I assure you
that they are left in the dark, in so far as concerns the actions of
the friends we are now considering. Many a painstaking mother at a
distance, many a plain but honest old father, many a sister working in a
factory to help a brother at college, is never spoken of by such
persons, and is even thought of with a blush of shame and annoyance.

Oh! shame upon the man or woman of us who is guilty of such behavior as
this! These relatives are people to be proud of, as we should know if we
had the heart to know what is true, good, and loyal. Even were it not
so, were your relative a criminal, never deny the bond of nature. Stand
beside him in the dock or at the gallows. You have illustrious precedent
for such association in one whom men worship, but forget to imitate.

Let me here relate a little story of my early years. I had a nursery
governess when I was a small child. She came from some country town, and
probably regarded her position in my father's family as a promotion. One
evening, while we little folks gathered about her in our nursery, she
wept bitterly. "What is the matter?" we asked; and she took me up in her
lap, and said: "My poor old father came here to see me to-day, and I
would not see him. I bade them tell him that he had mistaken the house,
and he went away, and as he went I saw him looking up at the windows so
wistfully!" Poor woman! We wept with her, feeling that this was indeed
a tragical event, and not knowing what she could do to make it better.

But could I see that woman now, I would say to her: "If you were serving
the king at his table, and held his wine-cup in your hand, and your
father stood without, asking for you, you should set down the cup, and
go out from the royal presence to honor your father, so much the more if
he is poor, so much the more if he is old." And all that is really
polite in polite society would say so too.

Now this action which I report of my governess corresponds to something
in human nature, and to something which polite society fosters.

For polite society bases itself upon exclusions. In this it partly
appeals to that antagonism of our nature through which the desire to
possess something is greatly exaggerated by the difficulty of becoming
possessed of it. If every one can come to your house, no one, you think,
will consider it a great object of desire to go there. Theories of
supply and demand come in here. People would gladly destroy things that
give pleasure, in order to enhance their value in the hands of the few.

I once heard a lady, herself quite new in society, say of a Parisian
dame who had shown her some attention: "Ah! the trouble with Madame----
is that she is too good-natured. She entertains everybody." "Indeed,"
thought I, "if she had been less good-natured, is it certain that she
would have entertained you?"

But of course the justifiable side of exclusion is choice, selection of
one's associates. No society can confer the absolute right or power to
make this selection. Tiresome and unacceptable people are everywhere
entangled in relations with wise and agreeable ones. There is no bore
nor torment who has not the right to incommode some fireside or assembly
with his or her presence. You cannot keep wicked, foolish, tiresome,
ugly people out of society, however you and your set may delight in good
conduct, grace, and beauty. You cannot keep poor people out of the
society of the rich. Those whom you consider your inferiors feed your
cherished stomach, and drape your sacred person, and stand behind your
chair at your feasts, judging your manners and conversation.

Let us remember Mr. Dickens's story of "Little Dorrit," in which _Mr.
Murdle_, a new-rich man, sitting with guests at his own sumptuous table,
is described as dreading the disapprobation of his butler. This he might
well do, as the butler was an expert, well aware of the difference
between a gentleman of breeding and education and a worldling, lifted by
the possession of wealth alone.

Very genial in contrast with this picture appears the response of
Abraham Lincoln, who, on being asked by the head waiter at his first
state dinner whether he would take white wine or red, replied: "I don't
know; which would you?"

Well, what can society do, then? It can decree that those who come of a
certain set of families, that those who have a certain education, and
above all, a certain income, shall associate together on terms of
equality. And with this decree there comes to foolish human nature a
certain irrational desire to penetrate the charmed circle so formed.

The attempt to do this encounters resistance; there is pushing in and
shoving out,--coaxing and wheedling on the one hand, and cold denial or
reluctant assent on the other. So a fight is perpetually going on in the
realm of fashion. Those not yet recognized are always crowding in. Those
first in occupation are endeavoring to crowd these out. In the end,
perseverance usually conquers.

But neither of these processes is polite--neither the crowding in nor
the crowding out--and this last especially, as many of those who are in
were once out, and are trying to keep other people from doing what they
themselves have been very glad to do. In Mr. Thackeray's great romance,
"The Newcomes," young _Ethel Newcome_ asks her grandmother, _Lady Kew_,
"Well then, grandmother, who is of a good family?" And the old lady
replies: "Well, my dear, mostly no one." But I would reply: Mostly
every one, if people are disposed to make their family good.

There is an obvious advantage in society's possession of a recognized
standard of propriety in general deportment; but the law of good
breeding should nowhere be merely formal, nor should its application be
petty and captious. The externals of respectability are most easily aped
when they are of the permanent and stereotyped kind, and may be used to
conceal gross depravity; while the constant, fresh, gracious inspiration
of a pure, good heart is unmistakable, and cannot be successfully

On the other hand, young persons should be desirous to learn the opinion
of older ones as to what should and should not be done on the ground of
general decorum and good taste. Youth is in such hot haste to obtain
what it desires that it often will not wait to analyze the spirit of an
occasion, but classes opposition to its inclinations as prejudice and
antiquated superstition. But the very individual who in youth thus
scoffs at restraint often pays homage to it in later days, having
meanwhile ascertained the weighty reasons which underlie the whole law
of reserve upon which the traditions of good society are based.

How much trouble, then, might it save if the young people, as a rule,
were to come to the elders and ask at least why this thing or that is
regarded as unbecoming or of doubtful propriety. And how much would it
assist this good understanding if the elders, to the last, were careful
to keep up with the progress of the time, examining tendencies, keeping
a vigilant eye upon fashions, books, and personages, and, above all,
encouraging the young friends to exercise their own powers of
discrimination in following usages and customs, or in departing from

This last suggestion marks how far the writer of these pages is behind
the progress of the age. In her youth, it was customary for sons and
daughters both to seek and to heed the counsel of elders in social
matters. In these days, a grandmother must ask her granddaughter whether
such or such a thing is considered "good form," to which the latter will
often reply, "O dear! no."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is sad that we should carry all the barbarism of our nature into our
views of the divine, and make our form of faith an occasion of ill-will
to others, instead of drawing from it the inspiration of a wide and
comprehensive charity. The world's Christianity is greatly open to this
accusation, in dealing with which we are forced to take account of the
slow rate of human progress.

A friend lately told me of a pious American, familiar in Hong Kong, who
at the close of his last visit there, took a formal and eternal leave
of one of the principal native merchants with whom he had long been
acquainted. Mr. C---- alluded to his advanced age, and said that it was
almost certain he could never return to China. "We shall not meet again
in this world," he said, "and as you have never embraced the true
religion, I can have no hope of meeting you in a better one."

I ask whether this was polite, from one sinner to another?

A stupid, worldly old woman of fashion in one of our large cities once
said of a most exemplary acquaintance, a liberal Christian saint of
thirty years or more ago: "I am very fond of Mrs. S---- but she is a
Unitarian. What a pity we cannot hope to meet in heaven!" The wicked
bystanders had their own view of the reason why this meeting would
appear very improbable.

What shall we say of the hospitality which in some churches renders each
man and woman the savage guardian of a seat or pew? Is this God's house
to you, when you turn with fury on a stranger who exercises a stranger's
right to its privileges? Whatever may be preached from the pulpit of
such a church, there is not much of heaven in the seats so maintained
and defended. I remember an Episcopal church in one of our large cities
which a modest looking couple entered one Sunday, taking seats in an
unoccupied pew near the pulpit. And presently comes in the plumed head
of the family, followed by its other members. The strangers are warned
to depart, which they do, not without a smile of suppressed amusement.
The church-woman afterwards learned that the persons whom she had turned
out of her pew were the English ambassador and his wife, the
accomplished Lord and Lady Napier.

St. Paul tells us that in an unknown guest we may entertain an angel
unawares. But I will say that in giving way to such evil impulses,
people entertain a devil unawares.

Polite religion has to do both with manners and with doctrine. Tolerance
is the external condition of this politeness, but charity is its
interior source. A doctrine which allows and encourages one set of men
to exclude another set from claim to the protection and inspiration of
God is in itself impolite. Christ did not reproach the Jews for holding
their own tenets, but for applying these tenets in a superficial and
narrow spirit, neglecting to practise true devotion and benevolence, and
refusing to learn the providential lessons which the course of time
should have taught them. At this day of the world, we should all be
ready to admit that salvation lies not so much in the prescriptions of
any religion as in the spirit in which these are followed.

It is the fashion to-day to decry missions. I believe in them greatly.
But a missionary should start with a polite theory concerning the
religion which he hopes to supersede by the introduction of one more
polite. If he studies rightly, he will see that all religions seek after
God, and will imitate the procedure of Paul, who, before instructing the
Athenians in the doctrines of the new religion, was careful to recognize
the fact that they had a religion of their own.

I wish to speak here of the so-called rudeness of reform; and to say
that I think we should call this roughness rather than rudeness. A true
reformer honors human nature by recognizing in it a higher power than is
shown in its average action. The man or woman who approaches you, urging
upon you a more fervent faith, a more impartial justice, a braver
resolve than you find in your own mind, comes to you really in
reverence, and not in contempt. Such a person sees in you the power and
dignity of manhood or womanhood, of which you, perhaps, have an
insufficient sense. And he will strike and strike until he finds in you
that better nature, that higher sense to which he appeals, and which in
the end is almost sure to respond to such appealing.

I remember having thought in my youth that the Presbyterian preacher,
John Knox, was probably very impolite in his sermons preached before
poor Queen Mary Stuart. But when we reflect upon the follies which, more
than aught else, wrecked her unhappy life, we may fancy the stern divine
to have seen whither her love of pleasure and ardent temperament would
lead her, and to have striven, to the best of his knowledge and power,
to pluck her as a brand from the burning, and to bring her within the
sober sphere of influence and reflection which might have saved her
kingdom and her life.

With all its advances, society still keeps some traces of its original
barbarism. I see these traces in the want of respect for labor, where
this want exists, and also in the position which mere Fashion is apt to
assign to teachers in the community.

That those who must be intellectually looked up to should be socially
looked down upon is, to say the least, very inconsistent. That the
performance of the helpful offices of the household should be held as
degrading to those who perform them is no less so. We must seek the
explanation of these anomalies in the distant past. When the handiwork
of society was performed by slaves, the world's estimate of labor was
naturally lowered. In the feudal and military time, the writer ranked
below the fighter, and the skill of learning below the prowess of arms.
The mind of to-day has only partially outgrown this very rude standard
of judgment. I was asked, some fifteen years ago, in England, by people
of education, whether women teachers ranked in America with ladies or
with working women. I replied: "With ladies, certainly," which seemed to
occasion surprise.

I remember having heard that a relative of Theodore Parker's wife, who
disliked him, would occasionally taunt him with having kept school. She
said to him one day: "My father always told me to avoid a schoolmaster."
Parker replied: "It is evident that you have."

I think that as Americans we should all feel an especial interest in the
maintenance of polite feeling in our community. The theory of a
government of the people, by the people, and for the people is in itself
the most polite of theories. The fact that under such a government no
man has a position of absolute inferiority forced upon him for life
ought to free us from mean subserviency on the one hand, and from
haughty and brutal assumption on the other.

Yet I doubt whether politeness is as much considered in American
education as it ought to be. Perhaps our theory of the freedom and
equality of all men leads some of us to the mistaken conclusion that all
people equally know how to behave themselves, which is far from being
the fact.

One result of our not being well instructed in the nature of politeness
is that we go to the wrong sources to learn it. People who have been
modestly bred think they shall acquire fine manners by consorting with
the world's great people, and in this way often unlearn what they
already know of good manners, instead of adding to their knowledge.

Rich Americans seem latterly to have taken on a sort of craze about the
aristocracies of other countries. One form of this craze is the desire
of ambitious parents to marry their daughters to titled individuals
abroad. When we consider that these counts, marquises, and barons
scarcely disguise the fact that the young lady's fortune is the object
of their pursuit, and that the young lady herself is generally aware of
this, we shall not consider marriage under such circumstances a very
polite relation.

What does make our people polite, then? Partly the inherited blood of
men who would not submit to the rude despotism of old England and old
Europe, and who thought a better state of society worth a voyage in the
_Mayflower_ and a tussle with the wild forest and wilder Indian. Partly,
also, the necessity of the case. As we recognize no absolute social
superiority, no one of us is entirely at liberty to assume airs of
importance which do not belong to him. No matter how selfish we may be,
it will not do for us to act upon the supposition that the comfort of
other people is of less consequence than our own. If we are rude, our
servants will not live with us, our tradespeople will not serve us.

This is good as far as it goes, but I wish that I could oftener see in
our young people a desire to know what is perfectly and beautifully
polite. And I feel sure that more knowledge in this direction would
save us from the vulgarity of worshipping rank and wealth.

Who have been the polite spirits of our day? I can mention two of them,
Mr. Longfellow and Mr. Emerson, as persons in whose presence it was
impossible to be rude. But our young people of to-day consider the great
fortunes rather than the great examples.

In order to be polite, it is important to cultivate polite ways of
thinking. Great social troubles and even crimes grow out of rude and
selfish habits of mind. Let us take the case of the Anarchists who were
executed in Chicago some years ago. Before their actions became wicked,
their thoughts became very impolite. They were men who had to work for
their living. They wanted to be so rich that they should not be under
this necessity. Their mode of reasoning was something like this: "I want
money. Who has got it? The capitalist. What protects him in keeping it?
The laws. Down with the laws, then!"

He who reasons thus forgets, foolish man, that the laws protect the poor
as well as the rich. The laws compel the capitalist to make roads for
the use of the poor man, and to build schoolhouses for the education of
his children. They make the person of the poor man as sacred as that of
the rich man. They secure to both the enjoyment of the greatest
benefits of civilization. The Anarchist puts all this behind him, and
only reasons that he, being poor, wants to be rich, and will overthrow,
if he can, the barriers which keep him from rushing like a wild beast
upon the rich man and despoiling him of his possessions.

And this makes me think of that noble man Socrates, whom the Athenians
sentenced to death for impiety, because he taught that there was one
God, while the people about him worshipped many deities. Some of the
friends of this great man made a plan for his escape from prison to a
place of safety. But Socrates refused to go, saying that the laws had
hitherto protected him as they protected other citizens, and that it
would be very ungrateful for him to show them the disrespect of running
away to evade their sentence. He said: "It is better for me to die than
to set the example of disrespect to the laws." How noble were these
sentiments, and how truly polite!

Whoever brings up his children to be sincere, self-respecting, and
considerate of others brings them up to good manners. Did you ever see
an impolite Quaker? I never did. Yet the Friends are a studiously plain
people, no courtiers nor frequenters of great entertainments. What makes
them polite? The good education and discipline which are handed down
among them from one generation to another.

The eminent men of our own early society were simple in their way of
living, but when public duty called them abroad to mingle with the
elegant people of the Old World, they did us great credit. Benjamin
Franklin was much admired at the court of Louis XVI. Jay and Jefferson
and Morris and Adams found their manners good enough to content the
highest European society. They were educated men; but besides
book-learning, and above it, they had been bred to have the thoughts
and, more than all, the feelings of gentlemen.

The assumption of special merit, either by an individual or a class, is
not polite. We notice this fault when some dressy young lady puts on
airs, and struts in fine clothes, or condescends from an elegant
carriage. Elder women show it in hardness and hauteur of countenance, or
in unnecessary patronage.

But we allow classes of people to assume special merit on false grounds.
It may very easily be shown that it requires more talent and merit to
earn money than to spend it. Yet, by almost common consent of the
fashionable world, those who inherit or marry money are allowed to place
themselves above those who earn it.

If this is the case so far as men are concerned, much more is it the
case with women. Good society often feels itself obliged to apologize
for a lady who earns money. The fact, however explained, is a badge of
discredit. She could not help it, poor thing! Her father failed, or her
trustee lost the investments made for her. He usually does. So she
has--oh, sad alternative!--to make herself useful.

Now in America the judgment of the Old World in this respect has come to
be somewhat reversed. We do not like idle inheritors here; and so the
moneyed aristocracy of our country is a tolerably energetic and
industrious body. But in the case of womankind, I could wish to see a
very different standard adopted from that now existing. I could wish
that the fact of an idle and useless life should need apology--not that
of a laborious and useful one. Idleness is a pregnant source of
demoralization to rich women. The hurry and excitement of fashionable
engagements, and the absorbing nature of entirely selfish and useless
pursuits, such as dancing, dress, and flirtation, cannot take the place
of healthful work. Dr. Watts warns us that

    Satan finds some mischief still
    For idle hands to do.

And Tennyson has some noble lines in one of his noblest poems:--

    I know you, Clara Vere de Vere,
    You pine among your halls and towers;
    The languid light of your proud eyes
    Is wearied of the rolling hours.
    In glowing health, with boundless wealth,
    But sickening of a vague disease,
    You know so ill to deal with time,
    You needs must play such pranks as these.

As I am speaking of England, I will say that some things in the
constitution of English society seem to tend to impoliteness.

The English are a most powerful and energetic race, with immense
vitality, cruelly divided up in their own country by absolute social
conditions, handed down from generation to generation. So a sense of
superiority, more or less lofty and exaggerated, characterizes the upper
classes, while the lower partly rest in a dogged compliance, partly
indulge the blind instinct of reverence, partly detest and despise those
whom birth and fate have set over them. In England, people assert their
own rank and look down upon that of others all the way from the throne
to the peasant's hut. I asked an English visitor, the other day, what
inferior the lowest man had,--the man at the bottom of the social pile.
I answered him myself: "His wife, of course."

Where worldliness gives the tone to character, it corrupts the source of
good manners, and the outward polish is purchased by the inward
corruption of the heart. The crucial experiment of character is found in
the transition from modest competency to conspicuous wealth and fashion.
Most of us may desire this; but I should rather say: Dread it. I have
seen such sweetness and beauty impaired by the process, such
relinquishment of the genuine, such gradual adoption of the false and

Such was a house in which I used to meet all the muses of the earlier
time,--in which economy was elegant; frugality, tasteful and thrifty. My
heart recalls the golden hours passed there, the genial, home
atmosphere, the unaffected music, the easy, brilliant conversation. Time
passes. A or B is the head of a great mercantile house now. I meet him
after a lapse of years. He is always genial, and pities all who are not
so rich as he is. But when I go to his great feast, I pity him. All the
tiresome and antiquated furniture of fashionable society fills his
rooms. Those empty bores whom I remember in my youth, and many new ones
of their kind, float their rich clothing through his rooms. The old
good-hearted greeting is replaced by the distant company bow. The
moderate banquet, whose special dishes used to have the care of the
young hostess, is replaced by a grand confectioner's avalanche, cold,
costly, and comfortless. And I sigh, and go home feeling, as Browning
says, "chilly and grown old."

This is not one case, but many. And since I have observed this page of
human experience, I say to all whom I love and who are in danger of
becoming very wealthy: Do not, oh! do not be too fashionable. "Love not
the world."

Most of us know the things men really say to us beneath the disguise of
the things they seem to say. And So-and-So, taking my hand, expresses to
me: "How much more cordial should I be to you if your father's real
estate had not been sold off before the rise." And such another would,
if he could, say: "I am really surprised to see you at this house, and
in such good clothes. Pray have you any income that I don't happen to
know about?" The tax-gatherer is not half so vigilant about people's
worldly goods as these friends are. No matter how they bow and smile,
their real impoliteness everywhere penetrates its thin disguise.

What is this impoliteness? To what is it shown? To God's image,--the
true manhood and true womanhood, which you may strip or decorate, but
which you cannot destroy. Human values cannot be raised or lowered at
will. "Thou canst not, by taking thought, add one cubit to thy stature."
I derive impoliteness from two sources,--indifference to the divine, and
contempt for the human.

The king of Wall Street, some little time since, was a man who had risen
from a humble beginning to the eminence of a successful stock-gambler.
He had been fortunate and perhaps skilful in his play, and was supposed
to be possessed of immense wealth. Immediately, every door was opened to
him. No assemblage was perfect without him. Every designing mother
wanted him for her son-in-law. One unlucky throw overturned all this.
Down went his fortune; down, his eminence. No more bowing and cringing
and smiling now. No more plotting against his celibacy--he was welcome
to it. No more burthensome hospitality. He was dropped as coldly and
selfishly as he was taken up,--elbowed aside, left out in the cold. When
I heard of all this, I said: "Is it ever necessary in these times to
preach about the meanness of the great world?"

Let us, in our new world, lay aside altogether the theory of human
superiority as conferred by special birth or fortune. Let us recognize
in all people human right, capacity, and dignity.

Having adopted this equal human platform, and with it the persuasion
that the society of good people is always good society, let us organize
our circles by real tastes and sympathies. Those who love art can follow
it together; those who love business, and science, and theology, and
belles-lettres, can group themselves harmoniously around the object
which especially attracts them.

But people shall, in this new order, seek to fill their own place as
they find it. No crowding up or down, or in or out. A quiet reference to
the standard of education and to the teachings of Nature will show each
one where he belongs. Religion shall show the supreme source of power
and of wisdom near to all who look for it. And this final unity of the
religious sense shall knit together the happy human variety into one
great complex interest, one steadfast faith, one harmonious effort.

The present essay, I must say, was written in great part for this very
society which, assuming to take the lead in social attainment, often
falls lamentably short of its promise. But let us enlarge the ground of
our remarks by a more general view of American society.

I have travelled in this country North and South, East and West. I have
seen many varieties of our national life. I think that I have seen
everywhere the capacity for social enjoyment. In many places, I have
found the notion of co-operation for good ends, which is a most
important element in any society. What I have seen makes me think that
we Americans start from a vantage-ground compared with other nations. As
mere social units, we are ranked higher than Britons or continental

This higher estimation begins early in life. Every child in this country
is considered worth educating. The State will rescue the child of the
pauper or criminal from the ignorance which has been a factor in the
condition of its parents. Even the idiot has a school provided for him,
in which he may receive such training as he can profit by. This general
education starts us on a pretty high level. We have, no doubt, all the
faults of our human nature, but we know, too, how and why these should
be avoided.

Then the great freedom of outlook which our institutions give us is in
our favor. We need call no man Master. We can pursue the highest aims,
aspire to the noblest distinctions. We have no excuse for contenting
ourselves with the paltry objects and illusory ambitions which play so
large a part in Old-World society.

The world grows better and not worse, but it does not grow better
everywhere all the time. Wherever human effort to a given end is
intermitted, society does not attain that end, and is in danger of
gradually losing it from view, and thus of suffering an unconscious
deterioration which it may become difficult to retrieve. I do not think
that the manners of so-called polite society to-day are quite so polite
as they were in my youth. Young women of fashion seem to me to have lost
in dignity of character and in general tone and culture. Young men of
fashion seem to regard the young ladies with less esteem and deference,
and a general cheap and easy standard of manners is the result.

On the other hand, outside this charmed circle of fashion, I find the
tone of taste and culture much higher than I remember it to have been in
my youth. I find women leading nobler and better lives, filling larger
and higher places, enjoying the upper air of thought where they used to
rest upon the very soil of domestic care and detail. So the community
gains, although one class loses,--and that, remember, the class which
assumes to give to the rest the standard of taste.

Instead of dwelling too much upon the faults of our neighbors, let us
ask whether we are not, one and all of us, under sacred obligations to
carry our race onward toward a nobler social ideal. In Old-World
countries, people lack room for new ideas. The individual who would
introduce and establish these may be imprisoned, or sent to Siberia, or
may suffer, at the least, a social ostracism which is a sort of

Here we have room enough; we cannot excuse ourselves on that ground. And
we have strength enough--we, the people. Let us only have the _royal_
will which good Mr. Whittier has celebrated in "Barbara Frietchie," and
we shall be able, by a resolute and persevering effort, to place our
civilization where no lingering trace of barbarism shall deform and
disgrace it.


AN old woman's tale will always begin with a reminiscence of some period
more or less remote.

In accordance with this law of nature, I find that I cannot begin to
speak of Paris without going back to the projection which the fashions
and manners of that ancient capital were able to cast upon my own native
city of New York. My recollections of the latter reach back, let me say,
to the year 1826. I was then seven years old; and, beginning to take
notice of things around me, I saw the social eminences of the day lit up
with the far-off splendors of Parisian taste.

To speak French with ease was, in those days, considered the most
desirable of accomplishments. The elegance of French manners was
commended in all polite circles. The services of General Lafayette were
held up to children as deserving their lifelong remembrance and

But the culmination of the _Gallomania_ was seen in the millinery of the
period; and I must confess that my earliest views of this were enjoyed
within the precincts of a certain Episcopal sanctuary which then stood
first upon the dress-list, and, like Jove among the gods, without a
second. This establishment retained its pre-eminence of toilet for more
than thirty years after the time of which I speak, and perhaps does so
still. I have now lived so long in Boston that I should be obliged to
consult New York authorities if I wished to be able to say decidedly
whether the well-known Grace Church of that city still deserves to be
called "The Church of the Holy Milliner." A little child's fancy
naturally ran riot in a field of bonnets so splendid and showy, and,
however admonished to listen to the minister, I am afraid that a raid
upon the flowers and plumes so lavishly displayed before me would have
offered more attractions to my tender mind than any itinerary of the
celestial journey of which I should have been likely to hear in that

The French dancing-master of that period taught us gambols and
flourishes long since banished from the domain of social decorum. Being
light and alert, I followed his prescriptions with joy, and learned with
patience the lessons set me by the French mistress, who, while leading
us through Florian's tales and La Fontaine's fables, did not forget to
impress upon us her conviction that to be French was to be virtuous, but
to be Parisian was to be perfect.

Let me now pass on to the years of my youngladyhood, when New York
reflected Paris on a larger scale. The distinguished people of the
society to which my youth was related either had been to Paris or
expected to go there very shortly. Our circles were sometimes
electrified by the appearance of a well-dressed and perfumed stranger,
wearing the moustache which was then strictly contraband in the New York
business world, and talking of manners and customs widely different from
our own.

These elegant gentlemen were sometimes adventurers in pursuit of a rich
wife, sometimes intelligent and well-informed travellers, and sometimes
the agents of some foreign banking-house, for the drummer was not yet
invented. If they were furnished with satisfactory credentials, the
fathers of Gotham introduced them into their domestic circle, usually
warning their daughters never to think of them as husbands,--a warning
which, naturally, would sometimes defeat its own object.

I must here be allowed to say one word concerning the French novel,
which, since that time, has here and there affected the tone of our
society. In the days of which I speak, brothers who returned from Europe
brought with them the romances of Balzac and Victor Hugo, which their
sisters surreptitiously read. We heard also with a sort of terror of
George Sand, the evil woman, who wrote such somnambulic books. We
pictured to ourselves the wicked delight of reading them; and presently
some friend confidentially lent us the forbidden volumes, which our
Puritan nurture and habit of life did much to render harmless and not
quite clear in meaning.

I should say that the works of Balzac, George Sand, Victor Hugo, and
Eugène Sue had each exerted an appreciable influence upon the social
atmosphere of this country. Of these four, Balzac was the least popular,
having long been known only to readers acquainted with the French
language. George Sand first became widely recognized through her
"Consuelo." Victor Hugo's popular fame dates from "Les Miserables," and
"The Mysteries of Paris" opened the doors to Eugène Sue, and _Rigolette_
and _Fleur de Marie_, new types of character to most of us, appeared
upon the stage.

Still nearer was Paris brought to us by Carlyle's work on the French
Revolution, which, falling like a compact and burning coal upon the
American imagination, reddened the sober twilight of our firesides with
the burning passion and frenzy of that great drama of enthusiasm and
revenge. And here, lest I should entirely reverse the order in which
historic things should be spoken of, let me dismiss those early
memories, and, having shown you something of the far-reaching influence
of the city, let me speak of it from nearer sight and study.

History must come first. I find it written in a certain record that
Paris, in the time of Julius Cæsar, was a collection of huts built upon
an island in the Seine, and bearing the name of Lutetia. Its
inhabitants were called Parisii, which was the name of their tribe,
supposed to be an offshoot from the Belgæ. I do not know whether this
primitive settlement lay within the bounds of Gallia _Bracchiata_; but,
if it did, how natural that to the other indebtedness of polite life,
that of the trouser should be added! The city still possesses some
interesting remains of the Roman period. The Hotel Cluny is also called
"The Hotel of the Baths," and whoever visits it may at the same time
explore a massive ruin which is said to have covered beneath its roof
the baths of the Emperor Julian, surnamed "The Apostate."

A rapid panoramic retrospect will give us briefly the leading points of
the city's many periods of interest. First must be named Paris of the
early saints: Saint Genevieve, who saved it from the hands of Attila;
Saint Denis, famous for having walked several miles after his head was
cut off, carrying that deposed member under his arm.

A well-known French proverb was suggested some time in the last century
by the relation of this mediæval miracle. The celebrated Madame
Dudeffant, a wit and beauty of Horace Walpole's time, was told one day
that the Archbishop of Paris had said that every one knew that Saint
Denis had walked some distance after his decapitation, but that few
people were aware that he had walked several miles on that occasion.
Madame Dudeffant said, in reply: "Indeed, in such a case, it is the
first step only that costs,"--_"Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte."_

Paris of the sleepy Merovingians,--do-nothing kings, a race made to be
kicked out, and fulfilling its destiny,--Paris of Hugh Capet, in whose
reign were laid the foundations of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Paris of
1176, whereof the old chronicler, John of Salisbury, writes: "When I saw
the abundance of provisions, the gaiety of the people, the good
condition of the clergy, the majesty and glory of all the church, the
diverse occupations of men admitted to the study of philosophy, I seemed
to see that Jacob's ladder whose summit reached heaven, and on which the
angels ascended and descended. I must confess that truly the Lord was in
this place. This passage also of a poet came to my mind: 'Happy is the
man whose exile is to this place.'"

This suggests the familiar saying of our own time,--that good
Bostonians, when they die, go to Paris.

Paris of Louis XI., he of the strong hand, the stony heart, the
superstitious mind. Scott has seized the features of the time and of the
man in his novel of "Quentin Durward." His hat, full of leaden images of
saints, his cunning and pitiless diplomacy, and the personages of his
brilliant court are brought vividly before us by the magician of the

Paris of Louis XIII., and its Richelieu live for us in Bulwer's vivid
play, in which I have often seen the fine impersonation of Edwin Booth.

Paris of Louis XIV., the handsome young king, the idol, the absolute
sovereign, who said: _"L'état, c'est moi;"_ the old man before whom
Madame de Maintenon is advised to say her prayers, in order to make upon
his mind a serious impression; the revoker of the edict of Nantes; he
who tried to extinguish Dutch freedom with French blood; a god in his
own time, a figure now faded, pompous, self-adoring.

Paris of Louis XV., the reign of license, the _Parc aux cerfs_, the
period of the courtesan, Madame de Pompadour, and a host of rivals and
successors,--a hateful type of womanhood, justly odious and gladly

Paris of Louis XVI., the days of progress and of good intentions; the
deficit, the ministry of Neckar, the states general, Mirabeau,
Lafayette, Robespierre, the fall of the monarch, the reign of terror;
the guillotine in permanence, science, virtue, every distinction
supplying its victims.

Paris of Napoleon I.; a whiff of grape-shot that silences the last
grumblings of the Revolution; the mighty marches, the strategy of
Ulysses, the labors of Hercules, the glory of Jupiter, ending in the
fate of Prometheus.

Paris of the returned Bourbons, Charles X., the Duc de Berri, the
Duchess d'Angoulême; Paris of the Orleans dynasty, civil, civic, free,
witty; wise here, and wicked there; the Mecca of students in all
sciences; a region problematic to parents, who fear its vices and
expense, but who desire its opportunities and elegance for their sons.
This was in the days in which a visit to Paris was the _ne plus ultra_
of what parents could do to forward a son's studies, or perfect a
daughter's accomplishments.

Having made my connections in this breathless review, I must return to
speak of two modern works of art which treat of matters upon which my
haste did not allow me, in the first instance, to dwell.

The first of these is Victor Hugo's picture of mediæval Paris, given in
his famous romance entitled "Notre Dame de Paris." This remarkable novel
preserves valuable details of the architecture of the ancient cathedral
from which it takes its name. It paints the society of the time in
gloomy colors. The clergy are corrupt, the soldiery licentious, the
people forlorn and friendless. Here is a brief outline of the story. The
beautiful gipsy, _Esmeralda_, dances and twirls her tambourine in the
public streets. Her companion is a little goat, which she has taught to
spell her lover's name, by putting together the letters which compose
it. This lover is _Phœbus_, captain of the guard. _Claude Frollo_,
the cunning, wicked priest of the period, has cast his evil eye upon the
girl. He manages to surprise her when alone with her lover, and stabs
the latter so as to endanger his life. A hideous dwarf, named
_Quasimodo_, also loves _Esmeralda_, with humble, faithful affection. As
the story develops, he turns out to have been the changeling laid in the
place of the lovely girl-infant whom gipsies stole from her cradle.
_Esmeralda_ finds her distracted parent, but only to be torn from her
arms again. The priest, _Claude Frollo_, foiled in his unlawful passion,
stirs up the wrath of the populace against _Esmeralda_, accusing her of
sorcery. She is seized by the mob, and hanged in the public street. The
narrative is powerful and graphic, but it shows the disease of Victor
Hugo's mind,--a morbid imagination which heightens the color of human
crimes in order to give a melodramatic brilliancy to the virtue which
contrasts with them. According to his view, suffering through the fault
of others is necessarily the lot of all good people. French romance has
in it much of this despair of the cause of virtue. It springs, however
remotely, from the dark days of absolutism, whose bitter secrets were
masked over by the frolic fancy of the people who invented the joyous
science of minstrelsy.

The other work which I have now in mind is Meyerbeer's opera of "The
Huguenots," which I mention here because it brings so vividly to mind
the features of another period in the history of Paris. It represents,
as an opera may, the frightful days in which a king's hospitality was
made a trap for the wholesale butchery of as many Protestants as could
be lured within the walls of Paris,--the massacre which bears the name
of Saint Bartholomew. Nobles and leaders were shot down in the streets,
or murdered in their beds, while the hollow phrases of the royal favor
still rang in their ears. I have seen, near the church of St. Germain
l'Auxerois, the palace window from which the kerchief of Catherine de
Medici gave the signal for the fatal onslaught. "Do you not believe my
word?" asked the Queen Mother one day of the English ambassador. "No, by
Saint Bartholomew, Madam," was the sturdy reply.

Meyerbeer's opera is truly a Protestant work of art, vigorous and noble.
Through all the intensity of its dramatic situations runs the grand
choral of Luther:--

    A mighty fortress is our God.

So true faith holds its own, and sails its silver boat upon the bloody
sea of martyrdom.

Am I obliged to have recourse to a novel and an opera in order to bring
before your eyes a vision of Paris in those distant ages? Such are our
indebtednesses to art and literature. And here I must again mention, as
a great master in both of these, Thomas Carlyle, who has given us so
vivid and graphic a picture of the Revolution in France, which followed
so nearly upon our own War of Independence.

I, a grandmother of to-day, recall the impression which this great
conflict had made upon the grandparents of my childhood. Most wicked and
cruel did they esteem it, in all of its aspects. To people of our day,
it appears the inevitable crisis of a most malignant state of national
disease. Much of political quackery was swept away forever, one may
hope, by its virulent outbreak. No half-way nostrums, no outside
tinkering, answered for this fiery patient, whose fever set the whole
continent of Europe in a blaze. War itself was gentle in comparison with
the acts of its savage delirium, in which the vengeance of defrauded
ages fell upon victims most of whom were innocent of personal offence.
The reign of humanitarian theory led strangely to a period of military
predominance which has had no parallel since the days of Alexander of
Macedon. Then War itself died of exhaustion. The stupor of reaction
quenched the dream of civil and religious liberty. But the patient
stirred again in 1830 and 1848, and the dream, scarcely yet realized,
became more and more the settled purpose of his heart.

Now the government in 1830 was manifestly in the wrong. The stupid old
Bourbon Prince, Charles X., had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing,
but the French people had learned and unlearned many things. They had
learned the illusion of Monarchy, the corruption of the demagogue, the
futility of the sentimentalist. The impotence of the aristocracy was one
of the lessons of the day. Was ever a people more rapidly educated? Take
the _canaille_ of the pre-revolutionary history, and the _peuple_ of the
Revolution. What a contrast! It is the lion asleep in the toils, and the
lion awake, and turning upon his captors in fury. The French people have
never gone back to what they were before that great outbreak. The
mighty, volcanic heart has made its pulsations felt through all
assumptions, through all restraints. Yet the French people are easily
tricked. They are easily led to receive pedantry for education, bigotry
for religion, constraint for order, and successful pretension for glory.

The Revolution of 1848 was justified in all but its method. And method
has often been the weak point in French politics. Methods are handed
down more surely than ideas are inherited. The violent measures whose
record forms so large a part of French history have left behind them a
belief in military, rather than in moral, action. The _coup d'état_
would seem by its name to be a French invention; but it is a method
abhorred of Justice. Justice recognizes two sides, and gives ear to
both. Passion sees but one, and blots out in blood the representatives
of the other. The Revolution of 1848 was the rather premature explosion
of a wide and subtle conspiracy. But if the conflicting opinions and
interests then current could have encountered each other, as in England
or America, in open daylight, trusting only in the weapons of reason, a
very different result would have been achieved. Do not conspire, is one
of the lessons which Paris teaches by her history. Do not say, nor teach
others to say: "If we cannot have our way, we will have your life." Say,
rather: "Let both sides state their case, and plead their cause, and let
the weight of Reason decide which shall prevail."

       *       *       *       *       *

Paris as I first knew it, half a century ago, was a place imposing for
its good taste and good manners. A stranger passing through it with ever
so little delay would necessarily have been impressed with the general
intelligence, and with the æsthetic invention and nicety which, more
than anything else, have given the city its social and commercial

In those days, Chateaubriand and Madame Récamier were still alive. The
traditions of society were polite. The theatres were vivacious schools
of morality. The salon was still an institution. This was not what we
should call a party, but the habitual meeting of friends in a friend's
house,--a good institution, if kept up in a good spirit.

The natural sociability of the French made the salon an easy and natural
thing for them. Salons were of all sorts. Some shone in true glory; some
disguised evil purposes and passions with artificial graces. I think the
institution of the salon indigenous to Paris, although it has by no
means stopped there.

The great point in administering a salon is to do it sincerely. Where
the children are put out of the way, the old friends neglected, the rich
courted, and celebrities impaled and exhibited, the institution is
demoralizing, and answers no end of permanent good. A friendly house,
that opens its doors as often and as widely as the time and fortune of
its inmates can afford, is a boon and blessing to many people.

I suppose that the French salons were of both sorts. Sydney Smith speaks
of a certain historical set of Parisian women who dealt very lightly
with the Decalogue, but who, on the other hand, gave very pleasant
little suppers. French society, no doubt, afforded many occasions of
this sort, but far different were the meetings in which the literary
world of Paris listened to the unpublished memoirs of Chateaubriand; far
different was the throng that gathered, twice a day, around the hearth
of the wise and devout Madame Swetchine.

In the days just mentioned, I passed through Paris, returning from my
bridal journey, which had carried me to Rome. I was eager to explore
every corner of the enchanted region. What I did see, I have never
forgotten,--the brilliant shops, the tempting _cafés_, the varied and
entertaining theatres. I attended a _séance_ of the Chamber of Deputies,
a lecture of Edgar de Quinet, and one of Philarete Charles. De Quinet's
lecture was given at the Sorbonne. I remember of it only the enthusiasm
of the audience,--the faces at once fiery and thoughtful, the occasional
cries of "De Quinet," when any passage particularly stirred the feelings
of the auditors. Of Philarete Charles, I remember that his theme was
"English Literature," and that at the close of his lecture he took
occasion to reprobate the whole literary world of America. The _bon
homme_ Franklin, he said, had outwitted the French Court. The country of
Franklin was utterly without interest from an intellectual point of
view. "When," said he, "we take into account the late lamentable
disorders in New York (some small election riot, in 1844), we shall
agree upon the low state of American civilization and the small
prospect of good held out by the republic." He was unaware, of course,
that Americans were among his hearers; but a certain tidal wave of anger
arose in my heart, and had not my graver companion held me down, I
should have arisen then, as I certainly should now, to say: "Monsieur
Philarete Charles, you are uttering falsehoods."

In those days, I first saw Rachel, then in the full affluence of her
genius. The trenchant manner, the statuesque drapery, the
chain-lightning effects, were much as they were afterwards seen in this
country. But when I saw her, seven years after that first time, in
London, I thought that her unrivalled powers had bloomed to a still
fuller perfection than before. Of finest clay, thrilled by womanly
passion and tempered by womanly tact, we need not remember the faults of
the person in the perfection of the artist. Alfred de Musset has left a
charming account of a supper at her house. I certainly have never seen
on the boards a tragic conception equal to hers. Ristori, able as she
was, seemed to me to fall short in Rachel's great parts, if we except
the last scene of "Marie Stuart," in which the Christian woman,
following the crucifix to her death, showed a sense of its value which
the Jewish woman could neither feel nor counterfeit.

The gallery of the Louvre recalls the finest palaces of Italy, and
equals, in value and interest, any gallery in the world. Venice is far
richer in Titian's pictures, and Rome and Florence keep the greatest
works of Raphael and Michael Angelo. To understand Quintin Matsys and
Rubens, you must go to Antwerp, where their finest productions remain.
But the Louvre has an unsurpassed variety and interest, and exhibits not
a few of the chief treasures of ancient and modern art. Among these are
some of the masterpieces of Titian, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci, the
Conception of Murillo, Paul Veronese's great picture of the marriage at
Cana in Galilee, and the ever-famous Venus of Milo.

In one of the principal galleries of Venice, I was once shown a large
picture by the French artist David. I do not remember much about its
merits, but, on asking how it came there, I was told that its place had
formerly been occupied by a famous picture by Paul Veronese. Napoleon
I., it will be remembered, robbed the galleries of Italy of many of
their finest pictures. After his downfall, most of these stolen
treasures were restored to their rightful owners; but the French never
gave up the Paul Veronese picture, which was this very one that now
hangs in the Louvre, where its vivid coloring and rich grouping look
like a piece of Venice, bright and glorious like herself.

The student of art, returning from Italy, is possessed with the mediæval
gloom and glory which there have filled his eyes and his imagination.
With a sigh, looking toward our Western world, so rich in action, so
poor as yet in art, he pauses here in surprise, to view a cosmopolitan
palace of her splendors. It consoles him to think that the Beautiful has
made so brave a stand upon the nearer borders of the Seine. Encouraged
by the noble record of French achievement, he carries with him across
the ocean the traditions of Jerome, of Rosa Bonheur, of Horace Vernet.

       *       *       *       *       *

In historical monuments, Paris is rich indeed. The oldest of these that
I remember was the Temple,--the ancient stronghold of the Knights
Templar, who were cruelly extirpated in the year 1307. It was a large,
circular building, occupied, when I visited it, as a place for the sale
of second-hand commodities. I remember making purchases of lace within
its walls which were nearly black with age. You will remember that Louis
XVI. and his family were confined here for some time, and that here took
place the sad parting between the King and the dear ones he was never to
see again. I will subjoin a brief extract from the diary of my
grandfather, Col. Samuel Ward, of the Revolutionary War, who was in
Paris at the time of the King's execution:--

     _January 17, 1792._ The Convention up all night upon the question
     of the King's sentence. At eleven this night the sentence of death
     was pronounced,--three hundred and sixty-six for death; three
     hundred and nineteen for seclusion or banishment; thirty-six
     various; majority of five absolute. The King desired an appeal to
     be made to the people, which was not allowed. Thus the Convention
     have been the accusers, the judges, and will be the executors of
     their own sentence. This will cause a great degree of astonishment
     in America, where the departments are so well divided that the
     judges have power to break all acts of the Legislature interfering
     with the exercise of their office.

     _January 20._ The fate of the King disturbs everybody.

     _January 21._ I had engaged to pass this day, which is one of
     horror, at Versailles, with Mr. Morris. The King was beheaded at
     eleven o'clock. Guards at an early hour took possession of the
     Place Louis XV., and were posted at each avenue. The most profound
     stillness prevailed. Those who had feeling lamented in secret in
     their houses, or had left town. Others showed the same levity and
     barbarous indifference as on former occasions. Hitchborn,
     Henderson, and Johnson went to see the execution, for which, as an
     American, I was sorry. The King desired to speak: he had only time
     to say he was innocent, and forgave his enemies. He behaved with
     the fortitude of a martyr. Santerre ordered the executioner to

Louis Napoleon ordered the destruction of this venerable monument of
antiquity, and did much else to efface the landmarks of the ancient
Paris, and to give his elegant capital the air of a city entirely

The history of the Bastile has been published in many volumes, some of
which I have read. It was the convenient dark closet of the French
nursery. Whoever gave trouble to the Government or to any of its
creatures was liable to be set away here without trial or resource. One
prisoner confined in it escaped by patiently unravelling his shirts and
drawers of silk, and twisting them into a thick cord, by means of which
he reached the moat, and so passed beyond bounds.

An historical personage, whose name is unknown, passed many years in
this sad place, wearing an iron mask, which no official ever saw
removed. He is supposed by some to have been a twin brother of the King,
Louis XIV.; so we see that, although it might seem a piece of good
fortune to be born so near the crown, it might also prove to be the
greatest of misfortunes. Think what must have been the life of that
captive--how blank, weary, and indignant!

When the Bastile was destroyed, a prisoner was found who had suffered so
severely from the cold and damp of its dungeons that his lips had split
completely open, leaving his teeth exposed. Carlyle describes the
commandant of the fortress carried along in the hands of an infuriated
mob, crying out with piteous supplication: "O friends, kill me quick!"
The fury was indeed natural, but better resource against tyranny had
been the calm, strong will and deliberate judgment. It is little to kill
the tyrant and destroy his tools. We must study to find out what
qualities in the ruler and the ruled make tyranny possible, and then
defeat it, once and forever.

The hospital of the _Invalides_ was built by Louis XIV., as a refuge for
disabled soldiers. This large edifice forms a hollow square, and is
famous for its dome,--one of the four real domes of the world, the
others being the dome of St. Sophia, in Constantinople; that of St.
Peter's, in Rome; and the grand dome of our own Capitol, in Washington.

I have paid several visits to this interesting establishment, with long
intervals between. When I first saw it, fifty years ago, there were many
of Napoleon's old soldiers within its walls. On one occasion, one of
these old men showed us with some pride the toy fortifications which he
had built, guarded by toy soldiers. "There is the bridge of Lodi," he
said, and pointing to a little wooden figure, "there stands the
Emperor." At this time, the remains of the first Napoleon slumbered in
St. Helena.

I saw the monument complete in 1867. It had then been open long to the
public. The marble floor and steps around the tomb of the first Napoleon
were literally carpeted with wreaths and garlands. The brothers of the
great man lay around him, in sarcophagi of costliest marble, their names
recorded not as Bonapartes, but as Napoleons. A dreary echo may have
penetrated even to these dead ears in 1870, when the column of the Place
Vendome fell, with the well-known statue for which it was only a
pedestal, and when the third Napoleon took his flight, repudiated and

But to return. In 1851 I again saw Paris. The _coup d'état_ had not
then fallen. Louis Napoleon was still President, and already unpopular.
Murmurs were heard of his inevitable defeat in the election which was
already in men's minds. Louis Philippe was an exile in Scotland. While I
was yet in Paris, the ex-King died; but the announcement produced little
or no sensation in his ancient capital.

A process was then going on of substituting asphaltum pavements for the
broad, flat paving-stones which had proved so available in former
barricades. The President, perhaps, had coming exigencies in view. The
people looked on in rather sullen astonishment. Not long after this, I
found myself at Versailles on a day set apart for a visit from the
President and his suite. The great fountains were advertised to play in
honor of the occasion. From hall to hall of the immense palace we
followed, at a self-respecting distance, the sober _cortége_ of the
President. A middle-sized, middle-aged man, he appeared to us.

The tail of this comet was not then visible, and the star itself
exhibited but moderate dimensions. The corrupting influence of
absolutism had not yet penetrated the tissues of popular life. The
theatres were still loyal to decency and good taste. Manners and dress
were modest; intemperance was rarely seen.

A different Paris I saw in 1867. The dragon's teeth had been sown and
were ripening. The things which were Cæsar's had made little account of
the things which were God's. A blight had fallen upon men and women. The
generation seemed to have at once less self-respect and less politeness
than those which I had formerly known. The city had been greatly
modernized, perhaps embellished, but much of its historic interest had
disappeared. The theatres were licentious. Friends said: "Go, but do not
take your daughters." The drivers of public carriages were often

The great Exposition of that year had drawn together an immense crowd
from all parts of the world. Among its marvels, my recollection dwells
most upon the gallery of French paintings, in which I stood more than
once before a full-length portrait of the then Emperor. I looked into
the face which seemed to say: "I have succeeded. What has any one to say
about it?" And I pondered the slow movements of that heavenly Justice
whose infallible decrees are not to be evaded. In this same gallery was
that sitting statue of the dying Napoleon which has since become so
familiar to the world of art. Crowns of immortelles always lay at the
feet of this statue. And I, in my mind, compared the statue and the
picture,--the great failure and the great success. But in Bismarck's
mind, even then, the despoiling of France was predetermined.

What lessons shall we learn from this imperfect sketch of Paris? What
other city has figured so largely in literature? None that I know of,
not even Rome and Athens. The young French writers of our time make a
sketch of some corner of Parisian life, and it becomes a novel.

French history in modern times is largely the history of Paris. The
modern saying has been that Paris was France. But we shall say: It is
not. Had Paris given a truer representation to France, she might have
avoided many long agonies and acute crises.

It is because Paris has forced her representation upon France that
Absolutism and Intelligence, the two deadly foes, have fought out their
fiercest battles on the genial soil which seems never to have been
allowed to bear its noblest fruits. The tendency to centralization, with
which the French have been so justly reproached, may or may not be
inveterate in them as a people. If it is so, the tendency of modern
times, which is mostly in the contrary direction, would lessen the
social and political importance of France as surely, if not as swiftly,
as Bismarck's mulcting and mutilation.

The organizations which result from centralization are naturally
despotic and, in so far, demoralizing. Individuals, having no recognized
representation, and being debarred the natural resource of legitimate
association, show their devotion to progress and their zeal for
improvement either in passionate and melancholy appeals or in secret
manœuvrings. The tendency of these methods is to chronic fear on the
one hand and disaffection on the other, and to deep conspiracies and
sudden seditions which astonish the world, but which have in them
nothing astonishing for the student of human nature.

So those who love France should implore her to lay aside her quick
susceptibilities and irritable enthusiasms, and to study out the secret
of her own shortcomings. How is it that one of the most intelligent
nations of the world was, twenty years ago, one of the least instructed?
How is it that a warm-blooded, affectionate race generates such
atrocious social heartlessness? How was it that the nation which was the
apostle of freedom in 1848 kept Rome for twenty years in bondage? How is
it that the Jesuit, after long exile, has been reenstalled in its midst
with prestige and power? How is it, in so brilliant and liberal a
society, that the successors of Henri IV. and Sully are yet to be found?

Perhaps the reason for some of these things lay in the treason of this
same Henri IV. He was a Protestant at heart, and put on the Catholic
cloak in order to wear the crown. "The kingdom of France," said he, or
one of his admirers, "is well worth hearing a mass or two." "The kingdom
of the world," said Christ, "is a small thing for a man to gain in
exchange for the kingdom of his own honest soul." Henri IV. made this
bad bargain for himself and for France. He did it, doubtless, in view of
the good his reign might bring to the distracted country. But he had
better have given her the example, sole and illustrious, of the most
brilliant man of the time putting by its most brilliant temptation, and
taking his seat low on the ground with those whose hard-earned glory it
is to perish for conscience's sake.

But the great King is dead, long since, and his true legacy--his
wonderful scheme of European liberation and pacification--has only been
represented by a little newspaper, edited in Paris, but published in
Geneva, and called _The United States of Europe_.

So our word to France is: Try to solve the problem of modern Europe with
the great word which Henri IV. said, in a whisper, to his other self,
the minister Sully. Learn that social forces are balanced first by being
allowed to exist. Mutilation is useless in a world in which God
continues to be the Creator. Every babe that he sends into the world
brings with it a protest against absolutism. The babe, the nation, may
be robbed of its birthright; but God sends the protest still. And France
did terrible wrong to the protest of her own humanity when she suffered
her Protestant right hand to be cut off, and a great part of her most
valuable population to submit to the alternative of exile or apostasy.

So mad an act as this does not stand on the record of modern times. The
apostate has no spiritual country; the exile has no geographical
country. The men who are faithful to their religious convictions are
faithful to their patriotic duties. What a premium was set upon
falsehood, what a price upon faith, when all who held the supremacy of
conscience a higher fact than the supremacy of Rome were told to
renounce this confession or to depart!

       *       *       *       *       *

If Paris gives to our mind some of the most brilliant pictures
imaginable, she also gives us some of the most dismal. While her
drawing-rooms were light and elegant, her streets were dark and wicked.
Among her hungry and ignorant populace, Crime planted its bitter seeds
and ripened its bloody crop. Police annals show us that Eugène Sue has
not exaggerated the truth in his portraits of the vicious population of
the great city. London has its hideous dens of vice, but Paris has, too,
its wicked institutions.

Its greatest offences, upon which I can only touch, regard the relations
between men and women. Its police regulations bearing upon this point
are dishonoring to any Christian community. Its social tone in this
respect is scarcely better. Men who have the dress and appearance of
gentlemen will show great insolence to a lady who dares to walk alone,
however modestly. Marriage is still a matter of bargain and interest,
and the modes of conduct which set its obligations at naught are more
open and recognized here than elsewhere. The city would seem, indeed, to
be the great market for that host of elegant rebels against virtue who
are willing to be admired without being respected, and who, with
splendid clothes and poor and mean characteristics, are technically
called the _demi-monde_, the half-world of Paris.

The corruption of young men and young women which this state of things
at once recognizes and fosters is such as no state can endure without
grievous loss of its manhood and womanhood. The Turks knew their power
when they could compel from the Greeks the tribute of their children, to
be trained as Turks, not as Christians. Must not the Spirit of evil in
like manner exult at his hold upon the French nation, when it allows him
to enslave its youth so largely, consoling itself for the same with a
shrug at the inevitable nature of human folly, or with some witty saying
which will be at once acknowledgment of and excuse for what cannot be

Gambling has been one of the crying vices of the French metropolis, and
the "hells" of Paris were familiarly spoken of in my youth. These were
the gambling-houses, in that day among the most brilliant and ruinous of
their kind. Government has since then interfered to abolish them. Still,
I suppose that much money is lost and won at play in Paris. From this
and other irregularities, many suicides result. One sees in numerous
places in Paris, particularly near the river, placards announcing "help
to the drowned and asphyxiated," a plunge into the Seine, and a sitting
with a pan of charcoal being the favorite methods of self-destruction.
All have heard of the Morgue, a building in which, every day, the
lifeless bodies found in the river are exposed upon marble slabs, in
order that the friends of the dead--if they have any--may recognize and
claim them. I believe that this sad place is rarely without its
appropriate occupants.

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the kindness of our minister, I was able, some years since, to
attend more than one session of the French Parliament. This body, like
our own Congress, consists of two houses. An outsider does not see any
difference of demeanor between these two. An American visiting either
the French Senate or the Chamber of Deputies will be surprised at the
noise and excitement which prevail. The presiding officer agitates his
bell again and again, to no purpose. He constantly cries, in a piteous
tone: "Gentlemen, a little silence, if you please." In the Senate, one
of the ushers with great pride pointed out to me Victor Hugo in his

I have seen this venerable man of letters several times,--once in his
own house, and once at a congress of literary people in Paris, where, as
president of the congress, he made the opening address. This he read
from a manuscript, in a sonorous voice, and with much dignity of manner.
He was heard with great interest, and was interrupted by frequent

A number of invitations were given for this first meeting of the
literary congress, which was held in one of the largest theatres of the
city. I had been fortunate enough to receive one of these cards, but
upon seeking for admission to the subsequent sittings of the congress, I
was told that no ladies were admitted to them. So you see that Lucy
Stone's favorite assertion that "women are people" does not hold good

An esteemed Parisian friend had offered me an introduction to Victor
Hugo, and the great man had signified his willingness to receive a visit
from me. On the evening appointed for this visit, I called at his house,
accompanied by my daughter. We were first shown into an anteroom, and
presently into a small drawing-room, of which the walls and furniture
were covered with a striped satin material, in whose colors red
predominated. The venerable viscount kissed my hand and that of my
young companion with the courtesy belonging to other times than the
present. He was of middle height, reasonably stout. His eyes were dark
and expressive, and his hair and beard snow-white. Several guests were
present,--among others, the widow of one of his sons, recently married
to a second husband.

Victor Hugo seated himself alone upon a sofa, and talked to no one.
While the rest of the company kept up a desultory conversation, a
servant announced M. Louis Blanc, and our expectations were raised only
to be immediately lowered, for at this announcement Victor Hugo arose
and withdrew into another room, from which we were able to hear the two
voices in earnest conversation, but from which neither gentleman
appeared. Was not this disappointment like one of those dreams in which,
just as you are about to attain some object of intense desire, the power
of sleep deserts you, and you awake to life's plain prose?

       *       *       *       *       *

The shops of Paris are wonderfully well mounted and well served. The
display in the windows is not so large in proportion to the bulk of
merchandise as it is apt to be with us. Still, these windows do unfold a
catalogue of temptations longer than that of Don Giovanni's sins.

Among them all, the jewellers' shops attract most. The love of human
beings for jewelry is a feature almost universal. The savage will give
land for beads. The women of Christendom will do the same thing. I have
seen fine displays of this kind in London, Rome, and Geneva. But in
Paris, these exhibits seem to characterize a certain vivid passion for
adornment, which is kindled and kept alive in the minds of French women,
and is by them communicated to the feminine world at large.

The French woman of condition wears nothing which can be called _outré_.
She loves costly attire, but her taste, and that of her costumer, are
perfect. She wears the most delicate and harmonious shades, and the most
graceful forms. She never caricatures the fashion by exaggerating it.
English women of the same social position are more inclined to what is
tawdry, and have surely a less perfect sense of color and adaptation.

Parisians are very homesick people when obliged to forsake their
capital. Madame de Staël, in full view of the beautiful lake of Geneva,
said that she would much prefer a view of the gutter in the Rue de Bac,
which in her day had not the attractions of the Bon Marché emporium, so
powerful to-day.

       *       *       *       *       *

I should deserve ill of my subject if I failed to say that the great
issues of progress are to-day dearly and soberly held to by the
intelligence of the French people, and the good faith of their
representatives. In the history of the present republic, the solid
interests of the nation have slowly and steadfastly gained ground.

The efforts which forward these seem to me to culminate in the measures
which are intended at once to establish popular education and to defend
it from ecclesiastical interference. The craze for military glory is
also yielding before the march of civilization, and the ambitions which
build up society are everywhere gaining upon the passions which destroy

In the last forty-five years, the social relations of France to the
civilized world have undergone much alteration. The magnificent
traditions of ancient royalty have become entirely things of the past.
The genius of the first Napoleon has passed out of people's minds. The
social prestige of France is no longer appealed to, no longer felt.

We read French novels, because French novelists have an admirable style
of narrating, but we no longer go to them for powerful ideals of life
and character. The modern world has outgrown the Gallic theories of sex.
We are tired of hearing about the women whose merit consists in their
loving everything better than their husbands. In this light artillery of
fashion and fiction, France no longer holds the place which was hers of

In losing these advantages, she has, I think, gained better things. The
struggle of the French people to establish and maintain a republic in
the face of and despite monarchical Europe is a heroic one, worthy of
all esteem and sympathy. In science, France has never lost her eminence.
In serious literature, in the practical philosophy of history, in
criticism of the highest order, the French are still masters in their
own way. Notwithstanding their evil legislation regarding women, their
medical authorities have been most generous to our women students of
medicine. Many of these have crossed the Atlantic to seek in France that
clinical study and observation from which they have been in great
measure debarred in our own country.

There is still much bigotry and intolerance, much shallow scepticism and
false philosophy; but there is also, underneath all this, the germ of
great and generous qualities which place the nation high in the scale of

I should be glad to bind together these scattered statements into some
great, instructive lesson for France and for ourselves. Perhaps the best
thing that I can do in this direction will be to suggest to Americans
the careful study of French history and of French character. The great
divisions of the world to-day are invaded by travel, and the iron horse
carries civilization far and wide. Many of those who go abroad may,
however, be found to have less understanding regarding foreign
countries than those who have learned all that may be learned concerning
them from history and literature. To many Americans, Paris is little
more than the place of shops and of fashions. I have been mortified
sometimes at the familiarity which our travellers show with all that may
be bought and sold on the other side of the ocean, combined with an
arrant and arrogant ignorance concerning the French people and the
country in which they live.

Even to the most careful observer, the French are not easy to be
understood. The most opposite statements may be made about them. Some
call them noble; others, ignoble. To some, they appear turbulent and
ferocious; to others, slavish and cowardly. Great thinkers do not judge
them in this offhand way, and from such we may learn to make allowances
for the fact that monarchic and aristocratic rule create and foster
great inequalities of character and intelligence among the nations in
which they prevail. Limitations of mind and of opinion are inherited
from generations which have been dwarfed by political and spiritual
despotism; and in such countries, the success of liberal institutions,
even if emphatically assured, is but slowly achieved and established.

A last word of mine shall commend this Paris to those who are yet to
visit it. Let me pray such as may have this experience not to suppose
that they have read the wonderful riddle of this city's life when they
shall have seen a few of its shops, palaces, and picture-galleries. If
they wish to understand what the French people are, and why they are
what they are, they will have to study history, politics, and human
nature pretty deeply.

If they wish to have an idea of what the French may become, they must
keep their faith in all that America finds precious and invaluable,--in
free institutions, in popular education, and, above all, in the heart of
the people. Never let them believe that while freedom ennobles the
Anglo-Saxon, it brutalizes the Gaul. Despotism brutalizes for long
centuries, and freedom cannot ennoble in a moment. But give it time and
room, and it will ennoble. And let Americans who go to Paris remember
that they should there represent republican virtue and intelligence.

How far this is from being the case some of us may know, and others
guess. Americans who visit Paris very generally relax their rules of
decorum and indulge in practices which they would not venture to
introduce at home. Hence they are looked upon with some disfavor by the
more serious part of the French people, while the frivolous ridicule
them at will. But I could wish that, in visiting a nation to whom we
Americans owe so much, we could think of something besides our own
amusement and the buying of pretty things to adorn our persons and our
houses. I could wish that we might visit schools, prisons, Protestant
churches, and hear something of the charities and reforms of the place,
and of what the best thinkers are doing and saying. I blush to think of
the gold which Americans squander in Paris, and of the bales of
merchandise of all sorts which we carry away. Far better would it be if
we made friends with the best people, exchanging with them our best
thought and experience, helping and being helped by them in the good
works which redeem the world. Better than the full trunk and empty
purse, which usually mark a return from Paris, will be a full heart and
a hand clasping across the water another hand, pure and resolute as
itself,--the hand of progress, the hand of order, the hand of brotherly
kindness and charity.

Greece Revisited

I SPEAK of a country to which all civilized countries are deeply

The common speech of Europe and America shows this. In whatever way the
languages of the western world have been woven and got together, they
all show here and there some golden gleam which carries us back to the
Hellenic tongue. Philosophy, science, and common thought alike borrow
their phraseology from this ancient source.

I need scarcely say by what a direct descent all arts may claim to have
been recreated by Greek genius, nor can I exaggerate the importance of
the Greek poets, philosophers, and historians in the history of
literature. Rules of correct thinking and writing, the nice balance of
rhetoric, the methods of oratory, the notions of polity, of the
correlations of social and national interests,--in all of these
departments the Greeks may claim to have been our masters, and may call
us their slow and blundering pupils.

A wide interval lies between these glories and the Greece of to-day.
Nations, like individuals, have their period of growth and decay, their
limit of life, which human devices seem unable to prolong. But while
systems of government and social organization change, race perseveres.
The Greeks, like the Hebrews, when scattered and powerless at home, have
been potent abroad. Deprived for centuries of political and national
existence, the spirit of their immortal literature, the power of their
subtle and ingenious mind, have leavened and fashioned the mind, not of
Europe only, but of the thinking world.

Let us recall the briefest outline of the story. The states of ancient
Greece, always divided among themselves, in time invited the protection
of the Roman Empire, hoping thereby to attain peace and tranquillity.
Rome of to-day shows how her officials of old plundered the temples and
galleries of the Greeks, while her literary men admired and imitated the
Hellenic authors.

At a later day, the beauty of the Orient seduced the stern heart of
Roman patriotism. A second Rome was built on the shores of the
Bosphorus,--a city whose beauty of position excelled even the dignity of
the seven hills. Greek and Roman, eastern and western, became mingled
and blent in a confusion with which the most patient scholar finds it
difficult to deal. Then came a political division,--eastern and western
empires, eastern and western churches, the Bishop of Rome and the
Patriarch of Constantinople. Other great changes follow. The western
empire crumbles, takes form again under Charlemagne, finally
disappears. The eastern empire follows it. The Turk plants his standard
on the shores of the Bosphorus. The sacred city falls into his hands,
without contradiction, so far as Europe is concerned. The veil of a dark
and bloody barbarism hides the monuments of a most precious
civilization. It is the age of blood. The nations of Western Europe have
still the faith and the attributes of bandits. The Turkish ataghan is
stronger than the Greek pen and chisel. The new race has a military
power of which the old could only faintly dream.

And so the last Constantine falls, and Mahmoud sweeps from earth the
traces of his reign. In the old Church of St. Sophia, now the Mosque of
Omar, men show to-day, far up on one of the columns, the impress of the
conqueror's bloody hand, which could only strike so high because the
floor beneath was piled fathom-deep with Christian corpses.

Another period follows. The Turk establishes himself in his new domain,
and employs the Greek to subjugate the Greek. Upon each Greek family the
tribute of a male child is levied; and this child is bred up in Turkish
ways, and taught to turn his weapon against the bosom of his mother
country. From these babes of Christian descent was formed the corps of
the Janissaries, a force so dangerous and deadly that the representative
of Turkish rule was forced at a later day to plan and accomplish its

The name "Greek" in this time no longer suggested a nation. I myself, in
my childhood, knew a young Greek, escaped from the massacres of Scio,
who told me that when, having learned English, he heard himself spoken
of as "the Greek," his first thought was that those who so spoke of him
were waiting to cut his throat.

Now follows another epoch. Western Europe is busied in getting a little
civilization. Baptized mostly by force, _vi et armis_, she has still to
be Christianized: she has America to discover and to settle. She has to
go to school to the ghosts of Greece and Arabia, in order to have a
grammar and to learn arithmetic. There are some wars of religion,
endless wars for territorial aggrandizement. Europe is still a congress
of the beasts,--lion, tiger, boar, rhinoceros, all snared together by
the tortuous serpent of diplomacy.

I pause, for out of this dark time came your existence and mine. A small
barque crosses the sea; a canoe steals toward the issue of a mighty
river. Such civilization as Europe has plants itself out in a new
country, in a virgin soil; and in the new domain are laid the
foundations of an empire whose greatness is destined to reside in her
peaceful and beneficent offices. Her task it shall be to feed the
starving emigrant, to give land and free citizenship to those
dispossessed of both by the greed of the old feudal systems.

In the fulness of this young nation's life, a cry arose from that
ancient mother of arts and sciences. The Greek had arisen from his long
sleep, had become awake to the fact that civilization is more potent
than barbarism. Strong in this faith, Greece had closed in a death
struggle with the assassin of her national life. Through the enthusiasm
of individuals, not through the policy of governments, the desperate,
heroic effort received aid. From the night of ages, from the sea of
blood, Greece arose, shorn of her fair proportions, pointing to her
ruined temples, her mutilated statues, her dishonored graves.

Americans may be thankful that this strange resurrection was not beheld
by our fathers with indifference. From their plenty, a duteous tribute
more than once went forth to feed and succor the country to which all
owe so much. And so an American, to-day, can look upon the Acropolis
without a blush--though scarcely without a tear.

Contenting myself with this brief retrospect, I must turn from the page
of history to the record of individual experience.

My first visit to Athens was in the year 1867. The Cretans were at this
time engaged in an energetic struggle for their freedom, and my husband
was the bearer of certain funds which he and others had collected in
America for the relief of the destitute families of the insurgents. A
part of this money was employed in sending provisions to the Island of
Crete, where the women and children had taken refuge in the fortresses
of the mountains, subject to great privations, and in danger of absolute

With the remainder of the fund, schools were endowed in Athens for the
children of the Cretan refugees. My husband's efforts were seconded by
an able Greek committee; and when, at the close of his labors, he turned
his face homeward, he was followed by the prayers and thanksgivings of
those whose miseries he had been enabled to relieve.

Nearly ten years later than the time just spoken of, I again threaded my
way between the isles of Greece and arrived at the Piræus, the ancient
port of Athens. A railway now connects these two points; but on this
occasion, we did not avail ourselves of it, preferring to take a
carriage for the short distance.

In approaching Athens for the second time, my first surprise was to find
that it had grown to nearly double the size which I remembered ten years
before. The cleanly, thrifty, and cheerful aspect of the city presented
the greatest contrast to the squalor and filth of Constantinople, which
I had just left. The perfect blue of the heavens brought out in fine
effect the white marble of the new buildings, some of which are costly
and even magnificent. Yet there, in full sight, towering above
everything else, stood the unattainable beauty, the unequalled,
unrivalled Parthenon.

I made several pilgrimages to the Acropolis, eager to revive my
recollection respecting the design and history of its various monuments.
I listened again and again to the statements of well-read archæologists
concerning the uses of the temples, the positions of the statues and
bas-reliefs, the hundred gates, and the triumphal road which led up to
the height crowned with glories.

But while I gave ear to what is more easily forgotten than
remembered,--the story of the long-vanished past,--my eyes received the
impression of a beauty that cannot perish. I did not say to the
Parthenon: Thou _wert_, but, Thou _art_ so beautiful, in thy perfect
proportion, in thy fine workmanship!

What silver chisel turned the tender leaves of this marble foliage? Here
is a little bit, a yard or so, which has escaped the gnawing of the
elements, lying turned away from the course of the winds and rains! No
king of to-day, in building his palace, can order such a piece of work.
Artist he can find none to equal it. And I am proud to say that no king
nor millionaire to-day can buy this, or any other fragment belonging to
this sacred spot. What England took before Greece became a power again,
she may keep, because the British Museum is a treasure-house for the
world. But she will never repeat the theft: she is too wise to-day.
Christendom is too wise, and the Greeks have learned the value of what
they still possess.

At the Acropolis, the theatre of Bacchus had been excavated a short time
before my previous visit. Near it they have now brought to light the
temple of Æsculapius. This temple, with the theatre of Bacchus and that
of Herodius Atticus, occupies the base of the Acropolis, on the side
that looks toward the sea.

As one stands in the light of the perfect sky, discerning in the
distance that perfect sea, something of the cheerfulness of the ancient
Greeks makes itself felt, seems to pervade the landscape. Descending to
the theatre of Bacchus, the visitor may call up in his mind the vision
of the high feast of mirth and hilarity. Here was the stage; here are,
still entire, the marble seats occupied by the priests and other high
dignitaries, with one or two interesting bas-reliefs of the god.

When I visited Greece in 1867, I found no proper museum containing the
precious fragments and works of art still left to the much-plundered
country. Some of these were preserved in the Theseion, a fine temple
well known to many by engravings. They were, however, very ill-arranged,
and could not be seen with comfort. I now found all my old favorites and
many others enshrined in the three museums which had been added to the
city during my absence.

One of them is called the Barbakion. It contains, among other things, a
number of very ancient vases, on one of which the soul is represented by
a female figure with wings. Among these vases is a series relating to
family events, one showing a funeral, one a nativity, while two others
commemorate a bridal occasion. In one of these last, the bride sits
holding Eros in her arms, while her attendants present the wedding
gifts; in the other, moves the bridal procession, accompanied by music.
Here are preserved many small figures in clay, commonly spoken of in
Greece as the Tanagra dolls. A fine collection of these has been given
to the Boston Art Museum by a well-known patron of all arts, the late
Thomas G. Appleton. Here we saw a cremating pot of bronze, containing
the charred remains of a human body. I afterwards saw--at the Keramika,
an ancient cemetery--the stone vase from which this pot was taken.

Among the objects shown at this museum was a beautiful set of gold
jewelry found in the cemetery just mentioned. It consisted of armlets,
bracelets, ear-rings, and a number of finger-rings, among which was one
of the coiled serpents so much in vogue to-day. I found here some
curious flat-bottomed pitchers, with a cocked-hat cover nicely fitted
on. This Greek device may have supplied the pattern for the first cocked
hat,--Dr. Holmes has told us about the last.

But nothing in this collection impressed me more than did an ancient
mask cast from a dead face. This mask had lately been made to serve as a
matrix; and a plaster cast, newly taken from it, gave us clearly the
features and expression of the countenance, which was removed from us by
æons of time.

A second museum is that built at the Acropolis, which contains many
fragments of sculpture, among which I recognized a fine bas-relief
representing three women carrying water-jars, and a small figure of
wingless Victory, both of which I had seen twelve years before, exposed
to the elements.

But the principal museum of the city, a fine building of dazzling white
marble, is the patriotic gift of a wealthy Greek, who devoted to this
object a great part of his large fortune. In this building are arranged
a number of the ancient treasures brought to light through the
persevering labors of Dr. and Mrs. Schliemann. As the doctor has
published a work giving a detailed account of these articles, I will
mention only a few of them.

Very curious in form are the gold cups found in the treasury of
Agamemnon. They are shaped a little like a flat champagne glass, but do
not expand at the base, standing somewhat insecurely upon the
termination of their stems. Here, too, are masks of thin beaten gold,
which have been laid upon the faces of the dead. Rings, ear-rings,
brooches, and necklaces there are in great variety; among the first, two
gold signet rings of marked beauty. I remember, also, several sets of
ornaments, resembling buttons, in gold and enamel.

From the main building, we passed into a fine gallery filled with
sculptures, many of which are monumental in character. I will here
introduce two pages from my diary, written almost on the spot:--

     Nothing that I have seen in Athens or elsewhere impresses me like
     the Greek marbles which I saw yesterday in the museum, most of
     which have been found and gathered since my visit in 1867. A single
     monumental slab had then been excavated, which, with the help of
     Pausanias, identified the site of the ancient Keramika, a place of
     burial. Here have been found many tombs adorned with bas-reliefs,
     with a number of vases and several statues. How fortunate has been
     the concealment of these works of art until our time, by which,
     escaping Roman rapacity and Turkish barbarism, they have survived
     the wreck of ages, to show us, to-day, the spirit of family life
     among the ancient Greeks! Italy herself possesses no Greek relics
     equal in this respect to those which I contemplated yesterday. For
     any student of art or of history, it is worth crossing the ocean
     and encountering all fatigues to read this imperishable record of
     human sentiment and relation; for while the works of ancient art
     already familiar to the public show us the artistic power and the
     sense of beauty with which this people were so marvellously
     endowed, these marbles make evident the feelings with which they
     regarded their dead.

     Perhaps the first lesson one draws from their contemplation is the
     eternity, so to speak, of the family affections. No words nor work
     have ever portrayed a regard more tender than is shown in these
     family groups, in which the person about to depart is represented
     in a sitting posture, while his nearest friends or relatives stand
     near, expressing in their countenances and action the sorrow and
     pathos of the final separation. Here an aged father gives the last
     blessing to the son who survives and mourns him. Here a dying
     mother reclines, surrounded by a group of friends, one of whom
     bears in her arms the infant whose birth, presumably, cost the
     mother her life. Two other slabs represent partings between a
     mother and her child. In one of these the young daughter holds to
     her bosom a dove, in token of the innocence of her tender age. In
     the other, the mother is bending over the daughter with a sweet,
     sad seriousness. Other groups show the parting of husband and wife,
     friend from friend; and I now recall one of these in which the
     expression of the clasped hands of two individuals excels in
     tenderness anything that I have ever seen in paint or marble. The
     Greeks, usually so reserved in their portrayal of nature, seem in
     these instances to have laid aside the calm cloak of restraint
     which elsewhere enwrapped them, in order to give permanent
     expression to the tender and beautiful associations which hallow


    In the Bacchus theatre,
      With the wreck of countless years,
    The thought of the ancient jollity
      Moved me almost to tears.

    Bacchus, the god who brightens life
      With sudden, rosy gleam,
    Lighting the hoary face of Age
      With Youth's surpassing dream,

    The tide that swells the human heart
      With inspiration high,
    Ebbing and sinking at sunset fall
      To dim eternity.

           *       *       *       *       *

    In the halls where treasured lie
      The monumental stones
    That stood where men no longer leave
      The mockery of their bones,

    Why did I smile at the marble griefs
      Who wept for the bygone joy?
    Within that sorrow dwells a good
      That Time can ne'er destroy.

    Th' immortal depths of sympathy
      All measurements transcend,
    And in man's living marble seal
      The love he bears his friend.

It would take me long to tell how much Athens has been enriched by the
munificence of her wealthy merchants, whose shrewdness and skill in
trade are known all over the world. Of some of these, dying abroad, the
words may well be quoted: "_Moriens reminiscitur Argos_," as they have
bequeathed for the benefit of their beloved city the sums of money
which have a permanent representation in the public buildings I have
mentioned, and many others. Better still than this, a number of
individuals of this class have returned to Greece, to end their days
beneath their native skies, and the social resources of the metropolis
are enlarged by their presence.

This leads us to what may interest many more than statements concerning
buildings and antiquities,--the social aspect of Athens.

The court and high society, or what is called such, asks our first
attention. The royal palace, a very fine one, was built by King Otho.
The present King and Queen are very simple in their tastes. One meets
them walking among the ruins and elsewhere in plain dress, with no other
escort than a large dog. The visit which I now describe took place in
Carnival time, and we heard, on our arrival, of a court ball, for which
we soon received cards. We were admonished by the proper parties to come
to the palace before nine o'clock, in order that we might be in the
ball-room before the entrance of the King and Queen. We repaired thither
accordingly, and, passing through a hall lined with officials and
servants in livery, ascended the grand staircase, and were soon in a
very elegant ball-room, well filled with a creditable _beau monde_. The
servants of the palace all wore Palikari costume,--the white skirt and
full-sleeved shirt, with embroidered vest and leggings. The ladies
present were attired with a due regard for Paris in general, and for
Worth in particular. The gentlemen were either in uniform, or in that
inexpressibly sleek and mournful costume which is called "evening

We were presently introduced to the maids of honor, one of whom bore the
historic name of Kolokotronis. They were dressed in white, and wore
badges on which the crown and the King's initial letter were wrought in
small brilliants. Many of the ladies displayed beautiful diamonds.

Presently a hush fell on the rapidly talking assembly. People ranged
themselves in a large circle, and the sovereigns entered. The Queen wore
a dress of white tulle embroidered with red over white silk, and a
garland of flowers in which the same color predominated. Her corsage was
adorned with knots of diamonds and rubies, and she wore a complete
_parure_ of the same costly stones. Their majesties made the round of
the circle. We, as strangers, were at once presented to the Queen, who
with great affability said to me: "I hear that you have been in Egypt,
and that your daughter ascended the great Pyramid." I made as low a
courtesy as was consistent with my dignity as president of a number of
clubs. One or two further remarks were interchanged, and the lovely,
gracious blonde moved on.

When the presentations and salutations were over, the royal pair
proceeded to open the ball, having each some high and mighty partner
for the first _contredanse_. The Queen is very fond of dancing, and is
happier than some other queens in being allowed to waltz to her heart's

There were at the ball three of our fellow-countrymen who could dance.
Two of them wore the uniform of our navy, and had kept it very fresh and
brilliant. These Terpsichorean gentlemen were matched by three ladies
well versed in the tactics of the German. Suddenly a swanlike, circling
movement began to distinguish itself from the quick, hopping, German
waltz which prevails everywhere in Europe. People looked on with
surprise, which soon brightened into admiration. And if any one had said
to me: "What is that, mother?" I should have replied: "The Boston, my

Lest the Queen's familiarity with my movements should be thought to
imply some previous acquaintance between us, I must venture a few words
of explanation.

In the first place, I must mention a friend, Mr. Paraskevaïdes, who had
been very helpful to Dr. Howe and myself on the occasion of our visit to
Athens in 1867. This gentleman was one of the first to greet my daughter
and myself, when she, for the first, and I, for the second time, arrived
in Athens. It was from him that we heard of the court ball just
mentioned, and through him that we received the cards enabling us to
attend it. I had given Mr. Paraskevaïdes a copy of the _Woman's
Journal_, published in Boston, containing a letter of mine describing a
recent visit to Cairo and the Pyramids. Our friend called at the palace
to speak of my presence in Athens to the proper authorities, and by
chance encountered the Queen as she was stepping into her carriage for a
drive. He told her that the widow and daughter of Dr. Howe would attend
the evening's ball. She asked what he held in his hand. "A paper,
printed in Boston, containing a letter written by Mrs. Howe." "Lend it
to me," said the Queen. "I wish to read Mrs. Howe's letter." Thus it was
that the Queen was able to greet me with so pleasant a mark of interest.

The King and Queen withdrew just before supper was announced, which was
very considerate on their part; for, as royal personages may not eat
with others, we could not have had our supper if they had not taken
theirs elsewhere. We were then escorted to the banquet hall, where were
spread a number of tables, at which the guests stood, and regaled
themselves with such customary viands as cold chicken, salad,
sandwiches, ices, and fruit. All of the usual wines were served in
profusion, with nice black coffee to keep people awake for the German,
or, as it is called in Europe, the _cotillon_. And presently we marched
back to the ball-room, and the sovereigns re-appeared. The _Germanites_
took chairs, the chaperons kept their modest distance, and the thing
that hath no end began, the Queen making the first loop in the mazy
weaving of the dance. The next thing that I remember was, three o'clock
in the morning, a sleepy drive in a carriage, and the talk that you
always hear going home from a party. Now, I ask, was not this orthodox?

This being the gay season of the year, we were present at various
festivities whose elegance would have done honor to London or Paris. I
particularly remember, among these, a fancy ball at the house of Mr. and
Mrs. Zyngros. Our hostess was a beautiful woman, and looked every inch a
queen, as she stood at the head of her stately marble stairway, in the
gold and crimson costume of Catherine de Medici. The ball-room was
thronged with Spanish gipsies, Elizabethan nobles, harlequins, Arcadian
shepherds, and Greek peasants. I may also mention another ball, at which
a band of maskers made their appearance, splendidly attired, and voluble
with the squeaking tone which usually accompanies a mask. The master and
mistress of the house were prepared for this interruption, which added
greatly to the gaiety of the occasion.

I have given a little outline of these gay doings, in order that you may
know that the modern Athens is entitled to boast that she possesses all
the appliances of civilization. Now let me say a few words of things
more interesting to people of thoughtful minds.

I remember with great pleasure an evening passed beneath the roof of Dr.
and Mrs. Schliemann. Well known as is Dr. Schliemann by reputation, it
is less generally known that his wife, a Greek woman, has had very much
to do with both his studies and the success of his excavations. She is
considered in Greece a woman of unusual culture, being well versed in
the ancient literature of her country. I was present once at a lecture
which she gave in London, before the Royal Historical Society. At the
close of the lecture, Lord Talbot de Malahide announced that Mrs.
Schliemann had been elected a member of the society. The Duke of Argyll
was present on this occasion, and among those who commented upon the
opinions advanced in the lecture was Mr. Gladstone. Mrs. Schliemann,
however, bears her honors very modestly, and is a charming hostess,
gracious and friendly, thoroughly liked and esteemed in this her native
country, and elsewhere.

The _soirée_ at Mrs. Schliemann's was merely a conventional reception,
with dancing to the music of a pianoforte. We were informed that our
hostess was suffering from the fatigues undergone in assisting her
husband's labors, and that the music and dancing were introduced to
spare her the strain of overmuch conversation. She was able, however,
to receive morning visitors on one day of every week, and I took
advantage of this opportunity to see her again. I spoke of her little
boy, a child of two years, who had been pointed out to me in the Park,
by my friend Paraskevaïdes. He bore the grandiose name of Agamemnon.
Presently we heard the voice of a child below stairs, and Mrs.
Schliemann said: "That is my baby; he has just come in with his nurse."
I asked that we might see him, and the nurse brought him into the
drawing-room. At sight of us, he began to kick and scream. Wishing to
soothe him, I said: "Poor little Agamemnon!" Mrs. Schliemann rejoined:
"I say, nasty little Agamemnon!"

Is it to be supposed that I entered and left Athens without uttering the
cabalistic word "club"? By no means. I found myself one day invited to
speak to a number of ladies, at a friend's house, upon a theme of my own
choosing; and this theme was, "The Advancement of Women as Promoted by
Association." My audience, numbering about forty, was the best that
could be gathered in Athens. I found there, as I have found elsewhere in
Europe, great need of the new life which association gives, but little
courage to take the first step in a new direction. I could only scratch
my furrow, drop my seed, and wait, like _Miss Flyte_, in "Bleak House,"
for a result, if need be, "on the day of judgment."

It is a delight to speak of a deeper furrow which was drawn, ten years
earlier, by an abler hand than mine, though several of us gave some help
in the work done at that time. I allude to the efforts made by my dear
husband in behalf of the suffering Cretans, when they were struggling
bravely for the freedom which Europe still denies them. Some of the
money raised by his earnest efforts, as I have already said, found its
way to the then desolate island, in the shape of provisions and clothing
for the wives and children of the combatants. Some of it remained in
Athens, and paid for the education of a whole generation of Cretan
children exiled from their homes, and rendered able, through the aid
thus afforded, to earn their own support.

Some of the money, moreover, went to found an industrial establishment
in Athens, which has since been continued and enlarged by funds derived
from other sources. This establishment began with two or three looms,
the Cretan women being expert weavers, and the object being to enable
them to earn their bread in a strange city. And it now has at least a
dozen looms, and the Dorian mothers, stately and powerful, sit at them
all day long, weaving dainty silken webs, gossamer stuffs, strong cotton
fabrics, and serviceable carpets.

In those days I saw Marathon for the first time, and learned the truth
of Lord Byron's lines:--

    The mountains look on Marathon,
    And Marathon looks on the sea.

This expedition occupied the whole of a winter day. We started from the
hotel after early breakfast, and did not regain it until long after
dark. Our carriages were accompanied by an escort of dragoons, which the
Greek government supplies, not in view of any real danger from brigands,
but in order to afford strangers every possible security. A drive of
some three hours brought us to the spot.

A level plain, between the mountains and the sea; a mound, raised at its
centre, marking the burial-place of those who fell in the famous battle;
a sea-beach, washed by blue waves, and basking in the golden Attic
sunlight--this is what we saw at Marathon.

Here we gathered pebbles, and I preserved for some days a knot of
daisies growing in a grassy clod of earth. But my mind saw in Marathon
an earnest of the patriotic spirit which has lifted Greece from such
ruin as the Persians were never able to inflict upon her. Worthy
descendants of those ancient heroes were the patriots who fought, in our
own century, the war of Greek independence. I am glad to think that all
heroic deeds have a fatherhood of their own, whose line never becomes

Those who would institute a comparison between ancient and modern art
should first compare the office of art in ancient times with the
function assigned it in our own.

The sculptures of classic Greece were primarily the embodiment of its
popular theology and the record of its patriotic heroism. They are not,
as we might think them, fancy-free. The marble gods of Hellas
characterize for us the _morale_ of that ancient community. They
expressed the religious conviction of the artist, and corresponded to
the faith of the multitude. If we recognize the freedom of imagination
in their conception, we also feel the reverence which guided the
sculptor in their execution. As Emerson has said:--

    Himself from God he could not free.

How necessary these marbles were to the devotion of the time, we may
infer from the complaint reported in one of Cicero's orations,--that a
certain Greek city had been so stripped of its marbles that its people
had no god left to pray to.

In the city of the Cæsars, this Greek art became the minister of luxury.
The ethics of the Roman people chiefly concerned their relation to the
state, to which their church was in great measure subservient. The
statues stolen from the worship of the Greeks adorned the baths and
palaces of the Emperors. This we must think providential for us, since
it is in this way that they have escaped the barbarous destruction which
for ages swept over the whole of Greece, and to whose rude force,
column, monument, and statue were only raw material for the lime-kiln.

Still more secondary is the position of sculpture in the civilization of
to-day. Here and there a monument or statue commemorates some great name
or some great event. But these are still outside the current of our
daily life. Marble is to us a gospel of death, and we grow less and less
fond of its cold abstraction. The glitter of _bric-à-brac_, bits of
color, an unexpected shimmer here and there--such are the favorite
aspects of art with us.

In saying this, I remember that many beautiful works of art have been
purchased by wealthy Americans, and that a surprising number of our
people know what is worth purchasing in this line. And yet I think that
in the houses of these very people, art is rather the servant of luxury
than the embodiment of any strong and sincere affection.

We cannot turn back the tide of progress. We cannot make our religion
sculpturesque and picturesque. God forbid that we should! But we can
look upon the sculptures of ancient Greece with reverent appreciation,
and behold in them a record of the naïve and simple faith of a great

If we must speak thus of plastic art, what shall we say of the drama?

Sit down with me before this palace of Œdipus, whose façade is the
only scenic aid brought to help the illusion of the play. See how the
whole secret and story of the hero's fate is wrought out before its
doors, which open upon his youthful strength and glory, and close upon
his desolate shame and blindness. Follow the majestic tread of the
verse, the perfect progress of the action, and learn the deep reverence
for the unseen powers which lifts and spiritualizes the agony of the

Where shall we find a parallel to this in the drama of our day? The most
striking contrast to it will be furnished by what we call a "realistic"
play, which is a play devised upon the supposition that those who will
attend its representation are not possessed of any imagination, but must
be dazzled through their eyes and deafened through their ears, until the
fatigue of the senses shall take the place of intellectual pleasure. The
_dénouement_ will, no doubt, present, as it can, the familiar moral that
virtue is in the end rewarded, and vice punished. But such virtue! and
such vice! How shall we be sure which is which?

During this visit, I had an interview which brought me face to face
with some of the Cretan chiefs, who were exiles in Athens at the time of
my visit, in consequence of their participation in the more recent
efforts of the Islanders to free themselves from the Turkish rule.

I received, one day, official notice that a committee, appointed by a
number of the Cretan exiles, desired permission to wait upon me, with
the view of presenting an address which should recognize the efforts
made by Dr. Howe in behalf of their unfortunate country. In accordance
with this request, I named an hour on the following day, and at the
appointed time my guests made their appearance. The Cretan chiefs were
five in number. All of them, but one, were dressed in the picturesque
costume of their country. This one was Katzi Michælis, the youngest of
the party, and somewhat more like the world's people than the others.
Two of these were very old men, one of them numbering eighty-four years,
and bearing a calm and serene front, like one of Homer's heroes. This
was old Korakas, who had only laid down his arms within two years. The
chiefs were accompanied by several gentlemen, residents of Athens. One
of these, Mr. Rainieri, opened proceedings by a few remarks in French,
setting forth the object of the visit, and introducing the address of
the Cretan committee, which he read in their own tongue:--


     We, the undersigned, emigrants from Crete, who await in free Greece
     the complete emancipation of our country, have learned with
     pleasure the fact of your presence in Athens. We feel assured that
     we shall faithfully interpret the sentiments of our
     fellow-countrymen by saluting your return to this city, and by
     assuring you, at the same time, that the remembrance of the
     benefits conferred by your late illustrious husband is always
     living in our hearts. When the sun of liberty shall arise upon the
     Island of Crete, the Cretans will, no doubt, decree the erection of
     a monument which will attest to succeeding generations the
     gratitude of our country toward her noble benefactor. For the
     moment, Madam, deign to accept the simple expression of our
     sentiments, and our prayers for the prosperity of your family and
     your nation, to which we and our children shall ever be bound by
     the ties of gratitude.

The substance of my reply to Mr. Rainieri was as follows:--

     MY DEAR SIR,--

     I beg that you will express to these gentlemen my gratitude for
     their visit, and for the sentiments communicated in the address to
     which I have just listened. I am much moved by the mention made of
     the services which my late illustrious husband was able to render
     to the cause of Greece in his youth, and to that of Crete in his
     later life. It is true that his earliest efforts, outside of his
     native country, were for Greek independence, and that his latest
     endeavors in Europe were made in aid of the Cretans, who have
     struggled with so much courage and perseverance to deliver their
     country from the yoke of Turkish oppression. Pray assure these
     gentlemen that my children and I will never cease to pray for the
     welfare of Greece, and especially for the emancipation of Crete.
     Though myself already in the decline of life, I yet hope that I
     shall live long enough to see the deliverance of your island,
     τἡν ἑλευθερἱαν τἡς Κρἡτης.

A Greek newspaper's report of this occasion remarked:--

     The last words of Mrs. Howe's reply, spoken in Greek, brought tears
     to the eyes of the heroes, most of whom had known the
     ever-memorable Dr. Howe in the glorious days of the war of 1821,
     and had fought with him against the oppressors. Mr. Rainieri
     interpreted the meaning of Mrs. Howe's words to his
     fellow-citizens. After this, Mrs. Howe gave orders for
     refreshments, and began to talk slowly, but distinctly, in Greek,
     to the great pleasure of all present, who heard directly from her
     the voice of her heart.

I will only add that all parties stood during the official part of the
interview. This being at an end, coffee and cordials were brought, and
we sat at ease, and chatted as well as my limited use of the modern
Greek tongue allowed. Before we separated, one of the Greeks present
invited the chiefs and myself and daughter to a feast which he proposed
to give at Phaleron, in honor of the meeting which I have just

Some account of this festivity may not be uninteresting to my readers. I
must premise that it was to be no banquet of modern fashion, but a feast
of the Homeric sort, in which a lamb, roasted whole in the open air,
would be the principal dish. Phaleron, where it was appointed to take
place, is an ancient port, only three miles distant from Athens. The
sea view from this point is admirable. The bay is small, and its
surroundings are highly picturesque. Classic as was the occasion, the
unclassic railway furnished our conveyance.

The Cretan chiefs came punctually to the station, and presently we all
entered a parlor-car, and were whisked off to the scene of action. This
was the hotel at Phaleron, where we found a long table handsomely set
out, and adorned with fruits and flowers. The company dispersed for a
short time,--some to walk by the shore; some to see the lambs roasting
on their spit in the courtyard; I, to sit quietly for half an hour,
after which interval, dinner was announced.

Mr. Rainieri gave me his arm, and seated me on his right. On my right
sat Katzi Michælis. My daughter and a young cousin were twined in like
blooming roses between the gray old chieftains. Paraskevaïdes, the giver
of the feast, looked all aglow with pleasure and enthusiasm. Our soup
was served,--quite a worldly, French soup. But the Greeks insist that
the elaborate style of cookery usually known as French originated with
them. Then came a Cretan dish consisting of the liver and entrails of
the lambs, twisted and toasted on a spit. Some modern _entremets_
followed, and then, as _pièce de résistance_, the lambs, with
accompanying salad. Each of the elder chiefs, before tasting his first
glass of wine, rose and saluted the company, making especial obeisance
to the master of the feast.

The Homeric rage of hunger and thirst having been satisfied, it became
time for us to make the most of a reunion so rare in its elements, and
necessarily so brief. I will here quote partially the report given in
one of the Greek papers of the time. The writer says: "During dinner
many warm toasts were drunk. Mr. Rainieri drank to the health of Mrs.
Howe. Mr. Paraskevaïdes drank to the memory of Dr. Howe and the health
of all freedom-loving Americans, giving his toast first in Greek and
afterwards in English. To all this, Mrs. Howe made answer in French,
with great sympathy and eloquence." So the paper said, but I will only
say that I did as well as I was able.

At the mention of Dr. Howe's name, old Korakas rose, and said: "I assure
Mrs. Howe that when, with God's will, Crete becomes free, the Cretans
will erect a statue to the memory of her ever-memorable husband." At
this time, I thought it only right to propose the memory of President
Felton, former president of Harvard University, in his day an ardent
lover of Greek literature, and of the land which gave it birth. The
eldest son of this lamented friend sat with us at the table, and had
become so proficient in the language of the country as to be able to
acknowledge the compliment in Greek, which the reporter qualifies as
excellent. Apropos of this same reporter, let me say that he entered so
heartily into the spirit of the feast as to improvise on the spot some
lines of poetry, of which the following is a free translation:--

    I greet the warriors of brave Crete
    Assembled in this place.
    Each of them represents her mountains,
    Each her heart, each her breath.
    If life may be measured by struggles,
    So great is her life,
    That on the day when she becomes free
    Two worlds will be filled with the joy of her freedom.

The report says truly that the heroes of Crete, with their white beards,
resembled gods of Olympus. The three oldest--Korakas, Kriaris, and
Syphacus--spoke of the days in which Dr. Howe, while taking part with
them in the military operations of the war of Greek independence, at the
same time made his medical skill availing to the sick and wounded.

When we had risen from the board, passing into another room, my daughter
saw a ball lying on the table, and soon engaged the ancient chiefs in
the pastime of throwing and catching it. "See," said one of the company,
"Dr. Howe's daughter is playing with the men who, fifty years ago, were
her father's companions in arms."

After the simple patriarchal festivity, the return, even to Athens,
seemed a return to the commonplace.

A word regarding the Greek church belongs here. Its ritual represents,
without doubt, the most ancient form of worship which can have
representation in these days. The church calls itself simply orthodox.
It classes Christians as orthodox, Romanist, and Protestant, and
condemns the two last-named confessions of faith equally as heresies.
The Greek church in Greece has little zeal for the propaganda of its
special doctrine, but it has great zeal against the introduction of any
other sect within the boundaries of its domain. Protestant and Catholic
congregations are tolerated in Greece, but the attempt to educate Greek
children in the tenets held by either is not tolerated, is in fact
prohibited by government. I found the religious quiet of Athens somewhat
disturbed by the presence of several missionaries, supported by funds
from America, who persisted in teaching and preaching; one, after the
form of the Baptist, another, after that of the Presbyterian body. The
schools formerly established in connection with these missions have been
forcibly closed, because those in charge of them would not submit them
to the religious authority of the Greek priesthood.

The Sunday preaching of the missionaries, on the other hand, still went
on, making converts from time to time, and supplying certainly a direct
and vivid influence quite other than the extremely formal teaching of
the state church. The most prominent of these missionaries are Greeks
who have received their education in America, and who combine a fervent
love for their mother country with an equally fervent desire for her
religious progress. One can easily understand the attachment of the
Greeks to their national church. It has been the ark of safety by which
their national existence has been preserved.

When the very name of Hellene was almost obliterated from the minds of
those entitled to bear it, the Greek priesthood were unwearied in
keeping alive the love of the ancient ritual and doctrine, the belief in
the Christian religion. This debt of gratitude is warmly remembered by
the Greeks of to-day, and their church is still to them the symbol of
national, as well as of religious, unity. On the other hand, the
progress of religious thought and culture carries inquiring minds beyond
the domain of ancient and literal interpretation, and the outward
conformity which society demands is counter-balanced by much personal
scepticism and indifference. The missionaries, who cannot compete in
polite learning with the _élite_ of their antagonists, are yet much
better informed than the greater part of the secular clergy, and
represent, besides, something of American freedom, and the right and
duty of doing one's own thinking in religious matters, and of accepting
doctrines, if at all, with a living faith and conviction, not with a
dead and formal assent. It is one of those battles between the Past and
the Future which have to fight themselves out to an issue that outsiders
cannot hasten.

Shall I close these somewhat desultory remarks with any attempt at a
lesson which may be drawn from them? Yes; to Americans I will say: Love
Greece. Be glad of the men who rose up from your midst at the cry of her
great anguish, to do battle in her behalf. Be glad of the money which
you or your fathers sent to help her. America never spends money better
than in this way. Remember what this generation may be in danger of
forgetting,--that we can never be so great ourselves as to be absolved
from regarding the struggle for freedom, in the remotest corners of the
earth, with tender sympathy and interest. And in the great reactions
which attend human progress, when self-interest is acknowledged as the
supreme god everywhere, and the ideals of justice and honor are set out
of sight and derided, let the heart of this country be strong to protest
against military usurpation, against barbarous rule. Let America invite
to her shores the dethroned heroes of liberal thought and policy, saying
to them: "Come and abide with us; we have a country, a hand, a heart,
for you."

The Salon in America

THE word "society" has reached the development of two opposite meanings.
The generic term applies to the body politic _en masse_; the specific
term is technically used to designate a very limited portion of that
body. The use, nowadays, of the slang expression "sassiety" is evidence
that we need a word which we do not as yet possess.

It is with this department of the human fellowship that I now propose to
occupy myself, and especially with one of its achievements, considered
by some a lost art,--the salon.

This prelude of mine is somewhat after the manner of _Polonius_, but, as
Shakespeare must have had occasion to observe, the mind of age has ever
a retrospective turn. Those of us who are used to philosophizing must
always go back from a particular judgment to some governing principle
which we have found, or think we have found, in long experience. The
question whether salons are possible in America leads my thoughts to
other questions which appear to me to lie behind this one, and which
primarily concern the well-being of civilized man.

The uses of society, in the sense of an assemblage for social
intercourse, may be briefly stated as follows: first of all, such
assemblages are needed, in order to make people better friends.
Secondly, they are needed to enlarge the individual mind by the
interchange of thought and expression with other minds. Thirdly, they
are needed for the utilization of certain sorts and degrees of talent
which would not be available either for professional, business, or
educational work, but which, appropriately combined and used, can
forward the severe labors included under these heads, by the
instrumentality of sympathy, enjoyment, and good taste.

Any social custom or institution which can accomplish one or more of
these ends will be found of important use in the work of civilization;
but here, as well as elsewhere, the ends which the human heart desires
are defeated by the poverty of human judgment and the general ignorance
concerning the relation of means to ends. Society, thus far, is a sort
of lottery, in which there are few prizes and many blanks, and each of
these blanks represents some good to which men and women are entitled,
and which they should have, and could, if they only knew how to come at

Thus, social intercourse is sometimes so ordered that it develops
antagonism instead of harmony, and makes one set of people the enemies
of another set, dividing not only circles, but friendships and
families. This state of things defeats society's first object, which, in
my view, is to make people better friends. Secondly, it will happen, and
not seldom, that the frequent meeting together of a number of people,
necessarily restricted, instead of enlarging the social horizon of the
individual, will tend to narrow it more and more, so that sets and
cliques will revolve around small centres of interest, and refuse to
extend their scope.

In this way, end number two, the enlargement of the individual mind is
lost sight of, and, end number three, the interchange of thought and
experience does not have room to develop itself.

People say what they think others want to hear: they profess experiences
which they have never had. Here, consequently, a sad blank is drawn,
where we might well look for the greatest prize; and, end number four,
the utilization of secondary or even tertiary talents is defeated by the
application of a certain fashion varnish, which effaces all features of
individuality, and produces a wondrously dull surface, where we might
have hoped for a brilliant variety of form and color.

These defects of administration being easily recognized, the great
business of social organizations ought to be to guard against them in
such wise that the short space and limited opportunity of individual
life should have offered to it the possibility of a fair and generous
investment, instead of the uncertain lottery of which I spoke just now.

One of the great needs of society in all times is that its guardians
shall take care that rules or institutions devised for some good end
shall not become so perverted in the use made of them as to bring about
the result most opposed to that which they were intended to secure.
This, I take it, is the true meaning of the saying that "the price of
liberty is eternal vigilance," no provision to secure this being sure to
avail, without the constant direction of personal care to the object.

The institution of the salon might, in some periods of social history,
greatly forward the substantial and good ends of human companionship. I
can easily fancy that, in other times and under other circumstances, its
influence might be detrimental to general humanity and good fellowship.
We can, in imagination, follow the two processes which I have here in
mind. The strong action of a commanding character, or of a commanding
interest, may, in the first instance, draw together those who belong
together. Fine spirits, communicative and receptive, will obey the fine
electric force which seeks to combine them,--the great wits, and the
people who can appreciate them; the poets, and their fit hearers;
philosophers, statesmen, economists, and the men and women who will be
able and eager to learn from the informal overflow of their wisdom and

Here we may have a glimpse of a true republic of intelligence. What
should overthrow it? Why should it not last forever, and be handed down
from one generation to another?

The salon is an insecure institution; first, because the exclusion of
new material, of new men and new ideas, may so girdle such a society
that its very perfection shall involve its death. Then, on account of
the false ideas and artificial methods which self-limiting society tends
to introduce, in time the genuine basis of association disappears from
view: the great _name_ is wanted for the reputation of the salon, not
the great intelligence for its illumination. The moment that you put the
name in place of the individual, you introduce an element of insincerity
and failure.

There is a sort of homage quite common in society, which amounts to such
flattery as this: "Madam, I assure you that I consider you an eminently
brilliant and successful sham. Will you tell me your secret, or shall I,
a worker in the same line, tell you mine?" Again, the contradictory
objects of our desired salon are its weakness. We wish it to exclude the
general public, but we dreadfully desire that it shall be talked about
and envied by the general public. These two opposite aims--a severe
restriction of membership, and an unlimited extension of
reputation--are very likely to destroy the social equilibrium of any
circle, coterie, or association.

Such contradictions have deep roots; even the general conduct of
neighborhood evinces them. People are often concerned lest those who
live near them should infringe upon the rights and reserves of their
household. In large cities, people sometimes boast with glee that they
have no acquaintance with the families dwelling on either side of them.
And yet, in some of those very cities, social intercourse is limited by
regions, and one street of fine houses will ignore another, which is, to
all appearances, as fine and as reputable. Under these circumstances,
some may naturally ask: "Who is my neighbor?" In the sense of the good
Samaritan, mostly no one.

Dante has given us pictures of the ideal good and the ideal evil
association. The company of his demons is distracted by incessant
warfare. Weapons are hurled back and forth between them, curses and
imprecations, while the solitary souls of great sinners abide in the
torture of their own flame. As the great poet has introduced to us a
number of his acquaintance in this infernal abode, we may suppose him to
have given us his idea of much of the society of his own time. Such
appeared to him that part of the World which, with the Flesh and the
Devil, completes the trinity of evil. But, in his Paradiso, what
glimpses does he give us of the lofty spiritual communion which then, as
now, redeemed humanity from its low discredit, its spite and malice!

Resist as we may, the Christian order is prevailing, and will more and
more prevail. At the two opposite poles of popular affection and learned
persuasion, it did overcome the world, ages ago. In the intimate details
of life, in the spirit of ordinary society, it will penetrate more and
more. We may put its features out of sight and out of mind, but they are
present in the world about us, and what we may build in ignorance or
defiance of them will not stand. Modern society itself is one of the
results of this world conquest which was crowned with thorns nearly two
thousand years ago. In spite of the selfishness of all classes of men
and women, this conquest puts the great goods of life within the reach
of all.

I speak of Christianity here, because, as I see it, it stands in direct
opposition to the natural desire of privileged classes and circles to
keep the best things for their own advantage and enjoyment. "What,
then!" will you say, "shall society become an agrarian mob?" By no
means. Its great domain is everywhere crossed by boundaries. All of us
have our proper limits, and should keep them, when we have once learned

But all of us have a share, too, in the good and glory of human
destiny. The free course of intelligence and sympathy in our own
commonwealth establishes here a social unity which is hard to find
elsewhere. Do not let any of us go against this. Animal life itself
begins with a cell, and slowly unfolds and expands until it generates
the great electric currents which impel the world of sentient beings.

The social and political life of America has passed out of the cell
state into the sweep of a wide and brilliant efficiency. Let us not try
to imprison this truly cosmopolitan life in cells, going back to the
instinctive selfhood of the barbaric state.

Nature starts from cells, but develops by centres. If we want to find
the true secret of social discrimination, let us seek it in the study of
centres,--central attractions, each subordinated to the governing
harmony of the universe, but each working to keep together the social
atoms that belong together. There was a time in which the stars in our
beautiful heaven were supposed to be kept in their places by solid
mechanical contrivances, the heaven itself being an immense body that
revolved with the rest. The progress of science has taught us that the
luminous orbs which surround us are not held by mechanical bonds, but
that natural laws of attraction bind the atom to the globe, and the
globe to its orbit.

Even so is it with the social atoms which compose humanity. Each of
them has his place, his right, his beauty; and each and all are governed
by laws of belonging which are as delicate as the tracery of the frost,
and as mighty as the frost itself.

The club is taking the place of the salon to-day, and not without
reason. I mean by this the study, culture, and social clubs, not those
modern fortresses in which a man rather takes refuge from society than
really seeks or finds it. I have just said that mankind are governed by
centres of natural attraction, around which their lives come to revolve.
In the course of human progress, the higher centres exercise an
ever-widening attraction, and the masses of mankind are brought more and
more under their influence.

Now, the affection of fraternal sympathy and good-will is as natural to
man, though not so immediate in him, as are any of the selfish
instincts. Objects of moral and intellectual worth call forth this
sympathy in a high and ever-increasing degree, while objects in which
self is paramount call forth just the opposite, and foster in one and
all the selfish principle, which is always one of emulation, discord,
and mutual distrust. While a salon may be administered in a generous and
disinterested manner, I should fear that it would often prove an arena
in which the most selfish leadings of human nature would assert

In the club, a sort of public spirit necessarily develops itself. Each
of us would like to have his place there,--yes, and his appointed little
time of shining,--but a worthy object, such as will hold together men
and women on an intellectual basis, gradually wins for itself the place
of command in the affections of those who follow it in company. Each of
these will find that his unaided efforts are insufficient for the
furthering and illustration of a great subject which all have greatly at
heart. I have been present at a forge on which the pure gold of thought
has been hammered by thinkers into the rounded sphere of an almost
perfect harmony. One and another and another gave his hit or his touch,
and when the delightful hour was at an end, each of us carried the
golden sphere away with him.

The club which I have in mind at this moment had an unfashionable name,
and was scarcely, if at all, recognized in the general society of
Boston. It was called the Radical Club,--and the really radical feature
in it was the fact that the thoughts presented at its meetings had a
root, and were, in that sense, radical. These thoughts, entertained by
individuals of very various persuasions, often brought forth strong
oppositions of opinion. Some of us used to wax warm in the defence of
our own conviction; but our wrath was not the wrath of the peacock,
enraged to see another peacock unfold its brilliant tail, but the
concern of sincere thinkers that a subject worth discussing should not
be presented in a partial and one-sided manner, to which end, each
marked his point and said his say; and when our meeting was over, we had
all had the great instruction of looking into the minds of those to whom
truth was as dear as to ourselves, even if her aspect to them was not
exactly what it was to us.

Here I have heard Wendell Phillips and Oliver Wendell Holmes; John Weiss
and James Freeman Clarke; Athanase Coquerel, the noble French Protestant
preacher; William Henry Channing, worthy nephew of his great uncle;
Colonel Higginson, Dr. Bartol, and many others. Extravagant things were
sometimes said, no doubt, and the equilibrium of ordinary persuasion was
not infrequently disturbed for a time; but the satisfaction of those
present when a sound basis of thought was vindicated and established is
indeed pleasant in remembrance.

I feel tempted to introduce here one or two magic-lantern views of
certain sittings of this renowned club, of which I cherish especial
remembrance. Let me say, speaking in general terms, that, albeit the
club was more critical than devout, its criticism was rarely other than
serious and earnest. I remember that M. Coquerel's discourse there was
upon "The Protestantism of Art," and that in it he combated the
generally received idea that the church of Rome has always stood first
in the patronage and inspiration of art. The great Dutch painters,
Holbein, Rembrandt, and their fellows, were not Roman Catholics. Michael
Angelo was protestant in spirit; so was Dante. I cannot recall with much
particularity the details of things heard so many years ago, but I
remember the presence at this meeting of Charles Sumner, George Hillard,
and Dr. Hedge. Mr. Sumner declined to take any part in the discussion
which followed M. Coquerel's discourse. Colonel Higginson, who was often
present at these meetings, maintained his view that Protestantism was
simply the decline of the Christian religion. Mr. Hillard quoted St.
James's definition of religion, pure and undefiled,--to visit the
fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted
from the world. Dr. Hedge, who was about to withdraw, paused for a
moment to say: "The word 'religion' is not rightly translated there; it
should mean"--I forgot what. The doctor's tone and manner very much
impressed a friend, who afterwards said to me: "Did he not go away 'like
one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him'?"

Or it might be that John Weiss, he whom a lady writer once described as
"four parts spirit and one part flesh," gave us his paper on Prometheus,
or one on music, or propounded his theory of how the world came into
existence. Colonel Higginson would descant upon the Greek goddesses, as
representing the feminine ideals of the Greek mythology, which he held
to be superior to the Christian ideals of womanhood,--dear Elizabeth
Peabody and I meeting him in earnest opposition. David Wasson, powerful
in verse and in prose, would speak against woman suffrage. When driven
to the wall, he confessed that he did not believe in popular suffrage at
all; and when forced to defend this position, he would instance the
wicked and ill-governed city of New York as reason enough for his views.
I remember his going away after such a discussion very abruptly, not at
all in Dr. Hedge's grand style, but rather as if he shook the dust of
our opinions from his feet; for no one of the radicals would countenance
this doctrine, and though we freely confessed the sins of New York, we
believed not a whit the less in the elective franchise, with amendments
and extensions.

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, one day, if I remember rightly, gave a very
succinct and clear statement of the early forms of Calvinistic doctrine
as held in this country, and Wendell Phillips lent his eloquent speech
to this and to other discussions.

When I think of it, I believe that I had a salon once upon a time. I did
not call it so, nor even think of it as such; yet within it were
gathered people who represented many and various aspects of life. They
were real people, not lay figures distinguished by names and clothes.
The earnest humanitarian interests of my husband brought to our home a
number of persons interested in reform, education, and progress. It was
my part to mix in with this graver element as much of social grace and
geniality as I was able to gather about me. I was never afraid to bring
together persons who rarely met elsewhere than at my house, confronting
Theodore Parker with some archpriest of the old orthodoxy, or William
Lloyd Garrison with a decade, perhaps, of Beacon Street dames. A friend
said, on one of these occasions: "Our hostess delights in contrasts." I
confess that I did; but I think that my greatest pleasure was in the
lessons of human compatibility which I learned on this wise. I started,
indeed, with the conviction that thought and character are the foremost
values in society, and was not afraid nor ashamed to offer these to my
guests, with or without the stamp of fashion and position. The result
amply justified my belief.

Some periods in our own history are more favorable to such intercourse
than others. The agony and enthusiasm of the civil war, and the long
period of ferment and disturbance which preceded and followed that great
crisis,--these social agitations penetrated the very fossils of the body
politic. People were glad to meet together, glad to find strength and
comfort among those who lived and walked by solid convictions. We cannot
go back to that time; we would not, if we could; but it was a grand time
to live and to work in.

I am sorry when I see people build palaces in America. We do not need
them. Why should we bury fortune and life in the dead state of rooms
which are not lived in? Why should we double and triple for ourselves
the dangers of insufficient drainage or defective sanitation? Let us
have such houses as we need,--comfortable, well aired, well lighted,
adorned with such art as we can appreciate, enlivened by such company as
we can enjoy. Similarly, I believe that we should, individually, come
much nearer to the real purpose of a salon by restricting the number of
our guests and enlarging their variety.

If we are to have a salon, do not let us think too much about its
appearance to the outside world,--how it will be reported, and extolled,
and envied. Mr. Emerson withdrew from the Boston Radical Club because
newspaper reports of its meetings were allowed. We live too much in
public to-day, and desire too much the seal of public notice.

There is not room in our short human life for both shams and realities.
We can neither pursue nor possess both. I think of this now entirely
with application to the theme under consideration. Let us not exercise
sham hospitality to sham friends. Let the heart of our household be
sincere; let our home affections expand to a wider human brotherhood and
sisterhood. Let us be willing to take trouble to gather our friends
together, and to offer them such entertainment as we can, remembering
that the best entertainment is mutual.

But do not let us offend ourselves or our friends with the glare of
lights, the noise of numbers, in order that all may suffer a tedious and
joyless being together, and part as those who have contributed to each
other's _ennui_, all sincere and reasonable intercourse having been
wanting in the general encounter.

We should not feel bound, either, to the literal imitation of any facts
or features of European life which may not fit well upon our own. In
many countries, the currents of human life have become so deepened and
strengthened by habit and custom as to render change very difficult, and
growth almost impossible. In our own, on the contrary, life is fresh and
fluent. Its boundaries should be elastic, capable even of indefinite

In the older countries of which I speak, political power and social
recognition are supposed to emanate from some autocratic source, and the
effort and ambition of all naturally look toward that source, and,
knowing none other, feel a personal interest in maintaining its
ascendency, the statu quo. In our own broad land, power and light have
no such inevitable abiding-place, but may emanate from an endless
variety of points and personalities.

The other mode of living may have much to recommend it for those to whom
it is native and inherited, but it is not for us. And when we apologize
for our needs and deficiencies, it should not be on the ground of our
youth and inexperience. If the settlement of our country is recent, we
have behind us all the experience of the human race, and are bound to
represent its fuller and riper manhood. Our seriousness is sometimes
complained of, usually by people whose jests and pleasantries fail to
amuse us. Let us not apologize for this, nor envy any nation its power
of trifling and of _persiflage_. We have mighty problems to solve; great
questions to answer. The fate of the world's future is concerned in what
we shall do or leave undone.

We are a people of workers, and we love work--shame on him who is
ashamed of it! When we are found, on our own or other shores, idling our
life away, careless of vital issues, ignorant of true principles, then
may we apologize, then let us make haste to amend.


WHEN I learned, last season, that the attention of the school[A] this
year would be in a good degree given to the dramatists of ancient
Greece, I was seized with a desire to speak of one of these, to whom I
owe a debt of gratitude. This is the great Aristophanes, the first, and
the most illustrious, of comic writers for the stage,--first and best,
at least, of those known to Western literature.

In the chance talk of people of culture, one hears of him all one's life
long, as exceedingly amusing. From my brothers in college, I learned the
"Frog Chorus" before I knew even a letter of the Greek alphabet. Many a
decade after this, I walked in the theatre of Bacchus at Athens, and
seeing the beauty of the marble seats, still ranged in perfect order,
and feeling the glory and dignity of the whole surrounding, I seemed to
guess that the comedies represented there were not desired to amuse idle
clowns nor to provoke vulgar laughter.

[Note A] Read before the Concord School of Philosophy.

At the foot of the Acropolis, with the Parthenon in sight and the
colossal statue of Minerva towering above the glittering temples, the
poet and his audience surely had need to bethink themselves of the
wisdom which lies in laughter, of the ethics of the humorous,--a topic
well worth the consideration of students of philosophy. The ethics of
the humorous, the laughter of the gods! "He that sitteth in the heavens
shall laugh them to scorn." Did not even the gentle Christ intend satire
when, after recognizing the zeal with which an ox or an ass would be
drawn out of a pit on the sacred day, he asked: "And shall not this
woman, whom Satan hath bound, lo! these eighteen years, be loosed from
her infirmity on the sabbath day?"

When a Greek tragedy is performed before us, we are amazed at its force,
its coherence, and its simplicity. What profound study and quick sense
of the heroic in nature must have characterized the man who, across the
great gulf of centuries, can so sweep our heart-strings, and draw from
them such responsive music! Our praise of these great works almost
sounds conceited. It would be more fitting for us to sit in silence and
bewail our own smallness. Comedy, too, has her grandeur; and when she
walks the stage in robe and buskins, she, too, is to receive the highest
crown, and her lessons are to be laid to heart.

I will venture a word here concerning the subjective side of comedy. Is
it the very depth and quick of our self-love which is reached by the
subtle sting which calls up a blush where no sermonizing would have that
effect? Deep satire touches the heroic within us. "Miserable sinners are
ye all," says the preacher, "vanity of vanities!" and we sit
contentedly, and say Amen. But here comes some one who sets up our
meannesses and incongruities before us so that they topple over and
tumble down. And then, strange to say, we feel in ourselves this same
power; and considering our follies in the same light, we are compelled
to deride, and also to forsake them.

The miseries of war and the desirableness of peace were impressed
strongly on the mind of Aristophanes. The Peloponnesian War dragged on
from year to year with varying fortune; and though victory often crowned
the arms of the Athenians, its glory was dearly paid for by the
devastation which the Lacedæmonians inflicted upon the territory of
Attica. "The Acharnians," "The Knights," and "Peace" deal with this
topic in various forms. In the first of these is introduced, as the
chief character, Dikæopolis, a country gentleman who, in consequence of
the Spartan invasion, has been forced to forsake his estates, and to
take shelter in the city. He naturally desires the speedy conclusion of
hostilities, and to this end attends the assembly, determined, as he

    To bawl, to abuse, to interrupt the speakers
    Whenever I hear a word of any kind,
    Except for an immediate peace.

This method reminds us of the obstructionists in the British Parliament.
One man speaks of himself as loathing the city and longing to return

                     To my poor village and my farm
    That never used to cry: "Come buy my charcoal,"
    Nor "buy my oil," nor "buy my anything,"
    But gave me what I wanted, freely and fairly,
    Clear of all cost, with never a word of buying.

After various laughable adventures, Dikæopolis finds it possible to
conclude a truce with the invaders on his own account, in which his
neighbors, the Acharnians, are not included. He returns to his farm, and
goes forth with wife and daughter to perform the sacrifice fitting for
the occasion.


     Silence! Move forward, the Canephora.
     You, Xanthias, follow close behind her there
     In a proper manner, with your pole and emblem.


     Set down the basket, daughter, and begin
     The ceremony.


     Give me the cruet, mother,
     And let me pour it on the holy cake.


     O blessed Bacchus, what a joy it is
     To go thus unmolested, undisturbed,
     My wife, my children, and my family,
     With our accustomed joyful ceremony,
     To celebrate thy festival in my farm.
     Well, here's success to the truce of thirty years.


     Mind your behavior, child. Carry the basket
     In a modest, proper manner; look demure;
     Mind your gold trinkets, they'll be stolen else.

Dikæopolis now intones a hymn to Bacchus, but is interrupted by the
violent threats of his war-loving neighbors, the Acharnians, who break
out in injurious language, and threaten the life of the miscreant who
has made peace with the enemies of his country solely for his own
interests. With a good deal of difficulty, he persuades the enraged
crowd to allow him to argue his case before them, and this fact makes us
acquainted with another leading trait in Aristophanes; viz., his polemic
opposition to the poet Euripides. Dikæopolis, wishing to make a
favorable impression upon the rustics, hies to the house of Euripides,
whose servant parleys with him in true transcendental language.


     Euripides within?


     Within, and not within. You comprehend me?


     Within and not within! What do you mean?


    His outward man
    Is in the garret writing tragedy;
    While his essential being is abroad
    Pursuing whimsies in the world of fancy.

The visitor now calls aloud upon the poet:

    Euripides, Euripides, come down,
    If ever you came down in all your life!
    'Tis I, Dikæopolis, from Chollidæ.

This Chollidæ probably corresponded to the Pea Ridge often quoted
in our day. Euripides declines to come down, but is presently made
visible by some device of the scene-shifter. In the dialogue that
follows, Aristophanes ridicules the personages and the costumes
brought upon the stage by Euripides, and reflects unhandsomely upon
the poet's mother, who was said to have been a vender of
vegetables. Dikæopolis does not seek to borrow poetry or eloquence
from Euripides, but prays him to lend him "a suit of tatters from a
worn-out tragedy."

    For mercy's sake, for I'm obliged to make
    A speech in my own defence before the chorus,
    A long pathetic speech, this very day,
    And if it fails, the doom of death betides me.

Euripides now asks what especial costume would suit the need of
Dikæopolis, and calls over the most pitiful names in his tragedies:
"Do you want the dress of Oineos?"--"Oh, no! something much more
wretched."--"Phœnix? "--"No; much worse than
Phœnix."--"Philocletes?"--"No."--"Lame Bellerophon?" Dikæopolis

    'Twas not Bellerophon, but very like him,
    A kind of smooth, fine-spoken character;
    A beggar into the bargain, and a cripple
    With a grand command of words, bothering and begging.

Euripides by this description recognizes the personage intended,
_viz._, Telephus, the physician, and orders his servant to go and
fetch the ragged suit, which he will find "next to the tatters of
Thyestes, just over Ino's." Dikæopolis exclaims, on seeing the mass
of holes and patches, but asks, further, a little Mysian bonnet for
his head, a beggar's staff, a dirty little basket, a broken pipkin;
all of which Euripides grants, to be rid of him. All this insolence
the visitor sums up in the following lines:--

    I wish I may be hanged, my dear Euripides,
    If ever I trouble you for anything,
    Except one little, little, little boon,
    A single lettuce from your mother's stall.

This is more than Euripides can bear, and the gates are now shut upon
the intruder.

Later in the play, Dikæopolis appears in company with the General
Lamachus. A sudden call summons this last to muster his men and march
forth to repel a party of marauders. Almost at the same moment,
Dikæopolis is summoned to attend the feast of Bacchus, and to bring his
best cookery with him. In the dialogue that follows, the valiant soldier
and the valiant trencherman appear in humorous contrast.


     Boy, boy, bring out here my haversack.


     Boy, boy, hither bring my dinner service.


     Bring salt flavored with thyme, boy, and onions.


     Bring me a cutlet. Onions make me ill.


     Bring hither pickled fish, stale.


     And to me a fat pudding. I will cook it yonder.


     Bring me my plumes and my helmet.


     Bring me doves and thrushes.


     Fair and white is the plume of the ostrich.


     Fair and yellow is the flesh of the dove.


     O man! leave off laughing at my weapons.


     O man! don't you look at my thrushes.


     Bring the case that holds my plumes.


     And bring me a dish of hare.


     But the moths have eaten my crest.

Dikæopolis makes some insolent rejoinder, at which the general takes
fire. He calls for his lance; Dikæopolis, for the spit, which he frees
from the roast meat. Lamachus raises his Gorgon-orbed shield; Dikæopolis
lifts a full-orbed pancake. Lamachus then performs a mock act of

    Pour oil upon the shield. What do I trace
    In the divining mirror? 'Tis the face
    Of an old coward, fortified with fear,
    That sees his trial for desertion near.


    Pour honey on the pancake. What appears?
    A comely personage, advanced in years,
    Firmly resolved to laugh at and defy
    Both Lamachus and the Gorgon family.

In "The Frogs," god and demigod, Bacchus and Hercules, are put upon the
stage with audacious humor. The first has borrowed the costume of the
second, in which unfitting garb he knocks at Hercules' door on his way
to Hades, his errand being to find and bring back Euripides. The dearth
of clever poets is the reason alleged for this undertaking. Hercules
suggests to him various poets who are still on earth. Bacchus condemns
them as "warblers of the grove; poor, puny wretches!" He now asks
Hercules for introductions to his friends in the lower regions, and for

    Any communication about the country,
    The roads, the streets, the bridges, public houses
    And lodgings, free from bugs and fleas, if possible.

Hercules mentions various ways of arriving at the infernal regions: "The
hanging road,--rope and noose?"--"That's too stifling."--"The pestle and
mortar, then,--the beaten road?"--"No; that gives one cold feet."--"Go,
then, to the tower of the Keramicus, and throw yourself headlong." No;
Bacchus does not wish to have his brains dashed out. He would go by the
road which Hercules took. Of this, Hercules gives an alarming account,
beginning with the bottomless lake and the boat of Charon. Bacchus
determines to set forth, but is detained by the recalcitrance of his
servant, Xanthias, who refuses to carry his bundle any further.

A funeral now comes across the stage. Bacchus asks the dead man if he is
willing to carry some bundles to Hell for him. The dead man demands two
drachmas for the service. Bacchus offers him ninepence, which he angrily
refuses, and is carried out of sight. Charon presently appears, and
makes known, like a good ferryman, the points at which he will deliver

                           Who wants the ferryman?
    Anybody waiting to remove from the sorrows of life?
    A passage to Lethe's wharf? to Cerberus' Beach?
    To Tartarus? to Tenaros? to Perdition?

Just so, in my youth, sailing on the Hudson, one heard all night the
sound of Peekskill landing! Fishkill landing! Rhinebeck landing!--with
darkness and swish of steam quite infernal enough.

Charon takes Bacchus on board, but compels him to do his part of the
rowing, promising him: "As soon as you begin you shall have music that
will teach you to keep time."

This music is the famous "Chorus of the Frogs," beginning, "Brokekekesh,
koash, koash," and running through many lines, with this occasional
refrain, of which Bacchus soon tires, as he does of the oar. His servant
Xanthias is obliged to make the journey by land and on foot, Charon
bidding him wait for his master at the Stone of Repentance, by the
Slough of Despond, beyond the Tribulations. After encountering the
Empousa, a nursery hobgoblin, they meet the spirits of the initiated,
singing hymns to Bacchus--whom they invoke as Jacchus--and to Ceres.
This part of the play, intended, Frere says, to ridicule the Eleusinian
mysteries, is curiously human in its incongruity,--a jumble of the
beautiful and the trivial. I must quote from it the closing strophe:--

    Let us hasten, let us fly
    Where the lovely meadows lie,
    Where the living waters flow,
    Where the roses bloom and blow.
    Heirs of immortality,
    Segregated safe and pure,
    Easy, sorrowless, secure,
    Since our earthly course is run,
    We behold a brighter sun.

Such sweet words we to-day could expect to hear from the lips of our own
dear ones, gone before.

Very incongruous is certainly this picture of Bacchus, in a cowardly and
ribald state of mind, listening to the hymn which celebrates his divine
aspect. Jacchus, whom the spirits invoke, is the glorified Bacchus, the
highest ideal of what was vital religion in those days. But the god
himself is not professionally, only personally, present, and, wearing
the disguise of Hercules, in no way notices or responds to the strophes
which invoke him. He asks the band indeed to direct him to Pluto's
house, which turns out to be near at hand.

Before its door, Bacchus is seized with such a fit of timidity that,
instead of knocking, he asks his servant to tell him how the native
inhabitants of the region knock at doors. Reproved by the servant, he
knocks, and announces himself as the valiant Hercules. Æacus, the
porter, now rushes out upon him with violent abuse, reviling him for
having stolen, or attempted to steal, the watch-dog, Cerberus, and
threatening him with every horror which Hell can inflict. Æacus departs,
and Bacchus persuades his servant to don the borrowed garb of Hercules,
while he loads himself with the baggage which the other was carrying.
Proserpine, however, sends her maid to invite the supposed Hercules to a
feast of dainties. Xanthias now assumes the manners befitting the hero,
at which Bacchus orders him to change dresses with him once more, and
assume his own costume, which he does. Hardly have they done this, when
Bacchus is again set upon by two frantic women, who shriek in his ears
the deeds of gluttony committed by Hercules in Hades, and not paid for.

                                   There; that's he
    That came to our house, ate those nineteen loaves.
    Aye; sure enough. That's he, the very man;
    And a dozen and a half of cutlets and fried chops,
    At a penny ha' penny apiece. And all the garlic,
    And the good green cheese that he gorged at once.
    And then, when I called for payment, he looked fierce
    And stared me in the face, and grinned and roared.

The women threaten the false Hercules with the pains and penalties of
swindling. He now pretends to soliloquize: "I love poor Xanthias dearly;
that I do."

"Yes," says Xanthias, "I know why; but it's of no use. I won't act
Hercules." Xanthias, however, allows himself to be persuaded, and when
Æacus, appearing with a force, cries: "Arrest me there that fellow that
stole the dog," Xanthias contrives to make an effectual resistance.
Having thus gained time, he assures Æacus that he never stole so much as
a hair of his dog's tail; but gives him leave to put Bacchus, his
supposed slave, to the torture, in order to elicit from him the truth.
Æacus, softened by this proposal, asks in which way the master would
prefer to have his slave tortured. Xanthias replies:

    In your own way, with the lash, with knots and screws,
    With the common, usual, customary tortures,
    With the rack, with the water torture, any sort of way,
    With fire and vinegar--all sorts of ways.

Bacchus, thus driven to the wall, proclaims his divinity, and claims
Xanthias as his slave. The latter suggests that if Bacchus is a
divinity, he may be beaten without injury, as he will not feel it.
Bacchus retorts, "If you are Hercules, so may you." Æacus, to ascertain
the truth, impartially belabors them both. Each, in turn, cries out, and
pretends to have quoted from the poets. Æacus, unable to decide which is
the god and which the impostor, brings them both before Proserpine and

In the course of a delicious dialogue between the two servants, Æacus
and Xanthias, it is mentioned that Euripides, on coming to the shades,
had driven Æschylus from the seat of honor at Pluto's board, holding
himself to be the worthier poet. Æschylus has objected to this, and the
matter is now to be settled by a trial of skill in which Bacchus is to
be the umpire.

The shades of Euripides and Æschylus appear in the next scene, with
Bacchus between them. Æschylus wishes the trial had taken place
elsewhere. Why? Because while his tragedies live on earth, those of
Euripides are dead, and have descended with him to bear him company in
Hell. The encounter of wits between the two is of the grandiose comic,
each taunting the other with his faults of composition. Euripides says
of Æschylus:

    He never used a simple word
    But bulwarks and scamanders and hippogriffs and Gorgons,
    Bloody, remorseless phrases.

Æschylus rejoins:

    Well, then, thou paltry wretch, explain
    What were your own devices?

Euripides says that he found the Muse

                      Puffed and pampered
    With pompous sentences, a cumbrous huge virago.

In order to bring her to a more genteel figure:

    I fed her with plain household phrase and cool familiar salad,
    With water gruel episode, with sentimental jelly,
    With moral mince-meat, till at length I brought her into compass.
    I kept my plots distinct and clear to prevent confusion.
    My leading characters rehearsed their pedigrees for prologues.

"For all this," says Æschylus, "you ought to have been hanged." Æschylus
now speaks of the grand old days, of the great themes and works of early

    Such is the duty, the task of a poet,
    Fulfilling in honor his duty and trust.
    Look to traditional history, look;
    See what a blessing illustrious poets
    Conferred on mankind in the centuries past.
    Orpheus instructed mankind in religion,
    Reclaimed them from bloodshed and barbarous rites.
    Musæus delivered the doctrine of medicine,
    And warnings prophetic for ages to come.
    Next came old Hesiod, teaching us husbandry,
    Rural economy, rural astronomy,
    Homely morality, labor and thrift.
    Homer himself, our adorable Homer,
    What was his title to praise and renown?
    What but the worth of the lessons he taught us,
    Discipline, arms, and equipment of war.

And here the poet comes to speak of a question which is surely prominent
to-day in the minds of thoughtful people. Æschylus, in his argument
against Euripides, speaks of the noble examples which he himself has
brought upon the stage, reproaches his adversary with the objectionable
stories of Sthenobæus and Phædra, with which he, Euripides has corrupted
the public taste.

Euripides alleges in his own defence that he did not invent those
stories. "Phædra's affair was a matter of fact." Æschylus rejoins:

    A fact with a vengeance, but horrible facts
    Should be buried in silence, not bruited abroad,
    Nor brought forth on the stage, nor emblazoned in poetry.
    Children and boys have a teacher assigned them;
    The bard is a master for manhood and youth,
    Bound to instruct them in virtue and truth
    Beholden and bound.

I do not know which of the plays of Aristophanes is considered the best
by those who are competent to speak authoritatively upon their merits;
but of those that I know, this drama of "The Frogs" seems to me to
exhibit most fully the scope and extent of his comic power.
Condescending in parts to what is called low comedy,--_i.e._, the
farcical, based upon the sense of what all know and experience,--it
rises elsewhere to the highest domain of literary criticism and

The action between Bacchus and his slave forcibly reminds us of
Cervantes, though master and man alike have in them more of Sancho Panza
than of Quixote. In the journey to the palace of Pluto, I see the
prototype of what the great mediæval poet called "The Divine Comedy." I
find in both the same weird imagination, the same curious interbraiding
of the ridiculous and the grandiose. This, of course, with the
difference that the Greek poet affords us only a brief view of Hell,
while Dante detains us long enough to give us a realizing sense of what
it is, or might be. This same mingling of the awful and the grotesque
suggests to me passages in our own Hawthorne, similarly at home with
the supernatural, which underlies the story of "The Scarlet Letter,"
and flashes out in "The Celestial Railroad." But I must come back to
Dante, who can amuse us with the tricks of demons, and can lift us to
the music of the spheres. So Aristophanes can show us, on the one hand,
the humorous relations of a coward and a clown; and, on the other, can
put into the mouth of the great Æschylus such words as he might fitly
have spoken.

Perhaps the very extravagance of fun is carried even further in the
drama of "The Birds" than in those already quoted from. Its conceits
are, at any rate, most original, and, so far as I know, it is without
prototype or parallel in its matter and manner.

The argument of the play can be briefly stated. Peisthetairus, an
Athenian citizen, dissatisfied with the state of things in his own
country, visits the Hoopœ with the intention of securing his
assistance in founding a new state, the dominion of the birds. He takes
with him a good-natured simpleton of a friend, Well-hoping, by name. Now
the Hoopœ in question, according to the old legend, had been known in
a previous state of being as Tereus, King of Thrace, and the
metamorphosis which changed him to a bird had changed his subjects also
into representatives of the various feathered tribes. These, however,
far from sharing the polite and hospitable character of their master,
become enraged at the intrusion of the strangers, and propose to attack
them in military style. The visitors seize a spit, the lid of a pot, and
various other culinary articles, and prepare to make what defence they
may, while the birds "present beaks," and prepare to charge. The
Hoopœ here interposes, and claims their attention for the project
which Peisthetairus has to unfold.

The wily Athenian begins his address with prodigious flattery, calling
the feathered folk "a people of sovereigns," more ancient of origin than
man, his deities, or his world. In support of this last clause, he
quotes a fable of Æsop, who narrates that the lark was embarrassed to
bury his father, because the earth did not exist at the time of his
death. Sovereignty, of old, belonged to the birds. The stride of the
cock sufficiently shows his royal origin, and his authority is still
made evident by the alacrity with which the whole slumbering world
responds to his morning reveille. The kite once reigned in Greece; the
cuckoo in Sidon and Egypt. Jupiter has usurped the eagle's command, but
dares not appear without him, while

    Each of the gods had his separate fowl,--
    Apollo the hawk and Minerva the owl.

Peisthetairus proposes that, in order to recover their lost sovereignty,
the birds shall build in the air a strongly fortified city. This done,
they shall send a herald to Jove to demand his immediate abdication. If
the celestials refuse to govern themselves accordingly, they are to be
blockaded. This blockade seems presently to obtain, and heavenly Iris,
flying across the sky on a message from the gods, is caught, arraigned,
and declared worthy of death,--the penalty of non-observance. The
prospective city receives the name of "Nephelococcagia," and this is
scarcely decided upon before a poet arrives to celebrate in an ode the
mighty Nephelococcagia state.

Then comes a soothsayer to order the appropriate sacrifices; then an
astronomer, with instruments to measure the due proportions of the city;
then a would-be parricide, who announces himself as a lover of the bird
empire, and especially of that law which allows a man to beat his
father. Peisthetairus confesses that, in the bird domain, the chicken is
sometimes applauded for clapper-clawing the old cock. When, however, his
visitor expresses a wish to throttle his parent and seize upon his
estate, Peisthetairus refers him to the law of the storks, by which the
son is under obligation to feed and maintain the parent. This law, he
says, prevails in Nephelococcagia, and the parricide accordingly betakes
himself elsewhere.

All this admirable fooling ends in the complete success of the birds.
Jupiter sends an embassy to treat for peace, and by a curious juggle,
imitating, no doubt, the political processes of those days,
Peisthetairus becomes recognized as the lawful sovereign of
Nephelococcagia, and receives, on his demand, the hand of Jupiter's
favorite queen in marriage.

I have given my time too fully to the Greek poet to be able to make any
extended comparison between his works and those of the Elizabethan
dramatists. But from the plays which trifle so with the grim facts of
nature, I can fly to the "Midsummer Night's Dream," and alight for a
moment on one of its golden branches. Shakespeare's Athenian clowns are
rather Aristophanic in color. The play of "Pyramus and Thisbe" might
have formed one interlude on that very stage which had in sight the
glories of the Parthenon. The exquisite poetry which redeems their
nonsense has its parallel in the lovely "Chorus of the Clouds," the ode
to Peace, and other glimpses of the serious Aristophanes, which here and
there look out from behind the mask of the comedian.

I am very doubtful whether good Greek scholars will think my selections
given here at all the best that could be made. I will remind them of an
Eastern tale in which a party of travellers were led, in the dark,
through an enchanted region in which showers of some unknown substance
fell around them, while a voice cried: "They that do not gather any will
grieve, and they who do gather will grieve that they did not gather
more, for these that fall are diamonds." So, of these bright diamonds of
matchless Greek wit, I have tried to gather some, but may well say I
grieve that I have not gathered more, and more wisely.

These works are to us exquisite pieces of humoristic extravagance, but
to the people of the time they were far more than this; _viz._, the
lesson of ridicule for what was tasteless and ridiculous in Athenian
society, and the punishment of scathing satire for what was unworthy.
Annotators tell us that the plays are full of allusions to prominent
characters of the day. Some of these, as is well known, the poet sets
upon the stage in masquerades which reveal, more than they conceal,
their true personality. For the demagogue Cleon, and for the playwright
Euripides, he has no mercy.

The patient student of Aristophanes and his commentators will acquire a
very competent knowledge of the politics of the wise little city at the
time of which he treats, also of its literary personages, pedants or
sophists. The works give us, I think, a very favorable impression of the
public to whose apprehension they were presented,--a quick-witted
people, surely, able to follow the sudden turns and doublings of the
poet's fancy; not to be surprised into stupidity by any ambush sprung
upon them out of obscurity.

Compare with this the difficulty of commending anything worth thinking
of to the attention of a modern theatre audience. It is true that much
of this Greek wit must needs have been _caviare_ to the multitude, but
its seasoning, no doubt, penetrated the body politic. I remember, a
score or more of years ago, that a friend said that it was good and
useful to have some public characters Beecherized, alluding to the broad
and bold presentment of them given from time to time by our great
clerical humorist, Henry Ward Beecher. Very efficacious, one thinks,
must have been this scourge which the Greek comic muse wielded so
merrily, but so unmercifully.

Although Aristophanes is very severe upon individuals, he does not, I
think, foster any class enmities, except, perhaps, against the sophists.
Although a city man, he treats the rustic population with great
tenderness, and the glimpses he gives us of country life are sweet and
genial. In this, he contrasts with the French playwrights of our time,
to whom city life is everything, and the province synonymous with all
that is dull and empty of interest.

How can I dismiss the comedy of that day without one word concerning its
immortal tragedy,--Socrates, the divine man, compared and comparable to
Christ, chained in his dungeon and condemned to die? The most blameless
life could not save that sacred head. Its illumination, in which we sit
here to-day, drew to it the shafts of superstition, malice, and
wickedness. The comic poet might present on the stage such pictures of
the popular deities as would make the welkin ring with the roar of
laughter. This was not impiety. But Socrates, showing no disrespect to
these idols of the current persuasion, only daring to discern beyond
them God in his divineness, truth in her awful beauty,--_he_ must die
the death of the profane.

It is a bitter story, surely, but "it must needs be that offences come."
Where should we be to-day if no one in human history had loved high
doctrine well enough to die for it? At such cost were these great
lessons given us. How can we thank God or man enough for them?

The athletics of human thought are the true Olympian games. Human error
is wise and logical in its way. It confronts its antagonist with
terrific weapons; it seizes and sways him with a Titanic will force. It
knows where to attack, and how. It knows the spirit that would be death
to it, could that spirit prevail. It closes in the death grapple; the
arena is red with the blood of its victim, but from that blood immortal
springs a new world, a new society.

One word, in conclusion, about the Greek language. Valuable as
translations are, they can never, to the student, take the place of
originals. I have stumbled through these works with the lamest
knowledge of Greek, and with no one to help me. I have quoted from
admirable renderings of them into English. Yet, even in such delicate
handling as that of Frere, the racy quality of the Greek phrase
evaporates, like some subtle perfume; while the music of the grand
rhythm, which the ear seems able to get through the eye, is lost.

The Greek tongue belongs to the history of thought. The language that
gives us such distinctions as _nous_ and _logos_, as _gy_ and _kosmos_,
has been the great pedagogue of our race, has laid the foundations of
modern thought. Let us, by all means, help ourselves with Frere, with
Jowett, and a multitude of other literary benefactors. But let us all
get a little Greek on our own account, for the sake of our Socrates and
of our Christ. And as the great but intolerant Agassiz had it for his
motto that "species do not transmute," let this school have among its
mottoes this one: "True learning does not de-Hellenize."

The Halfness of Nature

THE great office of ethics and æsthetics is the reconciliation of God
and man; that is, of the divine and disinterested part of human nature
with its selfish and animal opposite.

This opposition exists, primarily, in the individual; secondarily, in
the society formed out of individuals. Human institutions typify the
two, with their mutual influence and contradictions. The church
represents the one; the market, the other. The battle-field and the
hospital, the school and the forum, are further terms of the same
antithesis. Nature does so much for the man, and the material she
furnishes is so indispensable to all the constructions which we found
upon it, that the last thing a teacher can afford to do is to undervalue
her gifts. When critical agencies go so far as to do this, revolution is
imminent: Nature reasserts herself.

Equally impotent is Nature where institutions do not supply the help of
Art. When this state of things perseveres, she dwindles instead of
growing. She becomes meagre, not grandiose. Men hunt, but do not
cultivate. Women drudge and bear offspring, but neither comfort nor

Let us examine a little into what Nature gives, and into what she does
not give. In the domain of thought and religion, people dispute much on
this head, and are mostly ranged in two parties, of which one claims for
her everything, while the other allows her nothing.

In this controversy, we can begin with one point beyond dispute. Nature
gives the man, but she certainly does not give the clothes. Having
received his own body, he has to go far and work hard in order to cover

Nature again scarcely gives human food. Roots, berries, wild fruit, and
raw flesh would not make a very luxurious diet for the king of creation.
Even this last staple Nature does not supply gratis, and the art of
killing is man's earliest discovery in the lesson of self-sustenance. So
Death becomes the succursal of life. The sense of this originates,
first, the art of hunting; secondly, the art of war.

Nature gives the religious impulse, originating in the further pole of
primal thought. The alternation of night and day may first suggest the
opposition of things seen and not seen. The world exists while the man
sleeps--exists independently of him. Sleep and its dreams are mysterious
to the waking man. His first theology is borrowed from this conjunction
of invisible might and irrational intellection.

But Nature does not afford the church. Art does this, laboring long and
finishing never,--coming to a platform of rest, but coming at the same
time to a higher view, inciting to higher effort. Temple after temple is
raised. Juggernaut, Jove, Jesus! India does not get beyond Juggernaut.
Rome could not get beyond Jove. Christendom is far behind Jesus. In all
religions, Art founds on Nature, and aspires to super-nature. In all,
Art asserts the superiority of thought over unthought, of measure over
excess, of conscience over confidence. The latest evangel alone supplies
a method of popularizing thought, of beautifying measure, of harmonizing
conscience, and is, therefore, the religion that uses most largely from
the race, and returns most largely to it.

Time permits me only a partial review of this great system of gifts and
deficiencies. The secret of progress seems an infinitesimal seed,
dropped in some bosoms to bear harvest for all. Seed and soil together
give the product which is called genius. But genius is only half of the
great man. No one works so hard as he does to obtain the result
corresponding to his natural dimensions and obligations. The gift and
the capacity to employ it are simply boons of Nature. The resolution to
do so, the patience and perseverance, the long tasks bravely undertaken
and painfully carried through--these come of the individual action of
the moral man, and constitute his moral life. The wonderfully clever
people we all know, who fill the society toy-shop with what is needed in
the society workshop, are people who have not consummated this
resolution, who have not had this bravery, this perseverance. Death does
not waste more of immature life than Indolence wastes of immature
genius. The law of labor in ethics and æsthetics corresponds to the
energetic necessities of hygiene, and is the most precious and
indispensable gift of one generation to its successors.

In ethics, Nature supplies the first half, but Religion, or the law of
duty, supplies the other. Nature gives the enthusiasm of love, but not
the tender and persevering culture of friendship, which carries the
light of that tropical summer into the winter of age, the icy recesses
of death.

Art has no need to intervene in order to bring together those whom
passion inspires, whom inclination couples. But in crude Nature, passion
itself remains selfish, brutal, and short-lived.

The tender and grateful recollection of transient raptures, the culture
and growth of generous sympathies, resulting in noble co-operation--Art
brings these out of Nature by the second birth, of which Christ knew,
and at which Nicodemus marvelled.

Nature gives the love of offspring. Human parents share the passionate
attachment of other animals for their young. With the regulation of
this attachment Art has much to do. You love the child when it delights
you by day; you must also love it when it torments you at night. This
latter love is not against Nature, but Conscience has to apply the whip
and spur a little, or the mother will take such amusement as the child
can afford, and depute to others the fatigues which are its price.

A graver omission yet Nature makes. She does not teach children to
reverence and cherish their parents when the relation between them
reverses itself in the progress of time, and those who once had all to
give have all to ask. Moses was not obliged to say: "Parents, love your
children." But he was obliged to say: "Honor thy father and thy mother,"
in all the thunder of the Decalogue. The gentler and finer spirits value
the old for their useful council and inestimable experience.

You know to-day; but your father can show you yesterday, bright with
living traditions which history neglects and which posterity loses. We
do not profit as we might by this source of knowledge. Elders question
the young for their instruction. Young people, in turn, should question
elders on their own account, not allowing the personal values of
experience to go down to the grave unrealized. But Youth is cruel and
remorseless. The young, in their fulness of energy, in their desire for
scope and freedom, are often in unseemly haste to see the old depart.

Here Religion comes in with strong hands to moderate the tyrannous
impulse, the controversy of the green with the ripe fruit. All religions
agree in this intervention. The worship of ancestors in the Confucian
ethics shows this consciousness and intention. The aristocratic
traditions of rank and race are an invention to the same end. Vanity,
too, will often lead a man to glorify himself in the past and future, as
well as in the present.

Still, the instinct to get rid of elders is a feature in unreclaimed
nature. It shows the point at which the imperative suggestions of
personal feeling stop,--the spot where Nature leaves a desert in order
that Art may plant a garden. "Why don't you give me a carriage, now?"
said an elderly wife to an elderly husband. "When we married, you would
scarcely let me touch the ground with my feet. I need a conveyance now
far more than I did then." "That was the period of my young enthusiasm,"
replied the husband. The statement is one of unusual candor, but the
fact is one of not unusual occurrence.

I think that in the present study I have come upon the true and simple
sense of the parable of the talents. Of every human good, the initial
half is bestowed by Nature. But the value of this half is not realized
until Labor shall have acquired the other half. Talents are one thing:
the use of them is another. The first depend on natural conditions; the
second, on moral processes. The greatest native facilities are useless
to mankind without the discipline of Art. So in an undisciplined life,
the good that is born with a man dwindles and decays. The sketch of
childhood, never filled out, fades in the objectless vacancy of manhood;
and from the man is "taken away even that which he seemeth to have." Not
judicial vengeance this, but inevitable consequence.

Education should clearly formulate this problem: Given half of a man or
woman, to make a whole one. This, I need not say, is to be done by
development, not by addition. Kant says that knowledge grows _per intus
susceptionem_, and not _per appositionem_. The knowledges that you
adjoin to memory do not fill out the man unless you reach, in his own
mind, the faculty that generates thought. A single reason perceived by
him either in numbers or in speech will outweigh in importance all the
rules which memory can be taught to supply. With little skill and much
perseverance, Education hammers upon the man until somewhere she strikes
a nerve, and the awakened interest leads him to think out something for
himself. Otherwise, she leaves the man a polite muddle, who makes his
best haste to forget facts in forms, and who cancels the enforced
production of his years of pedagogy by a lifelong non-production.

What Nature is able to give, she does give with a wealth and persistence
almost pathetic. The good gifts afloat in the world which never take
form under the appropriate influence, the good material which does not
build itself into the structures of society,--you and I grieve over
these sometimes. And here I come upon a doctrine which Fourier, I think,
does not state correctly. He maintains that inclinations which appear
vicious and destructive in society as at present constituted would
become highly useful in his ideal society. I should prefer to state the
matter thus: The given talent, not receiving its appropriate education,
becomes a negative instead of a positive, an evil instead of a good.
Here we might paraphrase the Scripture saying, and affirm that the stone
which is not built into the corner becomes a stumbling-block for the
wayfarer to fall over. So great mischief lies in those uneducated,
unconsecrated talents! This cordial companion becomes a sot. This
could-be knight remains a prize-fighter. This incipient mathematician
does not get beyond cards or billiards. This clever mechanic picks locks
and robs a bank, instead of endowing one.

Modern theories of education do certainly point toward the study, by the
party educating, of the party appointed to undergo education. But this
education of others is a very complex matter, not to be accomplished
unless the educator educates himself in the light afforded him by his
pupils. The boys or girls committed to you may study what you will: be
sure, first of all, that you study them to your best ability. Education
in this respect is forced to a continual rectification of her processes.
The greatest power and resource are needed to awaken and direct the
energies of the young. No speech in Congress is so important as are the
lessons in the primary school; no pulpit has so great a field of labor
as the Sunday school. The Turkish government showed a cruel wisdom of
instinct when it levied upon Greece the tribute of Christian children to
form its corps of Janissaries. It recognized alike the Greek superiority
of race, and the invaluable opportunity of training afforded by

The work, then, of education demands an investigation of the elements
which Nature has granted to the individual, with the view of matching
that in which he is wanting with that which he has. I have heard of
lovers who, in plighting their faith, broke a coin in halves, whose
matching could only take place with their meeting. In true education as
in the love, these halves should correspond.

"What hast thou?" is, then, the first question of the educator. His
second is, "What hast thou not?" The third is, "How can I help thee to
this last?"

To my view, the man remains incomplete his whole life long. Most
incomplete is he, however, in the isolations of selfishness and of
solitude. Study is not necessarily solitude, but ideal society in the
highest grade in which human beings can enjoy it. It is, nevertheless,
dangerous to suffer the ideal to distance the real too largely.
Desk-dreamers end by being mental cripples. Divorce of this sort is not
wholesome, nor holy. Life is a perpetual marriage of real and ideal, of
endeavor and result. The solitary departure of physical death is
hateful, as putting asunder what God has joined together.

Must I go hence as lonely as I was born? My mother brought me into the
infinite society: I go into the absolute dissociation. I go many steps
further back than I came,--to the _ur_ mother, the common matrix which
bears plants, animals, and human creatures. Where, oh where, shall I
find that infinite companionship which my life should have earned for
me? My friendship has been hundred-handed. My love has consumed the
cities of the plain, and built the heavenly Jerusalem. And I go, without
lover or friend, in a box, into an earth vault, from which I cannot even
turn into violets and primroses in any recognizable and conscious way.

The completeness of our severance or deficiency may be, after all, the
determining circumstance of our achievement. What I would have is cut so
clean off from what I have as to leave no sense of wholeness in my
continuing as I am. Something of mine is mislaid or lost. It is more
mine than anything that I have, but where to find it? Who has it? I
reach for it under this bundle and under that. After my life's trial, I
find that I have pursued, but not possessed it. What I have gained of it
in the pursuit, others must realize. I bequeath, and cannot take it with
me. Did Dante regard the parchments of his "Divina Commedia" with a
sigh, foreseeing the long future of commentators and booksellers, he
himself absolving them beforehand by the quitclaim of death? You and I
may also grieve to part from certain unsold volumes, from certain
manuscripts of doubtful fate and eventuality. Oh! out of this pang of
death has come the scheme and achievement of immortality. "_Non omnis
moriar_." "I am the resurrection and the life." "It is sown a natural
body; it is raised a spiritual body."

This tremendous leap and feat of the human soul across the bridge of
dark negativity would never have been made without the sharp spur and
bitter pang of death. "My life food for worms? No; never. I will build
and bestow it in arts and charities, spin it in roads and replicate it
in systems; but to be lopped from the great body of humanity, and decay
like a black, amputated limb? My manhood refuses. The infinite hope
within me generates another life, realizable in every moment of my
natural existence, whose moments are not in time, whose perfect joys are
not measured by variable duration. Thus every day can be to me full of
immortality, and the matter of my corporeal decease full of
indifference, as sure to be unconscious."

I think this attainment the first, fundamental to all the others. We
console the child with a simple word about heaven. He is satisfied, and
feels its truth. How to attain this deathlessness is the next problem
whose solution he will ask of us. We point him to the plane on which he
will roll; for our life is a series of revolutions,--no straight-forward
sledding, but an acceleration by ideal weight and propulsion, through
which our line becomes a circle, and our circle itself a living wheel of
action, creating out of its mobile necessity a past and a future.

The halfness of the individual is literally shown in the division of
sex. The Platonic fancy runs into an anterior process, by which what was
originally one has been made two. We will say that the two halves were
never historically, though always ideally, one. Here Art comes to the
assistance of Nature. The mere contrast of sex does not lift society out
of what is animal and slavish. The integrity of sex relation is not to
be found in a succession or simultaneity of mates, easily taken and as
easily discarded. This great value of a perfected life is to be had only
through an abiding and complete investment,--the relations of sex
lifted up to the communion of the divine, unified by the good faith of a
lifetime, enriched by a true sharing of all experience. This august
partnership is Marriage, one of the most difficult and delicate
achievements of society. Too sadly does its mockery afflict us in these
and other days. Either party, striving to dwarf the other, dwarfs
itself. This mystic selfhood, inexpressible in literal phrases, is at
once the supreme of Nature and the sublime of institutions. The ideal
human being is man and woman united on the ideal plane. The church long
presented and represented this plane. The state is hereafter to second
and carry out its suggestions. The ideal assembly, which we figure by
the communion of the saints, is a coming together of men and women in
the highest aims and views to which Humanity can be a party.

Passing from immediate to projected consciousness, I can imagine
expression itself to spring from want. The sense of the incompleteness
of life in itself and in each of its acts calls for this effort to show,
at least, what life should be,--to vindicate the shortcoming of action
out of the fulness of speech. This that eats and sleeps is so little of
the man! These processes are so little what he understands by life!
Listen; let him tell you what life means to him.

And so sound is differentiated into speech, and hammered into grammar,
and built up into literature--all of whose creations are acoustic
palaces of imagination. For the eye in reading is only the secondary
sense: the written images the spoken word.

How the rhythm of the blood comes to be embodied in verse is more
difficult to trace. But the justification of Poetry is obvious. When you
have told the thing in prose, you have made it false by making it
literal. Poesy lies a little to complete the truth which Honesty lacks
skill to embody. Her artifices are subtle and wonderful. You glance
sideways at the image, and you see it. You look it full in the face, and
it disappears.

The plastic arts, too. This beautiful face commands me to paint from it
a picture twice as beautiful. Its charm of Nature I cannot attain. My
painting must not try for the edge of its flesh and blood forms, the
evanescence of its color, the light and shadow of its play of feature.
But something which the beautiful face could not know of itself the
artist knows of it. That deep interpretation of its ideal significance
marks the true master, who is never a Chinese copyist. Some of the
portraits that look down upon you from the walls of Rome and of Florence
calmly explain to you a whole eternity. Their eyes seem to have seized
it all, and to hold it beyond decay. This is what Art gives in the
picture,--not simply what appears and disappears, but that which, being
interpreted, abides with us.

Who shall say by what responsive depths the heights of architecture
measure themselves? The uplifted arches mirror the introspective soul.
So profoundly did I think, and plot, and contrive! So loftily must my
stone climax balance my cogitations! To such an amount of prayer allow
so many aisles and altars. The pillars of cloisters image the
brotherhood who walked in the narrow passages; straight, slender, paired
in steadfastness and beauty, there they stand, fair records of amity.
Columns of retrospect, let us hope that the souls they image did not
look back with longing upon the scenes which they were called upon to

Critical belief asks roomy enclosures and windows unmasked by artificial
impediments. It comes also to desire limits within which the voice of
the speaker can reach all present. Men must look each other in the face,
and construct prayer or sermon with the human alphabet. We are glad to
see the noble structures of older times maintained and renewed; but we
regret to see them imitated in our later day. (St. Peter's is, in all
save dimension, a church of Protestant architecture--so is St. Paul's,
of London.) The present has its own trials and agonies, its martyrdoms
and deliverances. With it, the old litanies must sink to sleep; the more
Christian of to-day efface the most Christian of yesterday. The very
attitude of saintship is changed. The practical piety of our time looks
neither up nor down, but straight before it, at the men and women to be
relieved, at the work to be done. Religion to-day is not "height nor
depth nor any other creature," but God with us.

There is a mystic birth and Providence in the succession of the Arts;
yet are they designed to dwell together, each needing the aid of all.
People often speak of sculpture as of an art purely and distinctively
Grecian. But the Greeks possessed all the Arts, and more, too,--the
substratum of democracy and the sublime of philosophy. No natural
jealousy prevails in this happy household. The Arts are not wives, of
whom one must die before another has proper place. They are sisters,
whose close communion heightens the charm of all by the excellence of
each. The Christian unanimity is as favorable to Art as to human

We may say that the Greeks attained a great perfection in sculpture, and
have continued in this art to offer the models of the world.

When the great period of Italian art attained its full splendor, it
seemed as if the frozen crystals of Greek sculpture had melted before
the fire of Christian inspiration. But this transformation, like the
transfiguration of Hindoo deities, did not destroy the anterior in its

The soul of sculpture ripened into painting, but Sculpture, the
beautiful mother, still lived and smiled upon her glowing daughter. See
Michael Angelo studying the torso! See the silent galleries of the
Vatican, where Form holds you in one room, Color presently detaining you
in another! And what are our Raphaels, Angelos, making to-day? Be sure
they are in the world, for the divine spirit of Art never leaves itself
without a witness. But what is their noble task? They are moulding
character, embodying the divine in human culture and in human
institutions. The Greek sculptures indicate and continue a fitting
reverence for the dignity and beauty of the human form; but the
reverence for the human soul which fills the world to-day is a holier
and happier basis of Art. From it must come records in comparison with
which obelisk and pyramid, triumphal arch and ghostly cathedral, shall
seem the toys and school appliances of the childhood of the race.

To return to our original problem,--how shall we attain the proper human
stature, how add the wanting half to the half which is given?

I answer: By labor and by faith, in which there is nothing accidental or
arbitrary. The very world in which we live is but a form, whose spirit,
breathing through Nature and Experience, slowly creates its own
interpretation, adding a new testament to an old testament, lifting the
veil between Truth and Mercy, clasping the mailed hand of Righteousness
in the velvet glove of Peace.

The spirit of Religion is the immanence of the divine in the human, the
image of the eternal in the transitory, of things infinite in things
limited. I have heard endless discussions and vexed statements of how
the world came out of chaos. From the Mosaic version to the last
rationalistic theory, I have been willing to give ear to these. It is a
subject upon which human ingenuity may exercise itself in its allowable
leisure. One thing concerns all of us much more; _viz._, how to get
heaven out of earth, good out of evil, instruction out of opportunity.

This is our true life work. When we have done all in this that life
allows us, we have not done more than half, the other half lying beyond
the pale struggle and the silent rest. Oh! when we shall reach that
bound, whatever may be wanting, let not courage and hope forsake us.

Dante and Beatrice

DANTE and Beatrice--names linked together by holy affection and high
art. Ary Scheffer has shown them to us as in a beatific vision,--the
stern spirit which did not fear to confront the horrors of Hell held in
a silken leash of meekness by the gracious one through whose
intervention he passed unscathed through fire and torment, bequeathing
to posterity a record unique in the annals alike of literature and of

My first studies of the great poet are in the time long past, antedating
even that middle term of life which was for him the starting-point of a
new inspiration. Yet it seems to me that no part of my life, since that
reading, has been without some echo of the "Divine Comedy" in my mind.
In the walk through Hell, I strangely believe. Its warnings still
admonish me. I see the boat of Charon, with its mournful freight. I pass
before the judgment seat of Midas. I see the souls tormented in hopeless
flame. I feel the weight of the leaden cloaks. I shrink from the jar of
the flying rocks, hurled as weapons. For me, dark Ugolino still feeds
upon his enemy. Francesca still mates with her sad lover.

From this hopeless abyss, I emerge to the kindlier pain of Purgatory,
whose end is almost Heaven. And of that blessed realm, my soul still
holds remembrance--of its solemn joy, of its unfolding revelation. The
vision of that mighty cross in which all the stars of the highest heaven
range themselves is before me, on each fair cluster the word "Cristo"
outshining all besides.

Among my dearest recollections is that of an Easter sermon devised by me
for an ignorant black congregation in a far-off West Indian isle, in
which I told of this vision of the cross, and tried to make it present
to them. But this grateful remembrance which I have carried through so
many years does not regard the poet alone. In the world's great goods,
as in its great evils, a woman has her part. And this poem, which has
been such a boon to humanity, has for its central inspiration the memory
of a woman.

In the prologue, already we hear of her. It is she who sends her poet
his poet-guide. When he shrinks from the painful progress which lies
before him, and deems the companionship even of Virgil an insufficient
pledge of safety, the words of his lady, repeated to him by his guide,
restore his sinking courage, and give him strength for his immortal

Here are those words of Beatrice, spoken to Virgil, and by him brought
to Dante:--

    O courteous shade of Mantua! thou whose fame
    Yet lives and shall live long as Nature lasts!
    A friend, not of my fortune, but myself,
    On the wide desert in his road has met
    Hindrance so great that he through fear has turned.
    Assist him: so to me will comfort spring.
    I who now bid thee on this errand forth
    Am Beatrice.

Who and what was Beatrice, whose message gave Dante strength to explore
the fearful depths of evil and its punishment? This we may learn

Dante, passionate poet in his youth, has left to posterity a work unique
of its sort,--the romance of a childish love which grew with the growth
of the lover. In his adolescence, its intensity at times overpowers his
bodily senses. The years that built up his towering manhood built up
along with it this ideal womanhood, which, whether realized or
realizable, or neither, was the highest and holiest essence which his
imagination could infuse into a human form. The sweet shyness of that
first peep at the Beautiful, of that first thrill of the master chord of
being, is rendered immortal for us by the candor of this great master.
We can see the shamefaced boy, taken captive by the dazzling vision of
Beatrice, veiling the features of his unreasonable passion, and retiring
to his own closet, there to hide his joy at having found on earth a
thing so beautiful.

Dante's love for Beatrice dates from the completion of his own ninth
year, and the beginning of hers. He first sees her at a May party, at
the house of her father, Folco Polinari. Her apparel, he says, "was of a
most noble tincture, a subdued and becoming crimson; and she wore a
girdle and ornaments becoming her childish years." At the sight of her,
his heart began to beat with painful violence. A master thought had
taken possession of him, and that master's name was well known to him,
as how should it not have been in that day when, if ever in this world,
Love was crowned lord of all? Urged by this tyrant, from time to time,
to go in search of Beatrice, he beheld in her, he says, a demeanor so
praiseworthy and so noble as to remind him of a line of Homer, regarding
Helen of Troy:--

    "From heaven she had her birth, and not from mortal clay."

These glimpses of her must have been transient ones, for the poet tells
us that his second meeting, face to face, with Beatrice occurred nine
years after their first encounter. Her childish charm had now ripened
into maidenly loveliness. He beholds her arrayed in purest white,
walking between two noble ladies older than herself. "As she passed
along the street, she turned her eyes toward the spot where I, thrilled
through and through with awe, was standing; and in her ineffable
courtesy, which now hath its guerdon in everlasting life, she saluted
me in such gracious wise that I seemed in that moment to behold the
utmost bounds of bliss."

He now begins to dream of her in his sleeping moments, and to rhyme of
her in his waking hours. In his first vision, Love appears with Beatrice
in his arms. In one hand he holds Dante's flaming heart, upon which he
constrains her to feed; after which, weeping, he gathers up his fair
burthen and ascends with her to Heaven. This dream seemed to Dante fit
to be communicated to the many famous poets of the time. He embodies it
in a sonnet, which opens thus:--

    To every captive soul and gentle heart
    Into whose sight shall come this song of mine,
    That they to me its matter may divine,
    Be greeting in Love's name, our master's, sent.

And now begins for him a season of love-lorn pining and heart-sickness.
The intensity of the attraction paralyzes in him the power of
approaching its object. His friends notice his altered looks, and ask
the cause of this great change in him. He confesses that it is the
master passion, but so misleads them as to the person beloved, as to
bring upon another a scandal by his feigning. For this he is punished by
the displeasure of Beatrice, who, passing him in the street, refuses him
that salutation the very hope of which, he says, kindled such a flame
of charity within him as to make him forget and forgive every offence
and injury.

Love now visits him in his sleep, in the guise of a youth arrayed in
garments of exceeding whiteness, and desires him to indite certain words
in rhyme, which, though not openly addressed to Beatrice, shall yet
assure her of what she partly knows,--that the poet's heart has been
hers from boyhood. The ballad which he composes in obedience to his
love's command is not a very literal rendering of his story.

He now begins to have many conflicting thoughts about Love, two of which
constitute a very respectable antinomy. One of these tells him that the
empire of Love is good, because it turns the inclinations of its vassal
from all that is base. The opposite thought is: "The empire of Love is
not good, since the more absolute the allegiance of his vassal, the more
severe and woful are the straits through which he must perforce pass."

These conflicting thoughts sought expression in a sonnet, of which I
will quote a part:--

    Of Love, Love only, speaks my every thought;
    And all so various they be that one
    Bids me bow down to his dominion,
    Another counsels me his power is naught.
    One, flushed with hopes, is all with sweetness fraught;
    Another makes full oft my tears to run.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Where, then, to turn, what think, I cannot tell.
    Fain would I speak, yet know not what to say.

While these uncertainties still possess him, Dante is persuaded by a
friend to attend a bridal festivity, where it is hoped that the sight of
much beauty may give him great pleasure.

"Why have you brought me among these ladies?" he asks. "In order that
they may be properly attended," is the answer.

Small attendance can Dante give upon these noble beauties. A fatal
tremor seizes him; he looks up and, beholding Beatrice, can see nothing
else. Nay, even of her his vision is marred by the intensity of his
feeling. The ladies first wonder at his agitation, and then make merry
over it, Beatrice apparently joining in their merriment. His friend,
chagrined at his embarrassment, now asks the cause of it; to which
question Dante replies: "I have set my foot in that part of life to pass
beyond which, with purpose to return, is impossible."

With these words the poet departs, and in his chamber of tears persuades
himself that Beatrice would not have joined in the laughter of her
friends if she had really known his state of mind. Then follows,
naturally, a sonnet:--

    With other ladies thou dost flaunt at me,
    Nor thinkest, lady, whence doth come the change,
    What fills mine aspect with a trouble strange
    When I the wonder of thy beauty see.
    If thou didst know, thou must, for charity,
    Forswear the wonted rigor of thine eye.

With this poetic utterance comes the plain prose question: "Seeing thou
dost present an aspect so ridiculous whenever thou art near this lady,
wherefore dost thou seek to come into her presence?"

It takes two sonnets to answer this question. He is not the only person
who asks it. Meeting with some merry dames, he is thus questioned by her
of them who seems "most gay and pleasant of discourse:" "Unto what end
lovest thou this lady, seeing that her near presence overwhelms thee?"
In reply, he professes himself happy in having words wherewith to speak
the praises of his lady, and going thence, determines in his heart to
devote his powers of expression to that high theme. He leaves the
cramping sonnet now, and expands his thought in the _canzone_, of which
I need only repeat the first line:--

    Ladies who have the intellect of Love.

Why the course of this true love never did run smooth, we know not.
Beatrice, at the proper age, was given in marriage to Messer Simone dei
Bardi. It is thought that she was wedded to him before the occasion on
which Dante's love-lorn appearance moved her to a mirth which may have
been feigned. Still, the thought of her continues to be his greatest
possession, and he and his master, Love, hold many arguments together
concerning the bliss and bane of this high fancy. He has great comfort
in the general esteem in which his lady is held, and is proud and glad
when those who see her passing in the street hasten to get a better view
of her. He sees the controlling power of her loveliness in its influence
on those around her, who are not thrown into the shade, but brightened,
by her radiance.

    Such virtue rare her beauty hath, in sooth
    No envy stirs in other ladies' breast;
    But in its light they walk beside her, dressed
    In gentleness, and love, and noble truth.
    Her looks whate'er they light on seem to bless;
    Nor her alone make lovely to the view,
    But all her peers through her have honor, too.

Dante was still engaged in interpreting the merits of Beatrice to the
world when that most gentle being met the final conflict, and received
the crown of immortality. His first feeling is that Florence is made
desolate by her loss. He can think of no words but those with which the
prophet Jeremiah bewailed the spoiling of Jerusalem: "How doth the city
sit desolate!" The princes of the earth, he thinks, should learn the
loss of this more than princess. He speaks of her in sonnet and

The passing of a band of pilgrims in the street suggests to him the
thought that they do not know of his sweet saint, nor of her death, and
that if they did, they would perforce stop to weep with him:--

    Tell me, ye pilgrims, who so thoughtful go,
    Musing, mayhap, on what is far away,
    Come ye from climes so far, as your array
    And look of foreign nurture seem to shew,
    That from your eyes no tears of pity flow,
    As ye along our mourning city stray,
    Serene of countenance and free, as they
    Who of her deep disaster nothing know?
    Oh! she hath lost her Beatrice, her saint,
    And what of her her co-mates can reveal
    Must drown with tears even strangers' hearts, perforce.

On the first anniversary of his lady's death, as he sits absorbed in
thoughts of her, he sketches the figure of an angel upon his tablets.
Turning presently from his work, he sees near him some gentlemen of his
acquaintance, who are watching the movements of his pencil. He answers
the interruption thus:

    Into my lonely thoughts that noble dame
    Whom Love bewails, had entered in the hour
    When you, my friends, attracted by his power,
    To see the task that did employ me came.

Many a sigh of dole escapes his heart, he says,

    But they which came with sharpest pang were those
    Which said: "O intellect of noble mould,
    A year to-day it is since thou didst seek the skies."

We may find, perhaps, a more wonderful proof of his constancy in his
stout-hearted resistance to the charms of a beautiful lady who regards
him with that intense pity which is akin to love. To her he says:

    Never was Pity's semblance, or Love's hue
    So wondrously in face of lady shown,
    That tenderly gave ear to Sorrow's moan
    Or looked on woful eyes, as shows in you.

To this new attraction he is on the point of surrendering, when the
vision of Beatrice rises before him, as he first saw her,--robed in
crimson, and bright with the angelic beauty of childhood. All other
thoughts are put to flight by this, and with renewed faith he devotes
himself to the memory of Beatrice, hoping to say of her some day "that
which hath never yet been said of any lady."

All who have been lovers--and who has not?--must feel, I think, that the
"Vita Nuova" is the romance of a true love. The Beatrice of the "Divina
Commedia" is this love, and much more. Dante has had a deep and availing
experience of life. Statesman and scholar, he has laid his fiery soul
upon the world's great anvil, where Fate, with heavy hammering and fiery
blowing, has wrought out of him a stern, sad man, so hunted and exiled
that the ways of Imagination alone are open to him. In its domain, he
calls around him the majestic shadows of those with whom his life has
made him familiar. For him, the way to Heaven lies through Hell and
Purgatory. Into these regions, the blessed Beatrice cannot come. She
sends, however, the poet shade, who seems to her most fit to be his
guide. The classic refinement makes evident to him the vulgarity of sin
and the logic of its consequences. He surveys the eternal, hopeless
punishment, and passes through the cleansing fires of Purgatory, at
whose outer verge, a fair vision comes to bless him. Beatrice, in a
mystical car, her beauty at first concealed by a veil of flowers which
drop from the hands of attendant angels, speaks to him in tones which
move his penitential grief.

The high love of his youth thus appears to him as accusing Conscience,
which stands to question him with the offended majesty of a loving
mother. Through her rebukes, precious in their bitterness, he attains to
that view of his own errors without which it would have been impossible
for him to forsake them. It is a real orthodox "repentance and
conviction of sin" with which the religious renewal of his life begins.
Tormented by this cruel retrospect, the poet is mercifully bathed in the
waters of forgetfulness, and then, being made a new creature, regains
the society of Beatrice.

Seated at the root of the great Tree of Humanity, she bids him take note
of the prophetic vision which symbolizes the history of the church. Of
the sanctity of the tree, she thus admonishes him:

                           This whoso robs,
    This whoso plucks, with blasphemy of deed
    Sins against God, who for His use alone
    Creating, hallowed it.

Dante drinks now of a stream whose sweetness can never satiate, and from
that holy wave returns,

    Pure, and made apt for mounting to the stars.

It appears to me quite simple and natural that the image of the poet's
earthly love, long lost from physical sense, should prompt the awakening
of his higher nature, which, obscured, as he confesses, by the disorders
of his mortal life, asserts itself with availing authority when
Beatrice, the beloved, becomes present to his mind. All progress, all
heavenly learning, is thenceforth associated with her. High as he may
climb, she always leads him. Where he passes as a stranger, she is at
home. Where he poorly guesses, she wholly knows. Nor does he part from
her until he has attained the highest point of spiritual vision, where
he sees her throned and crowned in immortal glory, and above her, the
lovely one of Heaven,--the Virgin Mother of Christ. What he sees after
this, he says, cannot be told with mortal tongue.

    Here vigor failed the towering fantasy,
    But yet the will rolled onward, like a wheel,
    In even motion, by the love impelled
    That moves the sun in heaven and all the stars.

Two opposite points in great authors give us pleasure; _viz._, the
originality of their talent or genius, and the catholicity of their
sentiments and interest,--in other words, their likeness and their
unlikeness to the average of humanity. We are delighted to find Plato at
once so modern and so ancient, his prevision and prophecy needing so
little adaptation to make them germane to the wants of our own or of any
other time, his grasp of apprehension and comparison so peculiar to
himself, so unrivalled by any thinker of any time. In like manner, the
mediæval pictures drawn by Dante delight us, and the bold daring of his
imagination. At the same time, the perfectly sound and rational common
sense of many of his utterances seems familiar from its accordance with
the soundest criticism of our own time:--

    Florence within her ancient circle set,
    Remained in sober, modest quietness.
    Nor chains had she, nor crowns, nor women decked
    In gay attire, with splendid cincture bound,
    More to be gazed at than the form itself.
    Not yet the daughter to the father brought
    Fear from her birth, the marriage time and dower
    Not yet departing from their fitting measure.
    Nor houses had she, void of household life.
    Sardanapalus had not haply shown
    The deeds which may be hid by chamber walls.
    I saw Bellincion Berti go his way
    With bone and leather belted. From the glass
    His lady moved, no paint upon her face.
    I saw the Lords of Norti and del Vecchio content,
    Their household dames engaged with spool and spindle.

The theory of the good old time, we see, is not a modern invention.

Dante inherits the great heart of chivalry, wise before its time in the
uplifting of Woman. The wonderful worship of the Virgin Mother, in which
are united the two poles of womanhood, completed the ideal of the Divine
Human, and cast a new glory upon the sex. Can we doubt that knight and
minstrel found a true inspiration in the lady of their heart? A mere
pretence or affection is a poor thing to fight for or to sing for. Men
will not imperil their lives for what they know to be a lie.

This newly awakened reverence for woman--shall we call it a race
characteristic? It was a golden gift to any race. Plato's deep doctrine
that all learning is a reminiscence may avail us in questioning this.
The human race does not carry the bulk of its knowledge in its hand.
Busy with its tools and toys, it forgets its ancestral heirlooms, and
leaves unexplored the legacy of the past. But in some mystical way, the
treasures lost from remembrance turn up and come to sight again. In the
far Caucasus, from which we came, there were glimpses of this ideal wife
and mother.

This history, whether real or imaginary, or both, suggests to me the
question whether the love which brings together and binds together men
and women can in any way typify the supreme affections of the soul? That
it was supposed to do so in mediæval times is certain. The sentimental
agonies of troubadours and minstrels make it evident. Even the latest
seedy sprout of chivalry, Don Quixote, shows us this. Wishing to start
upon a noble errand, the succor of oppressed humanity, his almost first
requisite is a "lady of his heart," who, in his case, is a mere lay
figure upon which he drapes the fantastic weaving of his imagination.

Another question, like unto the first, is this,--whether the heroic mode
of loving is or is not a lost art in our days.

That Plato and Socrates should busy themselves with it, that mystics and
philosophers should find such a depth of interest in the attraction
which one nature exerts upon another, and that, _per contra_, in our
time, this mystical attraction should flatten, or, as singers say, flat
out into a decorous observance of rules, assisting a mutual
endurance--what does it mean? Is Pan dead, and are the other gods dead
with him?

In an age widely, if not deeply, critical, we lose sight of the
primitive affections and temperament of our race. Affection's self
becomes merged in opinion. We contemplate, we compare, we are not able
to covet any but surface distinctions, surface attractions. Even the
poets who give us the expression of a lively participation in human
instincts are disowned by us. Wordsworth is chosen, and Byron is
discarded. We are not too rich with both of them. Inspired Browning--for
the man who wrote "Pippa" and "Saul" was inspired--loses himself and his
music in the dismal swamp of metaphysical speculation. Just at present,
it seems to me that the world has lost one of its noblest leadings;
_viz._, the desire for true companionship. Arid love of pleasure, more
arid worship of wealth, paralyze those higher powers of the soul which
take hold on friendship and on love. To know those only who can advance
your personal objects, be these amusement or ambition; to marry at
auction, going, going, for so much,--how can we who have but one human
life to live so cheat ourselves out of its real rights and privileges?

Is this a pathological symptom in the body social, produced by a surfeit
in the direction of inclination? One might think so, since asceticism
has no joylessness comparable to that of the blasted _roué_ or utter
worldling. In France, where the bent of romantic literature has been the
following of inclination,--from George Sand, who consecrates it, down to
the latest scrofulous scribbler, who outrages it,--on the banks of this
turbid stream of literature, one constantly meets with the apples of
Sodom. "There is no other fruit," say the venders. "You cultivate none
other," is the fitting reply.

The world of thought is ever full of problems as contradictory of each
other as the antinomies of which I just now made a passing mention. The
right interpretation of these riddles is of great moment in our
spiritual and intellectual life. The ages and æons of human experience
tend, on the whole, to a gradual unification of persuasion and
conviction on the part of thinking beings, and much that a prophet
breathes into a hopeless blank acquires meaning in the light of
succeeding centuries.

This great problem of love continues to be full of contradictory aspects
to those who would explore it. We distinguish between divine love and
human love, but have yet to decide whether Love absolute is divine or
human; for this deity is known to us from all time in two opposite
shapes,--as a destructive and as a constructive god. He unmakes the man,
he unmakes the woman, sucks up precious years of human life like a
sponge, sets Troy ablaze, maddens harmless Io with a stinging gad-fly.

On the other hand, where Love is not, nothing is. Luxurious Solomon
praises a dinner of herbs enriched by his presence. All poetry, all
doctrine, is founded upon human affection assumed as essential to life,
nay, as life itself; for when love of life and its objects exists not,
the vital flame flickers feebly, and expires early. In ethics, social
and religious, what contradictions do we encounter under this head! From
all inordinate and sinful affections, good Lord, deliver us! is a good
prayer. But how shall we treat the case when there are no affections at
all? We might add a clause to our litany,--From lovelessness and all
manner of indifference, good Lord, deliver us! What more direful
sentence than to say that a person has no heart? What sin more severely
punished than any extravagant action of this same heart?

These wonders of lofty sentiment and high imagination are precious
subjects of study. The construction of a great poem, of which the
interest is at once intense, various, and sustained, seems to us a work
more appropriate to other days than to our own. I remember in my youth a
fluent critic who was fond of saying that if Milton had lived in this
day of the world, he would not have thought of writing an epic poem. To
which another of the same stripe would reply: "If he did write such a
poem in these days, nobody would read it." I wonder how long the frisky
impatience of our youth will think it worth while to follow even Homer
in his long narratives.

More than this sustained power of the imagination, does the heroic in
sentiment seem to decrease and to be wanting among us. Those lofty views
of human affection and relation which we find in the great poets seem
almost foreign to the civilization of to-day. I find in modern
scepticism this same impatience of weighty thoughts. He who believes
only in the phenomenal universe does not follow a conviction. A fatal
indolence of mind prevents him from following any lead which threatens
fatigue and difficult labor. Instead of a temple for the Divine, our man
of to-day builds a commodious house for himself,--at best, a club-house
for his set or circle. And the worst of it is, that he teaches his son
to do the same thing.

The social change which I notice to-day as a decline in attachments
simply personal is partly the result of a political change which I, for
one, cannot deplore. The idea of the state and of society as bodies in
which each individual has a direct interest gives to men and women of
to-day an enlarged sphere of action and of instruction. The absolutely
universal coincidence of the real advantage of the individual with that
of the community, always true in itself, and neither now nor at any time
fully comprehended, gives the fundamental tone to thought and education
to-day. The result is a tendency to generality, to publicity, and a
neglect of those relations into which external power and influence do
not enter. The action of mind upon mind, of character upon character,
outside of public life, is intense, intimate, insensible. Temperament is
most valued nowadays for its effect upon multitudes. We wish to be
recognized as moving in a wide and exalted sphere. The belle in the
ball-room is glad to have it reported that the Prince of Wales admires
her. The lady who should grace a lady's sphere pines for the stage and
the footlights. Actions and appearances are calculated to be seen of

I say no harm of this tendency, which has enfranchised me and many
others from the cruel fetters of a narrow and personal judgment. It is
safe and happy to have the public for a final court of appeal, and to be
able, when an issue is misjudged or distorted, to call upon its great
heart to say where the right is, and where the wrong. But let us, in our
panorama of wide activities, keep with all the more care these pictures
of spirits that have been so finely touched within the limits of
Nature's deepest reserve and modesty. This mediæval did not go to
dancing-school nor to Harvard College. He could not talk of the fellows
and the girls. But from his early childhood, he holds fast the tender
remembrance of a beautiful and gracious face. The thought of it, and of
the high type of woman which it images, is to him more fruitful of joy
and satisfaction than the amusements of youth or the gaieties of the
great world. Death removes this beloved object from his sight, but not
from his thoughts. Years pass. His genius reaches its sublime maturity.
He becomes acquainted with camps and courts, with the learning and the
world of his day. But when, with all his powers, he would build a
perfect monument to Truth, he takes her perfect measure from the hand of
his child-love. The world keeps that work, and will keep it while
literature shall last. It has many a subtle passage, many a wonderful
picture, but at its height, crowned with all names divine, he has
written, as worthy to be remembered with these, the name of Beatrice.


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