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´╗┐Title: Note Book of an English Opium-Eater
Author: De Quincey, Thomas
Language: English
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It is impossible to conciliate readers of so saturnine and gloomy a class,
that they cannot enter with genial sympathy into any gaiety whatever, but,
least of all, when the gaiety trespasses a little into the province of the
extravagant. In such a case, not to sympathize is not to understand; and
the playfulness, which is not relished, becomes flat and insipid, or
absolutely without meaning. Fortunately, after all such churls have
withdrawn from my audience in high displeasure, there remains a large
majority who are loud in acknowledging the amusement which they have
derived from a former paper of mine, 'On Murder considered as one of the
Fine Arts;' at the same time proving the sincerity of their praise by one
hesitating expression of censure. Repeatedly they have suggested to me,
that perhaps the extravagance, though clearly intentional, and forming one
element in the general gaiety of the conception, went too far. I am not
myself of that opinion; and I beg to remind these friendly censors, that
it is amongst the direct purposes and efforts of this _bagatelle_ to
graze the brink of horror, and of all that would in actual realization be
most repulsive. The very excess of the extravagance, in fact, by
suggesting to the reader continually the mere aeriality of the entire
speculation, furnishes the surest means of disenchanting him from the
horror which might else gather upon his feelings. Let me remind such
objectors, once for all, of Dean Swift's proposal for turning to account
the supernumerary infants of the three kingdoms, which, in those days,
both at Dublin and at London, were provided for in foundling hospitals, by
cooking and eating them. This was an extravaganza, though really bolder
and more coarsely practical than mine, which did not provoke any
reproaches even to a dignitary of the supreme Irish church; its own
monstrosity was its excuse; mere extravagance was felt to license and
accredit the little _jeu d'esprit_, precisely as the blank impossibilities
of Lilliput, of Laputa, of the Yahoos, &c., had licensed those. If,
therefore, any man thinks it worth his while to tilt against so mere a
foam-bubble of gaiety as this lecture on the aesthetics of murder, I
shelter myself for the moment under the Telamonian shield of the Dean.
But, in reality, my own little paper may plead a privileged excuse for its
extravagance, such as is altogether wanting to the Dean's. Nobody can
pretend, for a moment, on behalf of the Dean, that there is any ordinary
and natural tendency in human thoughts, which could ever turn to infants
as articles of diet; under any conceivable circumstances, this would be
felt as the most aggravated form of cannibalism--cannibalism applying
itself to the most defenceless part of the species. But, on the other
hand, the tendency to a critical or aesthetic valuation of fires and
murders is universal. If you are summoned to the spectacle of a great
fire, undoubtedly the first impulse is--to assist in putting it out. But
that field of exertion is very limited, and is soon filled by regular
professional people, trained and equipped for the service. In the case of
a fire which is operating upon _private_ property, pity for a neighbor's
calamity checks us at first in treating the affair as a scenic spectacle.
But perhaps the fire may be confined to public buildings. And in any case,
after we have paid our tribute of regret to the affair, considered as a
calamity, inevitably, and without restraint, we go on to consider it as a
stage spectacle. Exclamations of--How grand! How magnificent! arise in a
sort of rapture from the crowd. For instance, when Drury Lane was burned
down in the first decennium of this century, the falling in of the roof
was signalized by a mimic suicide of the protecting Apollo that surmounted
and crested the centre of this roof. The god was stationary with his lyre,
and seemed looking down upon the fiery ruins that were so rapidly
approaching him. Suddenly the supporting timbers below him gave way; a
convulsive heave of the billowing flames seemed for a moment to raise the
statue; and then, as if on some impulse of despair, the presiding deity
appeared not to fall, but to throw himself into the fiery deluge, for he
went down head foremost; and in all respects, the descent had the air of a
voluntary act. What followed? From every one of the bridges over the
river, and from other open areas which commanded the spectacle, there
arose a sustained uproar of admiration and sympathy. Some few years before
this event, a prodigious fire occurred at Liverpool; the _Goree_, a vast
pile of warehouses close to one of the docks, was burned to the ground.
The huge edifice, eight or nine stories high, and laden with most
combustible goods, many thousand bales of cotton, wheat and oats in
thousands of quarters, tar, turpentine, rum, gunpowder, &c., continued
through many hours of darkness to feed this tremendous fire. To
aggravate the calamity, it blew a regular gale of wind; luckily for the
shipping, it blew inland, that is, to the east; and all the way down to
Warrington, eighteen miles distant to the eastward, the whole air was
illuminated by flakes of cotton, often saturated with rum, and by what
seemed absolute worlds of blazing sparks, that lighted up all the upper
chambers of the air. All the cattle lying abroad in the fields through a
breadth of eighteen miles, were thrown into terror and agitation. Men, of
course, read in this hurrying overhead of scintillating and blazing
vortices, the annunciation of some gigantic calamity going on in
Liverpool; and the lamentation on that account was universal. But that
mood of public sympathy did not at all interfere to suppress or even to
check the momentary bursts of rapturous admiration, as this arrowy sleet
of many-colored fire rode on the wings of hurricane, alternately through
open depths of air, or through dark clouds overhead.

Precisely the same treatment is applied to murders. After the first
tribute of sorrow to those who have perished, but, at all events, after
the personal interests have been tranquillized by time, inevitably the
scenical features (what aesthetically may be called the comparative
_advantages_) of the several murders are reviewed and valued. One
murder is compared with another; and the circumstances of superiority, as,
for example, in the incidence and effects of surprise, of mystery, &c.,
are collated and appraised. I, therefore, for _my_ extravagance, claim an
inevitable and perpetual ground in the spontaneous tendencies of the human
mind when left to itself. But no one will pretend that any corresponding
plea can be advanced on behalf of Swift.

In this important distinction between myself and the Dean, lies one reason
which prompted the present writing. A second purpose of this paper is, to
make the reader acquainted circumstantially with three memorable cases of
murder, which long ago the voice of amateurs has crowned with laurel, but
especially with the two earliest of the three, viz., the immortal
Williams' murders of 1812. The act and the actor are each separately in
the highest degree interesting; and, as forty-two years have elapsed since
1812, it cannot be supposed that either is known circumstantially to the
men of the current generation.

Never, throughout the annals of universal Christendom, has there indeed
been any act of one solitary insulated individual, armed with power so
appalling over the hearts of men, as that exterminating murder, by which,
during the winter of 1812, John Williams in one hour, smote two houses
with emptiness, exterminated all but two entire households, and asserted
his own supremacy above all the children of Cain. It would be absolutely
impossible adequately to describe the frenzy of feelings which, throughout
the next fortnight, mastered the popular heart; the mere delirium of
indignant horror in some, the mere delirium of panic in others. For twelve
succeeding days, under some groundless notion that the unknown murderer
had quitted London, the panic which had convulsed the mighty metropolis
diffused itself all over the island. I was myself at that time nearly
three hundred miles from London; but there, and everywhere, the panic was
indescribable. One lady, my next neighbor, whom personally I knew, living
at the moment, during the absence of her husband, with a few servants in a
very solitary house, never rested until she had placed eighteen doors (so
she told me, and, indeed, satisfied me by ocular proof), each secured by
ponderous bolts, and bars, and chains, between her own bedroom and any
intruder of human build. To reach her, even in her drawing-room, was like
going, as a flag of truce, into a beleaguered fortress; at every sixth
step one was stopped by a sort of portcullis. The panic was not confined
to the rich; women in the humblest ranks more than once died upon the
spot, from the shock attending some suspicious attempts at intrusion upon
the part of vagrants, meditating probably nothing worse than a robbery,
but whom the poor women, misled by the London newspapers, had fancied to
be the dreadful London murderer. Meantime, this solitary artist, that
rested in the centre of London, self-supported by his own conscious
grandeur, as a domestic Attila, or 'scourge of God;' this man, that walked
in darkness, and relied upon murder (as afterwards transpired) for bread,
for clothes, for promotion in life, was silently preparing an effectual
answer to the public journals; and on the twelfth day after his inaugural
murder, he advertised his presence in London, and published to all men the
absurdity of ascribing to _him_ any ruralizing propensities, by striking a
second blow, and accomplishing a second family extermination. Somewhat
lightened was the _provincial_ panic by this proof that the murderer had
not condescended to sneak into the country, or to abandon for a moment,
under any motive of caution or fear, the great metropolitan _castra
stativa_ of gigantic crime, seated for ever on the Thames. In fact, the
great artist disdained a provincial reputation; and he must have felt, as
a case of ludicrous disproportion, the contrast between a country town or
village, on the one hand, and, on the other, a work more lasting than
brass--a [Greek: _chtaema es aei_]--a murder such in quality as any murder
that _he_ would condescend to own for a work turned out from his own

Coleridge, whom I saw some months after these terrific murders, told me,
that, for _his_ part, though at the time resident in London, he had
not shared in the prevailing panic; _him_ they effected only as a
philosopher, and threw him into a profound reverie upon the tremendous
power which is laid open in a moment to any man who can reconcile himself
to the abjuration of all conscientious restraints, if, at the same time,
thoroughly without fear. Not sharing in the public panic, however,
Coleridge did not consider that panic at all unreasonable; for, as he said
most truly in that vast metropolis there are many thousands of households,
composed exclusively of women and children; many other thousands there are
who necessarily confide their safety, in the long evenings, to the
discretion of a young servant girl; and if she suffers herself to be
beguiled by the pretence of a message from her mother, sister, or
sweetheart, into opening the door, there, in one second of time, goes to
wreck the security of the house. However, at that time, and for many
months afterwards, the practice of steadily putting the chain upon the
door before it was opened prevailed generally, and for a long time served
as a record of that deep impression left upon London by Mr. Williams.
Southey, I may add, entered deeply into the public feeling on this
occasion, and said to me, within a week or two of the first murder, that
it was a private event of that order which rose to the dignity of a
national event. [2] But now, having prepared the reader to appreciate on
its true scale this dreadful tissue of murder (which as a record belonging
to an era that is now left forty-two years behind us, not one person in
four of this generation can be expected to know correctly), let me pass to
the circumstantial details of the affair.

Yet, first of all, one word as to the local scene of the murders.
Ratcliffe Highway is a public thoroughfare in a most chaotic quarter of
eastern or nautical London; and at this time (viz., in 1812), when no
adequate police existed except the _detective_ police of Bow Street,
admirable for its own peculiar purposes, but utterly incommensurate to the
general service of the capital, it was a most dangerous quarter. Every
third man at the least might be set down as a foreigner. Lascars, Chinese,
Moors, Negroes, were met at every step. And apart from the manifold
ruffianism, shrouded impenetrably under the mixed hats and turbans of men
whose past was untraceable to any European eye, it is well known that the
navy (especially, in time of war, the commercial navy) of Christendom is
the sure receptacle of all the murderers and ruffians whose crimes have
given them a motive for withdrawing themselves for a season from the
public eye. It is true, that few of this class are qualified to act as
'able' seamen: but at all times, and especially during war, only a small
proportion (or _nucleus_) of each ship's company consists of such men: the
large majority being mere untutored landsmen. John Williams, however, who
had been occasionally rated as a seaman on board of various Indiamen, &c.,
was probably a very accomplished seaman. Pretty generally, in fact, he was
a ready and adroit man, fertile in resources under all sudden
difficulties, and most flexibly adapting himself to all varieties of
social life. Williams was a man of middle stature (five feet seven and
a-half, to five feet eight inches high), slenderly built, rather thin, but
wiry, tolerably muscular, and clear of all superfluous flesh. A lady, who
saw him under examination (I think at the Thames Police Office), assured
me that his hair was of the most extraordinary and vivid color, viz.,
bright yellow, something between an orange and lemon color. Williams had
been in India; chiefly in Bengal and Madras: but he had also been upon the
Indus. Now, it is notorious that, in the Punjaub, horses of a high caste
are often painted--crimson, blue, green, purple; and it struck me that
Williams might, for some casual purpose of disguise, have taken a hint
from this practice of Scinde and Lahore, so that the color might not have
been natural. In other respects, his appearance was natural enough; and,
judging by a plaster cast of him, which I purchased in London, I should
say mean, as regarded his facial structure. One fact, however, was
striking, and fell in with the impression of his natural tiger character,
that his face wore at all times a bloodless ghastly pallor. 'You might
imagine,' said my informant, 'that in his veins circulated not red life-
blood, such as could kindle into the blush of shame, of wrath, of pity--
but a green sap that welled from no human heart.' His eyes seemed frozen
and glazed, as if their light were all converged upon some victim lurking
in the far background. So far his appearance might have repelled; but, on
the other hand, the concurrent testimony of many witnesses, and also the
silent testimony of facts, showed that the oiliness and snaky insinuation
of his demeanor counteracted the repulsiveness of his ghastly face, and
amongst inexperienced young women won for him a very favorable reception.
In particular, one gentle-mannered girl, whom Williams had undoubtedly
designed to murder, gave in evidence--that once, when sitting alone with
her, he had said, 'Now, Miss R., supposing that I should appear about
midnight at your bedside, armed with a carving knife, what would you say?'
To which the confiding girl had, replied, 'Oh, Mr. Williams, if it was
anybody else, I should be frightened. But, as soon as I heard _your_
voice, I should be tranquil.' Poor girl! had this outline sketch of Mr.
Williams been filled in and realized, she would have seen something in the
corpse-like face, and heard something in the sinister voice, that would
have unsettled her tranquillity for ever. But nothing short of such
dreadful experiences could avail to unmask Mr. John Williams.

Into this perilous region it was that, on a Saturday night in December,
Mr. Williams, whom we suppose to have long since made his _coup d'essai_,
forced his way through the crowded streets, bound on business. To say, was
to do. And this night he had said to himself secretly, that he would
execute a design which he had already sketched, and which, when finished,
was destined on the following day to strike consternation into 'all that
mighty heart' of London, from centre to circumference. It was afterwards
remembered that he had quitted his lodgings on this dark errand about
eleven o'clock P. M.; not that he meant to begin so soon: but he needed to
reconnoitre. He carried his tools closely buttoned up under his loose
roomy coat. It was in harmony with the general subtlety of his character,
and his polished hatred of brutality, that by universal agreement his
manners were distinguished for exquisite suavity: the tiger's heart was
masked by the most insinuating and snaky refinement. All his acquaintances
afterwards described his dissimulation as so ready and so perfect, that
if, in making his way through the streets, always so crowded on a Saturday
night in neighborhoods so poor, he had accidentally jostled any person, he
would (as they were all satisfied) have stopped to offer the most
gentlemanly apologies: with his devilish heart brooding over the most
hellish of purposes, he would yet have paused to express a benign hope
that the huge mallet, buttoned up under his elegant surtout, with a view
to the little business that awaited him about ninety minutes further on,
had not inflicted any pain on the stranger with whom he had come into
collision. Titian, I believe, but certainly Rubens, and perhaps Vandyke,
made it a rule never to practise his art but in full dress--point ruffles,
bag wig, and diamond-hilted sword; and Mr. Williams, there is reason to
believe, when he went out for a grand compound massacre (in another sense,
one might have applied to it the Oxford phrase of _going out as Grand
Compounder_), always assumed black silk stockings and pumps; nor would he
on any account have degraded his position as an artist by wearing a
morning gown. In his second great performance, it was particularly noticed
and recorded by the one sole trembling man, who under killing agonies of
fear was compelled (as the reader will find) from a secret stand to become
the solitary spectator of his atrocities, that Mr. Williams wore a long
blue frock, of the very finest cloth, and richly lined with silk. Amongst
the anecdotes which circulated about him, it was also said at the time,
that Mr. Williams employed the first of dentists, and also the first of
chiropodists. On no account would he patronize any second-rate skill. And
beyond a doubt, in that perilous little branch of business which was
practised by himself, he might be regarded as the most aristocratic and
fastidious of artists.

But who meantime was the victim, to whose abode he was hurrying? For
surely he never could be so indiscreet as to be sailing about on a roving
cruise in search of some chance person to murder? Oh, no: he had suited
himself with a victim some time before, viz., an old and very intimate
friend. For he seems to have laid it down as a maxim--that the best person
to murder was a friend; and, in default of a friend, which is an article
one cannot always command, an acquaintance: because, in either case, on
first approaching his subject, suspicion would be disarmed: whereas a
stranger might take alarm, and find in the very countenance of his
murderer elect a warning summons to place himself on guard. However, in
the present ease, his destined victim was supposed to unite both
characters: originally he had been a friend; but subsequently, on good
cause arising, he had become an enemy. Or more probably, as others said,
the feelings had long since languished which gave life to either relation
of friendship or of enmity. Marr was the name of that unhappy man, who
(whether in the character of friend or enemy) had been selected for the
subject of this present Saturday night's performance. And the story
current at that time about the connection between Williams and Marr,
having (whether true or not true) never been contradicted upon authority,
was, that they sailed in the same Indiaman to Calcutta; that they had
quarrelled when at sea; but another version of the story said--no: they
had quarrelled after returning from sea; and the subject of their quarrel
was Mrs. Marr, a very pretty young woman, for whose favor they had been
rival candidates, and at one time with most bitter enmity towards each
other. Some circumstances give a color of probability to this story.
Otherwise it has sometimes happened, on occasion of a murder not
sufficiently accounted for, that, from pure goodness of heart intolerant
of a mere sordid motive for a striking murder, some person has forged, and
the public has accredited, a story representing the murderer as having
moved under some loftier excitement: and in this case the public, too much
shocked at the idea of Williams having on the single motive of gain
consummated so complex a tragedy, welcomed the tale which represented him
as governed by deadly malice, growing out of the more impassioned and
noble rivalry for the favor of a woman. The case remains in some degree
doubtful; but, certainly, the probability is, that Mrs. Marr had been the
true cause, the _causa teterrima_, of the feud between the men. Meantime,
the minutes are numbered, the sands of the hour-glass are running out,
that measure the duration of this feud upon earth. This night it shall
cease. To-morrow is the day which in England they call Sunday, which in
Scotland they call by the Judaic name of 'Sabbath.' To both nations, under
different names, the day has the same functions; to both it is a day of
rest. For thee also, Marr, it shall be a day of rest; so is it written;
thou, too, young Marr, shalt find rest--thou, and thy household, and the
stranger that is within thy gates. But that rest must be in the world
which lies beyond the grave. On this side the grave ye have all slept your
final sleep.

The night was one of exceeding darkness; and in this humble quarter of
London, whatever the night happened to be, light or dark, quiet or stormy,
all shops were kept open on Saturday nights until twelve o'clock, at the
least, and many for half an hour longer. There was no rigorous and
pedantic Jewish superstition about the exact limits of Sunday. At the very
worst, the Sunday stretched over from one o'clock, A. M. of one day, up to
eight o'clock A. M. of the next, making a clear circuit of thirty-one
hours. This, surely, was long enough. Marr, on this particular Saturday
night, would be content if it were even shorter, provided it would come
more quickly, for he has been toiling through sixteen hours behind his
counter. Marr's position in life was this: he kept a little hosier's shop,
and had invested in his stock and the fittings of his shop about 180
pounds. Like all men engaged in trade, he suffered some anxieties. He was
a new beginner; but, already, bad debts had alarmed him; and bills were
coming to maturity that were not likely to be met by commensurate sales.
Yet, constitutionally, he was a sanguine hoper. At this time he was a
stout, fresh-colored young man of twenty-seven; in some slight degree
uneasy from his commercial prospects, but still cheerful, and
anticipating--(how vainly!)--that for this night, and the next night, at
least, he will rest his wearied head and his cares upon the faithful bosom
of his sweet lovely young wife. The household of Marr, consisting of five
persons, is as follows: First, there is himself, who, if he should happen
to be ruined, in a limited commercial sense, has energy enough to jump up
again, like a pyramid of fire, and soar high above ruin many times
repeated. Yes, poor Marr, so it might be, if thou wert left to thy native
energies unmolested; but even now there stands on the other side of the
street one born of hell, who puts his peremptory negative on all these
flattering prospects. Second in the list of his household, stands his
pretty and amiable wife, who is happy after the fashion of youthful wives,
for she is only twenty-two, and anxious (if at all) only on account of her
darling infant. For, thirdly, there is in a cradle, not quite nine feet
below the street, viz., in a warm, cosy kitchen, and rocked at intervals
by the young mother, a baby eight months old. Nineteen months have Marr
and herself been married; and this is their first-born child. Grieve not
for this child, that it must keep the deep rest of Sunday in some other
world; for wherefore should an orphan, steeped to the lips in poverty,
when once bereaved of father and mother, linger upon an alien and
murderous earth? Fourthly, there is a stoutish boy, an apprentice, say
thirteen years old; a Devonshire boy, with handsome features, such as most
Devonshire youths have; [3] satisfied with his place; not overworked;
treated kindly, and aware that he was treated kindly, by his master and
mistress. Fifthly, and lastly, bringing up the rear of this quiet
household, is a servant girl, a grown-up young woman; and she, being
particularly kind-hearted, occupied (as often happens in families of
humble pretensions as to rank) a sort of sisterly place in her relation to
her mistress. A great democratic change is at this very time (1854), and
has been for twenty years, passing over British society. Multitudes of
persons are becoming ashamed of saying, 'my master,' or 'my mistress:' the
term now in the slow process of superseding it is, 'my employer.' Now, in
the United States, such an expression of democratic hauteur, though
disagreeable as a needless proclamation of independence which nobody is
disputing, leaves, however, no lasting bad effect. For the domestic
'helps' are pretty generally in a state of transition so sure and so rapid
to the headship of domestic establishments belonging to themselves, that
in effect they are but ignoring, for the present moment, a relation which
would at any rate dissolve itself in a year or two. But in England, where
no such resources exist of everlasting surplus lands, the tendency of the
change is painful. It carries with it a sullen and a coarse expression of
immunity from a yoke which was in any case a light one, and often a benign
one. In some other place I will illustrate my meaning. Here, apparently,
in Mrs. Marr's service, the principle concerned illustrated itself
practically. Mary, the female servant, felt a sincere and unaffected
respect for a mistress whom she saw so steadily occupied with her domestic
duties, and who, though so young, and invested with some slight authority,
never exerted it capriciously, or even showed it at all conspiciously.
According to the testimony of all the neighbors, she treated her mistress
with a shade of unobtrusive respect on the one hand, and yet was eager to
relieve her, whenever that was possible, from the weight of her maternal
duties, with the cheerful voluntary service of a sister.

To this young woman it was, that, suddenly, within three or four minutes
of midnight, Marr called aloud from the head of the stairs--directing her
to go out and purchase some oysters for the family supper. Upon what
slender accidents hang oftentimes solemn lifelong results! Marr occupied
in the concerns of his shop, Mrs. Marr occupied with some little ailment
and restlessness of her baby, had both forgotten the affair of supper; the
time was now narrowing every moment, as regarded any variety of choice;
and oysters were perhaps ordered as the likeliest article to be had at
all, after twelve o'clock should have struck. And yet, upon this trivial
circumstance depended Mary's life. Had she been sent abroad for supper at
the ordinary time of ten or eleven o'clock, it is almost certain that she,
the solitary member of the household who escaped from the exterminating
tragedy, would _not_ have escaped; too surely she would have shared
the general fate. It had now become necessary to be quick. Hastily,
therefore, receiving money from Marr with a basket in her hand, but
unbonneted, Mary tripped out of the shop. It became afterwards, on
recollection, a heart-chilling remembrance to herself--that, precisely as
she emerged from the shop-door, she noticed, on the opposite side of the
street, by the light of the lamps, a man's figure; stationary at the
instant, but in the next instant slowly moving. This was Williams; as a
little incident, either just before or just after (at present it is
impossible to say which), sufficiently proved. Now, when one considers the
inevitable hurry and trepidation of Mary under the circumstances stated,
time barely sufficing for any chance of executing her errand, it becomes
evident that she must have connected some deep feeling of mysterious
uneasiness with the movements of this unknown man; else, assuredly, she
would not have found her attention disposable for such a case. Thus far,
she herself threw some little light upon what it might be that, semi-
consciously, was then passing through her mind; she said, that,
notwithstanding the darkness, which would not permit her to trace the
man's features, or to ascertain the exact direction of his eyes, it yet
struck her, that from his carriage when in motion, and from the apparent
inclination of his person, he must be looking at No. 29.

The little incident which I have alluded to as confirming Mary's belief
was, that, at some period not very far from midnight, the watchman had
specially noticed this stranger; he had observed him continually peeping
into the window of Marr's shop; and had thought this act, connected with
the man's appearance, so suspicious, that he stepped into Marr's shop, and
communicated what he had seen. This fact he afterwards stated before the
magistrates; and he added, that subsequently, viz., a few minutes after
twelve (eight or ten minutes, probably, after the departure of Mary), he
(the watchman), when re-entering upon his ordinary half-hourly beat, was
requested by Marr to assist him in closing the shutters. Here they had a
final communication with each other; and the watchman mentioned to Marr
that the mysterious stranger had now apparently taken himself off; for
that he had not been visible since the first communication made to Marr by
the watchman. There is little doubt that Williams had observed the
watchman's visit to Marr, and had thus had his attention seasonably drawn
to the indiscretion of his own demeanor; so that the warning, given
unavailingly to Marr, had been turned to account by Williams. There can be
still less doubt, that the bloodhound had commenced his work within one
minute of the watchman's assisting Marr to put up his shutters. And on the
following consideration:--that which prevented Williams from commencing
even earlier, was the exposure of the shop's whole interior to the gaze of
street passengers. It was indispensable that the shutters should be
accurately closed before Williams could safely get to work. But, as soon
as ever this preliminary precaution had been completed, once having
secured that concealment from the public eye it then became of still
greater importance not to lose a moment by delay, than previously it had
been not to hazard any thing by precipitance. For all depended upon going
in before Marr should have locked the door. On any other mode of effecting
an entrance (as, for instance, by waiting for the return of Mary, and
making his entrance simultaneously with her), it will be seen that
Williams must have forfeited that particular advantage which mute facts,
when read into their true construction, will soon show the reader that he
must have employed. Williams waited, of necessity, for the sound of the
watchman's retreating steps; waited, perhaps, for thirty seconds; but when
that danger was past, the next danger was, lest Marr should lock the door;
one turn of the key, and the murderer would have been locked out. In,
therefore, he bolted, and by a dexterous movement of his left hand, no
doubt, turned the key, without letting Marr perceive this fatal stratagem.
It is really wonderful and most interesting to pursue the successive steps
of this monster, and to notice the absolute certainty with which the
silent hieroglyphics of the case betray to us the whole process and
movements of the bloody drama, not less surely and fully than if we had
been ourselves hidden in Marr's shop, or had looked down from the heavens
of mercy upon this hell-kite, that knew not what mercy meant. That he had
concealed from Marr his trick, secret and rapid, upon the lock, is
evident; because else, Marr would instantly have taken the alarm,
especially after what the watchman had communicated. But it will soon be
seen that Marr had _not_ been alarmed. In reality, towards the full
success of Williams, it was important, in the last degree, to intercept
and forestall any yell or shout of agony from Marr. Such an outcry, and in
a situation so slenderly fenced off from the street, viz., by walls the
very thinnest, makes itself heard outside pretty nearly as well as if it
were uttered in the street. Such an outcry it was indispensable to stifle.
It _was_ stifled; and the reader will soon understand _how_. Meantime, at
this point, let us leave the murderer alone with his victims. For fifty
minutes let him work his pleasure. The front-door, as we know, is now
fastened against all help. Help there is none. Let us, therefore, in
vision, attach ourselves to Mary; and, when all is over, let us come
back with _her_, again raise the curtain, and read the dreadful
record of all that has passed in her absence.

The poor girl, uneasy in her mind to an extent that she could but half
understand, roamed up and down in search of an oyster shop; and finding
none that was still open, within any circuit that her ordinary experience
had made her acquainted with, she fancied it best to try the chances of
some remoter district. Lights she saw gleaming or twinkling at a distance,
that still tempted her onwards; and thus, amongst unknown streets poorly
lighted, [4] and on a night of peculiar darkness, and in a region of
London where ferocious tumults were continually turning her out of what
seemed to be the direct course, naturally she got bewildered. The purpose
with which she started, had by this time become hopeless. Nothing remained
for her now but to retrace her steps. But this was difficult; for she was
afraid to ask directions from chance passengers, whose appearance the
darkness prevented her from reconnoitring. At length by his lantern she
recognized a watchman; through him she was guided into the right road; and
in ten minutes more, she found herself back at the door of No. 29, in
Ratcliffe Highway. But by this time she felt satisfied that she must have
been absent for fifty or sixty minutes; indeed, she had heard, at a
distance, the cry of _past one o'clock_, which, commencing a few seconds
after one, lasted intermittingly for ten or thirteen minutes.

In the tumult of agonizing thoughts that very soon surprised her,
naturally it became hard for her to recall distinctly the whole succession
of doubts, and jealousies, and shadowy misgivings that soon opened upon
her. But, so far as could be collected, she had not in the first moment of
reaching home noticed anything decisively alarming. In very many cities
bells are the main instruments for communicating between the street and
the interior of houses: but in London knockers prevail. At Marr's there
was both a knocker and a bell. Mary rang, and at the same time very gently
knocked. She had no fear of disturbing her master or mistress; _them_
she made sure of finding still up. Her anxiety was for the baby, who being
disturbed, might again rob her mistress of a night's rest. And she well
knew that, with three people all anxiously awaiting her return, and by
this time, perhaps, seriously uneasy at her delay, the least audible
whisper from herself would in a moment bring one of them to the door. Yet
how is this? To her astonishment, but with the astonishment came creeping
over her an icy horror, no stir nor murmur was heard ascending from the
kitchen. At this moment came back upon her, with shuddering anguish, the
indistinct image of the stranger in the loose dark coat, whom she had seen
stealing along under the shadowy lamp-light, and too certainly watching
her master's motions: keenly she now reproached herself that, under
whatever stress of hurry, she had not acquainted Mr. Marr with the
suspicious appearances. Poor girl! she did not then know that, if this
communication could have availed to put Marr upon his guard, it had
reached him from another quarter; so that her own omission, which had in
reality arisen under her hurry to execute her master's commission, could
not be charged with any bad consequences. But all such reflections this
way or that were swallowed up at this point in over-mastering panic. That
her double summons _could_ have been unnoticed--this solitary fact in
one moment made a revelation of horror. One person might have fallen
asleep, but two--but three--_that_ was a mere impossibility. And even
supposing all three together with the baby locked in sleep, still how
unaccountable was this utter--utter silence! Most naturally at this moment
something like hysterical horror overshadowed the poor girl, and now at
last she rang the bell with the violence that belongs to sickening terror.
This done, she paused: self-command enough she still retained, though fast
and fast it was slipping away from her, to bethink herself--that, if any
overwhelming accident _had_ compelled both Marr and his apprentice-boy to
leave the house in order to summon surgical aid from opposite quarters--a
thing barely supposable--still, even in that case Mrs. Marr and her infant
would be left; and some murmuring reply, under any extremity, would be
elicited from the poor mother. To pause, therefore, to impose stern
silence upon herself, so as to leave room for the possible answer to this
final appeal, became a duty of spasmodic effort. Listen, therefore, poor
trembling heart; listen, and for twenty seconds be still as death. Still
as death she was: and during that dreadful stillness, when she hushed her
breath that she might listen, occurred an incident of killing fear, that
to her dying day would never cease to renew its echoes in her ear. She,
Mary, the poor trembling girl, checking and overruling herself by a final
effort, that she might leave full opening for her dear young mistress's
answer to her own last frantic appeal, heard at last and most distinctly a
sound within the house. Yes, now beyond a doubt there is coming an answer
to her summons. What was it? On the stairs, not the stairs that led
downwards to the kitchen, but the stairs that led upwards to the single
story of bed-chambers above, was heard a creaking sound. Next was heard
most distinctly a footfall: one, two, three, four, five stairs were slowly
and distinctly descended. Then the dreadful footsteps were heard advancing
along the little narrow passage to the door. The steps--oh heavens!
_whose_ steps?--have paused at the door. The very breathing can be heard
of that dreadful being, who has silenced all breathing except his own in
the house. There is but a door between him and Mary. What is he doing on
the other side of the door? A cautious step, a stealthy step it was that
came down the stairs, then paced along the little narrow passage--narrow
as a coffin--till at last the step pauses at the door. How hard the fellow
breathes! He, the solitary murderer, is on one side the door; Mary is on
the other side. Now, suppose that he should suddenly open the door, and
that incautiously in the dark Mary should rush in, and find herself in the
arms of the murderer. Thus far the case is a possible one--that to a
certainty, had this little trick been tried immediately upon Mary's
return, it would have succeeded; had the door been opened suddenly upon
her first tingle-tingle, headlong she would have tumbled in, and perished.
But now Mary is upon her guard. The unknown murderer and she have both
their lips upon the door, listening, breathing hard; but luckily they are
on different sides of the door; and upon the least indication of unlocking
or unlatching, she would have recoiled into the asylum of general

What was the murderer's meaning in coming along the passage to the front
door? The meaning was this: separately, as an individual, Mary was worth
nothing at all to him. But, considered as a member of a household, she had
this value, viz., that she, if caught and murdered, perfected and rounded
the desolation of the house. The case being reported, as reported it would
be all over Christendom, led the imagination captive. The whole covey of
victims was thus netted; the household ruin was thus full and orbicular;
and in that proportion the tendency of men and women, flutter as they
might, would be helplessly and hopelessly to sink into the all-conquering
hands of the mighty murderer. He had but to say--my testimonials are dated
from No. 29 Ratcliffe Highway, and the poor vanquished imagination sank
powerless before the fascinating rattlesnake eye of the murderer. There is
not a doubt that the motive of the murderer for standing on the inner side
of Marr's front-door, whilst Mary stood on the outside, was--a hope that,
if he quietly opened the door, whisperingly counterfeiting Marr's voice,
and saying, What made you stay so long? possibly she might have been
inveigled. He was wrong; the time was past for that; Mary was now
maniacally awake; she began now to ring the bell and to ply the knocker
with unintermitting violence. And the natural consequence was, that the
next door neighbor, who had recently gone to bed and instantly fallen
asleep, was roused; and by the incessant violence of the ringing and the
knocking, which now obeyed a delirious and uncontrollable impulse in Mary,
he became sensible that some very dreadful event must be at the root of so
clamorous an uproar. To rise, to throw up the sash, to demand angrily the
cause of this unseasonable tumult, was the work of a moment. The poor girl
remained sufficiently mistress of herself rapidly to explain the
circumstance of her own absence for an hour; her belief that Mr. and Mrs.
Marr's family had all been murdered in the interval; and that at this very
moment the murderer was in the house.

The person to whom she addressed this statement was a pawnbroker; and a
thoroughly brave man he must have been; for it was a perilous undertaking,
merely as a trial of physical strength, singly to face a mysterious
assassin, who had apparently signalized his prowess by a triumph so
comprehensive. But, again, for the imagination it required an effort of
self-conquest to rush headlong into the presence of one invested with a
cloud of mystery, whose nation, age, motives, were all alike unknown.
Rarely on any field of battle has a soldier been called upon to face so
complex a danger. For if the entire family of his neighbor Marr had been
exterminated, were this indeed true, such a scale of bloodshed would seem
to argue that there must have been two persons as the perpetrators; or if
one singly had accomplished such a ruin, in that case how colossal must
have been his audacity! probably, also, his skill and animal power!
Moreover, the unknown enemy (whether single or double) would, doubtless,
be elaborately armed. Yet, under all these disadvantages, did this
fearless man rush at once to the field of butchery in his neighbor's
house. Waiting only to draw on his trousers, and to arm himself with the
kitchen poker, he went down into his own little back-yard. On this mode of
approach, he would have a chance of intercepting the murderer; whereas
from the front there would be no such chance; and there would also be
considerable delay in the process of breaking open the door. A brick wall,
nine or ten feet high, divided his own back premises from those of Marr.
Over this he vaulted; and at the moment when he was recalling himself to
the necessity of going back for a candle, he suddenly perceived a feeble
ray of light already glimmering on some part of Marr's premises. Marr's
back-door stood wide open. Probably the murderer had passed through it one
half minute before. Rapidly the brave man passed onwards to the shop, and
there beheld the carnage of the night stretched out on the floor, and the
narrow premises so floated with gore, that it was hardly possible to
escape the pollution of blood in picking out a path to the front-door. In
the lock of the door still remained the key which had given to the unknown
murderer so fatal an advantage over his victims. By this time, the heart-
shaking news involved in the outcries of Mary (to whom it occurred that by
possibility some one out of so many victims might still be within the
reach of medical aid, but that all would depend upon speed) had availed,
even at that late hour, to gather a small mob about the house. The
pawnbroker threw open the door. One or two watchmen headed the crowd; but
the soul-harrowing spectacle checked them, and impressed sudden silence
upon their voices, previously so loud. The tragic drama read aloud its own
history, and the succession of its several steps--few and summary. The
murderer was as yet altogether unknown; not even suspected. But there were
reasons for thinking that he must have been a person familiarly known to
Marr. He had entered the shop by opening the door after it had been closed
by Marr. But it was justly argued--that, after the caution conveyed to
Marr by the watchman, the appearance of any stranger in the shop at that
hour, and in so dangerous a neighborhood, and entering by so irregular and
suspicious a course, (_i.e._, walking in after the door had been closed,
and after the closing of the shutters had cut off all open communication
with the street), would naturally have roused Marr to an attitude of
vigilance and self-defence. Any indication, therefore, that Marr had _not_
been so roused, would argue to a certainty that _something_ had occurred
to neutralize this alarm, and fatally to disarm the prudent jealousies of
Marr. But this 'something' could only have lain in one simple fact, viz.,
that the person of the murderer was familiarly known to Marr as that of an
ordinary and unsuspected acquaintance. This being presupposed as the key
to all the rest, the whole course and evolution of the subsequent drama
becomes clear as daylight. The murderer, it is evident, had opened gently,
and again closed behind him with equal gentleness, the street-door. He had
then advanced to the little counter, all the while exchanging the ordinary
salutation of an old acquaintance with the unsuspecting Marr. Having
reached the counter, he would then ask Marr for a pair of unbleached
cotton socks. In a shop so small as Marr's, there could be no great
latitude of choice for disposing of the different commodities. The
arrangement of these had no doubt become familiar to the murderer; and he
had already ascertained that, in order to reach down the particular parcel
wanted at present, Marr would find it requisite to face round to the rear,
and, at the same moment, to raise his eyes and his hands to a level
eighteen inches above his own head. This movement placed him in the most
disadvantageous possible position with regard to the murderer, who now, at
the instant when Marr's hands and eyes were embarrassed, and the back of
his head fully exposed, suddenly from below his large surtout, had unslung
a heavy ship-carpenter's mallet, and, with one solitary blow, had so
thoroughly stunned his victim, as to leave him incapable of resistance.
The whole position of Marr told its own tale. He had collapsed naturally
behind the counter, with his hands so occupied as to confirm the whole
outline of the affair as I have here suggested it. Probable enough it is
that the very first blow, the first indication of treachery that reached
Marr, would also be the last blow as regarded the abolition of
consciousness. The murderer's plan and _rationale_ of murder started
systematically from this infliction of apoplexy, or at least of a stunning
sufficient to insure a long loss of consciousness. This opening step
placed the murderer at his ease. But still, as returning sense might
constantly have led to the fullest exposures, it was his settled practice,
by way of consummation, to cut the throat. To one invariable type all the
murders on this occasion conformed: the skull was first shattered; this
step secured the murderer from instant retaliation; and then, by way of
locking up all into eternal silence, uniformly the throat was cut. The
rest of the circumstances, as self-revealed, were these. The fall of Marr
might, probably enough, cause a dull, confused sound of a scuffle, and the
more so, as it could not now be confounded with any street uproar--the
shop-door being shut. It is more probable, however, that the signal for
the alarm passing down to the kitchen, would arise when the murderer
proceeded to cut Marr's throat. The very confined situation behind the
counter would render it impossible, under the critical hurry of the case,
to expose the throat broadly; the horrid scene would proceed by partial
and interrupted cuts; deep groans would arise; and then would come the
rush up-stairs. Against this, as the only dangerous stage in the
transaction, the murderer would have specially prepared. Mrs. Marr and the
apprentice-boy, both young and active, would make, of course, for the
street door; had Mary been at home, and three persons at once had combined
to distract the purposes of the murderer, it is barely possible that one
of them would have succeeded in reaching the street. But the dreadful
swing of the heavy mallet intercepted both the boy and his mistress before
they could reach the door. Each of them lay stretched out on the centre of
the shop floor; and the very moment that this disabling was accomplished,
the accursed hound was down upon their throats with his razor. The fact
is, that, in the mere blindness of pity for poor Marr, on hearing his
groans, Mrs. Marr had lost sight of her obvious policy; she and the boy
ought to have made for the back door; the alarm would thus have been given
in the open air; which, of itself, was a great point; and several means of
distracting the murderer's attention offered upon that course, which the
extreme limitation of the shop denied to them upon the other.

Vain would be all attempts to convey the horror which thrilled the
gathering spectators of this piteous tragedy. It was known to the crowd
that one person had, by some accident, escaped the general massacre: but
she was now speechless, and probably delirious; so that, in compassion for
her pitiable situation, one female neighbor had carried her away, and put
her to bed. Hence it had happened, for a longer space of time than could
else have been possible, that no person present was sufficiently
acquainted with the Marrs to be aware of the little infant; for the bold
pawnbroker had gone off to make a communication to the coroner; and
another neighbor to lodge some evidence which he thought urgent at a
neighboring police-office. Suddenly some person appeared amongst the crowd
who was aware that the murdered parents had a young infant; this would be
found either below-stairs, or in one of the bedrooms above. Immediately a
stream of people poured down into the kitchen, where at once they saw the
cradle--but with the bedclothes in a state of indescribable confusion. On
disentangling these, pools of blood became visible; and the next ominous
sign was, that the hood of the cradle had been smashed to pieces. It
became evident that the wretch had found himself doubly embarrassed--
first, by the arched hood at the head of the cradle, which, accordingly,
he had beat into a ruin with his mallet, and secondly, by the gathering of
the blankets and pillows about the baby's head. The free play of his blows
had thus been baffled. And he had therefore finished the scene by applying
his razor to the throat of the little innocent; after which, with no
apparent purpose, as though he had become confused by the spectacle of his
own atrocities, he had busied himself in piling the clothes elaborately
over the child's corpse. This incident undeniably gave the character of a
vindictive proceeding to the whole affair, and so far confirmed the
current rumor that the quarrel between Williams and Marr had originated in
rivalship. One writer, indeed, alleged that the murderer might have found
it necessary for his own safety to extinguish the crying of the child; but
it was justly replied, that a child only eight months old could not have
cried under any sense of the tragedy proceeding, but simply in its
ordinary way for the absence of its mother; and such a cry, even if
audible at all out of the house, must have been precisely what the
neighbors were hearing constantly, so that it could have drawn no special
attention, nor suggested any reasonable alarm to the murderer. No one
incident, indeed, throughout the whole tissue of atrocities, so much
envenomed the popular fury against the unknown ruffian, as this useless
butchery of the infant.

Naturally, on the Sunday morning that dawned four or five hours later, the
case was too full of horror not to diffuse itself in all directions; but I
have no reason to think that it crept into any one of the numerous Sunday
papers. In the regular course, any ordinary occurrence, not occurring, or
not transpiring until fifteen minutes after 1 A. M. on a Sunday morning,
would first reach the public ear through the Monday editions of the Sunday
papers, and the regular morning papers of the Monday. But, if such were
the course pursued on this occasion, never can there have been a more
signal oversight. For it is certain, that to have met the public demand
for details on the Sunday, which might so easily have been done by
cancelling a couple of dull columns, and substituting a circumstantial
narrative, for which the pawnbroker and the watchman could have furnished
the materials, would have made a small fortune. By proper handbills
dispersed through all quarters of the infinite metropolis, two hundred and
fifty thousand extra copies might have been sold; that is, by any journal
that should have collected _exclusive_ materials, meeting the public
excitement, everywhere stirred to the centre by flying rumors, and
everywhere burning for ampler information. On the Sunday se'ennight
(Sunday the _octave_ from the event), took place the funeral of the
Marrs; in the first coffin was placed Marr; in the second Mrs. Marr, and
the baby in her arms; in the third the apprentice boy. They were buried
side by side; and thirty thousand laboring people followed the funeral
procession, with horror and grief written in their countenances.

As yet no whisper was astir that indicated, even conjecturally, the
hideous author of these ruins--this patron of grave-diggers. Had as much
been known on this Sunday of the funeral concerning that person as became
known universally six days later, the people would have gone right from
the churchyard to the murderer's lodgings, and (brooking no delay) would
have torn him limb from limb. As yet, however, in mere default of any
object on whom reasonable suspicion could settle, the public wrath was
compelled to suspend itself. Else, far indeed from showing any tendency to
subside, the public emotion strengthened every day conspicuously, as the
reverberation of the shock began to travel back from the provinces to the
capital. On every great road in the kingdom, continual arrests were made
of vagrants and 'trampers,' who could give no satisfactory account of
themselves, or whose appearance in any respect answered to the imperfect
description of Williams furnished by the watchman.

With this mighty tide of pity and indignation pointing backwards to the
dreadful past, there mingled also in the thoughts of reflecting persons an
under-current of fearful expectation for the immediate future. 'The
earthquake,' to quote a fragment from a striking passage in Wordsworth--

  'The earthquake is not satisfied at once.'

All perils, specially malignant, are recurrent. A murderer, who is such by
passion and by a wolfish craving for bloodshed as a mode of unnatural
luxury, cannot relapse into _inertia_. Such a man, even more than the
Alpine chamois hunter, comes to crave the dangers and the hairbreadth
escapes of his trade, as a condiment for seasoning the insipid monotonies
of daily life. But, apart from the hellish instincts that might too surely
be relied on for renewed atrocities, it was clear that the murderer of the
Marrs, wheresoever lurking, must be a needy man; and a needy man of that
class least likely to seek or to find resources in honorable modes of
industry; for which, equally by haughty disgust and by disuse of the
appropriate habits, men of violence are specially disqualified. Were it,
therefore, merely for a livelihood, the murderer whom all hearts were
yearning to decipher, might be expected to make his resurrection on some
stage of horror, after a reasonable interval. Even in the Marr murder,
granting that it had been governed chiefly by cruel and vindictive
impulses, it was still clear that the desire of booty had co-operated with
such feelings. Equally clear it was that this desire must have been
disappointed: excepting the trivial sum reserved by Marr for the week's
expenditure, the murderer found, doubtless, little or nothing that he
could turn to account. Two guineas, perhaps, would be the outside of what
he had obtained in the way of booty. A week or so would see the end of
that. The conviction, therefore, of all people was, that in a month or
two, when the fever of excitement might a little have cooled down, or have
been superseded by other topics of fresher interest, so that the newborn
vigilance of household life would have had time to relax, some new murder,
equally appalling, might be counted upon.

Such was the public expectation. Let the reader then figure to himself the
pure frenzy of horror when in this hush of expectation, looking, indeed,
and waiting for the unknown arm to strike once more, but not believing
that any audacity could be equal to such an attempt as yet, whilst all
eyes were watching, suddenly, on the twelfth night from the Marr murder, a
second case of the same mysterious nature, a murder on the same
exterminating plan was perpetrated in the very same neighborhood. It was
on the Thursday next but one succeeding to the Marr murder that this
second atrocity took place; and many people thought at the time, that in
its dramatic features of thrilling interest, this second case even went
beyond the first. The family which suffered in this instance was that of a
Mr. Williamson; and the house was situated, if not absolutely _in_
Ratcliffe Highway, at any rate immediately round the corner of some
secondary street, running at right angles to this public thoroughfare, Mr.
Williamson was a well-known and respectable man, long settled in that
district; he was supposed to be rich; and more with a view to the
employment furnished by such a calling, than with much anxiety for further
accumulations, he kept a sort of tavern; which, in this respect, might be
considered on an old patriarchal footing--that, although people of
considerable property resorted to the house in the evenings, no kind of
anxious separation was maintained between them and the other visitors from
the class of artisans or common laborers. Anybody who conducted himself
with propriety was free to take a seat, and call for any liquor that he
might prefer. And thus the society was pretty miscellaneous; in part
stationary, but in some proportion fluctuating. The household consisted of
the following five persons:--1. Mr. Williamson, its head, who was an old
man above seventy, and was well fitted for his situation, being civil, and
not at all morose, but, at the same time, firm in maintaining order; 2.
Mrs. Williamson, his wife, about ten years younger than himself; 3. a
little grand-daughter, about nine years old; 4. a housemaid, who was
nearly forty years old; 5. a young journeyman, aged about twenty-six,
belonging to some manufacturing establishment (of what class I have
forgotten); neither do I remember of what nation he was. It was the
established rule at Mr. Williamson's, that, exactly as the clock struck
eleven, all the company, without favor or exception, moved off. That was
one of the customs by which, in so stormy a district, Mr. Williamson had
found it possible to keep his house free from brawls. On the present
Thursday night everything had gone on as usual, except for one slight
shadow of suspicion, which had caught the attention of more persons than
one. Perhaps at a less agitating time it would hardly have been noticed;
but now, when the first question and the last in all social meetings
turned upon the Marrs, and their unknown murderer, it was a circumstance
naturally fitted to cause some uneasiness, that a stranger, of sinister
appearance, in a wide surtout, had flitted in and out of the room at
intervals during the evening; had sometimes retired from the light into
obscure corners; and, by more than one person, had been observed stealing
into the private passages of the house. It was presumed in general, that
the man must be known to Williamson. And in some slight degree, as an
occasional customer of the house, it is not impossible that he _was_.
But afterwards, this repulsive stranger, with his cadaverous ghastliness,
extraordinary hair, and glazed eyes, showing himself intermittingly
through the hours from 8 to 11 P.M., revolved upon the memory of all who
had steadily observed him with something of the same freezing effect as
belongs to the two assassins in 'Macbeth,' who present themselves reeking
from the murder of Banquo, and gleaming dimly, with dreadful faces, from
the misty background, athwart the pomps of the regal banquet.

Meantime the clock struck eleven; the company broke up; the door of
entrance was nearly closed; and at this moment of general dispersion the
situation of the five inmates left upon the premises was precisely this:
the three elders, viz., Williamson, his wife, and his female servant, were
all occupied on the ground floor--Williamson himself was drawing ale,
porter, &c., for those neighbors, in whose favor the house-door had been
left ajar, until the hour of twelve should strike; Mrs. Williamson and her
servant were moving to and fro between the back-kitchen and a little
parlor; the little grand-daughter, whose sleeping-room was on the
_first_ floor (which term in London means always the floor raised by
one flight of stairs above the level of the street), had been fast asleep
since nine o'clock; lastly, the journeyman artisan had retired to rest for
some time. He was a regular lodger in the house; and his bedroom was on
the second floor. For some time he had been undressed, and had lain down
in bed. Being, as a working man, bound to habits of early rising, he was
naturally anxious to fall asleep as soon as possible. But, on this
particular night, his uneasiness, arising from the recent murders at No.
29, rose to a paroxysm of nervous excitement which kept him awake. It is
possible, that from somebody he had heard of the suspicious-looking
stranger, or might even personally observed him slinking about. But, were
it otherwise, he was aware of several circumstances dangerously affecting
this house; for instance, the ruffianism of this whole neighborhood, and
the disagreeable fact that the Marrs had lived within a few doors of this
very house, which again argued that the murderer also lived at no great
distance. These were matters of _general_ alarm. But there were others
peculiar to this house; in particular, the notoriety of Williamson's
opulence; the belief, whether well or ill founded, that he accumulated, in
desks and drawers, the money continually flowing into his hands; and
lastly, the danger so ostentatiously courted by that habit of leaving the
house-door ajar through one entire hour--and that hour loaded with extra
danger, by the well-advertised assurance that no collision need be feared
with chance convivial visiters, since all such people were banished at
eleven. A regulation, which had hitherto operated beneficially for the
character and comfort of the house, now, on the contrary, under altered
circumstances, became a positive proclamation of exposure and
defencelessness, through one entire period of an hour. Williamson himself,
it was said generally, being a large unwieldy man, past seventy, and
signally inactive, ought, in prudence, to make the locking of his door
coincident with the dismissal of his evening party.

Upon these and other grounds of alarm (particularly this, that Mrs.
Williamson was reported to possess a considerable quantity of plate), the
journeyman was musing painfully, and the time might be within twenty-eight
or twenty-five minutes of twelve, when all at once, with a crash,
proclaiming some hand of hideous violence, the house-door was suddenly
shut and locked. Here, then, beyond all doubt, was the diabolic man,
clothed in mystery, from No. 29 Ratcliffe Highway. Yes, that dreadful
being, who for twelve days had employed all thoughts and all tongues, was
now, too certainly, in this defenceless house, and would, in a few
minutes, be face to face with every one of its inmates. A question still
lingered in the public mind--whether at Marr's there might not have been
_two_ men at work. If so, there would be two at present; and one of
the two would be immediately disposable for the up-stairs work; since no
danger could obviously be more immediately fatal to such an attack than
any alarm given from an upper window to the passengers in the street.
Through one half-minute the poor panic-stricken man sat up motionless in
bed. But then he rose, his first movement being towards the door of his
room. Not for any purpose of securing it against intrusion--too well he
knew that there was no fastening of any sort--neither lock, nor bolt; nor
was there any such moveable furniture in the room as might have availed to
barricade the door, even if time could be counted on for such an attempt.
It was no effect of prudence, merely the fascination of killing fear it
was, that drove him to open the door. One step brought him to the head of
the stairs: he lowered his head over the balustrade in order to listen;
and at that moment ascended, from the little parlor, this agonizing cry
from the woman-servant, 'Lord Jesus Christ! we shall all be murdered!'
What a Medusa's head must have lurked in those dreadful bloodless
features, and those glazed rigid eyes, that seemed rightfully belonging to
a corpse, when one glance at them sufficed to proclaim a death-warrant.

Three separate death-struggles were by this time over; and the poor
petrified journeyman, quite unconscious of what he was doing, in blind,
passive, self-surrender to panic, absolutely descended both flights of
stairs. Infinite terror inspired him with the same impulse as might have
been inspired by headlong courage. In his shirt, and upon old decaying
stairs, that at times creaked under his feet, he continued to descend,
until he had reached the lowest step but four. The situation was
tremendous beyond any that is on record. A sneeze, a cough, almost a
breathing, and the young man would be a corpse, without a chance or a
struggle for his life. The murderer was at that time in the little parlor
--the door of which parlor faced you in descending the stairs; and this
door stood ajar; indeed, much more considerably open than what is
understood by the term 'ajar.' Of that quadrant, or 90 degrees, which the
door would describe in swinging so far open as to stand at right angles to
the lobby, or to itself, in a closed position, 55 degrees at the least
were exposed. Consequently, two out of three corpses were exposed to the
young man's gaze. Where was the third? And the murderer--where was he? As
to the murderer, he was walking rapidly backwards and forwards in the
parlor, audible but not visible at first, being engaged with something or
other in that part of the room which the door still concealed. What the
something might be, the sound soon explained; he was applying keys
tentatively to a cupboard, a closet, and a scrutoire, in the hidden part
of the room. Very soon, however, he came into view; but, fortunately for
the young man, at this critical moment, the murderer's purpose too
entirely absorbed him to allow of his throwing a glance to the staircase,
on which else the white figure of the journeyman, standing in motionless
horror, would have been detected in one instant, and seasoned for the
grave in the second. As to the third corpse, the missing corpse, viz., Mr.
Williamson's, _that_ is in the cellar; and how its local position can
be accounted for, remains a separate question much discussed at the time,
but never satisfactorily cleared up. Meantime, that Williamson was dead,
became evident to the young man; since else he would have been heard
stirring or groaning. Three friends, therefore, out of four, whom the
young man had parted with forty minutes ago, were now extinguished;
remained, therefore, 40 per cent. (a large per centage for Williams to
leave); remained, in fact, himself and his pretty young friend, the little
grand-daughter, whose childish innocence was still slumbering without fear
for herself, or grief for her aged grand-parents. If _they_ are gone
for ever, happily one friend (for such he will prove himself, indeed, if
from such a danger he can save this child) is pretty near to her. But
alas! he is still nearer to a murderer. At this moment he is unnerved for
any exertion whatever; he has changed into a pillar of ice; for the
objects before him, separated by just thirteen feet, are these:--The
housemaid had been caught by the murderer on her knees; she was kneeling
before the fire-grate, which she had been polishing with black lead. That
part of her task was finished; and she had passed on to another task,
viz., the filling of the grate with wood and coals, not for kindling at
this moment, but so as to have it ready for kindling on the next day. The
appearances all showed that she must have been engaged in this labor at
the very moment when the murderer entered; and perhaps the succession of
the incidents arranged itself as follows:--From the awful ejaculation and
loud outcry to Christ, as overheard by the journeyman, it was clear that
then first she had been alarmed; yet this was at least one and a-half or
even two minutes after the door-slamming. Consequently the alarm which had
so fearfully and seasonably alarmed the young man, must, in some
unaccountable way, have been misinterpreted by the two women. It was said,
at the time, that Mrs. Williamson labored under some dulness of hearing;
and it was conjectured that the servant, having her ears filled with the
noise of her own scrubbing, and her head half under the grate, might have
confounded it with the street noises, or else might have imputed this
violent closure to some mischievous boys. But, howsoever explained, the
fact was evident, that, until the words of appeal to Christ, the servant
had noticed nothing suspicious, nothing which interrupted her labors. If
so, it followed that neither had Mrs. Williamson noticed anything; for, in
that case, she would have communicated her own alarm to the servant, since
both were in the same small room. Apparently the course of things after
the murderer had entered the room was this:--Mrs. Williamson had probably
not seen him, from the accident of standing with her back to the door.
Her, therefore, before he was himself observed at all, he had stunned and
prostrated by a shattering blow on the back of her head; this blow,
inflicted by a crow-bar, had smashed in the hinder part of the skull. She
fell; and by the noise of her fall (for all was the work of a moment) had
first roused the attention of the servant; who then uttered the cry which
had reached the young man; but before she could repeat it, the murderer
had descended with his uplifted instrument upon _her_ head, crushing
the skull inwards upon the brain. Both the women were irrecoverably
destroyed, so that further outrages were needless; and, moreover, the
murderer was conscious of the imminent danger from delay; and yet, in
spite of his hurry, so fully did he appreciate the fatal consequences to
himself, if any of his victims should so far revive into consciousness as
to make circumstantial depositions, that, by way of making this
impossible, he had proceeded instantly to cut the throats of each. All
this tallied with the appearances as now presenting themselves. Mrs.
Williamson had fallen backwards with her head to the door; the servant,
from her kneeling posture, had been incapable of rising, and had presented
her head passively to blows; after which, the miscreant had but to bend
her head backwards so as to expose her throat, and the murder was

It is remarkable that the young artisan, paralyzed as he had been by fear,
and evidently fascinated for a time so as to walk right towards the lion's
mouth, yet found himself able to notice everything important. The reader
must suppose him at this point watching the murderer whilst hanging over
the body of Mrs. Williamson, and whilst renewing his search for certain
important keys. Doubtless it was an anxious situation for the murderer;
for, unless he speedily found the keys wanted, all this hideous tragedy
would end in nothing but a prodigious increase of the public horror, in
tenfold precautions therefore, and redoubled obstacles interposed between
himself and his future game. Nay, there was even a nearer interest at
stake; his own immediate safety might, by a probable accident, be
compromised. Most of those who came to the house for liquor were giddy
girls or children, who, on finding this house closed, would go off
carelessly to some other; but, let any thoughtful woman or man come to the
door now, a full quarter of an hour before the established time of
closing, in that case suspicion would arise too powerful to be checked.
There would be a sudden alarm given; after which, mere luck would decide
the event. For it is a remarkable fact, and one that illustrates the
singular inconsistency of this villain, who, being often so superfluously
subtle, was in other directions so reckless and improvident, that at this
very moment, standing amongst corpses that had deluged the little parlor
with blood, Williams must have been in considerable doubt whether he had
any sure means of egress. There were windows, he knew, to the back; but
upon what ground they opened, he seems to have had no certain information;
and in a neighborhood so dangerous, the windows of the lower story would
not improbably be nailed down; those in the upper might be free, but then
came the necessity of a leap too formidable. From all this, however, the
sole practical inference was to hurry forward with the trial of further
keys, and to detect the hidden treasure. This it was, this intense
absorption in one overmastering pursuit, that dulled the murderer's
perceptions as to all around him; otherwise, he must have heard the
breathing of the young man, which to himself at times became fearfully
audible. As the murderer stood once more over the body of Mrs. Williamson,
and searched her pockets more narrowly, he pulled out various clusters of
keys, one of which dropping, gave a harsh gingling sound upon the floor.
At this time it was that the secret witness, from his secret stand,
noticed the fact of Williams's surtout being lined with silk of the finest
quality. One other fact he noticed, which eventually became more
immediately important than many stronger circumstances of incrimination;
this was, that the shoes of the murderer, apparently new, and bought,
probably, with poor Marr's money, creaked as he walked, harshly and
frequently. With the new clusters of keys, the murderer walked off to the
hidden section of the parlor. And here, at last, was suggested to the
journeyman the sudden opening for an escape. Some minutes would be lost to
a certainty trying all these keys; and subsequently in searching the
drawers, supposing that the keys answered--or in violently forcing them,
supposing that they did _not_. He might thus count upon a brief interval
of leisure, whilst the rattling of the keys might obscure to the murderer
the creaking of the stairs under the re-ascending journeyman. His plan
was now formed: on regaining his bedroom, he placed the bed against
the door by way of a transient retardation to the enemy, that might give
him a short warning, and in the worst extremity, might give him a chance
for life by means of a desperate leap. This change made as quietly as
possible, he tore the sheets, pillow-cases, and blankets into broad
ribbons; and after plaiting them into ropes, spliced the different lengths
together. But at the very first he descries this ugly addition to his
labors. Where shall he look for any staple, hook, bar, or other fixture,
from which his rope, when twisted, may safely depend? Measured from the
window-_sill_--_i.e._, the lowest part of the window architrave--there
count but twenty-two or twenty-three feet to the ground. Of this length
ten or twelve feet may be looked upon as cancelled, because to that
extent he might drop without danger. So much being deducted, there would
remain, say, a dozen feet of rope to prepare. But, unhappily, there is no
stout iron fixture anywhere about his window. The nearest, indeed the sole
fixture of that sort, is not near to the window at all; it is a spike
fixed (for no reason at all that is apparent) in the bed-tester; now, the
bed being shifted, the spike is shifted; and its distance from the window,
having been always four feet, is now seven. Seven entire feet, therefore,
must be added to that which would have sufficed if measured from the
window. But courage! God, by the proverb of all nations in Christendom,
helps those that help themselves. This our young man thankfully
acknowledges; he reads already, in the very fact of any spike at all being
found where hitherto it has been useless, an earnest of providential aid.
Were it only for himself that he worked, he could not feel himself
meritoriously employed; but this is not so; in deep sincerity, he is now
agitated for the poor child, whom he knows and loves; every minute, he
feels, brings ruin nearer to _her_; and, as he passed her door, his
first thought had been to take her out of bed in his arms, and to carry
her where she might share his chances. But, on consideration, he felt that
this sudden awaking of her, and the impossibility of even whispering any
explanation, would cause her to cry audibly; and the inevitable
indiscretion of one would be fatal to the two. As the Alpine avalanches,
when suspended above the traveller's head, oftentimes (we are told) come
down through the stirring of the air by a simple whisper, precisely on
such a tenure of a whisper was now suspended the murderous malice of the
man below. No; there is but one way to save the child; towards _her_
deliverance, the first step is through his own. And he has made an
excellent beginning; for the spike, which too fearfully he had expected to
see torn away by any strain upon the half-carious wood, stands firmly when
tried against the pressure of his own weight. He has rapidly fastened on
to it three lengths of his new rope, measuring eleven feet. He plaits it
roughly; so that only three feet have been lost in the intertwisting; he
has spliced on a second length equal to the first; so that, already,
sixteen feet are ready to throw out of the window; and thus, let the worst
come to the worst, it will not be absolute ruin to swarm down the rope so
far as it will reach, and then to drop boldly. All this has been
accomplished in about six minutes; and the hot contest between above and
below is steadily but fervently proceeding. Murderer is working hard in
the parlor; journeyman is working hard in the bedroom. Miscreant is
getting on famously down-stairs; one batch of bank-notes he has already
bagged; and is hard upon the scent of a second. He has also sprung a covey
of golden coins. Sovereigns as yet were not; but guineas at this period
fetched thirty shillings a-piece; and he has worked his way into a little
quarry of these. Murderer is almost joyous; and if any creature is still
living in this house, as shrewdly he suspects, and very soon means to
know, with that creature he would be happy, before cutting the creature's
throat, to drink a glass of something. Instead of the glass, might he not
make a present to the poor creature of its throat? Oh no! impossible!
Throats are a sort of thing that he never makes presents of; business--
business must be attended to. Really the two men, considered simply as men
of business, are both meritorious. Like chorus and semi-chorus, strophe
and antistrophe, they work each against the other. Pull journeyman, pull
murderer! Pull baker, pull devil! As regards the journeyman, he is now
safe. To his sixteen feet, of which seven are neutralized by the distance
of the bed, he has at last added six feet more, which will be short of
reaching the ground by perhaps ten feet--a trifle which man or boy may
drop without injury. All is safe, therefore, for him: which is more than
one can be sure of for miscreant in the parlor. Miscreant, however, takes
it coolly enough: the reason being, that, with all his cleverness, for
once in his life miscreant has been over-reached. The reader and I know,
but miscreant does not in the least suspect, a little fact of some
importance, viz., that just now through a space of full three minutes he
has been overlooked and studied by one, who (though reading in a dreadful
book, and suffering under mortal panic) took accurate notes of so much as
his limited opportunities allowed him to see, and will assuredly report
the creaking shoes and the silk-mounted surtout in quarters where such
little facts will tell very little to his advantage. But, although it is
true that Mr. Williams, unaware of the journeyman's having 'assisted' at
the examination of Mrs. Williamson's pockets, could not connect any
anxiety with that person's subsequent proceedings', nor specially,
therefore, with his having embarked in the rope-weaving line, assuredly he
knew of reasons enough for not loitering. And yet he _did_ loiter.
Reading his acts by the light of such mute traces as he left behind him,
the police became aware that latterly he must have loitered. And the
reason which governed him is striking; because at once it records--that
murder was not pursued by him simply as a means to an end, but also as an
end for itself. Mr. Williams had now been upon the premises for perhaps
fifteen or twenty minutes; and in that space of time he had dispatched, in
a style satisfactory to himself, a considerable amount of business. He had
done, in commercial language, 'a good stroke of business.' Upon two
floors, viz., the cellar-floor and the ground-floor, he has 'accounted
for' all the population. But there remained at least two floors more; and
it now occurred to Mr. Williams that, although the landlord's somewhat
chilling manner had shut him out from any familiar knowledge of the
household arrangements, too probably on one or other of those floors there
must be some throats. As to plunder, he has already bagged the whole. And
it was next to impossible that any arrear the most trivial should still
remain for a gleaner. But the throats--the throats--there it was that
arrears and gleanings might perhaps be counted on. And thus it appeared
that, in his wolfish thirst for blood, Mr. Williams put to hazard the
whole fruits of his night's work, and his life into the bargain. At this
moment, if the murderer knew all, could he see the open window above
stairs ready for the descent of the journeyman, could he witness the life-
and-death rapidity with which that journeyman is working, could he guess
at the almighty uproar which within ninety seconds will be maddening the
population of this populous district--no picture of a maniac in flight of
panic or in pursuit of vengeance would adequately represent the agony of
haste with which he would himself be hurrying to the street-door for final
evasion. That mode of escape was still free. Even at this moment, there
yet remained time sufficient for a successful flight, and, therefore, for
the following revolution in the romance of his own abominable life. He had
in his pockets above a hundred pounds of booty; means, therefore, for a
full disguise. This very night, if he will shave off his yellow hair, and
blacken his eyebrows, buying, when morning light returns, a dark-colored
wig, and clothes such as may co-operate in personating the character of a
grave professional man, he may elude all suspicions of impertinent
policemen; may sail by any one of a hundred vessels bound for any port
along the huge line of sea-board (stretching through twenty-four hundred
miles) of the American United States; may enjoy fifty years for leisurely
repentance; and may even die in the odor of sanctity. On the other hand,
if he prefer active life, it is not impossible that, with _his_ subtlety,
hardihood, and unscrupulousness, in a land where the simple process of
naturalization converts the alien at once into a child of the family, he
might rise to the president's chair; might have a statue at his death; and
afterwards a life in three volumes quarto, with no hint glancing towards
No. 29 Ratcliffe Highway. But all depends on the next ninety seconds.
Within that time there is a sharp turn to be taken; there is a wrong turn,
and a right turn. Should his better angel guide him to the right one, all
may yet go well as regards this world's prosperity. But behold! in two
minutes from this point we shall see him take the wrong one: and then
Nemesis will be at his heels with ruin perfect and sudden.

Meantime, if the murderer allows himself to loiter, the ropemaker overhead
does _not_. Well he knows that the poor child's fate is on the edge
of a razor: for all turns upon the alarm being raised before the murderer
reaches her bedside. And at this very moment, whilst desperate agitation
is nearly paralyzing his fingers, he hears the sullen stealthy step of the
murderer creeping up through the darkness. It had been the expectation of
the journeyman (founded on the clamorous uproar with which the street-door
was slammed) that Williams, when disposable for his up-stairs work, would
come racing at a long jubilant gallop, and with a tiger roar; and perhaps,
on his natural instincts, he would have done so. But this mode of
approach, which was of dreadful effect when applied to a case of surprise,
became dangerous in the case of people who might by this time have been
placed fully upon their guard. The step which he had heard was on the
staircase--but upon which stair? He fancied upon the lowest: and in a
movement so slow and cautious, even this might make all the difference;
yet might it not have been the tenth, twelfth, or fourteenth stair? Never,
perhaps, in this world did any man feel his own responsibility so cruelly
loaded and strained, as at this moment did the poor journeyman on behalf
of the slumbering child. Lose but two seconds, through awkwardness or
through the self-counteractions of panic, and for _her_ the total
difference arose between life and death. Still there is a hope: and
nothing can so frightfully expound the hellish nature of him whose baleful
shadow, to speak astrologically, at this moment darkens the house of life,
than the simple expression of the ground on which this hope rested. The
journeyman felt sure that the murderer would not be satisfied to kill the
poor child whilst unconscious. This would be to defeat his whole purpose
in murdering her at all. To an epicure in murder such as Williams, it
would be taking away the very sting of the enjoyment, if the poor child
should be suffered to drink off the bitter cup of death without fully
apprehending the misery of the situation. But this luckily would require
time: the double confusion of mind, first, from being roused up at so
unusual an hour, and, secondly, from the horror of the occasion when
explained to her, would at first produce fainting, or some mode of
insensibility or distraction, such as must occupy a considerable time. The
logic of the case, in short, all rested upon the _ultra_ fiendishness
of Williams. Were he likely to be content with the mere fact of the
child's death, apart from the process and leisurely expansion of its
mental agony--in that case there would be no hope. But, because our
present murderer is fastidiously finical in his exactions--a sort of
martinet in the scenical grouping and draping of the circumstances in his
murders--therefore it is that hope becomes reasonable, since all such
refinements of preparation demand time. Murders of mere necessity Williams
was obliged to hurry; but, in a murder of pure voluptuousness, entirely
disinterested, where no hostile witness was to be removed, no extra booty
to be gained, and no revenge to be gratified, it is clear that to hurry
would be altogether to ruin. If this child, therefore, is to be saved, it
will be on pure aesthetical considerations. [5]

But all considerations whatever are at this moment suddenly cut short. A
second step is heard on the stairs, but still stealthy and cautious; a
third--and then the child's doom seems fixed. But just at that. moment all
is ready. The window is wide open; the rope is swinging free; the
journeyman has launched himself; and already he is in the first stage of
his descent. Simply by the weight of his person he descended, and by the
resistance of his hands he retarded the descent. The danger was, that the
rope should run too smoothly through his hands, and that by too rapid an
acceleration of pace he should come violently to the ground. Happily he
was able to resist the descending impetus: the knots of the splicings
furnished a succession of retardations. But the rope proved shorter by
four or five feet than he had calculated: ten or eleven feet from the
ground he hung suspended in the air; speechless for the present, through
long-continued agitation; and not daring to drop boldly on the rough
carriage pavement, lest he should fracture his legs. But the night was not
dark, as it had been on occasion of the Marr murders. And yet, for
purposes of criminal police, it was by accident worse than the darkest
night that ever hid a murder or baffled a pursuit. London, from east to
west, was covered with a deep pall (rising from the river) of universal
fog. Hence it happened, that for twenty or thirty seconds the young man
hanging in the air was not observed. His white shirt at length attracted
notice. Three or four people ran up, and received him in their arms, all
anticipating some dreadful annunciation. To what house did he belong? Even
_that_ was not instantly apparent; but he pointed with his finger to
Williamson's door, and said in a half-choking whisper--'_Marr's murderer,
now at work!_'

All explained itself in a moment: the silent language of the fact made its
own eloquent revelation. The mysterious exterminator of No. 29 Ratcliffe
Highway had visited another house; and, behold! one man only had escaped
through the air, and in his night-dress, to tell the tale.
Superstitiously, there was something to check the pursuit of this
unintelligible criminal. Morally, and in the interests of vindictive
justice, there was everything to rouse, quicken, and sustain it.

Yes, Marr's murderer--the man of mystery--was again at work; at this
moment perhaps extinguishing some lamp of life, and not at any remote
place, but here--in the very house which the listeners to this dreadful
announcement were actually touching. The chaos and blind uproar of the
scene which followed, measured by the crowded reports in the journals of
many subsequent days, and in one feature of that case, has never to my
knowledge had its parallel; or, if a parallel, only in one case--what
followed, I mean, on the acquittal of the seven bishops at Westminster in
1688. At present there was more than passionate enthusiasm. The frenzied
movement of mixed horror and exultation--the ululation of vengeance which
ascended instantaneously from the individual street, and then by a sublime
sort of magnetic contagion from all the adjacent streets, can be
adequately expressed only by a rapturous passage in Shelley:--

  'The transport of a fierce and monstrous gladness
      Spread through the multitudinous streets, fast flying
  Upon the wings of fear:--From his dull madness
      The starveling waked, and died in joy: the dying,
  Among the corpses in stark agony lying,
      Just heard the happy tidings, and in hope
  Closed their faint eyes: from house to house replying
      With loud acclaim the living shook heaven's cope,
  And fill'd the startled earth with echoes.' [6]

There was something, indeed, half inexplicable in the instantaneous
interpretation of the gathering shout according to its true meaning. In
fact, the deadly roar of vengeance, and its sublime unity, _could_
point in this district only to the one demon whose idea had brooded and
tyrannized, for twelve days, over the general heart: every door, every
window in the neighborhood, flew open as if at a word of command;
multitudes, without waiting for the regular means of egress, leaped down
at once from the windows on the lower story; sick men rose from their
beds; in one instance, as if expressly to verify the image of Shelley (in
v. 4, 5, 6, 7), a man whose death had been looked for through some days,
and who actually _did_ die on the following day, rose, armed himself
with a sword, and descended in his shirt into the street. The chance was a
good one, and the mob were made aware of it, for catching the wolfish dog
in the high noon and carnival of his bloody revels--in the very centre of
his own shambles. For a moment the mob was self-baffled by its own numbers
and its own fury. But even that fury felt the call for self-control. It
was evident that the massy street-door must be driven in, since there was
no longer any living person to co-operate with their efforts from within,
excepting only a female child. Crowbars dexterously applied in one minute
threw the door out of hangings, and the people entered like a torrent. It
may be guessed with what fret and irritation to their consuming fury, a
signal of pause and absolute silence was made by a person of local
importance. In the hope of receiving some useful communication, the mob
became silent. 'Now listen,' said the man of authority, 'and we shall
learn whether he is above-stairs or below.' Immediately a noise was heard
as if of some one forcing windows, and clearly the sound came from a
bedroom above. Yes, the fact was apparent that the murderer was even yet
in the house: he had been caught in a trap. Not having made himself
familiar with the details of Williamson's house, to all appearance he had
suddenly become a prisoner in one of the upper rooms. Towards this the
crowd now rushed impetuously. The door, however, was found to be slightly
fastened; and, at the moment when this was forced, a loud crash of the
window, both glass and frame, announced that the wretch had made his
escape. He had leaped down; and several persons in the crowd, who burned
with the general fury, leaped after him. These persons had not troubled
themselves about the nature of the ground; but now, on making an
examination of it with torches, they reported it to be an inclined plane,
or embankment of clay, very wet and adhesive. The prints of the man's
footsteps were deeply impressed upon the clay, and therefore easily traced
up to the summit of the embankment; but it was perceived at once that
pursuit would be useless, from the density of the mist. Two feet ahead of
you, a man was entirely withdrawn from your power of identification; and,
on overtaking him, you could not venture to challenge him as the same whom
you had lost sight of. Never, through the course of a whole century, could
there be a night expected more propitious to an escaping criminal: means
of disguise Williams now had in excess; and the dens were innumerable in
the neighborhood of the river that could have sheltered him for years from
troublesome inquiries. But favors are thrown away upon the reckless and
the thankless. That night, when the turning-point offered itself for his
whole future career, Williams took the wrong turn; for, out of mere
indolence, he took the turn to his old lodgings--that place which, in all
England, he had just now the most reason to shun.

Meantime the crowd had thoroughly searched the premises of Williamson. The
first inquiry was for the young grand-daughter. Williams, it was evident,
had gone into her room: but in this room apparently it was that the sudden
uproar in the streets had surprised him; after which his undivided
attention had been directed to the windows, since through these only any
retreat had been left open to him. Even this retreat he owed only to the
fog and to the hurry of the moment, and to the difficulty of approaching
the premises by the rear. The little girl was naturally agitated by the
influx of strangers at that hour; but otherwise, through the humane
precautions of the neighbors, she was preserved from all knowledge of the
dreadful events that had occurred whilst she herself was sleeping. Her
poor old grandfather was still missing, until the crowd descended into the
cellar; he was then found lying prostrate on the cellar floor: apparently
he had been thrown down from the top of the cellar stairs, and with so
much violence, that one leg was broken. After he had been thus disabled,
Williams had gone down to him, and cut his throat. There was much
discussion at the time, in some of the public journals, upon the
possibility of reconciling these incidents with other circumstantialities
of the case, supposing that only one man had been concerned in the affair.
That there _was_ only one man concerned, seems to be certain. One
only was seen or heard at Marr's: one only, and beyond all doubt the same
man, was seen by the young journeyman in Mrs. Williamson's parlor; and one
only was traced by his footmarks on the clay embankment. Apparently the
course which he had pursued was this: he had introduced himself to
Williamson by ordering some beer. This order would oblige the old man to
go down into the cellar; Williams would wait until he had reached it, and
would then 'slam' and lock the street-door in the violent way described.
Williamson would come up in agitation upon hearing this violence. The
murderer, aware that he would do so, met him, no doubt, at the head of the
cellar stairs, and threw him down; after which he would go down to
consummate the murder in his ordinary way. All this would occupy a minute,
or a minute and a half; and in that way the interval would be accounted
for that elapsed between the alarming sound of the street-door as heard by
the journeyman, and the lamentable outcry of the female servant. It is
evident also, that the reason why no cry whatsoever had been heard from
the lips of Mrs. Williamson, is due to the positions of the parties as I
have sketched them. Coming behind Mrs. Williamson, unseen therefore, and
from her deafness unheard, the murderer would inflict entire abolition of
consciousness while she was yet unaware of his presence. But with the
servant, who had unavoidably witnessed the attack upon her mistress, the
murderer could not obtain the same fulness of advantage; and _she_
therefore had time for making an agonizing ejaculation.

It has been mentioned, that the murderer of the Marrs was not for nearly a
fortnight so much as suspected; meaning that, previously to the Williamson
murder, no vestige of any ground for suspicion in any direction whatever
had occurred either to the general public or to the police. But there were
two very limited exceptions to this state of absolute ignorance. Some of
the magistrates had in their possession something which, when closely
examined, offered a very probable means for tracing the criminal. But as
yet they had _not_ traced him. Until the Friday morning next after
the destruction of the Williamsons, they had not published the important
fact, that upon the ship-carpenter's mallet (with which, as regarded the
stunning or disabling process, the murders had been achieved) were
inscribed the letters 'J. P.' This mallet had, by a strange oversight on
the part of the murderer, been left behind in Marr's shop; and it is an
interesting fact, therefore, that, had the villain been intercepted by the
brave pawnbroker, he would have been met virtually disarmed. This public
notification was made officially on the Friday, viz., on the thirteenth
day after the first murder. And it was instantly followed (as will be
seen) by a most important result. Meantime, within the secrecy of one
single bedroom in all London, it is a fact that Williams had been
whisperingly the object of very deep suspicion from the very first--that
is, within that same hour which witnessed the Marr tragedy. And singular
it is, that the suspicion was due entirely to his own folly. Williams
lodged, in company with other men of various nations, at a public-house.
In a large dormitory there were arranged five or six beds; these were
occupied by artisans, generally of respectable character. One or two
Englishmen there were, one or two Scotchmen, three or four Germans, and
Williams, whose birth-place was not certainly known. On the fatal Saturday
night, about half-past one o'clock, when Williams returned from his
dreadful labors, he found the English and Scotch party asleep, but the
Germans awake: one of them was sitting up with a lighted candle in his
hands, and reading aloud to the other two. Upon this, Williams said, in an
angry and very peremptory tone, 'Oh, put that candle out; put it out
directly; we shall all be burned in our beds.' Had the British party in
the room been awake, Mr. Williams would have roused a mutinous protest
against this arrogant mandate. But Germans are generally mild and facile
in their tempers; so the light was complaisantly extinguished. Yet, as
there were no curtains, it struck the Germans that the danger was really
none at all; for bed-clothes, massed upon each other, will no more burn
than the leaves of a closed book. Privately, therefore, the Germans drew
an inference, that Mr. Williams must have had some urgent motive for
withdrawing his own person and dress from observation. What this motive
might be, the next day's news diffused all over London, and of course at
this house, not two furlongs from Marr's shop, made awfully evident; and,
as may well be supposed, the suspicion was communicated to the other
members of the dormitory. All of them, however, were aware of the legal
danger attaching, under English law, to insinuations against a man, even
if true, which might not admit of proof. In reality, had Williams used the
most obvious precautions, had he simply walked down to the Thames (not a
stone's-throw distant), and flung two of his implements into the river, no
conclusive proof could have been adduced against him. And he might have
realized the scheme of Courvoisier (the murderer of Lord William Russell)
--viz., have sought each separate month's support in a separate well-
concerted murder. The party in the dormitory, meantime, were satisfied
themselves, but waited for evidences that might satisfy others. No sooner,
therefore, had the official notice been published as to the initials J. P.
on the mallet, than every man in the house recognized at once the well-
known initials of an honest Norwegian ship-carpenter, John Petersen, who
had worked in the English dockyards until the present year; but, having
occasion to revisit his native land, had left his box of tools in the
garrets of this inn. These garrets were now searched. Petersen's tool-
chest was found, but wanting the mallet; and, on further examination,
another overwhelming discovery was made. The surgeon, who examined the
corpses at Williamson's, had given it as his opinion that the throats were
not cut by means of a razor, but of some implement differently shaped. It
was now remembered that Williams had recently borrowed a large French
knife of peculiar construction; and accordingly, from a heap of old lumber
and rags, there was soon extricated a waistcoat, which the whole house
could swear to as recently worn by Williams. In this waistcoat, and glued
by gore to the lining of its pockets, was found the French knife. Next, it
was matter of notoriety to everybody in the inn, that Williams ordinarily
wore at present a pair of creaking shoes, and a brown surtout lined with
silk. Many other presumptions seemed scarcely called for. Williams was
immediately apprehended, and briefly examined. This was on the Friday. On
the Saturday morning (viz., fourteen days from the Marr murders) he was
again brought up. The circumstantial evidence was overwhelming; Williams
watched its course, but said very little. At the close, he was fully
committed for trial at the next sessions; and it is needless to say, that,
on his road to prison, he was pursued by mobs so fierce, that, under
ordinary circumstances, there would have been small hope of escaping
summary vengeance. But upon this occasion a powerful escort had been
provided; so that he was safely lodged in jail. In this particular jail at
this time, the regulation was, that at five o'clock, P. M. all the
prisoners on the criminal side should be finally locked up for the night,
and without candles. For fourteen hours (that is, until seven o'clock on
the next morning) they were left unvisited, and in total darkness. Time,
therefore, Williams had for committing suicide. The means in other
respects were small. One iron bar there was, meant (if I remember) for the
suspension of a lamp; upon this he had hanged himself by his braces. At
what hour was uncertain: some people fancied at midnight. And in that
case, precisely at the hour when, fourteen days before, he had been
spreading horror and desolation through the quiet family of poor Marr, now
was he forced into drinking of the same cup, presented to his lips by the
same accursed hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

The case of the M'Keans, which has been specially alluded to, merits also
a slight rehearsal for the dreadful picturesqueness of some two or three
amongst its circumstances. The scene of this murder was at a rustic inn,
some few miles (I think) from Manchester; and the advantageous situation
of this inn it was, out of which arose the two fold temptations of the
case. Generally speaking, an inn argues, of course, a close cincture of
neighbors--as the original motive for opening such an establishment. But,
in this case, the house individually was solitary, so that no interruption
was to be looked for from any persons living within reach of screams; and
yet, on the other hand, the circumjacent vicinity was eminently populous;
as one consequence of which, a benefit club had established its weekly
rendezvous in this inn, and left the peculiar accumulations in their club-
room, under the custody of the landlord. This fund arose often to a
considerable amount, fifty or seventy pounds, before it was transferred to
the hands of a banker. Here, therefore, was a treasure worth some little
risk, and a situation that promised next to none. These attractive
circumstances had, by accident, become accurately known to one or both of
the two M'Keans; and, unfortunately, at a moment of overwhelming
misfortune to themselves. They were hawkers; and, until lately, had borne
most respectable characters: but some mercantile crash had overtaken them
with utter ruin, in which their joint capital had been swallowed up to the
last shilling. This sudden prostration had made them desperate: their own
little property had been swallowed up in a large _social_ catastrophe, and
society at large they looked upon as accountable to them for a robbery. In
preying, therefore, upon society, they considered themselves as pursuing a
wild natural justice of retaliation. The money aimed at did certainly
assume the character of public money, being the product of many separate
subscriptions. They forgot, however, that in the murderous acts, which too
certainly they meditated as preliminaries to the robbery, they could plead
no such imaginary social precedent. In dealing with a family that seemed
almost helpless, if all went smoothly, they relied entirely upon their own
bodily strength. They were stout young men, twenty-eight to thirty-two
years old; somewhat undersized as to height; but squarely built, deep-
chested, broad-shouldered, and so beautifully formed, as regarded the
symmetry of their limbs and their articulations, that, after their
execution, the bodies were privately exhibited by the surgeons of the
Manchester Infirmary, as objects of statuesque interest. On the other
hand, the household which they proposed to attack consisted of the
following four persons:--1. the landlord, a stoutish farmer--but _him_ they
intended to disable by a trick then newly introduced amongst robbers, and
termed _hocussing_, _i.e._, clandestinely drugging the liquor of the
victim with laudanum; 2. the landlord's wife; 3. a young servant woman; 4.
a boy, twelve or fourteen years old. The danger was, that out of four
persons, scattered by possibility over a house which had two separate
exits, one at least might escape, and by better acquaintance with the
adjacent paths, might succeed in giving an alarm to some of the houses a
furlong distant. Their final resolution was, to be guided by circumstances
as to the mode of conducting the affair; and yet, as it seemed essential
to success that they should assume the air of strangers to each other, it
was necessary that they should preconcert some general outline of their
plan; since it would on this scheme be impossible, without awaking violent
suspicions, to make any communications under the eyes of the family. This
outline included, at the least, one murder: so much was settled; but,
otherwise, their subsequent proceedings make it evident that they wished
to have as little bloodshed as was consistent with their final object. On
the appointed day, they presented themselves separately at the rustic inn,
and at different hours. One came as early as four o'clock in the
afternoon; the other not until half-past seven. They saluted each other
distantly and shyly; and, though occasionally exchanging a few words in
the character of strangers, did not seem disposed to any familiar
intercourse. With the landlord, however, on his return about eight o'clock
from Manchester, one of the brothers entered into a lively conversation;
invited him to take a tumbler of punch; and, at a moment when the
landlord's absence from the room allowed it, poured into the punch a
spoonful of laudanum. Some time after this, the clock struck ten; upon
which the elder M'Kean, professing to be weary, asked to be shown up to
his bedroom: for each brother, immediately on arriving, had engaged a bed.
On this, the poor servant girl had presented herself with a bed-candle to
light him upstairs. At this critical moment the family were distributed
thus:--the landlord, stupefied with the horrid narcotic which he had
drunk, had retired to a private room adjoining the public room, for the
purpose of reclining upon a sofa: and he, luckily for his own safety, was
looked upon as entirely incapacitated for action. The landlady was
occupied with her husband. And thus the younger M'Kean was left alone in
the public room. He rose, therefore, softly, and placed himself at the
foot of the stairs which his brother had just ascended, so as to be sure
of intercepting any fugitive from the bedroom above. Into that room the
elder M'Kean was ushered by the servant, who pointed to two beds--one of
which was already half occupied by the boy, and the other empty: in these,
she intimated that the two strangers must dispose of themselves for the
night, according to any arrangement that they might agree upon. Saying
this, she presented him with the candle, which he in a moment placed upon
the table; and, intercepting her retreat from the room threw his arm round
her neck with a gesture as though he meant to kiss her. This was evidently
what she herself anticipated, and endeavored to prevent. Her horror may be
imagined, when she felt the perfidious hand that clasped her neck armed
with a razor, and violently cutting her throat. She was hardly able to
utter one scream, before she sank powerless upon the floor. This dreadful
spectacle was witnessed by the boy, who was not asleep, but had presence
of mind enough instantly to close his eyes. The murderer advanced hastily
to the bed, and anxiously examined the expression of the boy's features:
satisfied he was not, and he then placed his hand upon the boy's heart, in
order to judge by its beatings whether he were agitated or not. This was a
dreadful trial: and no doubt the counterfeit sleep would immediately have
been detected, when suddenly a dreadful spectacle drew off the attention
of the murderer. Solemnly, and in ghostly silence, uprose in her dying
delirium the murdered girl; she stood upright, she walked steadily for a
moment or two, she bent her steps towards the door. The murderer turned
away to pursue her; and at that moment the boy, feeling that his one
solitary chance was to fly while this scene was in progress, bounded out
of bed. On the landing at the head of the stairs was one murderer, at the
foot of the stairs was the other: who could believe that the boy had the
shadow of a chance for escaping? And yet, in the most natural way, he
surmounted all hindrances. In the boy's horror, he laid his left hand on
the balustrade, and took a flying leap over it, which landed him at the
bottom of the stairs, without having touched a single stair. He had thus
effectually passed one of the murderers: the other, it is true, was still
to be passed; and this would have been impossible but for a sudden
accident. The landlady had been alarmed by the faint scream of the young
woman; had hurried from her private room to the girl's assistance; but at
the foot of the stairs had been intercepted by the younger brother, and
was at this moment struggling with _him_. The confusion of this life-and-
death conflict had allowed the boy to whirl past them. Luckily he took a
turn into a kitchen, out of which was a back-door, fastened by a single
bolt, that ran freely at a touch; and through this door he rushed into the
open fields. But at this moment the elder brother was set free for pursuit
by the death of the poor girl. There is no doubt, that in her delirium the
image moving through her thoughts was that of the club, which met once a-
week. She fancied it no doubt sitting; and to this room, for help and for
safety she staggered along; she entered it, and within the doorway once
more she dropped down, and instantly expired. Her murderer, who had
followed her closely, now saw himself set at liberty for the pursuit of
the boy. At this critical moment, all was at stake; unless the boy were
caught, the enterprise was ruined. He passed his brother, therefore, and
the landlady without pausing, and rushed through the open door into the
fields. By a single second, perhaps, he was too late. The boy was keenly
aware, that if he continued in sight, he would have no chance of escaping
from a powerful young man. He made, therefore, at once for a ditch, into
which he tumbled headlong. Had the murderer ventured to make a leisurely
examination of the nearest ditch, he would easily have found the boy--made
so conspicuous by his white shirt. But he lost all heart, upon failing at
once to arrest the boy's flight. And every succeeding second made his
despair the greater. If the boy had really effected his escape to the
neighboring farm-house, a party of men might be gathered within five
minutes; and already it might have become difficult for himself and his
brother, unacquainted with the field paths, to evade being intercepted.
Nothing remained, therefore, but to summon his brother away. Thus it
happened that the landlady, though mangled, escaped with life, and
eventually recovered. The landlord owed his safety to the stupefying
potion. And the baffled murderers had the misery of knowing that their
dreadful crime had been altogether profitless. The road, indeed, was now
open to the club-room; and, probably, forty seconds would have sufficed to
carry off the box of treasure, which afterwards might have been burst open
and pillaged at leisure. But the fear of intercepting enemies was too
strongly upon them; and they fled rapidly by a road which carried them
actually within six feet of the lurking boy. That night they passed
through Manchester. When daylight returned, they slept in a thicket twenty
miles distant from the scene of their guilty attempt. On the second and
third nights, they pursued their march on foot, resting again during the
day. About sunrise on the fourth morning, they were entering some village
near Kirby Lonsdale, in Westmoreland. They must have designedly quitted
the direct line of route; for their object was Ayrshire, of which county
they were natives; and the regular road would have led them through Shap,
Penrith, Carlisle. Probably they were seeking to elude the persecution of
the stage-coaches, which, for the last thirty hours, had been scattering
at all the inns and road-side _cabarets_ hand-bills describing their
persons and dress. It happened (perhaps through design) that on this
fourth morning they had separated, so as to enter the village ten minutes
apart from each other. They were exhausted and footsore. In this condition
it was easy to stop them. A blacksmith had silently reconnoitred them, and
compared their appearance with the description of the hand-bills. They
were then easily overtaken, and separately arrested. Their trial and
condemnation speedily followed at Lancaster; and in those days it
followed, of course, that they were executed. Otherwise their case fell so
far within the sheltering limits of what would _now_ be regarded as
extenuating circumstances--that, whilst a murder more or less was not to
repel them from their object, very evidently they were anxious to
economize the bloodshed as much as possible. Immeasurable, therefore, was
the interval which divided them from the monster Williams. They perished
on the scaffold: Williams, as I have said, by his own hand; and, in
obedience to the law as it then stood, he was buried in the centre of a
_quadrivium_, or conflux of four roads (in this case four streets),
with a stake driven through his heart. And over him drives for ever the
uproar of unresting London!


[1] See 'Miscellaneous Essays,' p. 17.

[2] I am not sure whether Southey held at this time his appointment to the
editorship of the 'Edinburgh Annual Register.' If he did, no doubt in the
domestic section of that chronicle will be found an excellent account of
the whole.

[3] An artist told me in this year, 1812, that having accidentally seen a
native Devonshire regiment (either volunteers or militia), nine hundred
strong, marching past a station at which he had posted himself, he did not
observe a dozen men that would not have been described in common parlance
as 'good looking.'

[4] I do not remember, chronologically, the history of gas-lights. But in
London, long after Mr. Winsor had shown the value of gas-lighting, and its
applicability to street purposes, various districts were prevented, for
many years, from resorting to the new system, in consequence of old
contracts with oil-dealers, subsisting through long terms of years.

[5] Let the reader, who is disposed to regard as exaggerated or romantic
the pure fiendishness imputed to Williams, recollect that, except for the
luxurious purpose of basking and revelling in the anguish of dying
despair, he had no motive at all, small or great, for attempting the
murder of this young girl. She had seen nothing, heard nothing--was fast
asleep, and her door was closed; so that, as a witness against him, he
knew that she was as useless as any one of the three corpses. And yet he
_was_ making preparations for her murder, when the alarm in the street
interrupted him.

[6] 'Revolt of Islam,' canto xii.

[7] See his bitter letters to Lady Suffolk.


It is sometimes said, that a religious messenger from God does not come
amongst men for the sake of teaching truths in science, or of correcting
errors in science. Most justly is this said: but often in terms far too
feeble. For generally these terms are such as to imply, that, although no
direct and imperative function of his mission, it was yet open to him, as
a permissible function--that, although not pressing with the force of an
obligation upon the missionary, it was yet at his discretion--if not to
correct other men's errors, yet at least in his own person to speak with
scientific precision. I contend that it was _not_. I contend, that to
have uttered the truths of astronomy, of geology, &c., at the era of new-
born Christianity, was not only _below_ and _beside_ the purposes of a
religion, but would have been _against_ them. Even upon errors of a far
more important class than errors in science can ever be--superstitions,
for instance, that degraded the very idea of God; prejudices and false
usages, that laid waste human happiness (such as slavery, and many
hundreds of other abuses that might be mentioned), the rule evidently
acted upon by the Founder of Christianity was this--Given the purification
of the well-head, once assumed that the fountains of truth are cleansed,
all these derivative currents of evil will cleanse themselves. As a
general rule, the branches of error were disregarded, and the roots only
attacked. If, then, so lofty a station was taken with regard even to such
errors as really _had_ moral and spiritual relations, how much more with
regard to the comparative trifles (as in the ultimate relations of human
nature they are) of merely human science! But, for my part, I go further,
and assert, that upon three reasons it was impossible for any messenger
from God (or offering himself in that character) to have descended into
the communication of truth merely scientific, or economic, or worldly. And
the three reasons are these:--_First_, Because such a descent would have
degraded his mission, by lowering it to the base level of a collusion with
human curiosity, or (in the most favorable case) of a collusion with petty
and transitory interests. _Secondly_, Because it would have ruined his
mission, by disturbing its free agency, and misdirecting its energies, in
two separate modes: first, by destroying the spiritual _auctoritas_ (the
prestige and consideration) of the missionary; secondly, by vitiating the
spiritual atmosphere of his audience--that is, corrupting and misdirecting
the character of their thoughts and expectations. He that in the early
days of Christianity should have proclaimed the true theory of the solar
system, or that by any chance word or allusion should then, in a condition
of man so little prepared to receive such truths, have asserted or assumed
the daily motion of the earth on its own axis, or its annual motion round
the sun, would have found himself entangled at once and irretrievably in
the following unmanageable consequences:--First of all, and
instantaneously, he would have been roused to the alarming fact, that, by
this dreadful indiscretion he himself, the professed deliverer of a new
and spiritual religion, had in a moment untuned the spirituality of his
audience. He would find that he had awakened within them the passion of
curiosity--the most unspiritual of passions, and of curiosity in a fierce
polemic shape. The very safest step in so deplorable a situation would be,
instantly to recant. Already by this one may estimate the evil, when such
would be its readiest palliation. For in what condition would the
reputation of the teacher be left for discretion and wisdom as an
intellectual guide, when his first act must be to recant--and to recant
what to the whole body of his hearers would wear the character of a
lunatic proposition. Such considerations might possibly induce him _not_
to recant. But in that case the consequences are far worse. Having once
allowed himself to sanction what his hearers regard as the most monstrous
of paradoxes, he has no liberty of retreat open to him. He must stand to
the promises of his own acts. Uttering the first truth of a science, he is
pledged to the second; taking the main step, he is committed to all which
follow. He is thrown at once upon the endless controversies which science
in every stage provokes, and in none more than in the earliest. Starting,
besides, from the authority of a divine mission, he could not (as others
might) have the privilege of selecting arbitrarily or partially. If upon
one science, then upon all; if upon science, then upon art; if upon art
and science, then upon _every_ branch of social economy his reformations
and advances are equally due--due as to all, if due as to any. To move in
one direction, is constructively to undertake for all. Without power to
retreat, he has thus thrown the intellectual interests of his followers
into a channel utterly alien to the purposes of a spiritual mission.

The spiritual mission, therefore, the purpose for which only the religious
teacher was sent, has now perished altogether--overlaid and confounded by
the merely scientific wranglings to which his own inconsiderate
precipitance has opened the door. But suppose at this point that the
teacher, aware at length of the mischief which he has caused, and seeing
that the fatal error of uttering one solitary novel truth upon a matter of
mere science is by inevitable consequence to throw him upon a road leading
altogether away from the proper field of his mission, takes the laudable
course of confessing his error, and of attempting a return into his proper
spiritual province. This may be his best course; yet, after all, it will
not retrieve his lost ground. He returns with a character confessedly
damaged. His very excuse rests upon the blindness and shortsightedness
which forbade his anticipating the true and natural consequences. Neither
will his own account of the case be generally accepted. He will not be
supposed to retreat from further controversy, as inconsistent with
spiritual purposes, but because he finds himself unequal to the dispute.
And, in the very best case, he is, by his own acknowledgment, tainted with
human infirmity. He has been ruined for a servant of inspiration; and how?
By a process, let it be remembered, of which all the steps are inevitable
under the same agency: that is, in the case of any primitive Christian
teacher having attempted to speak the language of scientific truth in
dealing with the phenomena of astronomy, geology, or of any merely human

Now, thirdly and lastly, in order to try the question in an extreme form,
let it be supposed that, aided by powers of working miracles, some early
apostle of Christianity should actually have succeeded in carrying through
the Copernican system of astronomy, as an article of blind belief, sixteen
centuries before the progress of man's intellect had qualified him for
naturally developing that system. What, in such a case, would be the true
estimate and valuation of the achievement? Simply this, that he had thus
succeeded in cancelling and counteracting a determinate scheme of divine
discipline and training for man. Wherefore did God give to man the powers
for contending with scientific difficulties? Wherefore did he lay a secret
train of continual occasions, that should rise, by relays, through scores
of generations, for provoking and developing those activities in man's
intellect, if, after all, he is to send a messenger of his own, more than
human, to intercept and strangle all these great purposes? This is to
mistake the very meaning and purposes of a revelation. A revelation is not
made for the purpose of showing to indolent men that which, by faculties
already given to them, they may show to themselves; no: but for the
purpose of showing _that_ which the moral darkness of man will not,
without supernatural light, allow him to perceive. With disdain,
therefore, must every thoughtful person regard the notion, that God could
wilfully interfere with his own plans, by accrediting ambassadors to
reveal astronomy, or any other science, which he has commanded men, by
qualifying men, to reveal for themselves.

Even as regards astronomy--a science so nearly allying itself to religion
by the loftiness and by the purity of its contemplations--Scripture is
nowhere the _parent_ of any doctrine, nor so much as the silent
sanctioner of any doctrine. It is made impossible for Scripture to teach
falsely, by the simple fact that Scripture, on such subjects, will not
condescend to teach at all. The Bible adopts the erroneous language of men
(which at any rate it must do, in order to make itself understood), not by
way of sanctioning a theory, but by way of using a fact. The Bible, for
instance, _uses_ (postulates) the phenomena of day and night, of
summer and winter; and, in relation to their causes, speaks by the same
popular and inaccurate language which is current for ordinary purposes,
even amongst the most scientific of astronomers. For the man of science,
equally with the populace, talks of the sun as rising and setting, as
having finished half his day's journey, &c., and, without pedantry, could
not in many cases talk otherwise. But the results, which are all that
concern Scripture, are equally true, whether accounted for by one
hypothesis which is philosophically just, or by another which is popular
and erring.

Now, on the other hand, in geology and cosmology, the case is stronger.
_Here_ there is no opening for a compliance even with a _language_ that is
erroneous; for no language at all is current upon subjects that have never
engaged the popular attention. _Here_, where there is no such stream of
apparent phenomena running counter (as in astronomy there is) to the real
phenomena, neither is there any popular language opposed to the
scientific. The whole are abtruse speculations, even as regards their
objects, nor dreamed of as possibilities, either in their true aspects or
their false aspects, till modern times. The Scriptures, therefore, nowhere
allude to such sciences, either as taking the shape of histories, applied
to processes current and in movement, or as taking the shape of theories
applied to processes past and accomplished. The Mosaic cosmogony, indeed,
gives the succession of natural births; and probably the general outline
of such a succession will be more and more confirmed as geology advances.
But as to the time, the duration, of this successive evolution, it is the
idlest of notions that the Scriptures either have, or could have,
condescended to human curiosity upon so awful a prologue to the drama of
this world. Genesis would no more have indulged so mean a passion with
respect to the mysterious inauguration of the world, than the Apocalypse
with respect to its mysterious close. 'Yet the six _days_ of Moses!' Days!
But is it possible that human folly should go the length of understanding
by the Mosaical _day_, the mysterious _day_ of that awful agency which
moulded the heavens and the heavenly host, no more than the ordinary
_nychthemeron_ or cycle of twenty-four hours? The period implied in a
_day_, when used in relation to the inaugural manifestation of
creative power in that vast drama which introduces God to man in the
character of a demiurgus or creator of the world, indicated one stage
amongst six; involving probably many millions of years. The silliest of
nurses, in her nursery babble, could hardly suppose that the mighty
process began on a Monday morning, and ended on Saturday night. If we are
seriously to study the value and scriptural acceptation of scriptural
words and phrases, I presume that our first business will be to collate
the use of these words in one part of Scripture, with their use in other
parts, holding the same spiritual relations. The creation, for instance,
does not belong to the earthly or merely historical records, but to the
spiritual records of the Bible; to the same category, therefore, as the
prophetic sections of the Bible. Now, in those, and in the Psalms, how do
we understand the word _day_? Is any man so little versed in biblical
language as not to know, that (except in the merely historical parts of
the Jewish records) every section of time has a secret and separate
acceptation in the Scriptures? Does an aeon, though a Grecian word, bear
scripturally (either in Daniel or in St. John) any sense known to Grecian
ears? Do the seventy _weeks_ of the prophet mean weeks in the sense
of human calendars? Already the Psalms (xc.), already St. Peter (2d
Epist.), warn us of a peculiar sense attached to the word _day_ in
divine ears. And who of the innumerable interpreters understands the
twelve hundred and sixty days in Daniel, or his two thousand and odd days,
to mean, by possibility, periods of twenty-four hours? Surely the theme of
Moses was as mystical, and as much entitled to the benefit of mystical
language, as that of the prophets.

The sum of this matter is this:--God, by a Hebrew prophet, is sublimely
described as _the Revealer_; and, in variation of his own expression,
the same prophet describes him as the Being 'that knoweth the darkness.'
Under no idea can the relations of God to man be more grandly expressed.
But of what is he the revealer? Not surely of those things which he has
enabled man to reveal for himself, but of those things which, were it not
through special light from heaven, must eternally remain sealed up in
inaccessible darkness. On this principle we should all laugh at a revealed
cookery. But essentially the same ridicule, not more, and not less,
applies to a revealed astronomy, or a revealed geology. As a fact, there
_is_ no such astronomy or geology: as a possibility, by the _a priori_
argument which I have used (viz., that a revelation on such fields would
counteract _other_ machineries of providence), there _can_ be no such
astronomy or geology in the Bible. Consequently there _is_ none.
Consequently there can be no schism or feud upon _these_ subjects between
the Bible and the philosophies outside.


In the person of this Mr. Schlosser is exemplified a common abuse, not
confined to literature. An artist from the Italian opera of London and
Paris, making a professional excursion to our provinces, is received
according to the tariff of the metropolis; no one being bold enough to
dispute decisions coming down from the courts above. In that particular
case there is seldom any reason to complain--since really out of Germany
and Italy there is no city, if you except Paris and London, possessing
_materials_, in that field of art, for the composition of an audience
large enough to act as a court of revision. It would be presumption in the
provincial audience, so slightly trained to good music and dancing, if it
should affect to reverse a judgment ratified in the supreme capital. The
result, therefore, is practically just, if the original verdict was just;
what was right from the first cannot be made wrong by iteration. Yet, even
in such a case, there is something not satisfactory to a delicate sense of
equity; for the artist returns from the tour as if from some new and
independent triumph, whereas, all is but the reverberation of an old one;
it seems a new access of sunlight, whereas it is but a reflex illumination
from satellites.

In literature the corresponding case is worse. An author, passing by means
of translation before a foreign people, ought _de jure_ to find himself
before a new tribunal; but _de facto_, he does not. Like the opera artist,
but not with the same propriety, he comes before a court that never
interferes to disturb a judgment, but only to re-affirm it. And he returns
to his native country, quartering in his armorial bearings these new
trophies, as though won by new trials, when, in fact, they are due to
servile ratifications of old ones. When Sue, or Balzac, Hugo, or George
Sand, comes before an English audience--the opportunity is invariably lost
for estimating them at a new angle of sight. All who dislike them lay them
aside--whilst those only apply themselves seriously to their study, who
are predisposed to the particular key of feeling, through which originally
these authors had prospered. And thus a new set of judges, that might
usefully have modified the narrow views of the old ones, fall by mere
_inertia_ into the humble character of echoes and sounding-boards to swell
the uproar of the original mob.

In this way is thrown away the opportunity, not only of applying
corrections to false national tastes, but oftentimes even to the unfair
accidents of _luck_ that befall books. For it is well known to all
who watch literature with vigilance, that books and authors have their
fortunes, which travel upon a far different scale of proportions from
those that measure their merits. Not even the caprice or the folly of the
reading public is required to account for this. Very often, indeed, the
whole difference between an extensive circulation for one book, and none
at all for another of about equal merit, belongs to no particular
blindness in men, but to the simple fact, that the one _has_, whilst
the other has _not_, been brought effectually under the eyes of the
public. By far the greater part of books are lost, not because they are
rejected, but because they are never introduced. In any proper sense of
the word, very few books are published. Technically they are published;
which means, that for six or ten times they are _advertised_, but they are
not made known to _attentive_ ears, or to ears _prepared_ for attention.
And amongst the causes which account for this difference in the fortune of
books, although there are many, we may reckon, as foremost, _personal_
accidents of position in the authors. For instance, with us in England it
will do a bad book no _ultimate_ service, that it is written by a lord, or
a bishop, or a privy counsellor, or a member of Parliament--though,
undoubtedly, it will do an _instant_ service--it will sell an edition or
so. This being the case, it being certain that no rank will reprieve a bad
writer from _final_ condemnation, the sycophantic glorifier of the public
fancies his idol justified; but not so. A bad book, it is true, will not
be saved by advantages of position in the author; but a book moderately
good will be extravagantly aided by such advantages. Lectures on
_Christianity_, that happened to be respectably written and delivered, had
prodigious success in my young days, because, also, they happened to be
lectures of a prelate; three times the ability would not have procured
them any attention had they been the lectures of an obscure curate. Yet on
the other hand, it is but justice to say, that, if written with three
times _less_ ability, lawn-sleeves would not have given them buoyancy,
but, on the contrary, they would have sunk the bishop irrecoverably;
whilst the curate, favored by obscurity, would have survived for another
chance. So again, and indeed, more than so, as to poetry. Lord Carlisle,
of the last generation, wrote tolerable verses. They were better than Lord
Roscommon's, which, for one hundred and fifty years, the judicious public
has allowed the booksellers to incorporate, along with other refuse of the
seventeenth and eighteenth century, into the costly collections of the
'British Poets.' And really, if you _will_ insist on odious comparisons,
they were not so very much below the verses of an amiable prime minister
known to us all. Yet, because they wanted vital _stamina_, not only they
fell, but, in falling, they caused the earl to reel much more than any
commoner would have done. Now, on the other hand, a kinsman of Lord
Carlisle, viz., Lord Byron, because he brought real genius and power to
the effort, found a vast auxiliary advantage in a peerage and a very
ancient descent. On these double wings he soared into a region of public
interest, far higher than ever he _would_ have reached by poetic power
alone. Not only all his rubbish--which in quantity is great--passed for
jewels, but also what _are_ incontestably jewels have been, and will be,
valued at a far higher rate than if they had been raised from less
aristocratic mines. So fatal for mediocrity, so gracious for real power,
is any adventitious distinction from birth, station, or circumstances of
brilliant notoriety. In reality, the public, our never-sufficiently-to-be-
respected mother, is the most unutterable sycophant that ever the clouds
dropped their rheum upon. She is always ready for jacobinical scoffs at a
man for being a lord, if he happens to fail; she is always ready for
toadying a lord, if he happens to make a hit. Ah, dear sycophantic old
lady, I kiss your sycophantic hands, and wish heartily that I were a duke
for your sake!

It would be a mistake to fancy that this tendency to confound real merit
and its accidents of position is at all peculiar to us or to our age. Dr.
Sacheverell, by embarking his small capital of talent on the springtide of
a furious political collision, brought back an ampler return for his
little investment than ever did Wickliffe or Luther. Such was his
popularity in the heart of love and the heart of hatred, that he would
have been assassinated by the Whigs, on his triumphal progresses through
England, had he not been canonized by the Tories. He was a dead man if he
had not been suddenly gilt and lacquered as an idol. Neither is the case
peculiar at all to England. Ronge, the _ci-devant_ Romish priest (whose
name pronounce as you would the English word _wrong_, supposing that it
had for a second syllable the final _a_ of 'sopha,' _i.e._, _Wronguh_),
has been found a wrong-headed man by _all_ parties, and in a venial degree
is, perhaps, a stupid man; but he moves about with more _eclat_ by far
than the ablest man in Germany. And, in days of old, the man that burned
down a miracle of beauty, viz., the temple of Ephesus, protesting, with
tears in his eyes, that he had no other way of getting himself a name,
_has_ got it in spite of us all. He's booked for a ride down all history,
whether you and I like it or not. Every pocket dictionary knows that
Erostratus was that scamp. So of Martin, the man that parboiled, or par-
roasted York Minster some ten or twelve years back; that fellow will float
down to posterity with the annals of the glorious cathedral: he will

  'Pursue the triumph and partake the gale,'

whilst the founders and benefactors of the Minster are practically

These incendiaries, in short, are as well known as Ephesus or York; but
not one of us can tell, without humming and hawing, who it was that
rebuilt the Ephesian wonder of the world, or that repaired the time-
honored Minster. Equally in literature, not the weight of service done, or
the power exerted, is sometimes considered chiefly--either of these must
be very conspicuous before it will be considered at all--but the splendor,
or the notoriety, or the absurdity, or even the scandalousness of the
circumstances [1] surrounding the author.

Schlosser must have benefitted in some such adventitious way before he
ever _could_ have risen to his German celebrity. What was it that
raised him to his momentary distinction? Was it something very wicked that
he did, or something very brilliant that he said? I should rather
conjecture that it must have been something inconceivably absurd which he
proposed. Any one of the three achievements stands good in Germany for a
reputation. But, however it were that Mr. Schlosser first gained his
reputation, mark what now follows. On the wings of this equivocal
reputation he flies abroad to Paris and London. There he thrives, not by
any approving experience or knowledge of his works, but through blind
faith in his original German public. And back he flies afterwards to
Germany, as if carrying with him new and independent testimonies to his
merit, and from two nations that are directly concerned in his violent
judgments; whereas (which is the simple truth) he carries back a careless
reverberation of his first German character, from those who have far too
much to read for declining aid from vicarious criticism when it will spare
that effort to themselves. Thus it is that German critics become audacious
and libellous. Kohl, Von Raumer, Dr. Carus, physician to the King of
Saxony, by means of introductory letters floating them into circles far
above any they had seen in homely Germany, are qualified by our own
negligence and indulgence for mounting a European tribunal, from which
they pronounce malicious edicts against ourselves. Sentinels present arms
to Von Raumer at Windsor, because he rides in a carriage of Queen
Adelaide's; and Von Raumer immediately conceives himself the Chancellor of
all Christendom, keeper of the conscience to universal Europe, upon all
questions of art, manners, politics, or any conceivable intellectual
relations of England. Schlosser meditates the same career.

But have I any right to quote Schlosser's words from an English
translation? I do so only because this happens to be at hand, and the
German not. German books are still rare in this country, though more (by
one thousand to one) than they were thirty years ago. But I have a full
right to rely on the English of Mr. Davison. 'I hold in my hand,' as
gentlemen so often say at public meetings, 'a certificate from Herr
Schlosser, that to quote Mr. Davison is to quote _him_.' The English
translation is one which Mr. Schlosser '_durchgelesen hat, und fur deren
genauigkeit und richtigkeit er burgt_ [has read through, and for the
accuracy and propriety of which he pledges himself]. Mr. Schossler was so
anxious for the spiritual welfare of us poor islanders, that he not only
read it through, but he has even _aufmerksam durchgelesen_ it [read
it through wide awake] _und gepruft_ [and carefully examined it]; nay, he
has done all this in company with the translator. 'Oh ye Athenians! how
hard do I labor to earn your applause!' And, as the result of such
herculean labors, a second time he makes himself surety for its precision;
'_er burgt also dafur wie fur seine eigne arbeit_' [he guarantees it
accordingly as he would his own workmanship]. Were it not for this
unlimited certificate, I should have sent for the book to Germany. As it
is, I need not wait; and all complaints on this score I defy, above all
from Herr Schlosser. [2]

In dealing with an author so desultory as Mr. Schlosser, the critic has a
right to an _extra_ allowance of desultoriness for his own share; so
excuse me, reader, for rushing at once _in medias res_.

Of Swift, Mr. Schlosser selects for notice three works--the 'Drapier's
Letters,' 'Gulliver's Travels,' and the 'Tale of a Tub.' With respect to
the first, as it is a necessity of Mr. S. to be forever wrong in his
substratum of facts, he adopts the old erroneous account of Wood's
contract as to the copper coinage, and of the imaginary wrong which it
inflicted on Ireland. Of all Swift's villainies for the sake of
popularity, and still more for the sake of wielding this popularity
vindictively, none is so scandalous as this. In any new life of Swift the
case must be stated _de novo_. Even Sir Walter Scott is not impartial; and
for the same reason as now forces me to blink it, viz., the difficulty of
presenting the details in a readable shape. 'Gulliver's Travels' Schlosser
strangely considers 'spun out to an intolerable extent.' Many evil things
might be said of Gulliver; but not this. The captain is anything but
tedious. And, indeed, it becomes a question of mere mensuration, that can
be settled in a moment. A year or two since I had in my hands a pocket
edition, comprehending all the four parts of the worthy skipper's
adventures within a single volume of 420 pages. Some part of the space was
also wasted on notes, often very idle. Now the 1st part contains _two_
separate voyages (Lilliput and Blefuscu), the 2d, _one_, the 3d, _five_,
and the 4th, _one_; so that, in all, this active navigator, who has
enriched geography, I hope, with something of a higher quality than your
old muffs that thought much of doubling Cape Horn, here gives us _nine_
great discoveries, far more surprising than the pretended discoveries of
Sinbad (which are known to be fabulous), averaging _quam proxime_, forty-
seven small 16mo pages each. Oh you unconscionable German, built round in
your own country with circumvallations of impregnable 4tos, oftentimes
dark and dull as Avernus--that you will have the face to describe dear
excellent Captain Lemuel Gulliver of Redriff, and subsequently of Newark,
that 'darling of children and men,' as tedious. It is exactly because he
is _not_ tedious, because he does not shoot into German foliosity, that
Schlosser finds him '_intolerable_.' I have justly transferred to
Gulliver's use the words originally applied by the poet to the robin-
redbreast, for it is remarkable that _Gulliver_ and the _Arabian Nights_
are amongst the few books where children and men find themselves meeting
and jostling each other. This was the case from its first publication,
just one hundred and twenty years since. 'It was received,' says Dr.
Johnson, 'with such avidity, that the price of the first edition was
raised before the second could be made--it was read by the high and the
low, the learned and the illiterate. Criticism was lost in wonder. Now, on
the contrary, Schlosser wonders not at all, but simply criticises; which
we could bear, if the criticism were even ingenious. Whereas, he utterly
misunderstands Swift, and is a malicious calumniator of the captain who,
luckily, roaming in Sherwood, and thinking, often with a sigh, of his
little nurse, [3] Glumdalclitch, would trouble himself slightly about what
Heidelberg might say in the next century. There is but one example on our
earth of a novel received with such indiscriminate applause as 'Gulliver;'
and _that_ was 'Don Quixote.' Many have been welcomed joyfully by a class
--these two by a people. Now, could that have happened had it been
characterized by dulness? Of all faults, it could least have had _that_.
As to the 'Tale of a Tub,' Schlosser is in such Cimmerian vapors that no
system of bellows could blow open a shaft or tube through which he might
gain a glimpse of the English truth and daylight. It is useless talking to
such a man on such a subject. I consign him to the attentions of some
patriotic Irishman.

Schlosser, however, is right in a graver reflection which he makes upon
the prevailing philosophy of Swift, viz., that 'all his views were
directed towards what was _immediately_ beneficial, which is the
characteristic of savages.' This is undeniable. The meanness of Swift's
nature, and his rigid incapacity for dealing with the grandeurs of the
human spirit, with religion, with poetry, or even with science, when it
rose above the mercenary practical, is absolutely appalling. His own
_yahoo_ is not a more abominable one-sided degradation of humanity,
than is he himself under this aspect. And, perhaps, it places this
incapacity of his in its strongest light, when we recur to the fact of his
_astonishment_ at a religious princess refusing to confer a bishoprick
upon one that had treated the Trinity, and all the profoundest mysteries
of Christianity, not with mere scepticism, or casual sneer, but with set
pompous merriment and farcical buffoonery. This dignitary of the church,
Dean of the most conspicuous cathedral in Ireland, had, in full
canonicals, made himself into a regular mountebank, for the sake of giving
fuller effect, by the force of contrast, to the silliest of jests directed
against all that was most inalienable from Christianity. Ridiculing such
things, could he, in any just sense, be thought a Christian? But, as
Schlosser justly remarks, even ridiculing the peculiarities of Luther and
Calvin as he _did_ ridicule them, Swift could not be thought other
than constitutionally incapable of religion. Even a Pagan philosopher, if
made to understand the case, would be incapable of scoffing at any
_form_, natural or casual, simple or distorted, which might be
assumed by the most solemn of problems--problems that rest with the weight
of worlds upon the human spirit--

  'Fix'd fate, free-will, fore-knowledge absolute.'

the destiny of man, or the relations of man to God. Anger, therefore,
Swift _might_ feel, and he felt it [7] to the end of his most wretched
life; but what reasonable ground had a man of sense for _astonishment_--
that a princess, who (according to her knowledge) was sincerely pious,
should decline to place such a man upon an Episcopal throne? This argues,
beyond a doubt, that Swift was in that state of constitutional irreligion,
irreligion from a vulgar temperament, which imputes to everybody else its
own plebeian feelings. People differed, he fancied, not by more and less
religion, but by more and less dissimulations. And, therefore, it seemed
to him scandalous that a princess, who must, of course, in her heart
regard (in common with himself) all mysteries as solemn masques and
mummeries, should pretend in a case of downright serious business, to pump
up, out of dry conventional hoaxes, any solid objection to a man of his
shining merit. '_The Trinity_,' for instance, _that_ he viewed as the
password, which the knowing ones gave in answer to the challenge of the
sentinel; but, as soon as it had obtained admission for the party within
the gates of the camp, it was rightly dismissed to oblivion or to
laughter. No case so much illustrates Swift's essential irreligion; since,
if he had shared in ordinary human feelings on such subjects, not only he
could not have been surprised at his own exclusion from the bench of
bishops, _after_ such ribaldries, but originally he would have abstained
from them as inevitable bars to clerical promotion, even upon principles
of public decorum.

As to the _style_ of Swift, Mr. Schlosser shows himself without
sensibility in his objections, as the often hackneyed English reader shows
himself without philosophic knowledge of style in his applause. Schlosser
thinks the style of Gulliver 'somewhat dull.' This shows Schlosser's
presumption in speaking upon a point where he wanted, 1st, original
delicacy of tact; and, 2dly, familiar knowledge of English. Gulliver's
style is _purposely_ touched slightly with that dulness of
circumstantiality which besets the excellent, but 'somewhat dull' race of
men--old sea captains. Yet it wears only an aerial tint of dulness; the
felicity of this coloring in Swift's management is, that it never goes the
length of wearying, but only of giving a comic air of downright Wapping
and Rotherhithe verisimilitude. All men grow dull, and ought to be dull,
that live under a solemn sense of eternal danger, one inch only of plank
(often worm-eaten) between themselves and the grave; and, also, that see
for ever one wilderness of waters--sublime, but (like the wilderness on
shore) monotonous. All sublime people, being monotonous, have a tendency
to be dull, and sublime things also. Milton and Aeschylus, the sublimest
of men, are crossed at times by a shade of dulness. It is their weak side.
But as to a sea captain, a regular nor'-nor'-wester, and sou'-sou'-easter,
he ought to be kicked out of the room if he is _not_ dull. It is not
'ship-shape,' or barely tolerable, that he should be otherwise. Yet, after
all, considering what I have stated about Captain Gulliver's nine voyages
crowding into one pocket volume, he cannot really have much abused his
professional license for being dull. Indeed, one has to look out an excuse
for his being so little dull; which excuse is found in the fact that he
had studied three years at a learned university. Captain Gulliver, though
a sailor, I would have you to know, was a gownsman of Cambridge: so says
Swift, who knew more about the Captain than anybody now-a-days. Cantabs
are all horsemen, _ergo_, Gulliver was fit for any thing, from the
_wooden shoon_ of Cambridge up to the Horse Marines.

Now, on the other hand, you, common-place reader, that (as an old
tradition) believe Swift's style to be a model of excellence, hereafter I
shall say a word to you, drawn from deeper principles. At present I
content myself with these three propositions, which overthrow if you

1. That the merit, which justly you ascribe to Swift, is
_vernacularity_; he never forgets his mother-tongue in exotic forms,
unless we may call Irish exotic; for Hibernicisms he certainly has. This
merit, however, is exhibited--not, as _you_ fancy, in a graceful
artlessness, but in a coarse inartificiality. To be artless, and to be
inartificial, are very different things; as different as being natural and
being gross; as different as being simple and being homely.

2. That whatever, meantime, be the particular sort of excellence, or the
value of the excellence, in the style of Swift, he had it in common with
multitudes beside of that age. De Foe wrote a style for all the world the
same as to kind and degree of excellence, only pure from Hibernicisms. So
did every honest skipper [Dampier was something more] who had occasion to
record his voyages in this world of storms. So did many a hundred of
religious writers. And what wonder should there be in this, when the main
qualification for such a style was plain good sense, natural feeling,
unpretendingness, some little scholarly practice in putting together the
clockwork of sentences, so as to avoid mechanical awkwardness of
construction, but above all the advantage of a _subject_, such in its
nature as instinctively to reject ornament, lest it should draw off
attention from itself? Such subjects are common; but grand impassioned
subjects insist upon a different treatment; and _there_ it is that
the true difficulties of style commence.

3. [Which partly is suggested by the last remark.] That nearly all the
blockheads with whom I have at any time had the pleasure of conversing
upon the subject of style (and pardon me for saying that men of the most
sense are apt, upon two subjects, viz., poetry and style, to talk
_most_ like blockheads), have invariably regarded Swift's style not
as if _relatively_ good [_i.e. given_ a proper subject], but as if
_absolutely_ good--good unconditionally, no matter what the subject. Now,
my friend, suppose the case, that the Dean had been required to write a
pendant for Sir Walter Raleigh's immortal apostrophe to Death, or to many
passages that I will select in Sir Thomas Brown's 'Religio Medici,' and
his 'Urn-burial,' or to Jeremy Taylor's inaugural sections of his 'Holy
Living and Dying,' do you know what would have happened? Are you aware
what sort of ridiculous figure your poor bald Jonathan would have cut?
About the same that would be cut by a forlorn scullion or waiter from
a greasy eating-house at Rotterdam, if suddenly called away in vision to
act as seneschal to the festival of Belshazzar the king, before a thousand
of his lords.

Schlosser, after saying any thing right and true (and he really did say
the true thing about Swift's _essential_ irreligion), usually becomes
exhausted, like a boa-constrictor after eating his half-yearly dinner. The
boa gathers himself up, it is to be hoped for a long fit of dyspepsy, in
which the horns and hoofs that he has swallowed may chance to avenge the
poor goat that owned them. Schlosser, on the other hand, retires into a
corner, for the purpose of obstinately talking nonsense, until the gong
sounds again for a slight refection of sense. Accordingly he likens Swift,
before he has done with him, to whom? I might safely allow the reader
three years for guessing, if the greatest of wagers were depending between
us. He likens him to Kotzebue, in the first place. How faithful the
resemblance! How exactly Swift reminds you of Count Benyowski in Siberia,
and of Mrs. Haller moping her eyes in the 'Stranger!' One really is
puzzled to say, according to the negro's logic, whether Mrs. Haller is
more like the Dean of St. Patrick's, or the Dean more like Mrs. Haller.
Anyhow, the likeness is prodigious, if it is not quite reciprocal. The
other _terminus_ of the comparison is Wieland. Now there _is_ some shadow
of a resemblance there. For Wieland had a touch of the comico-cynical in
his nature; and it is notorious that he was often called the German
Voltaire, which argues some tiger-monkey grin that traversed his features
at intervals. Wieland's malice, however, was far more playful and genial
than Swift's; something of this is shown in his romance of 'Idris,' and
oftentimes in his prose. But what the world knows Wieland by is his
'Oberon.' Now in this gay, musical romance of Sir Huon and his enchanted
horn, with its gleams of voluptuousness, is there a possibility that any
suggestion of a scowling face like Swift's should cross the festal scenes?

From Swift the scene changes to Addison and Steele. Steele is of less
importance; for, though a man of greater intellectual activity [4] than
Addison, he had far less of genius. So I turn him out, as one would turn
out upon a heath a ram that had missed his way into one's tulip preserve;
requesting him to fight for himself against Schlosser, or others that may
molest him. But, so far as concerns Addison, I am happy to support the
character of Schlosser for consistency, by assuring the reader that, of
all the monstrosities uttered by any man upon Addison, and of all the
monstrosities uttered by Schlosser upon any man, a thing which he says
about Addison is the worst. But this I reserve for a climax at the end.
Schlosser really puts his best leg foremost at starting, and one thinks
he's going to mend; for he catches a truth, viz., the following--that all
the brilliances of the Queen Anne period (which so many inconsiderate
people have called the Augustan age of our literature) 'point to this--
that the reading public wished to be entertained, not roused to think; to
be gently moved, not deeply excited.' Undoubtedly what strikes a man in
Addison, or _will_ strike him when indicated, is the coyness and
timidity, almost the girlish shame, which he betrays in the presence of
all the elementary majesties belonging to impassioned or idealized nature.
Like one bred in crowded cities, when first left alone in forests or
amongst mountains, he is frightened at their silence, their solitude,
their magnitude of form, or their frowning glooms. It has been remarked by
others that Addison and his companions never rise to the idea of
addressing the 'nation' or the 'people;' it is always the 'town.' Even
their audience was conceived of by _them_ under a limited form. Yet
for this they had some excuse in the state of facts. A man would like at
this moment to assume that Europe and Asia were listening to him; and as
some few copies of his book do really go to Paris and Naples, some to
Calcutta, there is a sort of legal fiction that such an assumption is
steadily taking root. Yet, unhappily, that ugly barrier of languages
interferes. Schamyl, the Circassian chief, though much of a savage, is not
so wanting in taste and discernment as to be backward in reading any book
of yours or mine. Doubtless he yearns to read it. But then, you see, that
infernal _Tchirkass_ language steps between our book, the darling,
and _him_, the discerning reader. Now, just such a barrier existed
for the Spectator in the travelling arrangements of England. The very few
old heavies that had begun to creep along three or four main roads,
depended so much on wind and weather, their chances of foundering were so
uncalculated, their periods of revolution were so cometary and uncertain,
that no body of scientific observations had yet been collected to warrant
a prudent man in risking a heavy bale of goods; and, on the whole, even
for York, Norwich, or Winchester, a consignment of '_Specs_' was not
quite a safe spec. Still, I could have told the Spectator who was anxious
to make money, where he might have been sure of a distant sale, though
returns would have been slow, viz., at Oxford and Cambridge. We know from
Milton that old Hobson delivered his parcels pretty regularly eighty years
before 1710. And, one generation before _that_, it is plain, by the
interesting (though somewhat Jacobinical) letters [5] of Joseph Mede, the
commenter on the Apocalypse, that news and politics of one kind or other
(and scandal of _every_ kind) found out for themselves a sort of
contraband lungs to breathe through between London and Cambridge; not
quite so regular in their _systole_ and _diastole_ as the tides of ebb and
flood, but better than nothing. If you consigned a packet into the proper
hands on the 1st of May, 'as sure as death' to speak _Scottice_, it would
be delivered within sixty miles of the capital before mid-summer. Still
there were delays; and these forced a man into carving his world out of
London. That excuses the word _town_.

Inexcusable, however, were many other forms of expression in those days,
which argued cowardly feelings. One would like to see a searching
investigation into the state of society in Anne's days--its extreme
artificiality, its sheepish reserve upon all the impassioned grandeurs,
its shameless outrages upon all the decencies of human nature. Certain it
is, that Addison (because everybody) was in that meanest of conditions
which blushes at any expression of sympathy with the lovely, the noble, or
the impassioned. The wretches were ashamed of their own nature, and
perhaps with reason; for in their own denaturalized hearts they read only
a degraded nature. Addison, in particular, shrank from every bold and
every profound expression as from an offence against good taste. He durst
not for his life have used the word 'passion' except in the vulgar sense
of an angry paroxysm. He durst as soon have danced a hornpipe on the top
of the 'monument' as have talked of a 'rapturous emotion.' What _would_ he
have said? Why, 'sentiments that were of a nature to prove agreeable after
an unusual rate.' In their odious verses, the creatures of that age talk
of love as something that 'burns' them. You suppose at first that they are
discoursing of tallow candles, though you cannot imagine by what
impertinence they address _you_, that are no tallow-chandler, upon such
painful subjects. And, when they apostrophize the woman of their heart
(for you are to understand that they pretend to such an organ), they
beseech her to 'ease their pain.' Can human meanness descend lower? As if
the man, being ill from pleurisy, therefore had a right to take a lady for
one of the dressers in an hospital, whose duty it would be to fix a
burgundy-pitch plaster between his shoulders. Ah, the monsters! Then to
read of their Phillises and Strephons, and Chloes, and Corydons--names
that, by their very non-reality amongst names of flesh and blood, proclaim
the fantasticalness of the life with which they are poetically connected--
it throws me into such convulsions of rage, that I move to the window, and
(without thinking what I am about) throwing it up, calling, '_Police!
police!_' What's _that_ for? What can the police do in the business? Why,
certainly nothing. What I meant in my dream was, perhaps [but one forgets
_what_ one meant upon recovering one's temper], that the police should
take Strephon and Corydon into custody, whom I fancied at the other end of
the room. And really the justifiable fury, that arises upon recalling such
abominable attempts at bucolic sentiments in such abominable language,
sometimes transports me into a luxurious vision sinking back through one
hundred and thirty years, in which I see Addison, Phillips, both John and
Ambrose, Tickell, Fickell, Budgell, and Cudgell, with many others beside,
all cudgelled in a round robin, none claiming precedency of another, none
able to shrink from his own dividend, until a voice seems to recall me to
milder thoughts by saying, 'But surely, my friend, you never could wish to
see Addison cudgelled? Let Strephon and Corydon be cudgelled without end,
if the police can show any warrant for doing it But Addison was a man of
great genius.' True, he was so. I recollect it suddenly, and will back out
of any angry things that I have been misled into saying by Schlosser, who,
by-the-bye, was right, after all, for a wonder.

But now I will turn my whole fury in vengeance upon Schlosser. And,
looking round for a stone to throw at him, I observe this. Addison could
not be so entirely careless of exciting the public to think and feel, as
Schlosser pretends, when he took so much pains to inoculate that public
with a sense of the Miltonic grandeur. The 'Paradise Lost' had then been
published barely forty years, which was nothing in an age without reviews;
the editions were still scanty; and though no Addison could eventually
promote, for the instant he quickened, the circulation. If I recollect,
Tonson's accurate revision of the text followed immediately upon Addison's
papers. And it is certain that Addison [6] must have diffused the
knowledge of Milton upon the continent, from signs that soon followed. But
does not this prove that I myself have been in the wrong as well as
Schlosser? No: that's impossible. Schlosser's always in the wrong; but
it's the next thing to an impossibility that I should be detected in an
error: philosophically speaking, it is supposed to involve a
contradiction. 'But surely I said the very same thing as Schlosser by
assenting to what he said.' Maybe I did: but then I have time to make a
distinction, because my article is not yet finished; we are only at page
six or seven; whereas Schlosser can't make any distinction now, because
his book's printed; and his list of _errata_ (which is shocking though he
does not confess to the thousandth part), is actually published. My
distinction is--that, though Addison generally hated the impassioned,
and shrank from it as from a fearful thing, yet this was when it combined
with forms of life and fleshy realities (as in dramatic works), but not
when it combined with elder forms of eternal abstractions. Hence, he did
not read, and did not like Shakspeare; the music was here too rapid and
life-like: but he sympathized profoundly with the solemn cathedral
chanting of Milton. An appeal to his sympathies which exacted quick
changes in those sympathies he could not meet, but a more stationary
_key_ of solemnity he _could_. Indeed, this difference is illustrated
daily. A long list can be cited of passages in Shakspeare, which have been
solemnly denounced by many eminent men (all blockheads) as ridiculous: and
if a man _does_ find a passage in a tragedy that displeases him, it is
sure to seem ludicrous: witness the indecent exposures of themselves made
by Voltaire, La Harpe, and many billions beside of bilious people.
Whereas, of all the shameful people (equally billions and not less
bilious) that have presumed to quarrel with Milton, not one has thought
him ludicrous, but only dull and somnolent. In 'Lear' and in 'Hamlet,' as
in a human face agitated by passion, are many things that tremble on the
brink of the ludicrous to an observer endowed with small range of sympathy
or intellect. But no man ever found the starry heavens ludicrous, though
many find them dull, and prefer a near view of a brandy flask. So in the
solemn wheelings of the Miltonic movement, Addison could find a sincere
delight. But the sublimities of earthly misery and of human frenzy were
for him a book sealed. Beside all which, Milton, renewed the types of
Grecian beauty as to _form_, whilst Shakspeare, without designing at all
to contradict these types, did so, in effect, by his fidelity to a new
nature, radiating from a Gothic centre.

In the midst, however, of much just feeling, which one could only wish a
little deeper, in the Addisonian papers on 'Paradise Lost,' there are some
gross blunders of criticism, as there are in Dr. Johnson, and from the
self-same cause--an understanding suddenly palsied from defective passion,
A feeble capacity of passion must, upon a question of passion, constitute
a feeble range of intellect. But, after all, the worst thing uttered by
Addison in these papers is, not _against_ Milton, but meant to be
complimentary. Towards enhancing the splendor of the great poem, he tells
us that it is a Grecian palace as to amplitude, symmetry, and
architectural skill: but being in the English language, it is to be
regarded as if built in brick; whereas, had it been so happy as to be
written in Greek, then it would have been a palace built in Parian marble.
Indeed! that's smart--'that's handsome, I calculate.' Yet, before a man
undertakes to sell his mother-tongue, as old pewter trucked against gold,
he should be quite sure of his own metallurgic skill; because else, the
gold may happen to be copper, and the pewter to be silver. Are you quite
sure, my Addison, that you have understood the powers of this language
which you toss away so lightly, as an old tea-kettle? Is it a ruled case
that you have exhausted its resources? Nobody doubts your grace in a
certain line of composition, but it is only one line among many, and it is
far from being amongst the highest. It is dangerous, without examination,
to sell even old kettles; misers conceal old stockings filled with guineas
in old tea-kettles; and we all know that Aladdin's servant, by exchanging
an old lamp for a new one, caused an Iliad of calamities: his master's
palace jumped from Bagdad to some place on the road to Ashantee; Mrs.
Aladdin and the piccaninies were carried off as inside passengers; and
Aladdin himself only escaped being lagged, for a rogue and a conjuror, by
a flying jump after his palace. Now, mark the folly of man. Most of the
people I am going to mention subscribed, generally, to the supreme
excellence of Milton; but each wished for a little change to be made--
which, and which only was wanted to perfection. Dr. Johnson, though he
pretended to be satisfied with the 'Paradise Lost,' even in what he
regarded as the undress of blank verse, still secretly wished it in rhyme.
That's No. 1. Addison, though quite content with it in English, still
could have wished it in Greek. That's No. 2. Bentley, though admiring the
blind old poet in the highest degree, still observed, smilingly, that
after all he _was_ blind; he, therefore, slashing Dick, could have
wished that the great man had always been surrounded by honest people;
but, as that was not to be, he could have wished that his amanuensis has
been hanged; but, as that also had become impossible, he could wish to do
execution upon him in effigy, by sinking, burning, and destroying his
handywork--upon which basis of posthumous justice, he proceeded to
amputate all the finest passages in the poem. Slashing Dick was No. 3.
Payne Knight was a severer man even than slashing Dick; he professed to
look upon the first book of 'Paradise Lost' as the finest thing that earth
had to show; but, for that very reason, he could have wished, by your
leave, to see the other eleven books sawed off, and sent overboard;
because, though tolerable perhaps in another situation, they really were a
national disgrace, when standing behind that unrivalled portico of book 1.
There goes No. 4. Then came a fellow, whose name was either not on his
title page, or I have forgotten it, that pronounced the poem to be
laudable, and full of good materials; but still he could have wished that
the materials had been put together in a more workmanlike manner; which
kind office he set about himself. He made a general clearance of all
lumber: the expression of every thought he entirely re-cast: and he fitted
up the metre with beautiful patent rhymes; not, I believe, out of any
consideration for Dr. Johnson's comfort, but on principles of mere
abstract decency: as it was, the poem seemed naked, and yet was not
ashamed. There went No. 5. _Him_ succeeded a droller fellow than any
of the rest. A French book-seller had caused a prose French translation to
be made of the 'Paradise Lost,' without particularly noticing its English
origin, or at least not in the title page. Our friend, No. 6, getting hold
of this as an original French romance, translated it back into English
prose, as a satisfactory novel for the season. His little mistake was at
length discovered, and communicated to him with shouts of laughter; on
which, after considerable kicking and plunging (for a man cannot but turn
restive when he finds that he has not only got the wrong sow by the ear,
but actually sold the sow to a bookseller), the poor translator was tamed
into sulkiness; in which state ho observed that he could have wished his
own work, being evidently so much superior to the earliest form of the
romance, might be admitted by the courtesy of England to take the
precedency as the original 'Paradise Lost,' and to supersede the very rude
performance of 'Milton, Mr. John.' [7]

Schlosser makes the astounding assertion, that a compliment of Boileau to
Addison, and a pure compliment of ceremony upon Addison's early Latin
verses, was (_credite posteri!_) the making of Addison in England.
Understand, Schlosser, that Addison's Latin verses were never heard of by
England, until long after his English prose had fixed the public attention
upon him; his Latin reputation was a slight reaction from his English
reputation: and, secondly, understand that Boileau had at no time any such
authority in England as to _make_ anybody's reputation; he had first
of all to make his own. A sure proof of this is, that Boileau's name was
first published to London, by Prior's burlesque of what the Frenchman had
called an ode. This gasconading ode celebrated the passage of the Rhine in
1672, and the capture of that famous fortress called _Skink_ ('le fameux
fort de'), by Louis XIV., known to London at the time of Prior's parody by
the name of 'Louis Baboon.' [8] _That_ was not likely to recommend Master
Boileau to any of the allies against the said Baboon, had it ever been
heard of out of France. Nor was it likely to make him popular in England,
that his name was first mentioned amongst shouts of laughter and mockery.
It is another argument of the slight notoriety possessed by Boileau in
England--that no attempt was ever made to translate even his satires,
epistles, or 'Lutrin,' except by booksellers' hacks; and that no such
version ever took the slightest root amongst ourselves, from Addison's day
to this very summer of 1847. Boileau was essentially, and in two senses,
viz., both as to mind and as to influence, _un homme borne_.

Addison's 'Blenheim' is poor enough; one might think it a translation from
some German original of those times. Gottsched's aunt, or Bodmer's wet-
nurse, might have written it; but still no fibs even as to 'Blenheim.' His
'enemies' did not say this thing against 'Blenheim' 'aloud,' nor his
friends that thing against it 'softly.' And why? Because at that time
(1704-5) he had made no particular enemies, nor any particular friends;
unless by friends you mean his Whig patrons, and by enemies his tailor and

As to 'Cato,' Schlosser, as usual, wanders in the shadow of ancient night.
The English 'people,' it seems, so 'extravagantly applauded' this wretched
drama, that you might suppose them to have 'altogether changed their
nature,' and to have forgotten Shakspeare. That man must have forgotten
Shakspeare, indeed, and from _ramollissement_ of the brain, who could
admire 'Cato.' 'But,' says Schlosser, 'it was only a 'fashion;' and the
English soon repented.' The English could not repent of a crime which they
had never committed. Cato was not popular for a moment, nor tolerated for
a moment, upon any literary ground, or as a work of art. It was an apple
of temptation and strife thrown by the goddess of faction between two
infuriated parties. 'Cato,' coming from a man without Parliamentary
connections, would have dropped lifeless to the ground. The Whigs have
always affected a special love and favor for popular counsels: they have
never ceased to give themselves the best of characters as regards public
freedom. The Tories, as contradistinguished to the Jacobites, knowing that
without _their_ aid, the Revolution could not have been carried, most
justly contended that the national liberties had been at least as much
indebted to themselves. When, therefore, the Whigs put forth _their_
man Cato to mouth speeches about liberty, as exclusively _their_ pet,
and about patriotism and all that sort of thing, saying insultingly to the
Tories, 'How do you like _that_? Does _that_ sting?' 'Sting, indeed!'
replied the Tories; 'not at all; it's quite refreshing to us, that the
Whigs have not utterly disowned such sentiments, which, by their public
acts, we really thought they _had_.' And, accordingly, as the popular
anecdote tells us, a Tory leader, Lord Bolingbroke, sent for Booth
who performed Cato, and presented him (_populo spectante_) with fifty
guineas 'for defending so well the cause of the people against a perpetual
dictator.' In which words, observe, Lord Bolingbroke at once asserted the
cause of his own party, and launched a sarcasm against a great individual
opponent, viz., Marlborough. Now, Mr. Schlosser, I have mended your
harness: all right ahead; so drive on once more.

But, oh Castor and Pollux, whither--in what direction is it, that the man
is driving us? Positively, Schlosser, you must stop and let _me_ get
out. I'll go no further with such a drunken coachman. Many another absurd
thing I was going to have noticed, such as his utter perversion of what
Mandeville said about Addison (viz., by suppressing one word, and
misapprehending all the rest). Such, again, as his point-blank
misstatement of Addison's infirmity in his official character, which was
_not_ that 'he could not prepare despatches in a good style,' but
diametrically the opposite case--that he insisted too much on style, to
the serious retardation of public business. But all these things are as
nothing to what Schlosser says elsewhere. He actually describes Addison,
on the whole, as a 'dull prosaist,' and the patron of pedantry! Addison,
the man of all that ever lived most hostile even to what was good in
pedantry, to its tendencies towards the profound in erudition and the non-
popular; Addison, the champion of all that is easy, natural, superficial,
a pedant and a master of pedantry! Get down, Schlosser, this moment; or
let _me_ get out.

Pope, by far the most important writer, English or Continental, of his own
age, is treated with more extensive ignorance by Mr. Schlosser than any
other, and (excepting Addison) with more ambitious injustice. A false
abstract is given, or a false impression, of any one amongst his brilliant
works, that is noticed at all; and a false sneer, a sneer irrelevant to
the case, at any work dismissed by name as unworthy of notice. The three
works, selected as the gems of Pope's collection, are the 'Essay on
Criticism,' the 'Rape of the Lock,' and the 'Essay on Man.' On the first,
which (with Dr. Johnson's leave) is the feeblest and least interesting of
Pope's writings, being substantially a mere versification, like a metrical
multiplication-table, of common-places the most mouldy with which
criticism has baited its rat-traps; since nothing is said worth answering,
it is sufficient to answer nothing. The 'Rape of the Lock' is treated with
the same delicate sensibility that we might have looked for in Brennus, if
consulted on the picturesque, or in Attila the Hun, if adjured to decide
aesthetically, between two rival cameos. Attila is said (though no doubt
falsely) to have described himself as not properly a man so much as the
Divine wrath incarnate. This would be fine in a melodrama, with Bengal
lights burning on the stage. But, if ever he said such a naughty thing, he
forgot to tell us what it was that had made him angry; by what
_title_ did _he_ come into alliance with the Divine wrath, which
was not likely to consult a savage? And why did his wrath hurry, by forced
marches, to the Adriatic? Now so much do people differ in opinion, that,
to us, who look at him through a telescope from an eminence, fourteen
centuries distant, he takes the shape rather of a Mahratta trooper,
painfully gathering _chout_, or a cateran levying black-mail, or a
decent tax-gatherer with an inkhorn at his button-hole, and supported by a
select party of constabulary friends. The very natural instinct which
Attila always showed for following the trail of the wealthiest footsteps,
seems to argue a most commercial coolness in the dispensation of his
wrath. Mr. Schlosser burns with the wrath of Attila against all
aristocracies, and especially that of England. He governs his fury, also,
with an Attila discretion in many cases; but not here. Imagine this Hun
coming down, sword in hand, upon Pope and his Rosicrucian light troops,
levying _chout_ upon Sir Plume, and fluttering the dove-cot of the
Sylphs. Pope's 'duty it was,' says this demoniac, to 'scourge the follies
of good society,' and also 'to break with the aristocracy.' No, surely?
something short of a total rupture would have satisfied the claims of
duty? Possibly; but it would not have satisfied Schlosser. And Pope's
guilt consists in having made his poem an idol or succession of pictures
representing the gayer aspects of society as it really was, and supported
by a comic interest of the mock-heroic derived from a playful machinery,
instead of converting it into a bloody satire. Pope, however, did not
shrink from such assaults on the aristocracy, if these made any part of
his duties. Such assaults he made twice at least too often for his own
peace, and perhaps for his credit at this day. It is useless, however, to
talk of the poem as a work of art, with one who sees none of its exquisite
graces, and can imagine his countryman Zacharia equal to a competition
with Pope. But this it may be right to add, that the 'Rape of the Lock'
was not borrowed from the 'Lutrin' of Boileau. That was impossible.
Neither was it suggested by the 'Lutrin.' The story in Herodotus of the
wars between cranes and pigmies, or the _Batrachomyomachia_ (so absurdly
ascribed to Homer) might have suggested the idea more naturally. Both
these, there is proof that Pope had read: there is none that he had
read the 'Lutrin,' nor did he read French with ease to himself. The
'Lutrin,' meantime, is as much below the 'Rape of the Lock' in brilliancy
of treatment, as it is dissimilar in plan or the quality of its pictures.

The 'Essay on Man' is a more thorny subject. When a man finds himself
attacked and defended from all quarters, and on all varieties of
principle, he is bewildered. Friends are as dangerous as enemies. He must
not defy a bristling enemy, if he cares for repose; he must not disown a
zealous defender, though making concessions on his own behalf not
agreeable to himself; he must not explain away ugly phrases in one
direction, or perhaps he is recanting the very words of his 'guide,
philosopher, and friend,' who cannot safely be taxed with having first led
him into temptation; he must not explain them away in another direction,
or he runs full tilt into the wrath of mother Church--who will soon bring
him to his senses by penance. Long lents, and no lampreys allowed, would
soon cauterize the proud flesh of heretical ethics. Pope did wisely,
situated as he was, in a decorous nation, and closely connected, upon
principles of fidelity under political suffering, with the Roman
Catholics, to say little in his own defence. That defence, and any
reversionary cudgelling which it might entail upon the Quixote undertaker,
he left--meekly but also slyly, humbly but cunningly--to those whom he
professed to regard as greater philosophers than himself. All parties
found their account in the affair. Pope slept in peace; several pugnacious
gentlemen up and down Europe expectorated much fiery wrath in dusting each
other's jackets; and Warburton, the attorney, finally earned his
bishoprick in the service of whitewashing a writer, who was aghast at
finding himself first trampled on as a deist, and then exalted as a
defender of the faith. Meantime, Mr. Schlosser mistakes Pope's courtesy,
when he supposes his acknowledgments to Lord Bolingbroke sincere in their
whole extent.

Of Pope's 'Homer' Schlosser think fit to say, amongst other evil things,
which it really _does_ deserve (though hardly in comparison with the
German 'Homer' of the ear-splitting Voss), 'that Pope pocketed the
subscription of the "Odyssey," and left the work to be done by his
understrappers.' Don't tell fibs, Schlosser. Never do _that_ any more.
True it is, and disgraceful enough, that Pope (like modern contractors for
a railway or a loan) let off to sub-contractors several portions of the
undertaking. He was perhaps not illiberal in the terms of his contracts.
At least I know of people now-a-days (much better artists) that would
execute such contracts, and enter into any penalties for keeping time at
thirty per cent. less. But _navies_ and billbrokers, that are in excess
now, then were scarce. Still the affair, though not mercenary, was
illiberal in a higher sense of art; and no anecdote shows more pointedly
Pope's sense of the mechanic fashion, in which his own previous share of
the Homeric labor had been executed. It was disgraceful enough, and needs
no exaggeration. Let it, therefore, be reported truly: Pope personally
translated one-half of the 'Odyssey'--a dozen books he turned out of his
own oven: and, if you add the _Batrachomyomachia_, his dozen was a baker's
dozen. The journeyman did the other twelve; were regularly paid; regularly
turned off when the job was out of hand; and never once had to 'strike for
wages.' How much beer was allowed, I cannot say. This is the truth of the
matter. So no more fibbing, Schlosser, if you please.

But there remains behind all these labors of Pope, the 'Dunciad,' which is
by far his greatest. I shall not, within the narrow bounds assigned to me,
enter upon a theme so exacting; for, in this instance, I should have to
fight not against Schlosser only, but against Dr. Johnson, who has
thoroughly misrepresented the nature of the 'Dunciad,' and, consequently,
could not measure its merits. Neither he, nor Schlosser, in fact, ever
read more than a few passages of this admirable poem. But the villany is
too great for a brief exposure. One thing only I will notice of
Schlosser's misrepresentations. He asserts (not when directly speaking of
Pope, but afterwards, under the head of Voltaire) that the French author's
trivial and random _Temple de Gout_ 'shows the superiority in this
species of poetry to have been greatly on the side of the Frenchman.'
Let's hear a reason, though but a Schlosser reason, for this opinion:
know, then, all men whom it concerns, that 'the Englishman's satire only
hit such people as would never have been known without his mention of
them, whilst Voltaire selected those who were still called great, and
their respective schools.' Pope's men, it seems, never _had_ been
famous--Voltaire's might cease to be so, but as yet they had _not_
ceased; as yet they commanded interest. Now mark how I will put three
bullets into that plank, riddle it so that the leak shall not be stopped
by all the old hats in Heidelberg, and Schlosser will have to swim for his
life. First, he is forgetting that, by his own previous confession,
Voltaire, not less than Pope, had 'immortalized a great many
_insignificant_ persons;' consequently, had it been any fault to do
so, each alike was caught in that fault; and insignificant as the people
might be, if they _could_ be 'immortalized,' then we have Schlosser
himself confessing to the possibility that poetic splendor should create a
secondary interest where originally there had been none. Secondly, the
question of merit does not arise from the object of the archer, but from
the style of his archery. Not the choice of victims, but the execution
done is what counts. Even for continued failures it would plead
advantageously, much more for continued and brilliant successes, that Pope
fired at an object offering no sufficient breadth of mark. Thirdly, it is
the grossest of blunders to say that Pope's objects of satire were obscure
by comparison with Voltaire's. True, the Frenchman's example of a scholar,
viz., the French Salmasius, was most accomplished. But so was the
Englishman's scholar, viz., the English Bentley. Each was absolutely
without a rival in his own day. But the day of Bentley was the very day of
Pope. Pope's man had not even faded; whereas the day of Salmasius, as
respected Voltaire had gone by for more than half a century. As to Dacier,
'_which_ Dacier, Bezonian?' The husband was a passable scholar--but
madame was a poor sneaking fellow, fit only for the usher of a boarding-
school. All this, however, argues Schlosser's two-fold ignorance--first,
of English authors; second, of the 'Dunciad;'--else he would have known
that even Dennis, mad John Dennis, was a much cleverer man than most of
those alluded to by Voltaire. Cibber, though slightly a coxcomb, was born
a brilliant man. Aaron Hill was so lustrous, that even Pope's venom fell
off spontaneously, like rain from the plumage of a pheasant, leaving him
to 'mount far upwards with the swans of Thanes'--and, finally, let it not
be forgotten, that Samuel Clarke Burnet, of the Charterhouse, and Sir
Isaac Newton, did not wholly escape tasting the knout; if _that_ rather
impeaches the equity, and sometimes the judgment of Pope, at least it
contributes to show the groundlessness of Schlosser's objection--that the
population of the Dunciad, the characters that filled its stage, were


It is, or it _would_ be, if Mr. Schlosser were himself more interesting,
luxurious to pursue his ignorance as to facts, and the craziness of his
judgment as to the valuation of minds, throughout his comparison of Burke
with Fox. The force of antithesis brings out into a feeble life of
meaning, what, in its own insulation, had been languishing mortally into
nonsense. The darkness of his 'Burke' becomes _visible_ darkness under the
glimmering that steals upon it from the desperate commonplaces of this
'Fox.' Fox is painted exactly as he _would_ have been painted fifty years
ago by any pet subaltern of the Whig club, enjoying free pasture in
Devonshire House. The practised reader knows well what is coming. Fox is
'formed after the model of the ancients'--Fox is 'simple'--Fox is
'natural'--Fox is 'chaste'--Fox is 'forcible;' why yes, in a sense, Fox is
even 'forcible:' but then, to feel that he was so, you must have _heard_
him; whereas, for forty years he has been silent. We of 1847, that can
only _read_ him, hearing Fox described as _forcible_, are disposed to
recollect Shakspeare's Mr. Feeble amongst Falstaff's recruits, who also is
described as _forcible_, viz., as the 'most forcible Feeble.' And,
perhaps, a better description could not be devised for Fox himself--so
feeble was he in matter, so forcible in manner; so powerful for instant
effect, so impotent for posterity. In the Pythian fury of his gestures--in
his screaming voice--in his directness of purpose, Fox would now remind
you of some demon steam-engine on a railroad, some Fire-king or Salmoneus,
that had counterfeited, because he could not steal, Jove's thunderbolts;
hissing, bubbling, snorting, fuming; demoniac gas, you think--gas from
Acheron must feed that dreadful system of convulsions. But pump out the
imaginary gas, and, behold! it is ditch-water. Fox, as Mr. Schlosser
rightly thinks, was all of a piece--simple in his manners, simple in his
style, simple in his thoughts. No waters in _him_ turbid with new
crystalizations; everywhere the eye can see to the bottom. No music in
_him_ dark with Cassandra meanings. Fox, indeed, disturb decent gentlemen
by 'allusions to all the sciences, from the integral calculus and
metaphysics to navigation!' Fox would have seen you hanged first. Burke,
on the other hand, did all that, and other wickedness besides, which fills
an 8vo page in Schlosser; and Schlosser crowns his enormities by charging
him, the said Burke (p. 99), with '_wearisome tediousness_.' Among my own
acquaintances are several old women, who think on this point precisely as
Schlosser thinks; and they go further, for they even charge Burke with
'tedious wearisomeness.' Oh, sorrowful woe, and also woeful sorrow, when
an Edmund Burke arises, like a _cheeta_ or hunting leopard coupled in a
tiger-chase with a German poodle. To think, in a merciful spirit, of the
jungle--barely to contemplate, in a temper of humanity, the
incomprehensible cane-thickets, dark and bristly, into which that bloody
_cheeta_ will drag that unoffending poodle!

But surely the least philosophic of readers, who hates philosophy 'as toad
or asp,' must yet be aware, that, where new growths are not germinating,
it is no sort of praise to be free from the throes of growth. Where
expansion is hopeless, it is little glory to have escaped distortion. Nor
is it any blame that the rich fermentation of grapes should disturb the
transparency of their golden fluids. Fox had nothing new to tell us, nor
did he hold a position amongst men that required or would even have
allowed him to tell anything new. He was helmsman to a party; what he had
to do, though seeming to _give_ orders, was simply to repeat _their_
orders--'Port your helm,' said the party; 'Port it is,' replied the
helmsman.--But Burke was no steersman; he was the Orpheus that sailed with
the Argonauts; he was their _seer_, seeing more in his visions than he
always understood himself; he was their watcher through the hours of
night; he was their astrological interpreter. Who complains of a prophet
for being a little darker of speech than a post-office directory? or of
him that reads the stars for being sometimes perplexed?

But, even as to facts, Schlosser is always blundering. Post-office
directories would be of no use to _him;_ nor link-boys; nor blazing
tar-barrels. He wanders in a fog such as sits upon the banks of Cocytus.
He fancies that Burke, in his lifetime, was _popular_. Of course, it
is so natural to be popular by means of '_wearisome tediousness_,'
that Schlosser, above all people, should credit such a tale. Burke has
been dead just fifty years, come next autumn. I remember the time from
this accident--that my own nearest relative stepped on a day of October,
1797, into that same suite of rooms at Bath (North Parade) from which, six
hours before, the great man had been carried out to die at Beaconsfield.
It is, therefore, you see, fifty years. Now, ever since then, his
_collective_ works have been growing in bulk by the incorporation of
juvenile essays (such as his 'European Settlements,' his 'Essay on the
Sublime,' on 'Lord Bolingbroke,' &c.) or (as more recently) by the
posthumous publication of his MSS; [9] and yet, ever since then, in spite
of growing age and growing bulk, are more in demand. At this time, half a
century after his last sigh, Burke _is_ popular; a thing, let me tell
you, Schlosser, which never happened before to a writer steeped to his
lips in _personal_ politics. What a tilth of intellectual lava must
that man have interfused amongst the refuse and scoria of such mouldering
party rubbish, to force up a new verdure and laughing harvests, annually
increasing for new generations! Popular he _is_ now, but popular he
was not in his own generation. And how could Schlosser have the face to
say that he was? Did he never hear the notorious anecdote, that at one
period Burke obtained the _sobriquet_ of 'dinner-bell?' And why? Not
as one who invited men to a banquet by his gorgeous eloquence, but as one
that gave a signal to shoals in the House of Commons, for seeking refuge
in a _literal_ dinner from the oppression of his philosophy. This
was, perhaps, in part a scoff of his opponents. Yet there must have been
some foundation for the scoff, since, at an earlier stage of Burke's
career, Goldsmith had independently said, that this great orator

          --------'went on refining,
  And thought of convincing, whilst _they_ thought of dining.'

I blame neither party. It ought not to be expected of any _popular_
body that it should be patient of abstractions amongst the intensities of
party-strife, and the immediate necessities of voting. No deliberative
body would less have tolerated such philosophic exorbitations from public
business than the _agora_ of Athens, or the Roman senate. So far the
error was in Burke, not in the House of Commons. Yet, also, on the other
side, it must be remembered, that an intellect of Burke's combining power
and enormous compass, could not, from necessity of nature, abstain from
such speculations. For a man to reach a remote posterity, it is sometimes
necessary that he should throw his voice over to them in a vast arch--it
must sweep a parabola--which, therefore, rises high above the heads of
those next to him, and is heard by the bystanders but indistinctly, like
bees swarming in the upper air before they settle on the spot fit for

See, therefore, the immeasurableness of misconception. Of all public men,
that stand confessedly in the first rank as to splendor of intellect,
Burke was the _least_ popular at the time when our blind friend Schlosser
assumes him to have run off with the lion's share of popularity. Fox, on
the other hand, as the leader of opposition, was at that time a household
term of love or reproach, from one end of the island to the other. To the
very children playing in the streets, Pitt and Fox, throughout Burke's
generation, were pretty nearly as broad distinctions, and as much a war-
cry, as English and French, Roman and Punic. Now, however, all this is
altered. As regards the relations between the two Whigs whom Schlosser so
steadfastly delighteth to misrepresent,

  'Now is the winter of our discontent
  Made glorious summer'

for that intellectual potentate, Edmund Burke, the man whose true mode of
power has never yet been truly investigated; whilst Charles Fox is known
only as an echo is known, and for any real _effect_ of intellect upon
this generation, for anything but the 'whistling of a name,' the Fox of
1780-1807 sleeps where the carols of the larks are sleeping, that
gladdened the spring-tides of those years--sleeps with the roses that
glorified the beauty of their summers. [10]


Schlosser talks of Junius, who is to him, as to many people, more than
entirely the enigma of an enigma, Hermes Trismegistus, or the mediaeval
Prester John. Not only are most people unable to solve the enigma, but
they have no idea of what it is that they are to solve. I have to inform
Schlosser that there are three separate questions about Junius, of which
he has evidently no distinct knowledge, and cannot, therefore, have many
chances to spare for settling them. The three questions are these:--A. Who
_was_ Junius? B. What was it that armed Junius with a power so
unaccountable at this day over the public mind? C. Why, having actually
exercised this power, and gained under his masque far more than he ever
hoped to gain, did this Junius not come forward _in his own person_,
when all the legal danger had long passed away, to claim a distinction
that for _him_ (among the vainest of men) must have been more precious
than his heart's blood? The two questions, B and C, I have examined in
past times, and I will not here repeat my explanations further than to
say, with respect to the last, that the reason for the author not claiming
his own property was this, because he _dared_ not; because it would have
been _infamy_ for him to avow himself as Junius; because it would have
revealed a crime and published a crime in his own earlier life, for which
many a man is transported in our days, and for less than which many a man
has been in past days hanged, broken on the wheel, burned, gibbeted, or
impaled. To say that he watched and listened at his master's key-holes, is
nothing. It was not key-holes only that he made free with, but keys; he
tampered with his master's seals; he committed larcenies; not, like a
brave man, risking his life on the highway, but petty larcenies--larcenies
in a dwelling-house--larcenies under the opportunities of a confidential
situation--crimes which formerly, in the days of Junius, our bloody code
never pardoned in villains of low degree. Junius was in the situation of
Lord Byron's Lara, or, because Lara is a plagiarism, of Harriet Lee's
Kraitzrer. But this man, because he had money, friends, and talents,
instead of going to prison, took himself off for a jaunt to the continent.
From the continent, in full security and in possession of the _otium cum
dignitate_, he negotiated with the government, whom he had alarmed by
publishing the secrets which he had stolen. He succeeded. He sold himself
to great advantage. Bought and sold he was; and of course it is understood
that, if you buy a knave, and expressly in consideration of his knaveries,
you secretly undertake not to hang him. 'Honor bright!' Lord Barrington
might certainly have indicted Junius at the Old Bailey, and had a reason
for wishing to do so; but George III., who was a party to the negotiation,
and all his ministers, would have said, with fits of laughter--'Oh, come
now, my lord, you must _not_ do that. For, since we have bargained for a
price to send him out as a member of council to Bengal, you see clearly
that we could not possibly hang him _before_ we had fulfilled our bargain.
Then it is true we might hang him after he comes back. But, since the man
(being a clever man) has a fair chance in the interim of rising to be
Governor-General, we put it to your candor, Lord Barrington, whether it
would be for the public service to hang his excellency?' In fact, he might
probably have been Governor-General, had his bad temper not overmastered
him. Had he not quarrelled so viciously with Mr. Hastings, it is ten to
one that he might, by playing his cards well, have succeeded him. As it
was, after enjoying an enormous salary, he returned to England--not
Governor-General, certainly, but still in no fear of being hanged. Instead
of hanging him, on second thoughts, Government gave him a red ribbon. He
represented a borough in Parliament. He was an authority upon Indian
affairs. He was caressed by the Whig party. He sat at good men's tables.
He gave for toasts--_Joseph Surface_ sentiments at dinner parties--
'The man that betrays' [something or other]--'the man that sneaks into'
[other men's portfolios, perhaps]--'is'--ay, _what_ is he? Why he is,
perhaps, a Knight of the Bath, has a sumptuous mansion in St. James's
Square, dies full of years and honor, has a pompous funeral, and fears
only some such epitaph as this--'Here lies, in a red ribbon, the man who
built a great prosperity on the basis of a great knavery.' I complain
heavily of Mr. Taylor, the very able unmasker of Junius, for blinking the
whole questions B and C. He it is that has settled the question A, so that
it will never be re-opened by a man of sense. A man who doubts, after
_really_ reading Mr. Taylor's work, is not only a blockhead, but an
irreclaimable blockhead. It is true that several men, among them Lord
Brougham, whom Schlosser (though hating him, and kicking him) cites, still
profess scepticism. But the reason is evident: they have not _read_
the book, they have only heard of it. They are unacquainted with the
strongest arguments, and even with the nature of the evidence. [11] Lord
Brougham, indeed, is generally reputed to have reviewed Mr. Taylor's book.
_That_ may be: it is probable enough: what I am denying is not at all
that Lord Brougham _reviewed_ Mr. Taylor, but that Lord Brougham _read_
Mr. Taylor. And there is not much wonder in _that_, when we see professed
writers on the subject--bulky writers--writers of Answers and Refutations,
dispensing with the whole of Mr. Taylor's book, single paragraphs of which
would have forced them to cancel their own. The possibility of scepticism,
after really _reading_ Mr. Taylor's book, would be the strongest
exemplification upon record of Sancho's proverbial reproach, that a man
'wanted better bread than was made of wheat--' would be the old case
renewed from the scholastic grumblers 'that some men do not know when they
are answered.' They have got their _quietus_, and they still continue to
'maunder' on with objections long since disposed of. In fact, it is not
too strong a thing to say--and Chief Justice Dallas _did_ say something
like it--that if Mr. Taylor is not right, if Sir Philip Francis is _not_
Junius, then was no man ever yet hanged on sufficient evidence. Even
confession is no absolute proof. Even confessing to a crime, the man may
be mad. Well, but at least seeing is believing: if the court sees a man
commit an assault, will not _that_ suffice? Not at all: ocular delusions
on the largest scale are common. What's a court? Lawyers have no better
eyes than other people. Their physics are often out of repair, and whole
cities have been known to see things that could have no existence. Now,
all other evidence is held to be short of this blank seeing or blank
confessing. But I am not at all sure of _that_. Circumstantial evidence,
that multiplies indefinitely its points of _internexus_ with known
admitted facts, is more impressive than direct testimony. If you detect a
fellow with a large sheet of lead that by many (to wit seventy) salient
angles, that by tedious (to wit thirty) reentrant angles, fits into and
owns its sisterly relationship to all that is left of the lead upon your
roof--this tight fit will weigh more with a jury than even if my lord
chief justice should jump into the witness-box, swearing that, with
judicial eyes, he saw the vagabond cutting the lead whilst he himself sat
at breakfast; or even than if the vagabond should protest before this
honorable court that he _did_ cut the lead, in order that he (the said
vagabond) might have hot rolls and coffee as well as my lord, the witness.
If Mr. Taylor's body of evidence does _not_ hold water, then is there no
evidence extant upon any question, judicial or not judicial, that _will_.

But I blame Mr. Taylor heavily for throwing away the whole argument
applicable to B and C; not as any debt that rested particularly upon
_him_ to public justice; but as a debt to the integrity of his own
book. That book is now a fragment; admirable as regards A; but (by
omitting B and C) not sweeping the whole area of the problem. There yet
remains, therefore, the dissatisfaction which is always likely to arise--
not from the smallest _allegatio falsi_, but from the large _suppressio
veri_. B, which, on any other solution than the one I have proposed, is
perfectly unintelligible, now becomes plain enough. To imagine a heavy,
coarse, hard-working government, seriously affected by such a bauble as
_they_ would consider performances on the tight rope of style, is mere
midsummer madness. 'Hold your absurd tongue,' would any of the ministers
have said to a friend descanting on Junius as a powerful artist of style--
'do you dream, dotard, that this baby's rattle is the thing that keeps us
from sleeping? Our eyes are fixed on something else: that fellow, whoever
he is, knows what he ought _not_ to know; he has had his hand in some of
our pockets: he's a good locksmith, is that Junius; and before he reaches
Tyburn, who knows what amount of mischief he may do to self and partners?'
The rumor that ministers were themselves alarmed (which was the naked
truth) travelled downwards; but the _why_ did not travel; and the
innumerable blockheads of lower circles, not understanding the real cause
of fear, sought a false one in the supposed thunderbolts of the rhetoric.
Opera-house thunderbolts they were: and strange it is, that grave men
should fancy newspapers, teeming (as they have always done) with
_Publicolas_, with _Catos_, with _Algernon Sidneys_, able by such trivial
small shot to gain a moment's attention from the potentates of Downing
Street. Those who have despatches to write, councils to attend, and votes
of the Commons to manage, think little of Junius Brutus. A Junius Brutus,
that dares not sign by his own honest name, is presumably skulking from
his creditors. A Timoleon, who hints at assassination in a newspaper, one
may take it for granted, is a manufacturer of begging letters. And it is a
conceivable case that a twenty pound note, enclosed to Timoleon's address,
through the newspaper office, might go far to soothe that great patriot's
feelings, and even to turn aside his avenging dagger. These sort of people
were not the sort to frighten a British Ministry. One laughs at the
probable conversation between an old hunting squire coming up to comfort
the First Lord of the Treasury, on the rumor that he was panic-struck.
'What, surely, my dear old friend, you're not afraid of Timoleon?' First
Lord.--'Yes, I am.' C. Gent.--'What, afraid of an anonymous fellow in the
papers?' F. L.--'Yes, dreadfully.' C. Gent.--'Why, I always understood
that these people were a sort of shams--living in Grub Street--or where
was it that Pope used to tell us they lived? Surely you're not afraid of
Timoleon, because some people think he's a patriot?' F. L.--'No, not at
all; but I am afraid because some people think he's a housebreaker!' In
that character only could Timoleon become formidable to a Cabinet
Minister; and in some such character must our friend, Junius Brutus, have
made himself alarming to Government. From the moment that B is properly
explained, it throws light upon C. The Government was alarmed--not at such
moonshine as patriotism, or at a soap-bubble of rhetoric--but because
treachery was lurking amongst their own households: and, if the thing went
on, the consequences might be appalling. But this domestic treachery,
which accounts for B, accounts at the same time for C. The very same
treachery that frightened its objects at the time by the consequences it
might breed, would frighten its author afterwards from claiming its
literary honors by the remembrances it might awaken. The mysterious
disclosures of official secrets, which had once roused so much
consternation within a limited circle, and (like the French affair of the
diamond necklace) had sunk into neglect only when all clue seemed lost for
_perfectly_ unravelling its would revive in all its interest when a
discovery came before the public, viz., a claim on the part of Francis to
have written the famous letters, which must at the same time point a
strong light upon the true origin of the treacherous disclosures. Some
astonishment had always existed as to Francis--how he rose so suddenly
into rank and station: some astonishment always existed as to Junius, how
he should so suddenly have fallen asleep as a writer in the journals. The
coincidence of this sudden and unaccountable silence with the sudden and
unaccountable Indian appointment of Francis; the extraordinary familiarity
of Junius, which had _not altogether escaped notice_, with the secrets of
one particular office, viz., the War Office; the sudden recollection, sure
to flash upon all who remembered Francis, if again he should become
revived into suspicion, that he had held a situation of trust in that
particular War Office; all these little recollections would begin to take
up their places in a connected story: _this_ and _that_, laid together,
would become clear as day-light; and to the keen eyes of still surviving
enemies--Horne Tooke, 'little Chamier,' Ellis, the Fitzroy, Russell, and
Murray houses--the whole progress and catastrophe of the scoundrelism, the
perfidy and the profits of the perfidy, would soon become as intelligible
as any tale of midnight burglary from without, in concert with a wicked
butler within, that was ever sifted by judge and jury at the Old Bailey,
or critically reviewed by Mr. John Ketch at Tyburn.

Francis was the man. Francis was the wicked butler within, whom Pharaoh
ought to have hanged, but whom he clothed in royal apparel, and mounted
upon a horse that carried him to a curule chair of honor. So far his
burglary prospered. But, as generally happens in such cases, this
prosperous crime subsequently avenged itself. By a just retribution, the
success of Junius, in two senses so monstrously exaggerated--exaggerated
by a romantic over-estimate of its intellectual power through an error of
the public, not admitted to the secret--and equally exaggerated as to its
political power by the government in the hush-money for its future
suppression, became the heaviest curse of the successful criminal. This
criminal thirsted for literary distinction above all other distinction,
with a childish eagerness, as for the _amrecta_ cup of immortality.
And, behold! there the brilliant bauble lay, glittering in the sands of a
solitude, unclaimed by any man; disputed with him (if he chose to claim
it) by nobody; and yet for his life he durst not touch it. He stood--he
knew that he stood--in the situation of a murderer who has dropt an
inestimable jewel upon the murdered body in the death-struggle with his
victim. The jewel is his! Nobody will deny it. He may have it for asking.
But to ask is his death-warrant. 'Oh yes!' would be the answer, 'here's
your jewel, wrapt up safely in tissue paper. But here's another lot that
goes along with it--no bidder can take them apart--viz. a halter, also
wrapt up in tissue paper.' Francis, in relation to Junius, was in that
exact predicament. 'You are Junius? You are that famous man who has been
missing since 1772? And you can prove it? God bless me! sir; what a long
time you've been sleeping: every body's gone to bed. Well, then, you are
an exceedingly clever fellow, that have had the luck to be thought ten
times more clever than really you were. And also, you are the greatest
scoundrel that at this hour rests in Europe unhanged!'--Francis died, and
made no sign. Peace of mind he had parted with for a peacock's feather,
which feather, living or dying, he durst not mount in the plumage of his


[1] Even Pope, with all his natural and reasonable interest in
aristocratic society, could not shut his eyes to the fact that a jest in
_his_ mouth became twice a jest in a lord's. But still he failed to
perceive what I am here contending for, that if the jest happened to miss
fire, through the misfortune of bursting its barrel, the consequences
would be far worse for the lord than the commoner. There _is_, you see, a
blind sort of compensation.

[2] Mr. Schlosser, who speaks English, who has read rather too much
English for any good that he has turned it to, and who ought to have a
keen eye for the English version of his own book, after so much reading
and study of it, has, however, overlooked several manifest errors. I do
not mean to tax Mr. Davison with, general inaccuracy. On the contrary, he
seems wary, and in most cases successful as a dealer with the
peculiarities of the German. But several cases of error I detect without
needing the original: they tell their own story. And one of these I here
notice, not only for its own importance, but out of love to Schlosser, and
by way of nailing his guarantee to the counter--not altogether as a bad
shilling, but as a light one. At p. 5 of vol. 2, in a foot-note, which is
speaking of Kant, we read of his _attempt to introduce the notion of
negative greatness into Philosophy. Negative greatness!_ What strange
bird may _that_ be? Is it the _ornithorynchus paradoxus_? Mr. Schlosser
was not wide awake _there_. The reference is evidently to Kant's essay
upon the advantages of introducing into philosophy the algebraic idea of
_negative quantities_. It is one of Kant's grandest gleams into hidden
truth. Were it only for the merits of this most masterly essay in
reconstituting the algebraic meaning of a _negative quantity_ [so
generally misunderstood as a _negation_ of quantity, and which even Sir
Isaac Newton misconstrued as regarded its metaphysics], great would have
been the service rendered to logic by Kant. But there is a greater. From
this little _brochure_ I am satisfied was derived originally the German
regeneration of the Dynamic philosophy, its expansion through the idea of
polarity, indifference, &c. Oh, Mr. Schlosser, you had not _gepruft_ p. 5
of vol. 2. You skipped the notes.

[3] '_Little nurse_:'--the word _Glumdalclitch_, in Brobdingnagian,
absolutely _means little nurse_, and nothing else. It may seem odd that
the captain should call any nurse of Brobdingnag, however kind to him, by
such an epithet as _little_; and the reader may fancy that Sherwood forest
had put it into his head, where Robin Hood always called his right hand
man 'Little John,' not _although_, but expressly _because_ John stood
seven feet high in his stockings. But the truth is--that Glumdalclitch
_was_ little; and literally so; she was only nine years old, and (says the
captain) 'little of her age,' being barely forty feet high. She had time
to grow certainly, but as she had so much to do before she could overtake
other women, it is probable that she would turn out what, in Westmoreland,
they call a, _little stiffenger_--very little, if at all, higher than a
common English church steeple.

[4.] '_Activity_,'--It is some sign of this, as well as of the more
thoroughly English taste in literature which distinguished Steele, that
hardly twice throughout the 'Spectator' is Shakspeare quoted or alluded to
by Addison. Even these quotations he had from the theatre, or the breath
of popular talk. Generally, if you see a line from Shakspeare, it is safe
to bet largely that the paper is Steele's; sometimes, indeed, of casual
contributors; but, almost to a certainty, _not_ a paper of Addison's.
Another mark of Steele's superiority in vigor of intellect is, that much
oftener in _him_ than in other contributors strong thoughts came forward;
harsh and disproportioned, perhaps, to the case, and never harmoniously
developed with the genial grace of Addison, but original, and pregnant
with promise and suggestion.

[5] 'Letters of Joseph Mede,' published more than twenty years ago by Sir
Henry Ellis.

[6] It is an idea of many people, and erroneously sanctioned by
Wordsworth, that Lord Somers gave a powerful lift to the 'Paradise Lost.'
He was a subscriber to the sixth edition, the first that had plates; but
this was some years before the Revolution of 1688, and when he was simply
Mr. Somers, a barrister, with no effectual power of patronage.

[7] '_Milton, Mr. John_:'--Dr. Johnson expressed his wrath, in an
amusing way, at some bookseller's hack who, when employed to make an
index, introduced Milton's name among the M's, under the civil title of--
'Milton, Mr. John.'

[8] '_Louis Baboon_:'--As people read nothing in these days that is more
than forty-eight hours old, I am daily admonished that allusions the most
obvious to anything in the rear of our own time, needs explanation. _Louis
Baboon_ is Swift's jesting name for _Louis Bourbon_, _i.e._, Louis XIV.

[9] 'Of his MSS.:'--And, if all that I have heard be true, much has
somebody to answer for, that so little has been yet published. The two
executors of Burke were Dr. Lawrence, of Doctors' Commons, a well-known M.
P. in forgotten days, and Windham, a man too like Burke in elasticity of
mind ever to be spoken of in connection with forgotten things. Which of
them was to blame, I know not. But Mr. R. Sharpe, M. P., twenty-five years
ago, well known as _River_ Sharpe, from the [Greek: _aperantologia_] of
his conversation, used to say, that one or both of the executors had
offered _him_ (the river) a huge travelling trunk, perhaps an Imperial or
a Salisbury boot (equal to the wardrobe of a family), filled with Burke's
MSS., on the simple condition of editing them with proper annotations. An
Oxford man, and also the celebrated Mr. Christian Curwen, then member for
Cumberland, made, in my hearing, the same report. The Oxford man, in
particular, being questioned as to the probable amount of MS., deposed,
that he could not speak upon oath to the cubical contents; but this he
could say, that, having stripped up his coat sleeve, he had endeavored, by
such poor machinery as nature had allowed him, to take the soundings of
the trunk, but apparently there were none; with his middle finger he could
find no bottom; for it was stopped by a dense stratum of MS.; below which,
you know, other strata might lie _ad infinitum_. For anything proved to
the contrary, the trunk might be bottomless.

[10] A man in Fox's situation is sure, whilst living, to draw after him
trains of sycophants; and it is the evil necessity of newspapers the most
independent, that they _must_ swell the mob of sycophants. The public
compels them to exaggerate the true proportions of such people as we see
every hour in our own day. Those who, for the moment, modify, or
_may_ modify the national condition, become preposterous idols in the
eyes of the gaping public; but with the sad necessity of being too utterly
trodden under foot after they are shelved, unless they live in men's
memory by something better than speeches in Parliament. Having the usual
fate, Fox was complimented, _whilst living_, on his knowledge of
Homeric Greek, which was a jest: he knew neither more nor less of Homer,
than, fortunately, most English gentlemen of his rank; quite enough that
is to read the 'Iliad' with unaffected pleasure, far too little to revise
the text of any three lines, without making himself ridiculous. The
excessive slenderness of his general literature, English and French, may
be seen in the letters published by his Secretary, Trotter. But his
fragment of a History, published by Lord Holland, at two guineas, and
currently sold for two shillings (not two _pence_, or else I have
been defrauded of 1s. 10d.), most of all proclaims the tenuity of his
knowledge. He looks upon Malcolm Laing as a huge oracle; and, having read
even less than Hume, a thing not very easy, with great _naivete_, cannot
guess where Hume picked up his facts.

[11] Even in Dr. Francis's Translation of Select Speeches from
Demosthenes, which Lord Brougham naturally used a little in his own labors
on that theme, there may be traced several peculiarities of diction that
startle us in Junius. Sir P. had them from his father. And Lord Brougham
ought not to have overlooked them. The same thing may be seen in the notes
to Dr. Francis's translation of Horace. These points, though not
_independently_ of much importance, become far more so in combination
with others. The reply made to me once by a publisher of some eminence
upon this question, was the best fitted to lower Mr. Taylor's
investigation with a _stranger_ to the long history of the dispute.
'I feel,' he said, 'the impregnability of the case made out by Mr. Taylor.
But the misfortune is, that I have seen so many previous impregnable cases
made out for other claimants.' Ay, that _would_ be unfortunate. But
the misfortune for this repartee was, that I, for whose use it was
intended, not being in the predicament of a _stranger_ to the dispute,
having seen every page of the pleadings, knew all (except Mr. Taylor's) to
be false in their statements; after which their arguments signified


Every thing in our days is new. _Roads_, for instance, which, being
formerly 'of the earth earthy,' and therefore perishable, are now iron,
and next door to being immortal; _tragedies_, which are so entirely
new, that neither we nor our fathers, through eighteen hundred and ninety
odd years, gone by, since Caesar did our little island the honor to sit
upon its skirts, have ever seen the like to this 'Antigone;' and, finally,
even more new are _readers_, who, being once an obedient race of men,
most humble and deferential in the presence of a Greek scholar, are now
become intractably mutinous; keep their hats on whilst he is addressing
them; and listen to him or not, as he seems to talk sense or nonsense.
Some there are, however, who look upon all these new things as being
intensely old. Yet, surely the railroads are new? No; not at all. Talus,
the iron man in Spenser, who continually ran round the island of Crete,
administering gentle warning and correction to offenders, by flooring them
with an iron flail, was a very ancient personage in Greek fable; and the
received opinion is, that he must have been a Cretan railroad, called The
Great Circular Coast-Line, that carried my lords the judges on their
circuits of jail-delivery. The 'Antigone,' again, that wears the freshness
of morning dew, and is so fresh and dewy in the beautiful person of Miss
Faucit, had really begun to look faded on the Athenian stage, and even 'of
a certain age,' about the death of Pericles, whose meridian year was the
year 444 before Christ. Lastly, these modern _readers_, that are so
obstinately rebellious to the once Papal authority of Greek, they--No; on
consideration, they _are_ new. Antiquity produced many monsters, but
none like _them_.

The truth is, that this vast multiplication of readers, within the last
twenty-five years, has changed the prevailing character of readers. The
minority has become the overwhelming majority: the quantity has disturbed
the quality. Formerly, out of every five readers, at least four were, in
some degree, classical scholars: or, if _that_ would be saying too
much, if two of the four had 'small Latin and less Greek,' they were
generally connected with those who had more, or at the worst, who had much
reverence for Latin, and more reverence for Greek. If they did not all
share in the services of the temple, all, at least, shared in the
superstition. But, now-a-days, the readers come chiefly from a class of
busy people who care very little for ancestral crazes. Latin they have
heard of, and some of them know it as a good sort of industrious language,
that even, in modern times, has turned out many useful books,
astronomical, medical, philosophical, and (as Mrs. Malaprop observes)
diabolical; but, as to Greek, they think of it as of an ancient mummy: you
spend an infinity of time in unswathing it from its old dusty wrappers,
and, when you have come to the end, what do you find for your pains? A
woman's face, or a baby's, that certainly is not the better for being
three thousand years old; and perhaps a few ears of wheat, stolen from
Pharaoh's granary; which wheat, when sown [1] in Norfolk or Mid-Lothian,
reaped, thrashed, ground, baked, and hunted through all sorts of tortures,
yields a breakfast roll that (as a Scottish baker observed to me) is 'not
just _that_ bad.' Certainly not: not exactly '_that_ bad;' not worse than
the worst of our own; but still, much fitter for Pharaoh's breakfast-table
than for ours.

I, for my own part, stand upon an isthmus, connecting me, at one terminus,
with the rebels against Greek, and, at the other, with those against whom
they are in rebellion. On the one hand, it seems shocking to me, who am
steeped to the lips in antique prejudices, that Greek, in unlimited
quantities, should not secure a limited privilege of talking nonsense. Is
all reverence extinct for old, and ivy-mantled, and worm-eaten things?
Surely, if your own grandmother lectures on morals, which perhaps now and
then she does, she will command that reverence from you, by means of her
grandmotherhood, which by means of her ethics she might _not_. To be
a good Grecian, is now to be a faded potentate; a sort of phantom Mogul,
sitting at Delhi, with an English sepoy bestriding his shoulders. Matched
against the master of _ologies_, in our days, the most accomplished
of Grecians is becoming what the 'master of sentences' had become long
since, in competition with the political economist. Yet, be assured,
reader, that all the 'ologies' hitherto christened oology, ichthyology,
ornithology, conchology, palaeodontology, &c., do not furnish such mines
of labor as does the Greek language when thoroughly searched. The
'Mithridates' of Adelung, improved by the commentaries of Vater and of
subsequent authors, numbers up about four thousand languages and jargons
on our polyglot earth; not including the chuckling of poultry, nor
caterwauling, nor barking, howling, braying, lowing, nor other respectable
and ancient dialects, that perhaps have their elegant and their vulgar
varieties, as well as prouder forms of communication. But my impression
is, that the Greek, taken by itself, this one exquisite language,
considered as a quarry of _intellectual_ labor, has more work in it,
is more truly a _piece de resistance_, than all the remaining three
thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, with caterwauling thrown into the
bargain. So far I side with the Grecian, and think that he ought to be
honored with a little genuflexion. Yet, on the other hand, the finest
sound on this earth, and which rises like an orchestra above all the
uproars of earth, and the Babels of earthly languages, is truth--absolute
truth; and the hatefulest is conscious falsehood. Now, there _is_
falsehood, nay (which seems strange), even sycophancy, in the old
undistinguishing homage to all that is called classical. Yet why should
men be sycophants in cases where they _must_ be disinterested? Sycophancy
grows out of fear, or out of mercenary self-interest. But what can there
exist of either pointing to an old Greek poet? Cannot a man give his free
opinion upon Homer, without fearing to be waylaid by his ghost? But it is
not _that_ which startles him from publishing the secret demur which his
heart prompts, upon hearing false praises of a Greek poet, or praises
which, if not false, are extravagant. What he fears, is the scorn of his
contemporaries. Let once a party have formed itself considerable enough to
protect a man from the charge of presumption in throwing off the yoke of
_servile_ allegiance to all that is called classical,--let it be a party
ever so small numerically, and the rebels will soon be many. What a man
fears is, to affront the whole storm of indignation, real and affected, in
his own solitary person. 'Goth!' 'Vandal!' he hears from every side. Break
that storm by dividing it, and he will face its anger. 'Let me be a Goth,'
he mutters to himself, 'but let me not dishonor myself by affecting an
enthusiasm which my heart rejects!'

Ever since the restoration of letters there has been a cabal, an academic
interest, a factious league amongst universities, and learned bodies, and
individual scholars, for exalting as something superterrestrial, and quite
unapproachable by moderns, the monuments of Greek literature. France, in
the time of Louis XIV., England, in the latter part of that time; in fact,
each country as it grew polished at some cost of strength, carried this
craze to a dangerous excess--dangerous as all things false are dangerous,
and depressing to the aspirations of genius. Boileau, for instance, and
Addison, though neither [2] of them accomplished in scholarship, nor
either of them extensively read in _any_ department of the classic
literature, speak every where of the classics as having notoriously, and
by the general confession of polished nations, carried the functions of
poetry and eloquence to that sort of faultless beauty which probably does
_really_ exist in the Greek sculpture. There are few things perfect
in this world of frailty. Even lightning is sometimes a failure: Niagara
has horrible faults; and Mont Blanc might be improved by a century of
chiselling from judicious artists. Such are the works of blind elements,
which (poor things!) cannot improve by experience. As to man who
_does_, the sculpture of the Greeks in their marbles and sometimes in
their gems, seems the only act of _his_ workmanship which has hit the
bull's eye in the target at which we are all aiming. Not so, with
permission from Messrs. Boileau and Addison, the Greek literature. The
faults in this are often conspicuous; nor are they likely to be hidden for
the coming century, as they have been for the three last. The idolatry
will be shaken: as _idols_, some of the classic models are destined
to totter: and I foresee, without gifts of prophecy, that many laborers
will soon be in this field--many idoloclasts, who will expose the signs of
disease, which zealots had interpreted as power; and of weakness, which is
not the less real because scholars had fancied it health, nor the less
injurious to the total effect because it was inevitable under the
accidents of the Grecian position.

Meantime, I repeat, that to disparage any thing whatever, or to turn the
eye upon blemishes, is no part of my present purpose. Nor could it be:
since the one sole section of the Greek literature, as to which I profess
myself an enthusiast, happens to be the tragic drama; and here, only, I
myself am liable to be challenged as an idolater. As regards the Antigone
in particular, so profoundly do I feel the impassioned beauty of her
situation in connection with her character, that long ago, in a work of my
own (yet unpublished), having occasion (by way of overture introducing one
of the sections) to cite before the reader's eye the chief pomps of the
Grecian theatre, after invoking 'the magnificent witch' Medea, I call up
Antigone to this shadowy stage by the apostrophe, Holy heathen, daughter
of God, before God was known, [3] flower from Paradise after Paradise was
closed; that quitting all things for which flesh languishes, safety and
honor, a palace and a home, didst make thyself a houseless pariah, lest
the poor pariah king, thy outcast father, should want a hand to lead him
in his darkness, or a voice to whisper comfort in his misery; angel, that
badst depart for ever the glories of thy own bridal day, lest he that had
shared thy nursery in childhood, should want the honors of a funeral;
idolatrous, yet Christian Lady, that in the spirit of martyrdom trodst
alone the yawning billows of the grave, flying from earthly hopes, lest
everlasting despair should settle upon the grave of thy brother,' &c. In
fact, though all the groupings, and what I would call permanent attitudes
of the Grecian stage, are majestic, there is none that, to my mind, towers
into such affecting grandeur, as this final revelation, through Antigone
herself, and through her own dreadful death, of the tremendous wo that
destiny had suspended over her house. If therefore my business had been
chiefly with the individual drama, I should have found little room for any
sentiment but that of profound admiration. But my present business is
different: it concerns the Greek drama generally, and the attempt to
revive it; and its object is to elucidate, rather than to praise or to
blame. To explain this better, I will describe two things:--1st, The sort
of audience that I suppose myself to be addressing; and, 2dly, As growing
out of _that_, the particular quality of the explanations which I wish to

1st, As to the audience: in order to excuse the tone (which occasionally I
may be obliged to assume) of one speaking as from a station of knowledge,
to others having no knowledge, I beg it to be understood, that I take that
station deliberately, on no conceit of superiority to my readers, but as a
companion adapting my services to the wants of those who need them. I am
not addressing those already familiar with the Greek drama, but those who
frankly confess, and (according to their conjectural appreciation of it)
who regret their non-familiarity with that drama. It is a thing well known
to publishers, through remarkable results, and is now showing itself on a
scale continually widening, that a new literary public has arisen, very
different from any which existed at the beginning of this century. The
aristocracy of the land have always been, in a moderate degree, literary;
less, however, in connection with the _current_ literature, than with
literature generally--past as well as present. And this is a tendency
naturally favored and strengthened in _them_, by the fine collections
of books, carried forward through successive generations, which are so
often found as a sort of hereditary foundation in the country mansions of
our nobility. But a class of readers, prodigiously more extensive, has
formed itself within the commercial orders of our great cities and
manufacturing districts. These orders range through a large scale. The
highest classes amongst them were always literary. But the interest of
literature has now swept downwards through a vast compass of descents: and
this large body, though the busiest in the nation, yet, by having under
their undisturbed command such leisure time as they have _at all_ under
their command, are eventually able to read more than those even who
seem to have nothing else but leisure. In justice, however, to the
nobility of our land, it should be remembered, that their stations in
society, and their wealth, their territorial duties, and their various
public duties in London, as at court, at public meetings, in parliament,
&c., bring crowded claims upon their time; whilst even sacrifices of time
to the graceful courtesies of life, are in reference to _their_ stations,
a sort of secondary duties. These allowances made, it still remains true
that the busier classes are the main reading classes; whilst from their
immense numbers, they are becoming effectually the body that will more and
more impress upon the moving literature its main impulse and direction.
One other feature of difference there is amongst this commercial class of
readers: amongst the aristocracy all are thoroughly educated, excepting
those who go at an early age into the army; of the commercial body, none
receive an elaborate, and what is meant by a liberal education, except
those standing by their connections in the richest classes. Thus it
happens that, amongst those who have not inherited but achieved their
stations, many men of fine and powerful understandings, accomplished in
manners, and admirably informed, not having had the benefits when young of
a regular classical education, find (upon any accident bringing up such
subjects) a deficiency which they do not find on other subjects. They are
too honorable to undervalue advantages, which they feel to be
considerable, simply because they were denied to themselves. They regret
their loss. And yet it seems hardly worth while, on a simple prospect of
contingencies that may never be realized, to undertake an entirely new
course of study for redressing this loss. But they would be glad to avail
themselves of any useful information not exacting study. These are the
persons, this is the class, to which I address my remarks on the
'Antigone;' and out of _their_ particular situation, suggesting upon all
elevated subjects a corresponding tone of liberal curiosity, will arise
the particular nature and direction of these remarks.

Accordingly, I presume, secondly, that this curiosity will take the
following course:--these persons will naturally wish to know, at starting,
what there is _differentially_ interesting in a Grecian tragedy, as
contrasted with one of Shakspeare's or of Schiller's: in what respect, and
by what agencies, a Greek tragedy affects us, or is meant to affect us,
otherwise than as _they_ do; and how far the Antigone of Sophocles was
judiciously chosen as the particular medium for conveying to British minds
a first impression, and a representative impression, of Greek tragedy. So
far, in relation to the ends proposed, and the means selected. Finally,
these persons will be curious to know the issue of such an experiment. Let
the purposes and the means have been bad or good, what was the actual
success? And not merely success, in the sense of the momentary acceptance
by half a dozen audiences, whom the mere decencies of justice must have
compelled to acknowledge the manager's trouble and expense on their
behalf; but what was the degree of satisfaction felt by students of the
Athenian [4] tragedy, in relation to their long-cherished ideal? Did the
representation succeed in realizing, for a moment, the awful pageant of
the Athenian stage? Did Tragedy, in Milton's immortal expression,

   ------come sweeping by
  In sceptred pall?

Or was the whole, though successful in relation to the thing attempted, a
failure in relation to what ought to have been attempted? Such are the
questions to be answered.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first elementary idea of a Greek tragedy, is to be sought in a serious
Italian opera. The Greek dialogue is represented by the recitative, and
the tumultuous lyrical parts assigned chiefly, though not exclusively, to
the chorus on the Greek stage, are represented by the impassioned airs,
duos, trios, choruses, &c. on the Italian. And there, at the very outset,
occurs a question which lies at the threshold of a Fine Art,--that is of
_any_ Fine Art: for had the views of Addison upon the Italian opera had
the least foundation in truth, there could have been no room or opening
for any mode of imitation except such as belongs to a _mechanic_ art.

The reason for at all connecting Addison with this case is, that _he_
chiefly was the person occupied in assailing the Italian opera; and this
hostility arose, probably, in his want of sensibility to good (that is, to
Italian) music.  But whatever might be his motive for the hostility, the
single argument by which he supported it was this,--that a hero ought not
to sing upon the stage, because no hero known to history ever summoned a
garrison in a song, or changed a battery in a semichorus. In this argument
lies an ignorance of the very first principle concern in _every_ Fine
Art. In all alike, more or less directly, the object is to reproduce in
mind some great effect, through the agency of _idem in alio_. The
_idem_, the same impression, is to be restored; but _in alio_, in a
different material,--by means of some different instrument. For instance,
on the Roman stage there was an art, now entirely lost, of narrating, and,
in part of dramatically representing an impassioned tale, by means of
dancing, of musical accompaniment in the orchestra, and of elaborate
pantomime in the performer. _Saltavit Hypermnestram_, he danced (that is,
he represented by dancing and pantomime the story of) Hypermnestra. Now,
suppose a man to object, that young ladies, when saving their youthful
husbands at midnight from assassination, could not be capable of waltzing
or quadrilling, how wide is this of the whole problem! This is still
seeking for the _mechanic_ imitation, some imitation founded in the very
fact; whereas the object is to seek the imitation in the sameness of the
impression drawn from a different, or even from an impossible fact. If a
man, taking a hint from the Roman 'Saltatio' (_saltavit Andromachen_),
should say that he would 'whistle Waterloo,' that is, by whistling
connected with pantomime, would express the passion and the changes of
Waterloo, it would be monstrous to refuse him his postulate on the
pretence that 'people did not whistle at Waterloo.' Precisely so: neither
are most people made of marble, but of a material as different as can well
be imagined, viz. of elastic flesh, with warm blood coursing along its
tubes; and yet, for all _that_, a sculptor will draw tears from you, by
exhibiting, in pure statuary marble, on a sepulchral monument, two young
children with their little heads on a pillow, sleeping in each other's
arms; whereas, if he had presented them in wax-work, which yet is far more
like to flesh, you would have felt little more pathos in the scene than if
they had been shown baked in gilt gingerbread. He has expressed the
_idem_, the identical thing expressed in the real children; the sleep that
masks death, the rest, the peace, the purity, the innocence; but _in
alio_, in a substance the most different; rigid, non-elastic, and as
unlike to flesh, if tried by touch, or eye, or by experience of life, as
can well be imagined. So of the whistling. It is the very worst objection
in the world to say, that the strife of Waterloo did not reveal itself
through whistling: undoubtedly it did not; but that is the very ground of
the man's art. He will reproduce the fury and the movement as to the only
point which concerns you, viz. the effect, upon your own sympathies,
through a language that seems without any relation to it: he will set
before you what _was_ at Waterloo through that which was _not_ at
Waterloo. Whereas any direct factual imitation, resting upon painted
figures drest up in regimentals, and worked by watchwork through the whole
movements of the battle, would have been no art whatsoever in the sense of
a Fine Art, but a base _mechanic_ mimicry.

This principle of the _idem in alio_, so widely diffused through all
the higher revelations of art, it is peculiarly requisite to bear in mind
when looking at Grecian tragedy, because no form of human composition
employs it in so much complexity. How confounding it would have been to
Addison, if somebody had told him, that, substantially, he had himself
committed the offence (as he fancied it) which he charged so bitterly upon
the Italian opera; and that, if the opera had gone farther upon that road
than himself, the Greek tragedy, which he presumed to be so prodigiously
exalted beyond modern approaches, had gone farther even than the opera.
Addison himself, when writing a tragedy, made this violation (as he would
have said) of nature, made this concession (as _I_ should say) to a
higher nature, that he compelled his characters to talk in metre. It is
true this metre was the common iambic, which (as Aristotle remarks) is the
most natural and spontaneous of all metres; and, for a sufficient reason,
in all languages. Certainly; but Aristotle never meant to say that it was
natural for a gentleman in a passion to talk threescore and ten iambics
_consecutively_: a chance line might escape him once and away; as we
know that Tacitus opened one of his works by a regular dactylic hexameter
in full curl, without ever discovering it to his dying day (a fact which
is clear from his never having corrected it); and this being a very
artificial metre, _a fortiori_ Tacitus might have slipped into a simple
iambic. But that was an accident, whilst Addison had deliberately
and uniformly made his characters talk in verse. According to the common
and false meaning [which was his own meaning] of the word nature, he had
as undeniably violated the principle of the _natural_, by this metrical
dialogue, as the Italian opera by musical dialogue. If it is hard and
trying for men to sing their emotions, not less so it must be to deliver
them in verse.

But, if this were shocking, how much more shocking would it have seemed to
Addison, had he been introduced to parts which really exist in the Grecian
drama? Even Sophocles, who, of the three tragic poets surviving from the
wrecks of the Athenian stage, is reputed the supreme _artist_ [5] if
not the most impassioned poet, with what horror he would have overwhelmed
Addison, when read by the light of those principles which he had himself
so scornfully applied to the opera! In the very monsoon of his raving
misery, from calamities as sudden as they were irredeemable, a king is
introduced, not only conversing, but conversing in metre; not only in
metre, but in the most elaborate of choral metres; not only under the
torture of these lyric difficulties, but also chanting; not only chanting,
but also in all probability dancing. What do you think of _that_, Mr.

There is, in fact, a scale of graduated ascents in these artifices for
unrealizing the effects of dramatic situations:

1. We may see, even in novels and prose comedies, a keen attention paid to
the inspiriting and _dressing_ of the dialogue: it is meant to be life-
like, but still it is a little raised, pointed, colored, and idealized.

2. In comedy of a higher and more poetic cast, we find the dialogue

3. In comedy or in tragedy alike, which is meant to be still further
removed from ordinary life, we find the dialogue fettered not only by
metre, but by _rhyme_. We need not go to Dryden, and others, of our
own middle stage, or to the French stage for this: even in Shakspeare, as
for example, in parts of Romeo and Juliet (and for no capricious purpose),
we may see effects sought from the use of rhyme. There is another
illustration of the idealizing effect to be obtained from a particular
treatment of the dialogue, seen in the Hamlet of Shakspeare. In that drama
there arises a necessity for exhibiting a play within a play. This
interior drama is to be further removed from the spectator than the
principal drama; it is a deep below a deep; and, to produce that effect,
the poet relies chiefly upon the stiffening the dialogue, and removing it
still farther, than the general dialogue of the _including_ or _outside_
drama, from the standard of ordinary life.

4. We find, superadded to these artifices for idealizing the situations,
even music of an intermitting character, sometimes less, sometimes more
impassioned--recitatives, airs, choruses. Here we have reached the Italian

5. And, finally, besides all these resources of art, we find dancing
introduced; but dancing of a solemn, mystical, and symbolic character.
Here, at last, we have reached the Greek tragedy. Probably the best
exemplification of a Grecian tragedy that ever _will_ be given to a
modern reader is found in the Samson Agonistes of Milton. Now, in the
choral or lyric parts of this fine drama, Samson not only talks, 1st,
metrically ( as he does every where, and in the most level parts of the
scenic business), but, 2d, in very intricate metres, and, 3d, occasionally
in _rhymed_ metres (though the rhymes are too sparingly and too
capriciously scattered by Milton), and, 4th, _singing_ or chanting
these metres (for, as the chorus sang, it was impossible that _he_
could be allowed to talk in his ordinary voice, else he would have put
them out, and ruined the music). Finally, 5th, I am satisfied that Milton
meant him to _dance_. The office of the _chorus_ was imperfectly
defined upon the Greek stage. They are generally understood to be the
_moralizers_ of the scene. But this is liable to exceptions. Some of
them have been known to do very bad things on the stage, and to come
within a trifle of felony: as to misprision of felony, if there _is_
such a crime, a Greek chorus thinks nothing of it. But that is no business
of mine. What I was going to say is, that, as the chorus sometimes
intermingles too much in the action, so the actors sometimes intermingle
in the business of the chorus. Now, when you are at Rome, you must do as
they do at Rome. And that the actor, who mixed with the chorus, was
compelled to sing, is a clear case; for _his_ part in the choral ode
is always in the nature of an echo, or answer, or like an _antiphony_
in cathedral services. But nothing could be more absurd than that one of
these antiphonies should be sung, and another said. That he was also
compelled to dance, I am satisfied. The chorus only _sometimes_
moralized, but it _always_ danced: and any actor, mingling with the
chorus, must dance also. A little incident occurs to my remembrance, from
the Moscow expedition of 1812, which may here be used as an illustration:
One day King Murat, flourishing his plumage as usual, made a gesture of
invitation to some squadrons of cavalry that they should charge the enemy:
upon which the cavalry advanced, but maliciously contrived to envelope the
king of dandies, before he had time to execute his ordinary manoeuvre of
riding off to the left and becoming a spectator of their prowess. The
cavalry resolved that his majesty should for once ride down at their head
to the melee, and taste what fighting was like; and he, finding that the
thing must be, though horribly vexed, made a merit of his necessity, and
afterwards pretended that he liked it very much. Sometimes, in the
darkness, in default of other misanthropic visions, the wickedness of this
cavalry, their _mechancete_, causes me to laugh immoderately. Now I
conceive that any interloper into the Greek chorus must have danced when
_they_ danced, or he would have been swept away by their impetus:
_nolens volens_, he must have rode along with the orchestral charge,
he must have rode on the crest of the choral billows, or he would have
been rode down by their impassioned sweep. Samson, and Oedipus, and
others, must have danced, if they sang; and they certainly _did_ sing, by
notoriously intermingling in the choral business.[6]

'But now,' says the plain English reader, 'what was the object of all
these elaborate devices? And how came it that the English tragedy, which
surely is as good as the Greek,' (and at this point a devil of defiance
whispers to him, like the quarrelsome servant of the Capulets or the
Montagus, 'say _better_,') 'that the English tragedy contented itself
with fewer of these artful resources than the Athenian?' I reply, that the
object of all these things was--to unrealize the scene. The English drama,
by its metrical dress, and by other arts more disguised, unrealized
itself, liberated itself from the oppression of life in its ordinary
standards, up to a certain height. Why it did not rise still higher, and
why the Grecian _did_, I will endeavor to explain. It was not that the
English tragedy was less impassioned; on the contrary, it was far more
so; the Greek being awful rather than impassioned; but the passion of each
is in a different key. It is not again that the Greek drama sought a lower
object than the English: it sought a different object. It is not imparity,
but disparity, that divides the two magnificent theatres.

Suffer me, reader, at this point, to borrow from my-self, and do not
betray me to the authorities that rule in this journal, if you happen to
know [which is not likely] that I am taking an idea from a paper which
years ago I wrote for an eminent literary journal. As I have no copy of
that paper before me, it is impossible that I should save myself any labor
of writing. The words at any rate I must invent afresh: and, as to the
idea, you never _can_ be such a churlish man as, by insisting on a new
one, in effect to insist upon my writing a false one. In the following
paragraph, therefore, I give the substance of a thought suggested by
myself some years ago.

That kind of feeling, which broods over the Grecian tragedy, and to court
which feeling the tragic poets of Greece naturally spread all their
canvas, was more nearly allied to the atmosphere of death than that of
life. This expresses rudely the character of awe and religious horror
investing the Greek theatre. But to my own feeling the different principle
of passion which governs the Grecian conception of tragedy, as compared
with the English, is best conveyed by saying that the Grecian is a
breathing from the world of sculpture, the English a breathing from the
world of painting. What we read in sculpture is not absolutely death, but
still less is it the fulness of life. We read there the abstraction of a
life that reposes, the sublimity of a life that aspires, the solemnity of
a life that is thrown to an infinite distance. This last is the feature of
sculpture which seems most characteristic: the form which presides in the
most commanding groups, 'is not dead but sleepeth:' true, but it is the
sleep of a life sequestrated, solemn, liberated from the bonds of space
and time, and (as to both alike) thrown  (I repeat the words) to a
distance which is infinite. It affects us profoundly, but not by
agitation. Now, on the other hand, the breathing life--life kindling,
trembling, palpitating--that life which speaks to us in painting, this is
also the life that speaks to us in English tragedy. Into an English
tragedy even festivals of joy may enter; marriages, and baptisms, or
commemorations of national trophies: which, or any thing _like_ which, is
incompatible with the very being of the Greek. In that tragedy what
uniformity of gloom; in the English what light alternating with depths of
darkness! The Greek, how mournful; the English, how tumultuous! Even the
catastrophes how different! In the Greek we see a breathless waiting for a
doom that cannot be evaded; a waiting, as it were, for the last shock of
an earthquake, or the inexorable rising of a deluge: in the English it is
like a midnight of shipwreck, from which up to the last and till the final
ruin comes, there still survives the sort of hope that clings to human

Connected with this original awfulness of the Greek tragedy, and possibly
in part its cause, or at least lending strength to its cause, we may next
remark the grand dimensions of the ancient theatres. Every citizen had a
right to accommodation. _There_ at once was a pledge of grandeur. Out
of this original standard grew the magnificence of many a future
amphitheatre, circus, hippodrome. Had the original theatre been merely a
speculation of private interest, then, exactly as demand arose, a
corresponding supply would have provided for it through its ordinary
vulgar channels; and this supply would have taken place through rival
theatres. But the crushing exaction of 'room for _every_ citizen,' put an
end to that process of subdivision. Drury Lane, as I read (or think
that I read) thirty years ago, allowed sitting room for three thousand
eight hundred people. Multiply _that_ by ten; imagine thirty-eight
thousand instead of thirty-eight hundred, and then you have an idea of the
Athenian theatre. [7]

Next, out of that grandeur in the architectural proportions arose, as by
necessity, other grandeurs. You are aware of the _cothurnus_, or buskin,
which raised the actor's heel by two and a half inches; and you think that
this must have caused a deformity in the general figure as incommensurate
to this height. Not at all. The flowing dress of Greece healed all _that_.

But, besides the _cothurnus_, you have heard of the mask. So far as
it was fitted to swell the intonations of the voice, you are of opinion
that this mask would be a happy contrivance; for what, you say, could a
common human voice avail against the vast radiation from the actor's
centre of more than three myriads? If, indeed (like the Homeric Stentor),
an actor spoke in point of loudness, (Greek Text), as much as other fifty,
then he might become audible to the assembled Athenians without aid. But
this being impossible, art must be invoked; and well if the mask, together
with contrivances of another class, could correct it. Yet if it could,
still you think that this mask would bring along with it an overbalancing
evil. For the expression, the fluctuating expression, of the features, the
play of the muscles, the music of the eye and of the lips,--aids to acting
that, in our times, have given immortality to scores, whither would those
have vanished? Reader, it mortifies me that all which I said to you upon
the peculiar and separate grandeur investing the Greek theatre is
forgotten. For, you must consider, that where a theatre is built for
receiving upwards of thirty thousand spectators, the curve described by
what in modern times you would call the tiers of boxes, must be so vast as
to make the ordinary scale of human features almost ridiculous by
disproportion. Seat yourself at this day in the amphitheatre at Verona,
and judge for yourself. In an amphitheatre, the stage, or properly the
arena, occupying, in fact, the place of our modern pit, was much nearer
than in a scenic theatre to the surrounding spectators. Allow for this,
and placing some adult in a station expressing the distance of the
Athenian stage, then judge by his appearance if the delicate pencilling of
Grecian features could have told at the Grecian distance. But even if it
could, then I say that this circumstantiality would have been hostile to
the general tendencies (as already indicated) of the Grecian drama. The
sweeping movement of the Attic tragedy _ought_ not to admit of
interruption from _distinct_ human features; the expression of an
eye, the loveliness of a smile, _ought_ to be lost amongst effects so
colossal. The mask aggrandized the features: even so far it acted
favorably. Then figure to yourself this mask presenting an idealized face
of the noblest Grecian outline, moulded by some skilful artist _Phidiaca
manu_, so as to have the effect of a marble bust; this accorded with
the aspiring _cothurnus_; and the motionless character impressed upon
the features, the marble tranquillity, would (I contend) suit the solemn
processional character of Athenian tragedy, far better than the most
expressive and flexible countenance on its natural scale. 'Yes,' you say,
on considering the character of the Greek drama, 'generally it might; in
forty-nine cases suppose out of fifty: but what shall be done in the
fiftieth, where some dreadful discovery or _anagnorisis_ (_i.e._
recognition of identity) takes place within the compass of a single line
or two; as, for instance, in the Oedipus Tyrannus, at the moment when
Oedipus by a final question of his own, extorts his first fatal discovery,
viz. that he had been himself unconsciously the murderer of Laius?' True,
he has no reason as yet to suspect that Laius was his own father; which
discovery, when made further on, will draw with it another still more
dreadful, viz. that by this parricide he had opened his road to a throne,
and to a marriage with his father's widow, who was also his own natural
mother. He does not yet know the worst: and to have killed an arrogant
prince, would not in those days have seemed a very deep offence: but then
he believes that the pestilence had been sent as a secret vengeance for
this assassination, which is thus invested with a mysterious character of
horror. Just at this point, Jocasta, his mother and his wife, says, [8] on
witnessing the sudden revulsion of feeling in his face, 'I shudder, oh
king, when looking on thy countenance.' Now, in what way could this
passing spasm of horror be reconciled with the unchanging expression in
the marble-looking mask? This, and similar cases to this, must surely be
felt to argue a defect in the scenic apparatus. But I say, no: first,
Because the general indistinctiveness from distance is a benefit that
applies equally to the fugitive changes of the features and to their
permanent expression. You need not regret the loss through _absence_,
of an appearance that would equally, though present, have been lost
through _distance_. Secondly, The Greek actor had always the resource,
under such difficulties, of averting his face a resource sanctioned in
similar cases by the greatest of the Greek painters. Thirdly, The
voluminous draperies of the scenic dresses, and generally of the Greek
costume, made it an easy thing to muffle the features altogether by a
gesture most natural to sudden horror. Fourthly, We must consider
that there were no stage lights: but, on the contrary that the general
light of day was specially mitigated for that particular part of the
theatre; just as various architectural devices were employed to swell the
volume of sound. Finally. I repeat my sincere opinion, that the general
indistinctness of the expression was, on principles of taste, an
advantage, as harmonizing with the stately and sullen monotony of the
Greek tragedy. Grandeur in the attitudes, in the gestures, in the groups,
in the processions--all this was indispensable: but, on so vast a scale as
the mighty cartoons of the Greek stage, an Attic artist as little regarded
the details of physiognomy, as a great architect would regard, on the
frontispiece of a temple, the miniature enrichments that might be suitable
in a drawing-room.

With these views upon the Grecian theatre, and other views that it might
oppress the reader to dwell upon in this place, suddenly in December last
an opportunity dawned--a golden opportunity, gleaming for a moment amongst
thick clouds of impossibility that had gathered through three-and-twenty
centuries--for seeing a Grecian tragedy presented on a British stage, and
with the nearest approach possible to the beauty of those Athenian pomps
which Sophocles, which Phidias, which Pericles created, beautified,
promoted. I protest, when seeing the Edinburgh theatre's _programme_,
that a note dated from the Vatican would not have startled me more, though
sealed with the seal of the fisherman, and requesting the favor of my
company to take coffee with the Pope. Nay, less: for channels there were
through which I might have compassed a presentation to his Holiness; but
the daughter of Oedipus, the holy Antigone, could I have hoped to see her
'in the flesh?' This tragedy in an English version, [9] and with German
music, had first been placed before the eyes and ears of our countrymen at
Convent Garden during the winter of 1844--5. It was said to have
succeeded. And soon after a report sprang up, from nobody knew where, that
Mr. Murray meant to reproduce it in Edinburgh.

What more natural? Connected so nearly with the noblest house of scenic
artists that ever shook the hearts of nations, nobler than ever raised
undying echoes amidst the mighty walls of Athens, of Rome, of Paris, of
London,--himself a man of talents almost unparalleled for versatility,--
why should not Mr. Murray, always so liberal in an age so ungrateful to
_his_ profession, have sacrificed something to this occasion? He,
that sacrifices so much, why not sacrifice to the grandeur of the Antique?
I was then in Edinburgh, or in its neighborhood; and one morning, at a
casual assembly of some literary friends, present Professor Wilson,
Messrs. J. F., C. N., L. C., and others, advocates, scholars, lovers of
classical literature, we proposed two resolutions, of which the first was,
that the news was too good to be true. That passed _nem. con._; and
the second resolution was _nearly_ passing, viz. that a judgment would
certainly fall upon Mr. Murray, had a second report proved true, viz. that
not the Antigone, but a burlesque on the Antigone, was what he meditated
to introduce. This turned out false; [l0] the original report was suddenly
revived eight or ten months after. Immediately on the heels of the promise
the execution followed; and on the last (which I believe was the seventh)
representation of the Antigone, I prepared myself to attend.

It had been generally reported as characteristic of myself, that in
respect to all coaches, steamboats, railroads, wedding-parties, baptisms,
and so forth, there was a fatal necessity of my being a trifle too late.
Some malicious fairy, not invited to my own baptism, was supposed to have
endowed me with this infirmity. It occurred to me that for once in my life
I would show the scandalousness of such a belief by being a trifle too
soon, say, three minutes. And no name more lovely for inaugurating such a
change, no memory with which I could more willingly connect any
reformation, than thine, dear, noble Antigone! Accordingly, because a
certain man (whose name is down in my pocket-book for no good) had told me
that the doors of the theatre opened at half-past six, whereas, in fact,
they opened at seven, there was I, if you please, freezing in the little
colonnade of the theatre precisely as it wanted six-and-a-half minutes to
seven,--six-and-a-half minutes observe too soon. Upon which this son of
absurdity coolly remarked, that, if he had not set me half-an-hour
forward, by my own showing, I should have been twenty-three-and-a-half
minutes too late. What sophistry! But thus it happened (namely, through
the wickedness of this man), that, upon entering the theatre, I found
myself like Alexander Selkirk, in a frightful solitude, or like a single
family of Arabs gathering at sunset about a solitary coffee-pot in the
boundless desert. Was there an echo raised? it was from my own steps. Did
any body cough? it was too evidently myself. I was the audience; I was the
public. And, if any accident happened to the theatre, such as being burned
down, Mr. Murray would certainly lay the blame upon me. My business
meantime, as a critic, was--to find out the most malicious seat,
_i.e._ the seat from which all things would take the most unfavorable
aspect. I could not suit myself in this respect; however bad a situation
might seem, I still fancied some other as promising to be worse. And I was
not sorry when an audience, by mustering in strength through all parts of
the house, began to divide my responsibility as to burning down the
building, and, at the same time, to limit the caprices of my distracted
choice. At last, and precisely at half-past seven, the curtain drew up; a
thing not strictly correct on a Grecian stage. But in theatres, as in
other places, one must forget and forgive. Then the music began, of which
in a moment. The overture slipped out at one ear, as it entered the other,
which, with submission to Mr. Mendelssohn, is a proof that it must be
horribly bad; for, if ever there lived a man that in music can neither
forget nor forgive, that man is myself. Whatever is very good never
perishes from my remembrance,--that is, sounds in my ears by intervals for
ever,--and for whatever is bad, I consign the author, in my wrath, to his
own conscience, and to the tortures of his own discords. The most
villanous things, however, have one merit; they are transitory as the best
things; and _that_ was true of the overture: it perished. Then, suddenly,
--oh, heavens! what a revelation of beauty!--forth stepped, walking in
brightness, the most faultless of Grecian marbles, Miss Helen Faucit as
Antigone. What perfection of Athenian sculpture! the noble figure, the
lovely arms, the fluent drapery! What an unveiling of the ideal
statuesque! Is it Hebe? is it Aurora? is it a goddess that moves before
us? Perfect she is in form; perfect in attitude;

  'Beautiful exceedingly,
  Like a ladie from a far countrie.'

Here was the redeeming jewel of the performance. It flattered one's
patriotic feelings, to see this noble young countrywoman realizing so
exquisitely, and restoring to our imaginations, the noblest of Grecian
girls. We critics, dispersed through the house, in the very teeth of duty
and conscience, all at one moment unanimously fell in love with Miss
Faucit. We felt in our remorse, and did not pretend to deny, that our duty
was--to be savage. But when was the voice of duty listened to in the first
uproars of passion? One thing I regretted, viz. that from the
indistinctness of my sight for distant faces, I could not accurately
discriminate Miss Faucit's features; but I was told by my next neighbor
that they were as true to the antique as her figure. Miss Faucit's voice
is fine and impassioned, being deep for a female voice; but in this organ
lay also the only blemish of her personation. In her last scene, which is
injudiciously managed by the Greek poet,--too long by much, and perhaps
misconceived in the modern way of understanding it,--her voice grew too
husky to execute the cadences of the intonations: yet, even in this scene,
her fall to the ground, under the burden of her farewell anguish, was in a
high degree sculpturesque through the whole succession of its stages.

Antigone in the written drama, and still more in the personated drama,
draws all thoughts so entirely to herself, as to leave little leisure for
examining the other parts; and, under such circumstances, the first
impulse of a critic's mind is, that he ought to massacre all the rest
indiscriminately; it being clearly his duty to presume every thing bad
which he is not unwillingly forced to confess good, or concerning which he
retains no distinct recollection. But I, after the first glory of
Antigone's _avatar_ had subsided, applied myself to consider the general
'setting' of this Theban jewel. Creon, whom the Greek tragic poets take
delight in describing as a villain, has very little more to do (until
his own turn comes for grieving), than to tell Antigone, by minute-guns,
that die she must. 'Well, uncle, don't say that so often,' is the answer
which, secretly, the audience whispers to Antigone. Our uncle grows
tedious; and one wishes at last that he himself could be 'put up the
spout.' Mr. Glover, from the sepulchral depth of his voice, gave effect to
the odious Creontic menaces; and, in the final lamentations over the dead
body of Haemon, being a man of considerable intellectual power, Mr. Glover
drew the part into a prominence which it is the fault of Sophocles to have
authorized in that situation; for the closing sympathies of the spectator
ought not to be diverted, for a moment, from Antigone.

But the chorus, how did _they_ play their part? Mainly _their_ part must
have always depended on the character of the music: even at Athens, that
must have been very much the case, and at Edinburgh altogether, because
dancing on the Edinburgh stage there was none. How came _that_ about? For
the very word, 'orchestral,' suggests to a Greek ear _dancing_, as the
leading element in the choral functions. Was it because dancing with us is
never used mystically and symbolically never used in our religious
services? Still it would have been possible to invent solemn and intricate
dances, that might have appeared abundantly significant, if expounded by
impassioned music. But that music of Mendelssohn!--like it I cannot. Say
not that Mendelssohn is a great composer. He _is_ so. But here he was
voluntarily abandoning the resources of his own genius, and the support of
his divine art, in quest of a chimera: that is, in quest of a thing called
Greek music, which for _us_ seems far more irrecoverable than the 'Greek
fire.' I myself, from an early date, was a student of this subject. I read
book after book upon it; and each successive book sank me lower into
darkness, until I had so vastly improved in ignorance, that I could myself
have written a quarto upon it, which all the world should not have found
it possible to understand. It should have taken three men to construe one
sentence. I confess, however, to not having yet seen the writings upon
this impracticable theme of Colonel Perronet Thompson. To write
experimental music for choruses that are to support the else meagre
outline of a Greek tragedy, will not do. Let experiments be tried upon
worthless subjects; and if this of Mendelssohn's be Greek music, the
sooner it takes itself off the better. Sophocles will be delivered from an
incubus, and we from an affliction of the auditory nerves.

It strikes me that I see the source of this music. We, that were learning
German some thirty years ago, must remember the noise made at that time
about Mendelssohn, the Platonic philosopher. And why? Was there any thing
particular in 'Der Phaedon,' on the immortality of the soul? Not at all;
it left us quite as mortal as it found us; and it has long since been
found mortal itself. Its venerable remains are still to be met with in
many worm-eaten trunks, pasted on the lids of which I have myself perused
a matter of thirty pages, except for a part that had been too closely
perused by worms. But the key to all the popularity of the Platonic
Mendelssohn, is to be sought in the whimsical nature of German liberality,
which, in those days, forced Jews into paying toll at the gates of cities,
under the title of 'swine,' but caressed their infidel philosophers. Now,
in this category of Jew and infidel, stood the author of 'Phaedon.' He was
certainly liable to toll as a hog; but, on the other hand, he was much
admired as one who despised the Pentateuch. Now _that_ Mendelssohn,
whose learned labors lined our trunks, was the father of _this_
Mendelssohn, whose Greek music afflicts our ears. Naturally, then, it
strikes me, that as 'papa' Mendelssohn attended the synagogue to save
appearances, the filial Mendelssohn would also attend it. I likewise
attended the synagogue now and then at Liverpool, and elsewhere. We all
three have been cruising in the same latitudes; and, trusting to my own
remembrances, I should pronounce that Mendelssohn has stolen his Greek
music from the synagogue. There was, in the first chorus of the
'Antigone,' one sublime ascent (and once repeated) that rang to heaven: it
might have entered into the music of Jubal's lyre, or have glorified the
timbrel of Miriam. All the rest, tried by the deep standard of my own
feeling, that clamors for the impassioned in music, even as the daughter
of the horse-leech says, 'Give, give,' is as much without meaning as most
of the Hebrew chanting that I heard at the Liverpool synagogue. I advise
Mr. Murray, in the event of his ever reviving the 'Antigone,' to make the
chorus sing the Hundredth Psalm, rather than Mendelssohn's music; or,
which would be better still, to import from Lancashire the Handel chorus-

But then, again, whatever change in the music were made, so as to 'better
the condition' of the poor audience, something should really be done to
'better the condition' of the poor chorus. Think of these worthy men, in
their white and skyblue liveries, kept standing the whole evening; no
seats allowed, no dancing; no tobacco; nothing to console them but
Antigone's beauty; and all this in our climate, latitude fifty-five
degrees, 30th of December, and Fahrenheit groping about, I don't pretend
to know where, but clearly on his road down to the wine cellar. Mr.
Murray, I am perfectly sure, is too liberal to have grudged the expense,
if he could have found any classic precedent for treating the chorus to a
barrel of ale. Ale, he may object, is an unclassical tipple; but perhaps
not. Xenophon, the most Attic of prose writers, mentions pointedly in his
_Anabasis_, that the Ten Thousand, when retreating through snowy
mountains, and in circumstances very like our General Elphinstone's
retreat from Cabul, came upon a considerable stock of bottled ale. To be
sure, the poor ignorant man calls it _barley wine_, [Greek: _oitos
chrithinos_:] but the flavor was found so perfectly classical that not
one man of the ten thousand, not even the Attic bee himself, is reported
to have left any protest against it, or indeed to have left much of the

But stop: perhaps I am intruding upon other men's space. Speaking,
therefore, now finally to the principal question, How far did this
memorable experiment succeed? I reply, that, in the sense of realizing all
that the joint revivers proposed to realize, it succeeded; and failed only
where these revivers had themselves failed to comprehend the magnificent
tendencies of Greek tragedy, or where the limitations of our theatres,
arising out of our habits and social differences, had made it impossible
to succeed. In London, I believe that there are nearly thirty theatres,
and many more, if every place of amusement (not bearing the technical name
of _theatre_) were included. All these must be united to compose a
building such as that which received the vast audiences, and consequently
the vast spectacles, of some ancient cities. And yet, from a great mistake
in our London and Edinburgh attempts to imitate the stage of the Greek
theatres, little use was made of such advantages as really _were_ at
our disposal. The possible depth of the Edinburgh stage was not laid open.
Instead of a regal hall in Thebes, I protest I took it for the boudoir of
Antigone. It was painted in light colors, an error which was abominable,
though possibly meant by the artist (but quite unnecessarily) as a proper
ground for relieving the sumptuous dresses of the leading performers. The
doors of entrance and exit were most unhappily managed. As to the dresses,
those of Creon, of his queen, and of the two loyal sisters, were good:
chaste, and yet princely. The dress of the chorus was as bad as bad as
could be: a few surplices borrowed from Episcopal chapels, or rather the
ornamented _albes_, &c. from any rich Roman Catholic establishment,
would have been more effective. The _Coryphaeus_ himself seemed, to
my eyes, no better than a railway laborer, fresh from tunnelling or
boring, and wearing a _blouse_ to hide his working dress. These ill-
used men ought to 'strike' for better clothes, in case Antigone should
again revisit the glimpses of an Edinburgh moon; and at the same time they
might mutter a hint about the ale. But the great hindrances to a perfect
restoration of a Greek tragedy, lie in peculiarities of our theatres that
cannot be removed, because bound up with their purposes. I suppose that
Salisbury Plain would seem too vast a theatre: but at least a cathedral
would be required in dimensions, York Minster or Cologne. Lamp-light gives
to us some advantages which the ancients had not. But much art would be
required to train and organize the lights and the masses of superincumbent
gloom, that should be such as to allow no calculation of the dimensions
overhead. Aboriginal night should brood over the scene, and the sweeping
movements of the scenic groups: bodily expression should be given to the
obscure feeling of that dark power which moved in ancient tragedy: and we
should be made to know why it is that, with the one exception of the
_Persae_, founded on the second Persian invasion, [11] in which
Aeschylus, the author, was personally a combatant, and therefore a
_contemporary_, not one of the thirty-four Greek tragedies surviving,
but recedes into the dusky shades of the heroic, or even fabulous times.

A failure, therefore, I think the 'Antigone,' in relation to an object
that for us is unattainable; but a failure worth more than many ordinary
successes. We are all deeply indebted to Mr. Murray's liberality, in two
senses; to his liberal interest in the noblest section of ancient
literature, and to his liberal disregard of expense. To have seen a
Grecian play is a great remembrance. To have seen Miss Helen Faucit's
Antigone, were _that_ all, with her bust, [Greek: _os agalmatos_] [12] and
her uplifted arm 'pleading against unjust tribunals,' is worth--what is it
worth? Worth the money? How mean a thought! To see _Helen_, to see Helen
of Greece, was the chief prayer of Marlow's Dr. Faustus; the chief gift
which he exacted from the fiend. To see Helen of Greece? Dr. Faustus, we
_have_ seen her: Mr. Murray is the Mephistopheles that showed her to us.
It was cheap at the price of a journey to Siberia, and is the next best
thing to having seen Waterloo at sunset on the 18th of June, 1815. [13]


[1] '_When sown_;' as it has been repeatedly; a fact which some
readers may not be aware of.

[2] Boileau, it is true, translated Longinus. But there goes little Greek
to _that_. It is in dealing with Attic Greek, and Attic _poets_,
that a man can manifest his Grecian skill.

[3] 'Before God was known;'--i.e. known in Greece.

[4] At times, I say pointedly, the _Athenian_ rather than the
_Grecian_ tragedy, in order to keep the reader's attention awake to a
remark made by Paterculus,--viz. That although Greece coquettishly
welcomed homage to herself, as generally concerned in the Greek
literature, in reality Athens only had any original share in the drama, or
in the oratory of Greece.

[5] '_The supreme artist_:'--It is chiefly by comparison with Euripides,
that Sophocles is usually crowned with the laurels of _art_. But there is
some danger of doing wrong to the truth in too blindly adhering to these
old rulings of critical courts. The judgments would sometimes be reversed,
if the pleadings were before us. There were blockheads in those days.
Undoubtedly it is past denying that Euripides at times betrays marks of
carelessness in the structure of his plots, as if writing too much in a
hurry: the original cast of the fable is sometimes not happy, and the
evolution or disentangling is too precipitate. It is easy to see that he
would have remoulded them in a revised edition, or _diaskeue [Greek.]_ On
the other hand, I remember nothing in the Greek drama more worthy of a
great artist than parts in his Phoenissae. Neither is he the effeminately
tender, or merely pathetic poet that some people imagine. He was able to
sweep _all_ the chords of the impassioned spirit. But the whole of this
subject is in arrear: it is in fact _res integra_, almost unbroken ground.

[6] I see a possible screw loose at this point: if _you_ see it, reader,
have the goodness to hold your tongue.

[7] '_Athenian Theatre_:'--Many corrections remain to be made. Athens, in
her bloom, was about as big as Calcutta, which contained, forty years ago,
more than half a million of people; or as Naples, which (being long rated
at three hundred thousand), is now known to contain at least two hundred
thousand more. The well known census of Demetrius Phalereus gave twenty-
one thousand citizens. Multiply this by 5, or 4-3/4, and you have their
families. Add ten thousand, multiplied by 4-1/2, for the _Inquilini_. Then
add four hundred thousand for the slaves: total, about five hundred and
fifty thousand. But upon the fluctuations of the Athenian population there
is much room for speculation. And, quaere, was not the population of
Athens greater two centuries before Demetrius, in the days of Pericles?

[8] Having no Sophocles at hand, I quote from memory, not pretending
therefore to exactness: but the sense is what I state.

[9] _Whose_ version, I do not know. But one unaccountable error was
forced on one's notice. _Thebes_, which, by Milton and by every scholar is
made a monosyllable, is here made a dissyllable. But _Thebez_, the
dissyllable, is a _Syrian_ city. It is true that Causabon deduces from a
Syriac word meaning a case or enclosure (a _theca_), the name of Thebes,
whether Boeotian or Egyptian. It is probable, therefore, that Thebes the
hundred-gated of Upper Egypt, Thebes the seven-gated of Greece, and Thebes
of Syria, had all one origin as regards the name. But this matters not; it
is the _English_ name that we are concerned with.

[10] '_False_:' or rather inaccurate. The burlesque was not on the
Antigone, but on the Medea of Euripides; and very amusing.

[11] But in this instance, perhaps, distance of space, combined with the
unrivalled grandeur of the war, was felt to equiponderate the distance of
time, Susa, the Persian capital, being fourteen hundred miles from Athens.

[12] _[Greek: Sterna th'os agalmatos], her bosom as the bosom of a
statue_; an expression of Euripides, and applied, I think, to Polyxena
at the moment of her sacrifice on the tomb of Achilles, as the bride that
was being married to him at the moment of his death.

[13] Amongst the questions which occurred to me as requiring an answer, in
connection with this revival, was one with regard to the comparative
fitness of the Antigone for giving a representative idea of the Greek
stage. I am of opinion that it was the worst choice which could have been
made; and for the very reason which no doubt governed that choice, viz.--
because the austerity of the tragic passion is disfigured by a love
episode. Rousseau in his letter to D'Alembert upon his article _Geneve_,
in the French Encyclopedie, asks,--'_Qui est-ce qui doute que, sur nos
theatres, la meilleure piece de Sophocle ne tombat tout-a-plat?_' And his
reason (as collected from other passages) is--because an interest derived
from the passion of sexual love can rarely be found on the Greek stage,
and yet cannot be dispensed with on that of Paris. But why was it so rare
on the Greek stage? Not from accident, but because it did not harmonize
with the principle of that stage, and its vast overhanging gloom. It is
the great infirmity of the French, and connected constitutionally with the
gayety of their temperament, that they cannot sympathize with this
terrific mode of grandeur. We can. And for _us_ the choice should have
been more purely and severely Grecian; whilst the slenderness of the plot
in any Greek tragedy, would require a far more effective support from
tumultuous movement in the chorus. Even the French are not uniformly
insensible to this Grecian grandeur. I remember that Voltaire, amongst
many just remarks on the Electra of Sophocles, mixed with others that are
_not_ just, bitterly condemns this demand for a love fable on the French
stage, and illustrates its extravagance by the French tragedy on the same
subject, of Crebillon. He (in default of any more suitable resource) has
actually made Electra, whose character on the Greek stage is painfully
vindictive, in love with an imaginary son of Aegisthus, her father's
murderer. Something should also have been said of Mrs. Leigh Murray's
Ismene, which was very effective in supporting and in relieving the
magnificent impression of Antigone. I ought also to have added a note on
the scenic mask, and the common notion (not authorized, I am satisfied, by
the practice in the _supreme_ era of Pericles), that it exhibited a Janus
face, the windward side expressing grief or horror, the leeward expressing
tranquillity. Believe it not, reader. But on this and other points, it
will be better to speak circumstantially, in a separate paper on the Greek
drama, as a majestic but very exclusive and almost, if one may say so,
bigoted form of the scenic art.


It sounds like the tolling of funeral bells, as the annunciation is made
of one death after another amongst those who supported our canopy of
empire through the last most memorable generation. The eldest of the
Wellesleys is gone: he is gathered to his fathers; and here we have his
life circumstantially written.

Who, and of what origin are the Wellesleys? There is an impression current
amongst the public, or there _was_ an impression, that the true name
of the Wellesley family is Wesley. This is a case very much resembling
some of those imagined by the old scholastic logicians, where it was
impossible either to deny or to affirm: saying _yes_, or saying _no_,
equally you told a falsehood. The facts are these: the family was
originally English; and in England, at the earliest era, there is no
doubt at all that its name was De Welles leigh, which was pronounced in
the eldest times just as it is now, viz. as a dissyllable, [2] the first
syllable sounding exactly like the cathedral city _Wells_, in
Somersetshire, and the second like _lea_, (a field lying fallow.) It
is plain enough, from various records, that the true historical
_genesis_ of the name, was precisely through that composition of
words, which here, for the moment, I had imagined merely to illustrate its
pronunciation. Lands in the diocese of Bath and Wells lying by the
pleasant river Perret, and almost up to the gates of Bristol, constituted
the earliest possessions of the De Wellesleighs. They, seven centuries
before Assay, and Waterloo, were 'seised' of certain rich _leas_
belonging to _Wells_. And from these Saxon elements of the name, some
have supposed the Wellesleys a Saxon race. They could not possibly have
better blood: but still the thing does not follow from the premises.
Neither does it follow from the _de_ that they were Norman. The first
De Wellesley known to history, the very tip-top man of the pedigree, is
Avenant de Wellesleigh. About a hundred years nearer to our own times,
viz. in 1239, came Michael de Wellesleigh; of whom the important fact is
recorded, that he was the father of Wellerand de Wellesley. And what did
young Mr. Wellerand perform in this wicked world, that the proud muse of
history should condescend to notice his rather singular name? Reader, he
was--'killed:' that is all; and in company with Sir Robert de Percival;
which again argues his Somersetshire descent: for the family of Lord
Egmont, the head of all Percivals, ever was, and ever will be, in
Somersetshire. But _how_ was he killed? The time _when_, viz. 1303, the
place _where_, are known: but the manner _how_, is not exactly stated; it
was in skirmish with rascally Irish 'kernes,' fellows that (when presented
at the font of Christ for baptism) had their right arms covered up from
the baptismal waters, in order that, still remaining consecrated to the
devil, those arms might inflict a devilish blow. Such a blow, with such an
unbaptized arm, the Irish villain struck; and there was an end of
Wellerand de Wellesleigh. Strange that history should make an end of a
man, before it had made a beginning of him. These, however, are the
_facts_; which, in writing a romance about Sir Wellerand and Sir
Percival, I shall have great pleasure in falsifying. But how, says the too
curious reader, did the De Wellesleighs find themselves amongst Irish
kernes? Had these scamps the presumption to invade Somersetshire? Did they
dare to intrude into Wells? Not at all: but the pugnacious De Wellesleys
had dared to intrude into Ireland. Some say in the train of Henry II. Some
say--but no matter: _there_ they were: and _there_ they stuck like
limpets. They soon engrafted themselves into the county of Kildare;
from which, by means of a fortunate marriage, they leaped into the county
of Meath; and in that county, as if to refute the pretended mutability of
human things, they have roosted ever since. There was once a famous copy
of verses floating about Europe, which asserted that, whilst other princes
were destined to fight for thrones, Austria--the handsome house of
Hapsburgh--should obtain them by marriage:

  'Pugnabunt alii: tu, felix Austria, nube.'

So of the Wellesleys: Sir Wellerand took quite the wrong way: not
cudgelling, but courting, was the correct way for succeeding in Kildare.
Two great estates, by two separate marriages, the De Wellesleighs obtained
in Kildare; and, by a third marriage in a third generation, they obtained
in the county of Meath, Castle Dengan (otherwise Dangan) with lordships as
plentiful as blackberries. Castle Dangan came to them in the year of our
Lord, 1411, _i.e._ before Agincourt: and, in Castle Dangan did Field-
marshal, the man of Waterloo, draw his first breath, shed his first tears,
and perpetrate his earliest trespasses. That is what one might call a
pretty long spell for one family: four hundred and thirty-five years has
Castle Dangan furnished a nursery for the Wellesley piccaninnies. Amongst
the lordships attached to Castle Dangan was _Mornington_, which more
than three centuries afterwards supplied an earldom for the grandfather of
Waterloo. Any further memorabilia of the Castle Dangan family are not
recorded, except that in 1485 (which sure was the year of Bosworth field?)
they began to omit the _de_ and to write themselves Wellesley _tout
court_. From indolence, I presume: for a certain lady Di. le Fl., whom
once I knew, a Howard by birth, of the house of Suffolk, told me as her
reason for omitting the _Le_, that it caused her too much additional

So far the evidence seems in favor of Wellesley and against Wesley. But,
on the other hand, during the last three centuries the Wellesleys wrote
the name Wesley. They, however, were only the _maternal_ ancestors of
the present Wellesleys. Garret Wellesley, the last male heir of the direct
line, in the year 1745, left his whole estate to one of the Cowleys, a
Staffordshire family who had emigrated to Ireland in Queen Elizabeth's
time, but who were, however, descended from the Wellesleys. This Cowley or
Colley, taking, in 1745, the name of Wesley, received from George II. the
title of Earl Mornington: and Colley's grandson, the Marquess Wellesley of
our age, was recorded in the Irish peerage as _Wesley_, Earl of
Mornington; was uniformly so described up to the end of the eighteenth
century; and even Arthur of Waterloo, whom most of us Europeans know
pretty well, on going to India a little before his brother, was thus
introduced by Lord Cornwallis to Sir John Shore (Lord Teignmouth, the
Governor-general), 'Dear sir, I beg leave to introduce to you Colonel
Wesley, who is a lieutenant-colonel of my regiment. He is a sensible man,
and a good officer.' Posterity, for _we_ are posterity in respect of
Lord Cornwallis, have been very much of _his_ opinion. Colonel Wesley
really _is_ a sensible man; and the sensible man, soon after his
arrival in Bengal, under the instigation of his brother, resumed the old
name of Wellesley. In reality, the name of Wesley was merely the
abbreviation of indolence, as Chumley for Cholmondeley, Pomfret for
Pontefract, Cicester for Cirencester; or, in Scotland, Marchbanks for
Majoribanks, Chatorow for the Duke of Hamilton's French title of
Chatelherault. I remember myself, in childhood, to have met a niece of
John Wesley the Proto-Methodist, who always spoke of the, second Lord
Mornington (author of the well-known glees) as a cousin, and as intimately
connected with her brother the great _foudroyant_ performer on the
organ. Southey, in his Life of John Wesley, tells us that Charles Wesley,
the brother of John, and father of the great organist, had the offer from
Garret Wellesley of those same estates which eventually were left to
Richard Cowley. This argues a recognition of near consanguinity. Why the
offer was declined, is not distinctly explained. But if it had been
accepted, Southey thinks that then we should have had no storming of
Seringapatam, no Waterloo, and no Arminian Methodists. All that is not
quite clear. Tippoo was booked for a desperate British vengeance by his
own desperate enmity to our name, though no Lord Wellesley had been
Governor-General. Napoleon, by the same fury of hatred to us, was booked
for the same fate, though the scene of it might not have been Waterloo.
And, as to John Wesley, why should he not have made the same schism with
the English Church, because his brother Charles had become unexpectedly

The Marquess Wellesley was of the same standing, as to age, or nearly so,
as Mr. Pitt; though he outlived Pitt by almost forty years. Born in 1760,
three or four months before the accession of George III., he was sent to
Eton, at the age of eleven; and from Eton, in his eighteenth year, he was
sent to Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated as a nobleman. He
then bore the courtesy title of Viscount Wellesley; but in 1781, when he
had reached his twenty-first year, he was summoned away from Oxford by the
death of his father, the second Earl of Mornington. It is interesting, at
this moment, to look back on the family group of children collected at
Dangan Castle. The young earl was within a month of his majority: his
younger brothers and sisters were, William Wellesley Pole (since dead,
under the title of Lord Maryborough), then aged eighteen; Anne, since
married to Henry, son of Lord Southampton, aged thirteen; Arthur, aged
twelve; Gerald Valerian, now in the church, aged ten; Mary Elizabeth
(since Lady Culling Smith), aged nine; Henry, since Lord Cowley, and
British ambassador to Spain, France, &c. aged eight. The new Lord
Mornington showed his conscientious nature, by assuming his father's
debts, and by superintending the education of his brothers. He had
distinguished himself at Oxford as a scholar; but he returned thither no
more, and took no degree. As Earl of Mornington, he sat in the Irish House
of Lords; but not being a British peer, he was able to sit also in the
English House of Commons; and of this opening for a more national career,
he availed himself at the age of twenty-four. Except that he favored the
claims of the Irish Catholics, his policy was pretty uniformly that of Mr.
Pitt. He supported that minister throughout the contests on the French
Revolution; and a little earlier, on the Regency question. This came
forward in 1788, on occasion of the first insanity which attacked George
III. The reader, who is likely to have been born since that era, will
perhaps not be acquainted with the constitutional question then at issue.
It was this: Mr. Fox held that, upon any incapacity arising in the
sovereign, the regency would then settle (_ipso facto_ of that incapacity)
upon the Prince of Wales; overlooking altogether the case in which there
should _be_ no Prince of Wales, and the case in which such a Prince might
be as incapable, from youth, of exercising the powers attached to the
office, as his father from disease. Mr. Pitt denied that a Prince of Wales
simply _as_ such, and apart from any moral fitness which he might possess,
had more title to the office of regent than any lamp-lighter or scavenger.
It was the province of Parliament exclusively to legislate for the
particular case. The practical decision of the question was not called
for, from the accident of the king's sudden recovery: but in Ireland, from
the independence asserted by the two houses of the British council, the
question grew still more complex. The Lord Lieutenant refused to transmit
their address, [3] and Lord Mornington supported him powerfully in his

Ten years after this hot collision of parties, Lord Mornington was
appointed Governor-General of India, and now first he entered upon a stage
worthy of his powers. I cannot myself agree with Mr. Pearce, that 'the
wisdom of his policy is now universally recognized;' because the same
false views of our Indian position, which at that time caused his splendid
services to be slighted in many quarters, still preponderates. All
administrations alike have been intensely ignorant of Indian politics; and
for the natural reason, that the business of home politics leaves them no
disposable energies for affairs so distant, and with which each man's
chance of any durable connection is so exceedingly small. What Lord
Mornington did was this: he looked our prospects in the face. Two great
enemies were then looming upon the horizon, both ignorant of our real
resources, and both deluded by our imperfect use of such resources, as,
even in a previous war, we had possessed. One of these enemies was Tippoo,
the Sultan of Mysore: him, by the crushing energy of his arrangements,
Lord Mornington was able utterly to destroy, and to distribute his
dominions with equity and moderation, yet so as to prevent any new
coalition arising in that quarter against the British power. There is a
portrait of Tippoo, of this very ger, in the second volume of Mr. Pearce's
work, which expresses sufficiently the unparalleled ferocity of his
nature; and it is guaranteed, by its origin, as authentic. Tippoo, from
the personal interest investing him, has more fixed the attention of
Europe than a much more formidable enemy: that enemy was the Mahratta
confederacy, chiefly existing in the persons of the Peishwah, of Scindia,
of Holkar, and the Rajah of Berar. Had these four princes been less
profoundly ignorant, had they been less inveterately treacherous, they
would have cost us the only dreadful struggle which in India we have
stood. As it was, Lord Mornington's government reduced and crippled the
Maharattas to such an extent, that in 1817, Lord Hastings found it
possible to crush them for ever. Three services of a profounder nature,
Lord Wellesley was enabled to do for India; first, to pave the way for the
propagation of Christianity,--mighty service, stretching to the clouds,
and which, in the hour of death, must have given him consolation;
secondly, to enter upon the abolition of such Hindoo superstitions as are
most shocking to humanity, particularly the practice of Suttee, and the
barbarous exposure of dying persons, or of first-born infants at Sangor on
the Ganges; finally, to promote an enlarged system of education, which (if
his splendid scheme had been adopted) would have diffused its benefits all
over India. It ought also to be mentioned that the expedition by way of
the Red Sea against the French in Egypt, was so entirely of his suggestion
and his preparation, that, to the great dishonor of Messrs. Pitt and
Dundas, whose administration was the worst, as a _war_ administration,
thus ever misapplied, or non-applied, the resources of a mighty empire, it
languished for eighteen months purely through _their_ neglect.

In 1805, having staid about seven years in India, Lord Mornington was
recalled, was created Marquess of Wellesley, was sent, in 1821, as Viceroy
to Ireland, where there was little to do; having previously, in 1809, been
sent Ambassador to the Spanish Cortes, where there was an affinity to do,
but no means of doing it. The last great political act of Lord Wellesley,
was the smashing of the Peel ministry in 1834 viz. by the famous
resolution (which he personally drew up) for appropriating to general
education in Ireland any surplus arising from the revenues of the Irish
Church. Full of honors, he retired from public life at the age of seventy-
five, and, for seven years more of life, dedicated his time to such
literary pursuits as he had found most interesting in early youth.

Mr. Pearce, who is so capable of writing vigorously and sagaciously, has
too much allowed himself to rely upon public journals. For example, he
reprints the whole of the attorney-general's official information against
eleven obscure persons, who, from the gallery of the Dublin theatre, did
'wickedly, riotously, and routously' hiss, groan, insult, and assault (to
say nothing of their having caused and procured to be hissed, groaned,
&c.) the Marquess Wellesley, Lord-Lieutenant General, and General Governor
of Ireland. This document covers more than nine pages; and, after all,
omits the only fact of the least consequence, viz., that several missiles
were thrown by the rioters into the vice-regal box, and amongst them a
quart-bottle, which barely missed his excellency's temples. Considering
the impetus acquired by the descent from the gallery, there is little
doubt that such a weapon would have killed Lord Wellesley on the spot. In
default however, of this weighty fact, the attorney-general favors us with
memorializing the very best piece of doggerel that I remember to have
read; viz., that upon divers, to wit, three thousand papers, the rioters
had wickedly and maliciously written and printed, besides, observe,
_causing_ to be written and printed, 'No Popery,' as also the following
traitorous couplet--

  'The Protestants want Talbot,
  As the Papists have _got all but_;'

Meaning 'all but' that which they got some years later by means of the
Clare election. Yet if, in some instances like this, Mr. Pearce has too
largely drawn upon official papers, which he should rather have abstracted
and condensed, on the other hand, his work has a specific value in
bringing forward private documents, to which his opportunities have gained
him a confidential access. Two portraits of Lord Wellesley, one in middle
life, and one in old age, from a sketch by the Comte d'Orsay, are
felicitously executed.

Something remains to be said of Lord Wellesley as a literary man; and
towards such a judgment Mr. Pearce has contributed some very pleasing
materials. As a public speaker, Lord Wellesley had that degree of
brilliancy and effectual vigor, which might have been expected in a man of
great talents, possessing much native sensibility to the charms of style,
but not led by any personal accidents of life into a separate cultivation
of oratory, or into any profound investigation of its duties and its
powers on the arena of a British senate. There is less call for speaking
of Lord Wellesley in this character, where he did not seek for any eminent
distinction, than in the more general character of an elegant
_litterateur_, which furnished to him much of his recreation in all
stages of his life, and much of his consolation in the last. It is
interesting to see this accomplished nobleman, in advanced age, when other
resources were one by one decaying, and the lights of life were
successively fading into darkness, still cheering his languid hours by the
culture of classical literature, and in his eighty-second year drawing
solace from those same pursuits which had given grace and distinction to
his twentieth.

One or two remarks I will make upon Lord Wellesley's verses--Greek as well
as Latin. The Latin lines upon Chantrey's success at Holkham in killing
two woodcocks at the first shot, which subsequently he sculptured in
marble and presented to Lord Leicester, are perhaps the most felicitous
amongst the whole. Masquerading, in Lord Wellesley's verses, as
Praxiteles, who could not well be represented with a Manon having a
percussion lock, Chantrey is armed with a bow and arrows:

  'En! trajecit aves una sagitta duas.'

In the Greek translation of _Parthenopaeus_, there are as few faults
as could reasonably be expected. But, first, one word as to the original
Latin poem: to whom does it belong? It is traced first to Lord Grenville,
who received it from his tutor (afterwards Bishop of London), who had
taken it as an anonymous poem from the 'Censor's book;' and with very
little probability, it is doubtfully assigned to 'Lewis of the War
Office,' meaning, no doubt, the father of Monk Lewis. By this anxiety in
tracing its pedigree, the reader is led to exaggerate the pretensions of
the little poem; these are inconsiderable: and there is a conspicuous
fault, which it is worth while noticing, because it is one peculiarly
besetting those who write modern verses with the help of a gradus, viz.
that the Pentameter is often a mere reverberation of the preceding
Hexameter. Thus, for instance--

  'Parthenios inter saltus non amplius erro,
  Non repeto Dryadum pascua laeta choris;'

and so of others, where the second line is but a variation of the first.
Even Ovid, with all his fertility, and partly in consequence of his
fertility, too often commits this fault. Where indeed the thought is
effectually varied, so that the second line acts as a musical _minor_,
succeeding to the _major_, in the first, there may happen to arise a
peculiar beauty. But I speak of the ordinary case, where the second is
merely the rebound of the first, presenting the same thought in a diluted
form. This is the commonest resource of feeble thinking, and is also a
standing temptation or snare for feeble thinking. Lord Wellesley, however,
is not answerable for these faults in the original, which indeed he
notices slightly as 'repetitions;' and his own Greek version is spirited
and good. There, are, however, some mistakes. The second line is
altogether faulty;

        [Greek: _Choria Mainaliph pant erateina theph
  Achnumenos leipon_]

does not express the sense intended. Construed correctly, this clause of
the sentence would mean--'_I, sorrowfully leaving all places gracious to
the Maenalian god_:' but _that_ is not what Lord Wellesley designed: '_I
leaving the woods of Cyllene, and the snowy summits of Pholoe, places that
are all of them dear to Pan_'--_that_ is what was meant: that is to say,
not _leaving all places dear to Pan_, far from it; but _leaving a few
places, every one of which is dear to Pan_. In the line beginning

  [Greek: _Kan eth uph aelikias_]

where the meaning is--_and if as yet, by reason of my immature age_,
there is a metrical error; and [Greek: _aelikia_] will not express
immaturity of age. I doubt whether in the next line,

  [Greek: _Maed alkae thalloi gounasin aeitheos_]

[Greek: _gounasin_] could convey the meaning without the preposition
[Greek: _eth_]. And in

  [Greek: _Spherchomai ou kaleousi theoi._]

_I hasten whither the gods summon me_--[Greek: _ou_] is not the right
word. It is, however, almost impossible to write Greek verses which
shall be liable to no verbal objections; and the fluent movement of these
verses sufficiently argues the off-hand ease with which Lord Wellesley
must have _read_ Greek, writing it so elegantly and with so little of
apparent constraint.

Meantime the most interesting (from its circumstances) of Lord Wellesley's
verses, is one to which his own English interpretation of it has done less
than justice. It is a Latin epitaph on the daughter (an only child) of
Lord and Lady Brougham. She died, and (as was generally known at the time)
of an organic affection disturbing the action of the heart, at the early
age of eighteen. And the peculiar interest of the case lies in the
suppression by this pious daughter (so far as it was possible) of her own
bodily anguish, in order to beguile the mental anguish of her parents. The
Latin epitaph is this:

  'Blanda anima, e cunis heu! longo exercita morbo,
      Inter maternas heu lachrymasque patris,
  Quas risu lenire tuo jucunda solebas,
      Et levis, et proprii vix memor ipsa mali;
   I, pete calestes, ubi nulla est cura, recessus:
      Et tibi sit nullo mista dolore quies!'

The English version is this:

  'Doom'd to long suffering from earliest years,
      Amidst your parents' grief and pain alone
  Cheerful and gay, you smiled to soothe their tears;
      And in _their_ agonies forgot your own.
  Go, gentle spirit; and among the blest
      From grief and pain eternal be thy rest!'

In the Latin, the phrase _e cunis_ does not express _from your cradle
upwards_. The second line is faulty in the opposition of _maternas_ to
_patris_. And in the fourth line _levis_ conveys a false meaning: _levis_
must mean either _physically light_, _i.e._ not heavy, which is not the
sense, or else _tainted with levity_, which is still less the sense. What
Lord Wellesley wished to say--was _light-hearted_: this he has _not_
said: but neither is it easy to say it in good Latin.

I complain, however, of the whole as not bringing out Lord Wellesley's own
feeling--which feeling is partly expressed in his verses, and partly in
his accompanying prose note on Miss Brougham's mournful destiny ('her life
was a continual illness') contrasted with her fortitude, her innocent
gaiety, and the pious motives with which she supported this gaiety to the
last. Not as a direct version, but as filling up the outline of Lord
Wellesley, sufficiently indicated by himself, I propose this:--

  'Child, that for thirteen years hast fought with pain,
      Prompted by joy and depth of natural love,--
   Rest now at God's command: oh! not in vain
      His angel ofttimes watch'd thee,--oft, above
   All pangs, that else had dimm'd thy parents' eyes,
      Saw thy young heart victoriously rise.
   Rise now for ever, self-forgetting child,
      Rise to those choirs, where love like thine is blest,
   From pains of flesh--from filial tears assoil'd,
      Love which God's hand shall crown with God's own rest.'


[1] Memoirs and Correspondence.

[2] '_As a dissyllable_:'--just as the _Annesley_ family, of
which Lord Valentia is the present head, do not pronounce their name
trisyllabically (as strangers often suppose), but as the two syllables
_Anns lea_, accent on the first.

[3] Which adopted neither view; for by _offering_ the regency of Ireland
to the Prince of Wales, they negatived Mr. Fox's view, who held it to be
the Prince's by inherent right; and, on the other hand, they still more
openly opposed Mr. Pitt.


This conversation is doubly interesting: interesting by its subject,
interesting by its interlocutors; for the subject is Milton, whilst the
interlocutors are _Southey_ and _Landor_. If a British gentleman, when
taking his pleasure in his well-armed yacht, descries, in some foreign
waters, a noble vessel, from the Thames or the Clyde, riding peaceably at
anchor--and soon after, two smart-looking clippers, with rakish masts,
bearing down upon her in company--he slackens sail: his suspicions are
slightly raised; they have not shown their teeth as yet, and perhaps all
is right; but there can be no harm in looking a little closer; and,
assuredly, if he finds any mischief in the wind against his countryman, he
will show _his_ teeth also; and, please the wind, will take up such a
position as to rake both of these pirates by turns. The two dialogists are
introduced walking out after breakfast, 'each his Milton in his pocket;'
and says Southey, 'Let us collect all the graver faults we can lay our
hands upon, without a too minute and troublesome research;'--just so;
there would be danger in _that_--help might put off from shore;--'not,'
says he, 'in the spirit of Johnson, but in our own.' Johnson we may
suppose, is some old ruffian well known upon that coast; and '_faults_'
may be a flash term for what the Americans call 'notions.' A part of the
cargo it clearly is; and one is not surprised to hear Landor, whilst
assenting to the general plan of attack, suggesting in a whisper 'that
they should abase their eyes in reverence to so great a man, without
absolutely closing them;' which I take to mean--that, without trusting
entirely to their boarders, or absolutely closing their ports, they should
depress their guns and fire down into the hold, in respect of the vessel
attacked standing so high out of the water. After such plain speaking,
nobody can wonder much at the junior pirate (Landor) muttering, 'It will
be difficult for us always to refrain.' Of course it will: _refraining_
was no part of the business, I should fancy, taught by that same
buccaneer, Johnson. There is mischief, you see, reader, singing in the
air--'miching malhecho'--and it is our business to watch it.

But, before coming to the main attack, I must suffer myself to be detained
for a few moments by what Mr. L. premises upon the 'moral' of any great
fable, and the relation which it bears, or _should_ bear, to the solution
of such a fable. Philosophic criticism is so far improved, that, at this
day, few people, who have reflected at all upon such subjects, but are
agreed as to one point: viz., that in metaphysical language the moral
of an epos or a drama should be _immanent_, not _transient_; or,
otherwise, that it should be vitally distributed through the whole
organization of the tree, not gathered or secreted into a sort of red
berry or _racemus_, pendent at the end of its boughs. This view Mr. Landor
himself takes, as a general view; but, strange to say, by some Landorian
perverseness, where there occurs a memorable exception to this rule (as in
the 'Paradise Lost'), in that case he insists upon the rule in its rigor--
the rule, and nothing _but_ the rule. Where, on the contrary, the rule
does really and obviously take effect (as in the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey'),
there he insists upon an exceptional case. There _is_ a moral, in _his_
opinion, hanging like a tassel of gold bullion from the 'Iliad;'--and what
is it? Something so fantastic, that I decline to repeat it. As well might
he have said, that the moral of 'Othello' was--'_Try Warren's Blacking!_'
There is no moral, little or big, foul or fair, to the 'Iliad.' Up to the
17th book, the moral might seem dimly to be this--'Gentlemen, keep the
peace: you see what comes of quarrelling.' But _there_ this moral ceases;
--there is now a break of guage: the narrow guage takes place after this;
whilst up to this point, the broad guage--viz., the wrath of Achilles,
growing out of his turn-up with Agamemnon--had carried us smoothly along
without need to shift our luggage. There is no more quarrelling after Book
17, how then can there be any more moral from quarrelling? If you insist
on _my_ telling _you_ what is the moral of the 'Iliad,' I insist upon
_your_ telling _me_ what is the moral of a rattlesnake or the moral of a
Niagara. I suppose the moral is--that you must get out of their way, if
you mean to moralize much longer. The going-up (or anabasis) of the Greeks
against Troy, was a _fact;_ and a pretty dense fact; and, by accident, the
very first in which all Greece had a common interest. It was a joint-stock
concern--a representative expedition--whereas, previously there had been
none; for even the Argonautic expedition, which is rather of the darkest,
implied no confederation except amongst individuals. How could it? For the
Argo is supposed to have measured only twenty-seven tons: how she would
have been classed at Lloyd's is hard to say, but certainly not as A 1.
There was no state-cabin; everybody, demi-gods and all, pigged in the
steerage amongst beans and bacon. Greece was naturally proud of having
crossed the herring-pond, small as it was, in search of an entrenched
enemy; proud also of having licked him 'into Almighty smash;' this was
sufficient; or if an impertinent moralist sought for something more,
doubtless the moral must have lain in the booty. A peach is the moral of a
peach, and moral enough; but if a man _will_ have something better--a
moral within a moral--why, there is the peach-stone, and its kernel, out
of which he may make ratafia, which seems to be the ultimate morality that
_can_ be extracted from a peach. Mr. Archdeacon Williams, indeed, of the
Edinburgh Academy, has published an _octavo_ opinion upon the case, which
asserts that the moral of the Trojan war was (to borrow a phrase from
children) _tit for tat_. It was a case of retaliation for crimes against
Hellas, committed by Troy in an earlier generation. It may be so; Nemesis
knows best. But this moral, if it concerns the total expedition to the
Troad, cannot concern the 'Iliad,' which does not take up matters from so
early a period, nor go on to the final catastrophe of Ilium.

Now, as to the 'Paradise Lost,' it happens that there is--whether there
ought to be or not--a pure golden moral, distinctly announced, separately
contemplated, and the very weightiest ever uttered by man or realized by
fable. It is a moral rather for the drama of a world than for a human
poem. And this moral is made the more prominent and memorable by the
grandeur of its annunciation. The jewel is not more splendid in itself
than in its setting. Excepting the well-known passage on Athenian oratory
in the 'Paradise Regained,' there is none even in Milton where the
metrical pomp is made so effectually to aid the pomp of the sentiment.
Hearken to the way in which a roll of dactyles is made to settle, like the
swell of the advancing tide, into the long thunder of billows breaking for
leagues against the shore:

  'That to the height of this great argument
   I may assert eternal Providence.'--

Hear what a motion, what a tumult, is given by the dactylic close to each
of the introductory lines! And how massily is the whole locked up into the
peace of heaven, as the aerial arch of a viaduct is locked up into
tranquil stability by its key-stone, through the deep spondaic close,

  'And justify the ways of God to man.'

That is the moral of the Miltonic epos; and as much grander than any other
moral _formally_ illustrated by poets, as heaven is higher than earth.

But the most singular moral, which Mr. Landor anywhere discovers, is in
his own poem of '_Gebir_.' Whether he still adheres to it, does not
appear from the present edition. But I remember distinctly, in the
original edition, a Preface (now withdrawn) in which he made his
acknowledgments to some book read at a Welsh Inn for the outline of the
story; and as to the moral, he declared it to be an exposition of that
most mysterious offence, _Over-Colonization_. Much I mused, in my
youthful simplicity, upon this criminal novelty. What might it be? Could
I, by mistake, have committed it myself? Was it a felony, or a
misdemeanor?--liable to transportation, or only to fine and imprisonment?
Neither in the Decemviral Tables, nor in the Code of Justinian, nor the
maritime Code of Oleron, nor in the Canon Law, nor the Code Napoleon, nor
our own Statutes at large, nor in Jeremy Bentham, had I read of such a
crime as a possibility. Undoubtedly the vermin, locally called
_Squatters_, [1] both in the wilds of America and Australia, who pre-
occupy other men's estates, have latterly illustrated the logical
possibility of such an offence; but they were quite unknown at the era of
Gebir. Even Dalica, who knew as much wickedness as most people, would have
stared at this unheard of villany, and have asked, as eagerly as _I_
did--'What is it now? Let's have a shy at it in Egypt.' I, indeed, knew a
case, but Dalica did _not_, of shocking over-colonization. It was the
case, which even yet occurs on out-of-the-way roads, where a man, unjustly
big, mounts into the inside of a stage-coach already sufficiently crowded.
In streets and squares, where men could give him a wide berth, they had
tolerated the injustice of his person; but now, in a chamber so confined,
the length and breadth of his wickedness shines revealed to every eye. And
if the coach should upset, which it would not be the less likely to do for
having _him_ on board, somebody or other (perhaps myself) must lie
beneath this monster, like Enceladus under Mount Etna, calling upon Jove
to come quickly with a few thunderbolts and destroy both man and mountain,
both _succubus_ and _incubus_, if no other relief offered. Meantime, the
only case of over-colonization notorious to all Europe, is that which some
German traveller (Riedesel, I think) has reported so eagerly, in ridicule
of our supposed English credulity; viz.--the case of the foreign swindler,
who advertised that he would get into a quart bottle, filled Drury Lane,
pocketed the admission money, and decamped, protesting (in his adieus to
the spectators) that' it lacerated his heart to disappoint so many noble
islanders; but that on his next visit he would make full reparation by
getting into a vinegar cruet.' Now, here certainly was a case of over-
colonization, not perpetrated, but meditated. Yet, when one examines this
case, the crime consisted by no means in doing it, but in _not_ doing it;
by no means in getting into the bottle, but in _not_ getting into it. The
foreign contractor would have been probably a very unhappy man, had he
fulfilled his contract by over-colonizing the bottle, but he would have
been decidedly a more virtuous man. He would have redeemed his pledge;
and, if he had even died in the bottle, we should have honored him as a
'_vir bonus, cum mala fortuna compositus_;' as a man of honor matched in
single duel with calamity, and also as the best of conjurers. Over-
colonization, therefore, except in the one case of the stage-coach, is
apparently no crime; and the offence of King Gebir, in my eyes, remains a
mystery to this day.

What next solicits notice is in the nature of a digression: it is a kind
of parenthesis on Wordsworth.

'_Landor._--When it was a matter of wonder how Keats, who was ignorant of
Greek, could have written his "Hyperion," Shelley, whom envy never
touched, gave as a reason--"because he _was_ a Greek." Wordsworth, being
asked his opinion of the same poem, called it, scoffingly, "a pretty piece
of paganism;" yet he himself, in the best verses he ever wrote--and
beautiful ones they are--reverts to the powerful influence of the "pagan

Here are nine lines exactly in the original type. Now, nine tailors are
ranked, by great masters of algebra, as = one man; such is the received
equation; or, as it is expressed, with more liveliness, in an old English
drama, by a man who meets and quarrels with eighteen tailors--'Come, hang
it! I'll fight you _both_.' But, whatever be the algebraic ratio of
tailors to men, it is clear that nine Landorian lines are not always equal
to the delivery of one accurate truth, or to a successful conflict with
three or four signal errors. Firstly--Shelley's reason, if it ever was
assigned, is irrelevant as regards any question that must have been
intended. It could not have been meant to ask--Why was the 'Hyperion' so
Grecian in its spirit? for it is anything but Grecian. We should praise it
falsely to call it so; for the feeble, though elegant, mythology of Greece
was incapable of breeding anything so deep as the mysterious portents
that, in the 'Hyperion,' run before and accompany the passing away of
divine immemorial dynasties. Nothing can be more impressive than the
picture of Saturn in his palsy of affliction, and of the mighty goddess
his grand-daughter, or than the secret signs of coming woe in the palace
of Hyperion. These things grew from darker creeds than Greece had ever
known since the elder traditions of Prometheus--creeds that sent down
their sounding plummets into far deeper wells within the human spirit.
What had been meant, by the question proposed to Shelley, was no doubt--
How so young a man as Keats, not having had the advantage of a regular
classical education, could have been so much at home in the details of the
_elder_ mythology? Tooke's 'Pantheon' might have been obtained by
favor of any English schoolboy, and Dumoustier's '_Lettres a Emile sur
la Mythologie_' by favor of very many young ladies; but these,
according to my recollection of them, would hardly have sufficed. Spence's
'_Polymetis_,' however, might have been had by favor of any good
library; and the '_Bibliotheca_' of Apollodorus, who is the cock of
the walk on this subject, might have been read by favor of a Latin
translation, supposing Keats really unequal to the easy Greek text. There
is no wonder in the case; nor, if there had been, would Shelley's kind
remark have solved it. The _treatment_ of the facts must, in any
case, have been due to Keats's genius, so as to be the same whether he had
studied Greek or not: the _facts_, apart from the treatment, must in
any case have been had from a book. Secondly--Let Mr. Landor rely upon it
--that Wordsworth never said the thing ascribed to him here as any formal
judgment, or what Scottish law would call _deliverance_, upon the
'Hyperion.' As to what he might have said incidentally and collaterally;
the meaning of words is so entirely affected by their position in a
conversation--what followed, what went before--that five words dislocated
from their context never would be received as evidence in the Queen's
Bench. The court which, of all others, least strictly weighs its rules of
evidence, is the female tea-table; yet even that tribunal would require
the deponent to strengthen his evidence, if he had only five detached
words to produce. Wordsworth is a very proud man as he has good reason to
be; and perhaps it was I myself, who once said in print of him--that it is
not the correct way of speaking, to say that Wordsworth is as proud as
Lucifer; but, inversely, to say of Lucifer that some people have conceived
him to be as proud as Wordsworth. But, if proud, Wordsworth is not
haughty, is not ostentatious, is not anxious for display, is not arrogant,
and, least of all, is he capable of descending to envy. Who or what is it
that _he_ should be envious of? Does anybody suppose that Wordsworth
would be jealous of Archimedes if he now walked upon earth, or Michael
Angelo, or Milton? Nature does not repeat herself. Be assured she will
never make a second Wordsworth. Any of us would be jealous of his own
duplicate; and, if I had a _doppelganger_, who went about personating
me, copying me, and pirating me, philosopher as I am, I might (if the
Court of Chancery would not grant an injunction against him) be so far
carried away by jealousy as to attempt the crime of murder upon his
carcass; and no great matter as regards HIM. But it would be a sad thing
for _me_ to find myself hanged; and for what, I beseech you? for
murdering a sham, that was either nobody at all, or oneself repeated once
too often. But if you show to Wordsworth a man as great as himself, still
that great man will not be much _like_ Wordsworth--the great man will
not be Wordsworth's _doppelganger_. If not _impar_ (as you say) he will be
_dispar_; and why, then, should Wordsworth be jealous of him, unless he is
jealous of the sun, and of Abd el Kader, and of Mr. Waghorn--all of whom
carry off a great deal of any spare admiration which Europe has to dispose
of. But suddenly it strikes me that we are all proud, every man of us; and
I daresay with some reason for it, 'be the same more or less.' For I never
came to know any man in my whole life intimately, who could not do
something or other better than anybody else. The only man amongst us that
is thoroughly free from pride, that you may at all seasons rely on as a
pattern of humility, is the pickpocket. That man is so admirable in his
temper, and so used to pocketing anything whatever which Providence sends
in his way, that he will even pocket a kicking, or anything in that line
of favors which you are pleased to bestow. The smallest donations are by
him thankfully received, provided only that you, whilst half-blind with
anger in kicking him round a figure of eight, like a dexterous skater,
will but allow _him_ (which is no more than fair) to have a second 'shy'
at your pretty Indian pocket-handkerchief, so as to convince you, on
cooler reflection, that he does not _always_ miss. Thirdly--Mr. Landor
leaves it doubtful what verses those are of Wordsworth's which celebrate
the power 'of the Pagan creed;' whether that sonnet in which Wordsworth
wishes to exchange for glimpses of human life, _then and in those
circumstances_, 'forlorn,' the sight

  '----Of Proteus coming from the sea,
  And hear old Triton wind his wreathed horn;'

whether this, or the passage on the Greek mythology in 'The Excursion.'
Whichever he means, I am the last man to deny that it is beautiful, and
especially if he means the latter. But it is no presumption to deny firmly
Mr. Landor's assertion, that these are 'the best verses Wordsworth ever
wrote.' Bless the man!

  'There are a thousand such elsewhere,
  As worthy of your wonder:'--

Elsewhere, I mean, in Wordsworth's poems. In reality it is
_impossible_ that these should be the best; for even if, in the
executive part, they were so, which is not the case, the very nature of
the thought, of the feeling, and of the relation, which binds it to the
general theme, and the nature of that theme itself, forbid the possibility
of merits so high. The whole movement of the feeling is fanciful: it
neither appeals to what is deepest in human sensibilities, nor is meant to
do so. The result, indeed, serves only to show Mr. Landor's slender
acquaintance with Wordsworth. And what is worse than being slenderly
acquainted, he is erroneously acquainted even with these two short
breathings from the Wordsworthian shell. He mistakes the logic. Wordsworth
does not celebrate any power at all in Paganism. Old Triton indeed! he's
little better, in respect of the terrific, than a mail-coach guard, nor
half as good, if you allow the guard his official seat, a coal-black
night, lamps blazing back upon his royal scarlet, and his blunderbuss
correctly slung. Triton would not stay, I engage, for a second look at the
old Portsmouth mail, as once I knew it. But, alas! better things than ever
stood on Triton's pins are now as little able to stand up for themselves,
or to startle the silent fields in darkness, with the sudden flash of
their glory--gone before it had fall come--as Triton is to play the
Freyschutz chorus on his humbug of a horn. But the logic of Wordsworth is
this--not that the Greek mythology is potent; on the contrary, that it is
weaker than cowslip tea, and would not agitate the nerves of a hen
sparrow; but that, weak as it is--nay, by means of that very weakness--it
does but the better serve to measure the weakness of something which
_he_ thinks yet weaker--viz. the death-like torpor of London society
in 1808, benumbed by conventional apathy and worldliness--

  'Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life.'

This seems a digression from Milton, who is properly the subject of this
colloquy. But, luckily, it is not one of _my_ sins. Mr. Landor is lord
within the house of his own book; he pays all accounts whatever; and
readers that have either a bill, or bill of exceptions, to tender against
the concern, must draw upon _him_. To Milton he returns upon a very
dangerous topic indeed--viz. the structure of his blank verse. I know of
none that is so trying to a wary man's nerves. You might as well tax
Mozart with harshness in the divinest passages of 'Don Giovanni,' as
Milton with any such offence against metrical science. Be assured, it is
yourself that do not read with understanding, not Milton that by
possibility can be found deaf to the demands of perfect harmony. You are
tempted, after walking round a line threescore times, to exclaim at last--
'Well, if the Fiend himself should rise up before me at this very moment,
in this very study of mine, and say that no screw was loose in that line,
then would I reply--'Sir, with submission, you are----.' 'What!' suppose
the Fiend suddenly to demand in thunder; 'what am I?' 'Horribly wrong,'
you wish exceedingly to say; but, recollecting that some people are
choleric in argument, you confine yourself to the polite answer-'That,
with deference to his better education, you conceive him to lie;'--that's
a bad word to drop your voice upon in talking with a fiend, and you hasten
to add--'under a slight, a _very_ slight mistake.' Ay, you might venture
on that opinion with a fiend. But how if an angel should undertake the
case? And angelic was the ear of Milton. Many are the _prima facie_
anomalous lines in Milton; many are the suspicious lines, which in many a
book I have seen many a critic peering into, with eyes made up for
mischief, yet with a misgiving that all was not quite safe, very much
like an old raven looking down a marrow-bone. In fact, such is the
metrical skill of the man, and such the perfection of his metrical
sensibility, that, on any attempt to take liberties with a passage of his,
you feel as when coming, in a forest, upon what seems a dead lion; perhaps
he may _not_ be dead, but only sleeping; nay, perhaps he may _not_ be
sleeping, but only shamming. And you have a jealousy, as to Milton, even
in the most flagrant case of almost palpable error, that, after all, there
may be a plot in it. You may be put down with shame by some man reading
the line otherwise, reading it with a different emphasis, a different
caesura, or perhaps a different suspension of the voice, so as to bring
out a new and self-justifying effect. It must be added, that, in
reviewing Milton's metre, it is quite necessary to have such books as
'Nare's English Orthoepy' (_in a late edition_), and others of that
class, lying on the table; because the accentuation of Milton's age was,
in many words, entirely different from ours. And Mr. Landor is not free
from some suspicion of inattention as to this point. Over and above his
accentual difference, the practice of our elder dramatists in the
resolution of the final _tion_ (which now is uniformly pronounced
_shon_), will be found exceedingly important to the appreciation of a
writer's verse. Contribution, which now is necessarily pronounced as a
word of four syllables, would then, in verse, have five, being read into
con-tri-bu-ce-on. Many readers will recollect another word, which for
years brought John Kemble into hot water with the pit of Drury Lane. It
was the plural of the word ache. This is generally made a dissyllable by
the Elizabethan dramatists; it occurs in the 'Tempest.' Prospero says--

  'I'll fill thy bones with aches.'

What follows, which I do not remember _literatim_, is such metrically
as to _require_ two syllables for aches. But how, then, was this to
be pronounced? Kemble thought _akies_ would sound ludicrous; _aitches_
therefore he called it: and always the pit howled like a famished
_menagerie_, as they did also when he chose (and he constantly chose) to
pronounce _beard_ like _bird_. Many of these niceties must be known,
before a critic can ever allow _himself_ to believe that he is right in
_obelizing_, or in marking with so much as a ? any verse whatever of
Milton's. And there are some of these niceties, I am satisfied, not even
yet fully investigated.

It is, however, to be borne in mind, after all allowances and provisional
reservations have been made that Bentley's hypothesis (injudiciously as it
was managed by that great scholar) has really a truth of fact to stand
upon. Not only must Milton have composed his three greatest poems, the two
'Paradises, and the 'Samson,' in a state of blindness--but subsequently,
in the correction of the proofs, he must have suffered still more from
this conflict with darkness and, consequently, from this dependence upon
careless readers. This is Bentley's case: as lawyers say: 'My lord, that
is my case.' It is possible enough to write correctly in the dark, as I
myself often do, when losing or missing my lucifers--which, like some
elder lucifers, are always rebelliously straying into place where they
_can_ have no business. But it is quite impossible to _correct a proof_ in
the dark. At least, if there _is_ such an art, it must be a section of the
black art. Bentley gained from Pope that admirable epithet of _slashing,
['the ribbalds--from slashing Bentley down to piddling Theobalds_,' i.e.
_Tibbulds_ as it was pronounced], altogether from his edition of the
'Paradise Lost.' This the doctor founded on his own hypothesis as to the
advantage taken of Milton's blindness; and corresponding was the havoc
which he made of the text. In fact, on the really just allegation that
Milton must have used the services of an amanuensis; and the plausible one
that this amanuensis, being often weary of his task, would be likely to
neglect punctilious accuracy; and the most improbable allegation that this
weary person would also be very conceited, and add much rubbish of his
own; Bentley resigned himself luxuriously, without the whisper of a
scruple, to his own sense of what was or was not poetic, which sense
happened to be that of the adder for music. The deaf adder heareth not
though the musician charm ever so wisely. No scholarship, which so far
beyond other men Bentley had, could gain him the imaginative sensibility
which, in a degree so far beyond average men, he wanted. Consequently, the
world never before beheld such a scene of massacre as his 'Paradise Lost'
exhibited. He laid himself down to his work of extermination like the
brawniest of reapers going in steadily with his sickle, coat stripped off,
and shirt sleeves tucked up, to deal with an acre of barley. One duty, and
no other, rested upon _his_ conscience; one voice he heard--Slash away,
and hew down the rotten growths of this abominable amanuensis. The carnage
was like that after a pitched battle. The very finest passages in every
book of the poem were marked by italics, as dedicated to fire and
slaughter. 'Slashing Dick' went through the whole forest, like a woodman
marking with white paint the giant trees that must all come down in a
month or so. And one naturally reverts to a passage in the poem itself,
where God the Father is supposed to say to his Filial assessor on the
heavenly throne, when marking the desolating progress of Sin and Death,--

  'See with what havoc these fell dogs advance
  To ravage this fair world.'

But still this inhuman extravagance of Bentley, in following out his
hypothesis, does not exonerate _us_ from bearing in mind so much
truth as that hypothesis really must have had, from the pitiable
difficulties of the great poet's situation.

My own opinion, therefore, upon the line, for instance, from 'Paradise
Regained,' which Mr. Landor appears to have indicated for the reader's
amazement, viz.:--

  'As well might recommend
  _Such solitude before choicest society_,'

is--that it escaped revision from some accident calling off the ear of
Milton whilst in the act of having the proof read to him. Mr. Landor
silently prints it in italics, without assigning his objection; but, of
course that objection must be--that the line has one foot too much. It is
an Alexandrine, such as Dryden scattered so profusely, without asking
himself why; but which Milton never tolerates except in the choruses of
the Samson.

  '_Not difficult, if thou hearken to me_'--

is one of the lines which Mr. Landor thinks that 'no authority will
reconcile' to our ears. I think otherwise. The caesura is meant to fall
not with the comma after _difficult _, but after _thou_; and there is a
most effective and grand suspension intended. It is Satan who speaks--
Satan in the wilderness; and he marks, as he wishes to mark, the
tremendous opposition of attitude between the two parties to the

  'Not difficult if thou----'

there let the reader pause, as if pulling up suddenly four horses in
harness, and throwing them on their haunches--not difficult if thou (in
some mysterious sense the son of God); and then, as with a burst of
thunder, again giving the reins to your _quadriga_,

  '----hearken to me:'

that is, to me, that am the Prince of the Air, and able to perform all my
promises for those that hearken to any temptations.

Two lines are cited under the same ban of irreconcilability to our ears,
but on a very different plea. The first of these lines is--

  '_Launcelot, or Pellias, or Pellinore;_'

The other

  _'Quintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus._'

The reader will readily suppose that both are objected to as 'roll-calls
of proper names.' Now, it is very true that nothing is more offensive to
the mind than the practice of mechanically packing into metrical
successions, as if packing a portmanteau, names without meaning or
significance to the feelings. No man ever carried that atrocity so far as
Boileau, a fact of which Mr. Landor is well aware; and slight is the
sanction or excuse that can be drawn from _him_. But it must not be
forgotten that Virgil, so scrupulous in finish of composition, committed
this fault. I remember a passage ending

  '----Noemonaque Prytaninque;'

but, having no Virgil within reach, I cannot at this moment quote it
accurately. Homer, with more excuse, however, from the rudeness of his
age, is a deadly offender in this way. But the cases from Milton are very
different. Milton was incapable of the Homeric or Virgilian blemish. The
objection to such rolling musketry of names is, that unless interspersed
with epithets, or broken into irregular groups by brief circumstances of
parentage, country, or romantic incident, they stand audaciously perking
up their heads like lots in a catalogue, arrow-headed palisades, or young
larches in a nursery ground, all occupying the same space, all drawn up in
line, all mere iterations of each other. But in

  '_Quintius, Fabricius, Curius, Regulus,_'

though certainly not a good line _when insulated_ (better, however,
in its connection with the entire succession of which it forms part), the
apology is, that the massy weight of the separate characters enables them
to stand like granite pillars or pyramids, proud of their self-supporting

Mr. Landor makes one correction by a simple improvement in the
punctuation, which has a very fine effect. Rarely has so large a result
been distributed through a sentence by so slight a change. It is in the
'Samson.' Samson says, speaking of himself (as elsewhere) with that
profound pathos, which to all hearts invests Milton's own situation in the
days of his old age, when he was composing that drama--

  'Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
  _Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves._'

Thus it is usually printed; that is, without a comma in the latter line;
but, says Landor, 'there ought to be commas after _eyeless_, after
_Gaza_, after _mill_.' And why? because thus 'the grief of Samson is
aggravated at every member of the sentence.' He (like Milton) was--1.
blind; 2. in a city of triumphant enemies; 3. working for daily bread; 4.
herding with slaves; Samson literally, and Milton with those whom
politically he regarded as such.

Mr. Landor is perfectly wrong, I must take the liberty of saying, when he
demurs to the line in Paradise Regained:

  '_From that placid aspect and meek regard,_'

on the ground that; '_meek regard_ conveys no new idea to _placid
aspect_.' But _aspect_ is the countenance of Christ when passive
to the gaze of others: _regard_ is the same countenance in active
contemplation of those others whom he loves or pities. The _placid
aspect_ expresses, therefore, the divine rest; the _meek regard_
expresses the divine benignity: the one is the self-absorption of the
total Godhead, the other the eternal emanation of the Filial Godhead.

'By what ingenuity,' says Landor, 'can we erect into a verse--

  "_In the bosom of bliss, and light of light?_'"

Now really it is by my watch exactly three minutes too late for _him_
to make that objection. The court cannot receive it now; for the line just
this moment cited, the ink being hardly yet dry, is of the same identical
structure. The usual iambic flow is disturbed in both lines by the very
same ripple, viz., a trochee in the second foot, _placid_ in the one
line, _bosom_ in the other. They are a sort of _snags_, such as lie in the
current of the Mississippi. _There_, they do nothing but mischief. Here,
when the lines are read in their entire _nexus_, the disturbance stretches
forwards and backwards with good effect on the music. Besides, if it did
_not_, one is willing to take a _snag_ from Milton, but one does not
altogether like being _snagged_ by the Mississippi. One sees no particular
reason for bearing it, if one only knew how to be revenged on a river.

But, of these metrical skirmishes, though full of importance to the
impassioned text of a great poet (for mysterious is the life that connects
all modes of passion with rhythmus), let us suppose the casual reader to
have had enough. And now at closing for the sake of change, let us treat
him to a harlequin trick upon another theme. Did the reader ever happen to
see a sheriff's officer arresting an honest gentleman, who was doing no
manner of harm to gentle or simple, and immediately afterwards a second
sheriff's officer arresting the first--by which means that second officer
merits for himself a place in history; for at the same moment he liberates
a deserving creature (since an arrested officer cannot possibly bag his
prisoner), and he also avenges the insult put upon that worthy man?
Perhaps the reader did _not_ ever see such a sight; and, growing personal,
he asks _me_, in return, if _I_ ever saw it. To say the truth, I never
_did_; except once, in a too-flattering dream; and though I applauded so
loudly as even to waken myself, and shouted '_encore_,' yet all went for
nothing; and I am still waiting for that splendid exemplification of
retributive justice. But why? Why should it be a spectacle so uncommon?
For surely those official arresters of men must want arresting at times as
well as better people. At least, however, _en attendant_ one may luxuriate
in the vision of such a thing; and the reader shall now see such a vision
rehearsed. He shall see Mr. Landor arresting Milton--Milton, of all men!--
for a flaw in his Roman erudition; and then he shall see me instantly
stepping up, tapping Mr. Landor on the shoulder, and saying, 'Officer,
you're wanted;' whilst to Milton I say, touching my hat, 'Now, sir, be
off; run for your life, whilst I hold his man in custody, lest he should
fasten on you again.'

What Milton had said, speaking of the '_watchful_ cherubim,' was--

             'Four faces each
  Had, _like a double Janus_;'

Upon which Southey--but, of course, Landor, ventriloquizing through
Southey--says, 'Better left this to the imagination: double Januses are
queer figures.' Not at all. On the contrary, they became so common, that
finally there were no other. Rome, in her days of childhood, contented
herself with a two-faced Janus; but, about the time of the first or second
Caesar, a very ancient statue of Janus was exhumed, which had four faces.
Ever afterwards, this sacred resurgent statue became the model for any
possible Janus that could show himself in good company. The _quadrifrons
Janus_ was now the orthodox Janus; and it would have been as much a
sacrilege to rob him of any single face as to rob a king's statue [2] of
its horse. One thing may recall this to Mr. Landor's memory. I think it
was Nero, but certainly it was one of the first six Caesars, that built,
or that finished, a magnificent temple to Janus; and each face was so
managed as to point down an avenue leading to a separate market-place.
Now, that there were _four_ market-places, I will make oath before
any Justice of the Peace. One was called the _Forum Julium_, one the
_Forum Augustum_, a third the _Forum Transitorium_: what the fourth was
called is best known to itself, for really I forget. But if anybody says
that perhaps it was called the _Forum Landorium_, I am not the man to
object; for few names have deserved such an honor more, whether from those
that then looked forward into futurity with one face, or from our
posterity that will look back into the vanishing past with another.


[1] _Squatters_:--They are a sort of self-elected warming-pans. What
we in England mean by the political term '_warming-pans_,' are men
who occupy, by consent, some official place, or Parliamentary seat, until
the proper claimant is old enough in law to assume his rights. When the
true man comes to bed, the warming-pan respectfully turns out. But these
ultra-marine warming-pans _wouldn't_ turn out. They showed fight, and
wouldn't hear of the true man, even as a bed-fellow.

[2] _A king's statue_:--Till very lately the etiquette of Europe was,
that none but royal persons could have equestrian statues. Lord Hopetoun,
the reader will object, is allowed to have a horse, in St. Andrew's
Square, Edinburgh. True, but observe that he is not allowed to mount him.
The first person, so far as I remember, that, not being royal, has, in our
island, seated himself comfortably in the saddle, is the Duke of


I am myself, and always have been, a member of the Church of England, and
am grieved to hear the many attacks against the Church [frequently most
illiberal attacks], which not so much religion as political rancor gives
birth to in every third journal that I take up. This I say to acquit
myself of all dishonorable feelings, such as I would abhor to co-operate
with, in bringing a very heavy charge against that great body in its
literary capacity. Whosoever has reflected on the history of the English
constitution--must be aware that the most important stage of its
development lies within the reign of Charles I. It is true that the
judicial execution of that prince has been allowed by many persons to
vitiate all that was done by the heroic parliament of November, 1640: and
the ordinary histories of England assume as a matter of course that the
whole period of parliamentary history through those times is to be
regarded as a period of confusion. Our constitution, say they, was formed
in 1688-9. Meantime it is evident to any reflecting man that the
revolution simply re-affirmed the principles developed in the strife
between the two great parties which had arisen in the reign of James I.,
and had ripened and come to issue with each other in the reign of his son.
Our constitution was not a birth of a single instant, as they would
represent it, but a gradual growth and development through a long tract of
time. In particular the doctrine of the king's vicarious responsibility in
the person of his ministers, which first gave a sane and salutary meaning
to the doctrine of the king's personal irresponsibility ['The king can do
no wrong'], arose undeniably between 1640 and 1648. This doctrine is the
main pillar of our constitution, and perhaps the finest discovery that was
ever made in the theory of government. Hitherto the doctrine _that the
King can do no wrong_ had been used not to protect the indispensable
sanctity of the king's constitutional character, but to protect the wrong.
Used in this way, it was a maxim of Oriental despotism, and fit only for a
nation where law had no empire. Many of the illustrious patriots of the
Great Parliament saw this; and felt the necessity of abolishing a maxim so
fatal to the just liberties of the people. But some of them fell into the
opposite error of supposing that this abolition could be effected only by
the direct negation of it; _their_ maxim accordingly was--'The king
_can_ do wrong,' _i.e._ is responsible in his own person. In this great
error even the illustrious wife of Colonel Hutchinson participated; [1]
and accordingly she taxes those of her own party who scrupled to accede to
the new maxim, and still adhered to the old one, with unconscientious
dealing. But she misapprehended their meaning, and failed to see where
they laid the emphasis: the emphasis was not laid, as it was by the royal
party, on the words 'can do no _wrong_'--but on 'The king:' that is, wrong
may be done; and in the king's name; but it cannot be the king who did it
[the king cannot constitutionally be supposed the person who did it]. By
this exquisite political refinement, the old tyrannical maxim was disarmed
of its sting; and the entire redress of all wrong, so indispensable to the
popular liberty, was brought into perfect reconciliation with the entire
inviolability of the sovereign, which is no less indispensable to the
popular liberty. There is moreover a double wisdom in the new sense: for
not only is one object [the redress of wrong] secured in conjunction with
another object [the king's inviolability] hitherto held irreconcilable,--
but even with a view to the first object alone a much more effectual means
is applied, because one which leads to no schism in the state, than could
have been applied by the blank negation of the maxim; _i.e._ by lodging
the responsibility exactly where the executive power [_ergo_ the power of
resisting this responsibility] was lodged. Here then is one example in
illustration of my thesis--that the English constitution was in a great
measure gradually evolved in the contest between the different parties in
the reign of Charles I. Now, if this be so, it follows that for
constitutional history no period is so important as that: and indeed,
though it is true that the Revolution is the great era for the
constitutional historian, because he there first finds the constitution
fully developed as the 'bright consummate _flower_,' and what is equally
important he there first finds the principles of our constitution
_ratified_ by a competent authority,--yet, to trace the _root_ and growth
of the constitution, the three reigns immediately preceding are still more
properly the objects of his study. In proportion then as the reign of
Charles I. is Important to the history of our constitution, in that
proportion are those to be taxed with the most dangerous of all possible
falsifications of our history, who have misrepresented either the facts or
the principles of those times. Now I affirm that the clergy of the Church
of England have been in a perpetual conspiracy since the era of the
restoration to misrepresent both. As an illustration of what I mean I
refer to the common edition of Hudibras by Dr. Grey: for the proof I might
refer to some thousands of books. Dr. Grey's is a disgusting case: for he
swallowed with the most anile credulity every story, the most extravagant
that the malice of those times could invent against either the
Presbyterians or the Independents: and for this I suppose amongst other
deformities his notes were deservedly ridiculed by Warburton. But, amongst
hundreds of illustrations more respectable than Dr. Grey's I will refer
the reader to a work of our own days, the Ecclesiastical Biography [in
part a republication of Walton's Lives] edited by the present master of
Trinity College, Cambridge, who is held in the highest esteem wherever he
is known, and is I am persuaded perfectly conscientious and as impartial
as in such a case it is possible for a high churchman to be. Yet so it is
that there is scarcely one of the notes having any political reference to
the period of 1640-1660, which is not disfigured by unjust prejudices: and
the amount of the moral which the learned editor grounds upon the
documents before him--is this, that the young student is to cherish the
deepest abhorrence and contempt of all who had any share on the
parliamentary side in the 'confusions' of the period from 1640 to 1660:
that is to say of men to whose immortal exertions it was owing that the
very revolution of 1688, which Dr. W. will be the first to applaud, found
us with any such stock of political principles or feelings as could make a
beneficial revolution possible. Where, let me ask, would have been the
willingness of some Tories to construe the flight of James II. into a
virtual act of abdication, or to consider even the most formal act of
abdication binding against the king,-had not the great struggle of
Charles's days gradually substituted in the minds of all parties a
rational veneration of the king's _office_ for the old superstition
in behalf of the king's _person_, which would have protected him from
the effects of any acts however solemnly performed which affected
injuriously either his own interests or the liberties of his people.
Tempora mutantur: _nos et mutamur in illis_. Those whom we find in
fierce opposition to the popular party about 1640 we find still in the
same personal opposition fifty years after, but an opposition resting on
far different principles: insensibly the principles of their antagonists
had reached even them: and a courtier of 1689 was willing to concede more
than a patriot of 1630 would have ventured to ask. Let me not be
understood to mean that true patriotism is at all more shown in supporting
the rights of the people than those of the king: as soon as both are
defined and limited, the last are as indispensable to the integrity of the
constitution--as the first: and popular freedom itself would suffer as
much, though indirectly, from an invasion of Caesar's rights--as by a more
direct attack on itself. But in the 17th century the rights of the people
were as yet _not_ defined: throughout that century they were gradually
defining themselves--and, as happiness to all great practical interests,
defining themselves through a course of fierce and bloody contests. For
the kingly rights are almost inevitably carried too high in ages of
imperfect civilization: and the well-known laws of Henry the Seventh, by
which he either broke or gradually sapped the power of the aristocracy,
had still more extravagantly exalted them. On this account it is just to
look upon democratic or popular politics as identical in the 17th century
with patriotic politics. In later periods, the democrat and the patriot
have sometimes been in direct opposition to each other: at that period
they were inevitably in conjunction. All this, however, is in general
overlooked by those who either write English history or comment upon it.
Most writers _of_ or _upon_ English history proceed either upon servile
principles, or upon no principles: and a good _Spirit of English History_,
that is, a history which should abstract the tendencies and main results
[as to laws, manners, and constitution] from every age of English history,
is a work which I hardly hope to see executed. For it would require the
concurrence of some philosophy, with a great deal of impartiality. How
idly do we say, in speaking of the events of our own time which affect our
party feelings,--'We stand too near to these events for an impartial
estimate: we must leave them to the judgment of posterity!' For it is a
fact that of the many books of memoirs written by persons who were not
merely contemporary with the great civil war, but actors and even leaders
in its principal scenes--there is hardly one which does not exhibit a more
impartial picture of that great drama than the histories written at his
day. The historian of Popery does not display half so much zealotry and
passionate prejudice in speaking of the many events which have affected
the power and splendor of the Papal See for the last thirty years, and
under his own eyes, as he does when speaking of a reformer who lived three
centuries ago--of a translator of the Bible into a vernacular tongue who
lived nearly five centuries ago--of an Anti-pope--of a Charlemagne or a
Gregory the Great still further removed from himself. The recent events he
looks upon as accidental and unessential: but in the great enemies, or
great founders of the Romish temporal power, and in the history of their
actions and their motives, he feels that the whole principle of the Romish
cause and its pretensions are at stake. Pretty much under the same feeling
have modern writers written with a rancorous party spirit of the political
struggles in the 17th century: here they fancy that they can detect the
_incunabula_ of the revolutionary spirit: here some have been so
sharpsighted as to read the features of pure jacobinism: and others [2]
have gone so far as to assert that all the atrocities of the French
revolution had their direct parallelisms in acts done or countenanced by
the virtuous and august Senate of England in 1640! Strange distortion of
the understanding which can thus find a brotherly resemblance between two
great historical events, which of all that ever were put on record stand
off from each other in most irreconcilable enmity: the one originating, as
Mr. Coleridge has observed, in excess of principle; the other in the utter
defect of all moral principle whatever; and the progress of each being
answerable to its origin! Yet so it is. And not a memoir-writer of that
age is reprinted in this, but we have a preface from some red-hot Anti-
jacobin warning us with much vapid common-place from the mischiefs and
eventual anarchy of too rash a spirit of reform as displayed in the French
revolution--_not_ by the example of that French revolution, but by that of
our own in the age of Charles I. The following passage from the
Introduction to Sir William Waller's Vindication published in 1793, may
serve as a fair instance: 'He' (Sir W. Waller) 'was, indeed, at length
sensible of the misery which he had contributed to bring on his country;'
(by the way, it is a suspicious circumstance--that Sir William [3] first
became sensible that his country was miserable, when he became sensible
that he himself was not likely to be again employed; and became fully
convinced of it, when his party lost their ascendancy:) 'he was convinced,
by fatal experience, that anarchy was a bad step towards a perfect
government; that the subversion of every establishment was no safe
foundation for a permanent and regular constitution: he found that
pretences of reform were held up by the designing to dazzle the eyes of
the unwary, &c.; he found in short that reformation, by popular
insurrection, must end in the destruction and cannot tend to the formation
of a regular Government.' After a good deal more of this well-meaning
cant, the Introduction concludes with the following sentence:--the writer
is addressing the reformers of 1793, amongst whom--'both leaders and
followers,' he says, 'may together reflect--that, upon speculative and
visionary reformers,' (_i.e._ those of 1640) 'the severest punishment
which God in his vengeance ever yet inflicted--was to curse them with the
complete gratification of their own inordinate desires.' I quote this
passage--not as containing any thing singular, but for the very reason
that it is _not_ singular: it expresses in fact the universal opinion:
notwithstanding which I am happy to say that it is false. What 'complete
gratification of their own desires' was ever granted to the 'reformers' in
question? On the contrary, it is well known (and no book illustrates that
particular fact so well as Sir William Waller's) that as early as 1647 the
army had too effectually subverted the just relations between itself and
parliament--not to have suggested fearful anticipations to all discerning
patriots of that unhappy issue which did in reality blight their
prospects. And, when I speak of an 'unhappy issue,' I would be understood
only of the immediate issue: for the remote issue was--the revolution of
1688, as I have already asserted. Neither is it true that even the
immediate issue was 'unhappy' to any extent which can justify the ordinary
language in which it is described. Here again is a world of delusions. We
hear of 'anarchy,' of 'confusions,' of 'proscriptions,' of 'bloody and
ferocious tyranny.' All is romance; there was no anarchy; no confusions;
no proscriptions; no tyranny in the sense designed. The sequestrations,
forfeitures, and punishments of all sorts which were inflicted by the
conquering party on their antagonists--went on by due course of law; and
the summary justice of courts martial was not resorted to in England:
except for the short term of the two wars, and the brief intermediate
campaign of 1648, the country was in a very tranquil state. Nobody was
punished without an open trial; and all trials proceeded in the regular
course, according to the ancient forms, and in the regular courts of
justice. And as to 'tyranny,' which is meant chiefly of the acts of
Cromwell's government, it should be remembered that the Protectorate
lasted not a quarter of the period in question (1640-1660); a fact which
is constantly forgotten even by very eminent writers, who speak as though
Cromwell had drawn his sword in January 1649--cut off the king's head--
instantly mounted his throne--and continued to play the tyrant for the
whole remaining period of his life (nearly ten years). Secondly, as to the
_kind_ of tyranny which Cromwell exercised, the misconception is
ludicrous: continental writers have a notion, well justified by the
language of English writers, that Cromwell was a ferocious savage who
built his palace of human skulls and desolated his country. Meantime, he
was simply a strong-minded--rough-built Englishman, with a character
thoroughly English, and exceedingly good-natured. Gray valued himself upon
his critical knowledge of English history: yet how thoughtlessly does he
express the abstract of Cromwell's life in the line on the village
Cromwell--'Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood!' How was
Cromwell guilty of his country's blood? What blood did he cause to be
shed? A great deal was shed no doubt in the wars (though less, by the way,
than is imagined): but in those Cromwell was but a servant of the
parliament: and no one will allege that he had any hand in causing a
single war. After he attained the sovereign power, no more domestic wars
arose: and as to a few persons who were executed for plots and
conspiracies against his person, they were condemned upon evidence openly
given and by due course of law. With respect to the general character of
his government, it is evident that in the unsettled and revolutionary
state of things which follows a civil war some critical cases will arise
to demand an occasional 'vigor beyond the law'--such as the Roman
government allowed of in the dictatorial power. But in general, Cromwell's
government was limited by law: and no reign in that century, prior to the
revolution, furnishes fewer instances of attempts to tamper with the laws
--to overrule them--to twist them to private interpretations--or to
dispense with them. As to his major-generals of counties, who figure in
most histories of England as so many _Ali Pachas_ that impaled a few
prisoners every morning before breakfast--or rather as so many ogres that
ate up good Christian men, women and children alive, they were
disagreeable people who were disliked much in the same way as our
commissioners of the income-tax were disliked in the memory of us all; and
heartily they would have laughed at the romantic and bloody masquerade in
which they are made to figure in the English histories. What then was the
'tyranny' of Cromwell's government, which is confessedly complained of
even in those days? The word 'tyranny' was then applied not so much to the
mode in which his power was administered (except by the prejudiced)--as to
its origin. However mercifully a man may reign,--yet, if he have no right
to reign at all, we may in one sense call him a tyrant; his power not
being justly derived, and resting upon an unlawful (_i.e._ a military)
basis. As a usurper, and one who had diverted the current of a grand
national movement to selfish and personal objects, Cromwell was and
will be called a tyrant; but not in the more obvious sense of the word.
Such are the misleading statements which disfigure the History of England
in its most important chapter. They mislead by more than a simple error of
fact: those, which I have noticed last, involve a moral anachronism; for
they convey images of cruelty and barbarism such as could not co-exist
with the national civilization at that time; and whosoever has not
corrected this false picture by an acquaintance with the English
literature of that age, must necessarily image to himself a state of
society as rude and uncultured as that which prevailed during the wars of
York and Lancaster--_i.e._ about two centuries earlier. But those,
with which I introduced this article, are still worse; because they
involve an erroneous view of constitutional history, and a most
comprehensive act of ingratitude: the great men of the Long Parliament
paid a heavy price for their efforts to purchase for their descendants a
barrier to irresponsible power and security from the anarchy of undefined
regal prerogative: in these efforts most of them made shipwreck of their
own tranquillity and peace; that such sacrifices were made unavailingly
(as it must have seemed to themselves), and that few of them lived to see
the 'good old cause' finally triumphant, does not cancel their claims upon
our gratitude--but rather strengthen them by the degree in which it
aggravated the difficulty of bearing such sacrifices with patience. But
whence come these falsifications of history? I believe, from two causes;
first (as I have already said) from the erroneous tone impressed upon the
national history by the irritated spirit of the clergy of the established
church: to the religious zealotry of those times--the church was the
object of especial attack; and its members were naturally exposed to heavy
sufferings: hence their successors are indisposed to find my good in a
cause which could lead to such a result. It is their manifest right to
sympathize with their own order in that day; and in such a case it is
almost their duty to be incapable of an entire impartiality. Meantime they
have carried this much too far: the literature of England must always be
in a considerable proportion lodged in their hands; and the extensive
means thus placed at their disposal for injuriously coloring that
important part of history they have used with no modesty or forbearance.
There is not a page of the national history even in its local subdivisions
which they have not stained with the atrabilious hue of their wounded
remembrances: hardly a town in England, which stood a siege for the king
or the parliament, but has some printed memorial of its constancy and its
sufferings; and in nine cases out of ten the editor is a clergyman of the
established church, who has contrived to deepen 'the sorrow of the time'
by the harshness of his commentary. Surely it is high time that the wounds
of the 17th century should close; that history should take a more
commanding and philosophic station; and that brotherly charity should now
lead us to a saner view of constitutional politics; or a saner view of
politics to a more comprehensive charity. The other cause of this
falsification springs out of a selfishness which has less claim to any
indulgence--viz. the timidity with which the English Whigs of former days
and the party to whom They [4] succeeded, constantly shrank from
acknowledging any alliance with the great men of the Long Parliament under
the nervous horror of being confounded with the regicides of 1649. It was
of such urgent importance to them, for any command over the public
support, that they should acquit themselves of an sentiment of lurking
toleration for regicide, with which their enemies never failed to load
them, that no mode of abjuring it seemed sufficiently emphatic to them
hence it was that Addison, with a view to the interest of his party,
thought fit when in Switzerland, to offer a puny insult to the memory of
General Ludlow; hence it is that even in our own days, no writers have
insulted Milton with so much bitterness and shameless irreverence as the
Whigs; though it is true that some few Whigs, more however in their
literary than in their political character, have stepped forward in his
vindication. At this moment I recollect a passage in the writings of a
modern Whig bishop--in which, for the sake of creating a charge of
falsehood against Milton, the author has grossly mis-translated a passage
in the _Defensio pro Pop. Anglicano_: and, if that bishop were not
dead, I would here take the liberty of rapping his knuckles--were it only
for breaking Priscian's head. To return over to the clerical feud against
the Long Parliament,--it was a passage in a very pleasing work of this day
(_Ecclesiastical Biography_) which suggested to me the whole of what
I have now written. Its learned editor, who is incapable of uncandid
feelings except in what concerns the interests of his order, has adopted
the usual tone in regard to the men of 1640 throughout his otherwise
valuable annotations: and somewhere or other (in the Life of Hammond,
according to my remembrance) he has made a statement to this effect--That
the custom prevalent among children in that age of asking their parents'
blessing was probably first brought into disuse by the Puritans. Is it
possible to imagine a perversity of prejudice more unreasonable? The
unamiable side of the patriotic character in the seventeenth century was
unquestionably its religious bigotry; which, however, had its ground in a
real fervor of religious feeling and a real strength of religious
principle somewhat exceeding the ordinary standard of the 19th century.
But, however palliated, their bigotry is not to be denied; it was often
offensive from its excess; and ludicrous in its direction. Many harmless
customs, many ceremonies and rituals that had a high positive value, their
frantic intolerance quarrelled with: and for my part I heartily join in
the sentiment of Charles II.--applying it as he did, but a good deal more
extensively, that their religion 'was not a religion for a gentleman:'
indeed all sectarianism, but especially that which has a modern origin--
arising and growing up within our own memories, unsupported by a grand
traditional history of persecutions--conflicts--and martyrdoms, lurking
moreover in blind alleys, holes, corners, and tabernacles, must appear
spurious and mean in the eyes of him who has been bred up in the grand
classic forms of the Church of England or the Church of Rome. But, because
the bigotry of the Puritans was excessive and revolting, is _that_ a
reason for fastening upon them all the stray evils of omission or
commission for which no distinct fathers can be found? The learned editor
does not pretend that there is any positive evidence, or presumption even,
for imputing to the Puritans a dislike to the custom in question: but,
because he thinks it a good custom, his inference is that nobody could
have abolished it but the Puritans. Now who does not see that, if this had
been amongst the usages discountenanced by the Puritans, it would on that
account have been the more pertinaciously maintained by their enemies in
church and state? Or, even if this usage were of a nature to be prohibited
by authority, as the public use of the liturgy--organs--surplices, &c.,
who does not see that with regard to _that_ as well as to other
Puritanical innovations there would have been a reflux of zeal in the
restoration of the king which would have established them in more strength
than ever? But it is evident to the unprejudiced that the usage in
question gradually went out in submission to the altered spirit of the
times. It was one feature of a general system of manners, fitted by its
piety and simplicity for a pious and simple age, and which therefore even
the 17th century had already outgrown. It is not to be inferred that
filial affection and reverence have decayed amongst us, because they no
longer express themselves in the same way. In an age of imperfect culture,
all passions and emotions are in a more elementary state--'speak a plainer
language'--and express themselves _externally_: in such an age the
frame and constitution of society is more picturesque; the modes of life
rest more undisguisedly upon the basis of the absolute and original
relation of things: the son is considered in his sonship, the father in
his fatherhood: and the manners take an appropriate coloring. Up to the
middle of the 17th century there were many families in which the children
never presumed to sit down in their parents' presence. But with us, in an
age of more complete intellectual culture, a thick disguise is spread over
the naked foundations of human life; and the instincts of good taste
banish from good company the expression of all the profounder emotions. A
son therefore, who should kneel down in this age to ask his papa's
blessing on leaving town for Brighton or Bath--would be felt by himself to
be making a theatrical display of filial duty, such as would be painful to
him in proportion as his feelings were sincere. All this would have been
evident to the learned editor in any case but one which regarded the
Puritans: they were at any rate to be molested: in default of any graver
matter, a mere fanciful grievance is searched out. Still, however, nothing
was effected; fanciful or real, the grievance must be connected with the
Puritans: here lies the offence, there lies the Puritans: it would be very
agreeable to find some means of connecting the one with the other: but how
shall this be done? Why, in default of all other means, the learned editor
_assumes_ the connection. He leaves the reader with an impression
that the Puritans are chargeable with a serious wound to the manners of
the nation in a point affecting the most awful of the household charities:
and he fails to perceive that for this whole charge his sole ground is--
that it would be very agreeable to him if he had a ground. Such is the
power of the _esprit de corps_ to palliate and recommend as colorable
the very weakest logic to a man of acknowledged learning and talent!--In
conclusion I must again disclaim any want of veneration and entire
affection for the Established Church: the very prejudices and injustice,
with which I tax the English clergy, have a generous origin: but it is
right to point the attention of historical students to their strength and
the effect which they have had. They have been indulged to excess; they
have disfigured the grandest page in English history; they have hid the
true descent and tradition of our constitutional history; and, by
impressing upon the literature of the country a false conception of the
patriotic party in and out of Parliament, they have stood in the way of a
great work,--a work which, according to my ideal of it, would be the most
useful that could just now be dedicated to the English public--viz. _a
philosophic record of the revolutions of English History_. The English
Constitution, as proclaimed and ratified in 1688-9, is in its kind, the
noblest work of the human mind working in conjunction with Time, and what
in such a case we may allowably call Providence. Of this _chef d'oeuvre_
of human wisdom it were desirable that we should have a proportionable
history: for such a history the great positive qualification would be a
philosophic mind: the great negative qualification would be this [which to
the established clergy may now be recommended as a fit subject for their
magnanimity]; viz. complete conquest over those prejudices which have
hitherto discolored the greatest era of patriotic virtue by contemplating
the great men of that era under their least happy aspect--namely, in
relation to the Established Church.

Now that I am on the subject of English History, I will notice one of the
thousand mis-statements of Hume's which becomes a memorable one from the
stress which he has laid upon it, and from the manner and situation in
which he has introduced it. Standing in the current of a narrative, it
would have merited a silent correction in an unpretending note: but it
occupies a much more assuming station; for it is introduced in a
philosophical essay; and being relied on for a particular purpose with the
most unqualified confidence, and being alleged in opposition to the very
highest authority [viz. the authority of an eminent person contemporary
with the fact] it must be looked on as involving a peremptory defiance to
all succeeding critics who might hesitate between the authority of Mr.
Hume at the distance of a century from the facts and Sir William Temple
speaking to them as a matter within his personal recollections. Sir
William Temple had represented himself as urging in a conversation with
Charles II., the hopelessness of any attempt on the part of an English
king to make himself a despotic and absolute monarch, except indeed
through the affections of his people. [5] This general thesis he had
supported by a variety of arguments; and, amongst the rest, he had
described himself as urging this--that even Cromwell had been unable to
establish himself in unlimited power, though supported by a military force
of _eighty thousand men_. Upon this Hume calls the reader's attention
to the extreme improbability which there must beforehand appear to be in
supposing that Sir W. Temple,--speaking of so recent a case, with so much
official knowledge of that case at his command, uncontradicted moreover by
the king whose side in the argument gave him an interest in contradicting
Sir William's statement, and whose means of information were paramount to
those of all others,--could under these circumstances be mistaken.
Doubtless, the reader will reply to Mr. Hume, the improbability _is_
extreme, and scarcely to be invalidated by any possible authority--which,
at best, must terminate in leaving an equilibrium of opposing evidence.
And yet, says Mr. Hume, Sir William was unquestionably wrong, and grossly
wrong: Cromwell never had an army at all approaching to the number of
eighty thousand. Now here is a sufficient proof that Hume had never read
Lord Clarendon's account of his own life: this book is not so common as
his 'History of the Rebellion;' and Hume had either not met with it, or
had neglected it. For, in the early part of this work, Lord Clarendon,
speaking of the army which was assembled on Blackheath to welcome the
return of Charles II., says that it amounted to fifty thousand men: and,
when it is remembered that this army was exclusive of the troops in
garrison--of the forces left by Monk in the North--and above all of the
entire army in Ireland,--it cannot be doubted that the whole would amount
to the number stated by Sir William Temple. Indeed Charles II. himself, in
the year 1678 [_i.e._ about four years after this conversation] as
Sir W. Temple elsewhere tells us, 'in six weeks' time raised an army of
twenty thousand men, the completest--and in all appearance the bravest
troops that could be any where seen, and might have raised many more; and
it was confessed by all the Foreign Ministers that no king in Christendom
could have made and completed such a levy as this appeared in such a
time.' William III. again, about eleven years afterwards, raised twenty-
three regiments with the same ease and in the same space of six weeks. It
may be objected indeed to such cases, as in fact it _was_ objected to
the case of William III. by Howlett in his sensible Examination of Dr.
Price's Essay on the Population of England, that, in an age when
manufactures were so little extended, it could ever have been difficult to
make such a levy of men--provided there were funds for paying and
equipping them. But, considering the extraordinary funds which were
disposable for this purpose in Ireland, &c. during the period of
Cromwell's Protectorate, we may very safely allow the combined authority
of Sir William Temple--of the king--and of that very prime minister who
disbanded Cromwell's army, to outweigh the single authority of Hume at the
distance of a century from the facts. Upon any question of fact, indeed,
Hume's authority is none at all.


[1] This is remarked by her editor and descendant Julius Hutchinson, who
adds some words to this effect--'that _if_ the patriot of that day
were the inventors of the maxim [_The king can do no wrong_], we are
much indebted to them.' The patriots certainly did not invent the maxim,
for they found it already current: but they gave it its new and
constitutional sense. I refer to the book, however, as I do to almost all
books in these notes, from memory; writing most of them in situations
where I have no access to books. By the way, Charles I., who used the
maxim in the most odious sense, furnished the most colorable excuse for
his own execution. He constantly maintained the irresponsibility of his
ministers: but, if that were conceded, it would then follow that the king
must be made responsible in his own person:--and that construction led of
necessity to his trial and death.

[2] Amongst these Mr. D'Israeli in one of the latter volumes of his
'Curiosities of Literature' has dedicated a chapter or so to a formal
proof of this proposition. A reader who is familiar with the history of
that age comes to the chapter with a previous indignation, knowing what
sort of proof he has to expect. This indignation is not likely to be
mitigated by what he will there find. Because some one madman, fool, or
scoundrel makes a monstrous proposal--which dies of itself unsupported,
and is in violent contrast to all the acts and the temper of those times,
--this is to sully the character of the parliament and three-fourths of
the people of England. If this proposal had grown out of the spirit of the
age, that spirit would have produced many more proposals of the same
character and acts corresponding to them. Yet upon this one infamous
proposal, and two or three scandalous anecdotes from the libels of the
day, does the whole onus of Mr. D'Israeli's parallel depend. _Tantamne
rem tam negligenter?_--in the general character of an Englishman I have
a right to complain that so heavy an attack upon the honor of England and
her most virtuous patriots in her most virtuous age should be made with so
much levity: a charge so solemn in its matter should have been prosecuted
with a proportionate solemnity of manner. Mr. D'Israeli refers with just
applause to the opinions of Mr. Coleridge: I wish that he would have
allowed a little more weight to the striking passage in which that
gentleman contrasts the French revolution with the English revolution of
1640-8. However, the general tone of honor and upright principle, which
marks Mr. D'Israeli's' work, encourages me and others to hope that he will
cancel the chapter--and not persist in wounding the honor of a great
people for the sake of a parallelism, which--even if it were true--is a
thousand times too slight and feebly supported to satisfy the most
accommodating reader.

[3] Sir William and his cousin Sir Hardress Waller, were both remarkable
men. Sir Hardress had no conscience at all; Sir William a very scrupulous
one; which, however, he was for ever tampering with--and generally
succeeded in reducing into compliance with his immediate interest. He was,
however, an accomplished gentleman: and as a man of talents worthy of the
highest admiration.

[4] Until after the year 1688, I do not remember ever to have found the
term Whig applied except to the religious characteristics of that party:
whatever reference it might have to their political distinctions was only
secondary and by implication.

[5] Sir William had quoted to Charles a saying from Gourville (a Frenchman
whom the king esteemed, and whom Sir William himself considered the only
foreigner he had ever known that understood England) to this effect: 'That
a king of England who will be the man of his people, is the greatest king
in the world; but, if he will be something more, by G-- he is nothing at


He was a man of very extraordinary genius. He has generally been treated
by those who have spoken of him in print as a madman. But this is a
mistake and must have been founded chiefly on the titles of his books. He
was a man of fervid mind and of sublime aspirations: but he was no madman;
or, if he was, then I say that it is so far desirable to be a madman. In
1798 or 1799, when I must have been about thirteen years old, Walking
Stewart was in Bath--where my family at that time resided. He frequented
the pump-room, and I believe all public places--walking up and down, and
dispersing his philosophic opinions to the right and the left, like a
Grecian philosopher. The first time I saw him was at a concert in the
Upper Rooms; he was pointed out to me by one of my party as a very
eccentric man who had walked over the habitable globe. I remember that
Madame Mara was at that moment singing: and Walking Stewart, who was a
true lover of music (as I afterwards came to know), was hanging upon her
notes like a bee upon a jessamine flower. His countenance was striking,
and expressed the union of benignity with philosophic habits of thought.
In such health had his pedestrian exercises preserved him, connected with
his abstemious mode of living, that though he must at that time have been
considerably above forty, he did not look older than twenty-eight; at
least the face which remained upon my recollection for some years was that
of a young man. Nearly ten years afterwards I became acquainted with him.
During the interval I had picked up one of his works in Bristol,--viz. his
_Travels to discover the Source of Moral Motion_, the second volume
of which is entitled _The Apocalypse of Nature_. I had been greatly
impressed by the sound and original views which in the first volume he had
taken of the national characters throughout Europe. In particular he was
the first, and so far as I know the only writer who had noticed the
profound error of ascribing a phlegmatic character to the English nation.
'English phlegm' is the constant expression of authors when contrasting
the English with the French. Now the truth is, that, beyond that of all
other nations, it has a substratum of profound passion: and, if we are to
recur to the old doctrine of temperaments, the English character must be
classed not under the _phlegmatic_ but under the _melancholic_
temperament; and the French under the _sanguine_. The character of a
nation may be judged of in this particular by examining its idiomatic
language. The French, in whom the lower forms of passion are constantly
bubbling up from the shallow and superficial character of their feelings,
have appropriated all the phrases of passion to the service of trivial and
ordinary life: and hence they have no language of passion for the service
of poetry or of occasions really demanding it: for it has been already
enfeebled by continual association with cases of an unimpassioned order.
But a character of deeper passion has a perpetual standard in itself, by
which as by an instinct it tries all cases, and rejects the language of
passion as disproportionate and ludicrous where it is not fully justified.
'Ah Heavens!' or 'Oh my God!' are exclamations with us so exclusively
reserved for cases of profound interest,--that on hearing a woman even
(i.e. a person of the sex most easily excited) utter such words, we look
round expecting to see her child in some situation of danger. But, in
France, 'Ciel!' and 'Oh mon Dieu!' are uttered by every woman if a mouse
does but run across the floor. The ignorant and the thoughtless, however,
will continue to class the English character under the phlegmatic
temperament, whilst the philosopher will perceive that it is the exact
polar antithesis to a phlegmatic character. In this conclusion, though
otherwise expressed and illustrated, Walking Stewart's view of the English
character will be found to terminate: and his opinion is especially
valuable--first and chiefly, because he was a philosopher; secondly,
because his acquaintance with man civilized and uncivilized, under all
national distinctions, was absolutely unrivalled. Meantime, this and
others of his opinions were expressed in language that if literally
construed would often appear insane or absurd. The truth is, his long
intercourse with foreign nations had given something of a hybrid tincture
to his diction; in some of his works, for instance, he uses the French
word _helas!_ uniformly for the English _alas!_ and apparently with no
consciousness of his mistake. He had also this singularity about him
--that he was everlastingly metaphysicizing against metaphysics. To me,
who was buried in metaphysical reveries from my earliest days, this was
not likely to be an attraction any more than the vicious structure of his
diction was likely to please my scholarlike taste. All grounds of disgust,
however, gave way before my sense of his powerful merits; and, as I have
said, I sought his acquaintance. Coming up to London from Oxford about
1807 or 1808 I made inquiries about him; and found that he usually read
the papers at a coffee-room in Piccadilly: understanding that he was poor,
it struck me that he might not wish to receive visits at his lodgings, and
therefore I sought him at the coffee-room. Here I took the liberty of
introducing myself to him. He received me courteously, and invited me to
his rooms--which at that time were in Sherrard-street, Golden-square--a
street already memorable to me. I was much struck with the eloquence of
his conversation; and afterwards I found that Mr. Wordsworth, himself the
most eloquent of men in conversation, had been equally struck when he had
met him at Paris between the years 1790 and 1792, during the early storms
of the French revolution. In Sherrard-street I visited him repeatedly, and
took notes of the conversations I had with him on various subjects. These
I must have somewhere or other; and I wish I could introduce them here, as
they would interest the reader. Occasionally in these conversations, as in
his books, he introduced a few notices of his private history: in
particular I remember his telling me that in the East Indies he had been a
prisoner of Hyder's: that he had escaped with some difficulty; and that,
in the service of one of the native princes as secretary or interpreter,
he had accumulated a small fortune. This must have been too small, I fear,
at that time to allow him even a philosopher's comforts: for some part of
it, invested in the French funds, had been confiscated. I was grieved to
see a man of so much ability, of gentlemanly manners, and refined habits,
and with the infirmity of deafness, suffering under such obvious
privations; and I once took the liberty, on a fit occasion presenting
itself, of requesting that he would allow me to send him some books which
he had been casually regretting that he did not possess; for I was at that
time in the hey-day of my worldly prosperity. This offer, however, he
declined with firmness and dignity, though not unkindly. And I now mention
it, because I have seen him charged in print with a selfish regard to his
own pecuniary interest. On the contrary, he appeared to me a very liberal
and generous man: and I well remember that, whilst he refused to accept of
any thing from me, he compelled me to receive as presents all the books
which he published during my acquaintance with him: two of these,
corrected with his own hand, viz. the Lyre of Apollo and the Sophiometer,
I have lately found amongst other books left in London; and others he
forwarded to me in Westmoreland. In 1809 I saw him often: in the spring of
that year, I happened to be in London; and Mr. Wordsworth's tract on the
Convention of Cintra being at that time in the printer's hands, I
superintended the publication of it; and, at Mr. Wordsworth's request, I
added a long note on Spanish affairs which is printed in the Appendix. The
opinions I expressed in this note on the Spanish character at that time
much calumniated, on the retreat to Corunna then fresh in the public mind,
above all, the contempt I expressed for the superstition in respect to the
French military prowess which was then universal and at its height, and
which gave way in fact only to the campaigns of 1814 and 1815, fell in, as
it happened, with Mr. Stewart's political creed in those points where at
that time it met with most opposition. In 1812 it was, I think, that I saw
him for the last time: and by the way, on the day of my parting with him,
I had an amusing proof in my own experience of that sort of ubiquity
ascribed to him by a witty writer in the London Magazine: I met him and
shook hands with him under Somerset-house, telling him that I should leave
town that evening for Westmoreland. Thence I went by the very shortest
road (_i.e._ through Moor-street, Soho--for I am learned in many
quarters of London) towards a point which necessarily led me through
Tottenham-court-road: I stopped nowhere, and walked fast: yet so it was
that in Tottenham-court-road I was not overtaken by (_that_ was
comprehensible), but overtook, Walking Stewart. Certainly, as the above
writer alleges, there must have been three Walking Stewarts in London. He
seemed no ways surprised at this himself, but explained to me that
somewhere or other in the neighborhood of Tottenham-court-road there was a
little theatre, at which there was dancing and occasionally good singing,
between which and a neighboring coffee-house he sometimes divided his
evenings. Singing, it seems, he could hear in spite of his deafness. In
this street I took my final leave of him; it turned out such; and,
anticipating at the time that it would be so, I looked after his white hat
at the moment it was disappearing and exclaimed--'Farewell, thou half-
crazy and most eloquent man! I shall never see thy face again.' I did not
intend, at that moment, to visit London again for some years: as it
happened, I was there for a short time in 1814: and then I heard, to my
great satisfaction, that Walking Stewart had recovered a considerable sum
(about 14,000 pounds I believe) from the East India Company; and from the
abstract given in the London Magazine of the Memoir by his relation, I
have since learned that he applied this money most wisely to the purchase
of an annuity, and that he 'persisted in living' too long for the peace of
an annuity office. So fare all companies East and West, and all annuity
offices, that stand opposed in interest to philosophers! In 1814, however,
to my great regret, I did not see him; for I was then taking a great deal
of opium, and never could contrive to issue to the light of day soon
enough for a morning call upon a philosopher of such early hours; and in
the evening I concluded that he would be generally abroad, from what he
had formerly communicated to me of his own habits. It seems, however, that
he afterwards held _conversaziones_ at his own rooms; and did not
stir out to theatres quite so much. From a brother of mine, who at one
time occupied rooms in the same house with him, I learned that in other
respects he did not deviate in his prosperity from the philosophic tenor
of his former life. He abated nothing of his peripatetic exercises; and
repaired duly in the morning, as he had done in former years, to St.
James's Park,--where he sate in contemplative ease amongst the cows,
inhaling their balmy breath and pursuing his philosophic reveries. He had
also purchased an organ, or more than one, with which he solaced his
solitude and beguiled himself of uneasy thoughts if he ever had any.

The works of Walking Stewart must be read with some indulgence; the titles
are generally too lofty and pretending and somewhat extravagant; the
composition is lax and unprecise, as I have before said; and the doctrines
are occasionally very bold, incautiously stated, and too hardy and high-
toned for the nervous effeminacy of many modern moralists. But Walking
Stewart was a man who thought nobly of human nature: he wrote therefore at
times in the spirit and with the indignation of an ancient prophet against
the oppressors and destroyers of the time. In particular I remember that
in one or more of the pamphlets which I received from him at Grasmere he
expressed himself in such terms on the subject of Tyrannicide
(distinguishing the cases in which it was and was not lawful) as seemed to
Mr. Wordsworth and myself every way worthy of a philosopher; but, from the
way in which that subject was treated in the House of Commons, where it
was at that time occasionally introduced, it was plain that his doctrine
was not fitted for the luxurious and relaxed morals of the age. Like all
men who think nobly of human nature, Walking Stewart thought of it
hopefully. In some respects his hopes were wisely grounded; in others they
rested too much upon certain metaphysical speculations which are
untenable, and which satisfied himself only because his researches in that
track had been purely self-originated and self-disciplined. He relied upon
his own native strength of mind; but in questions, which the wisdom and
philosophy of every age building successively upon each other have not
been able to settle, no mind, however strong, is entitled to build wholly
upon itself. In many things he shocked the religious sense--especially as
it exists in unphilosophic minds; he held a sort of rude and unscientific
Spinosism; and he expressed it coarsely and in the way most likely to give
offence. And indeed there can be no stronger proof of the utter obscurity
in which his works have slumbered than that they should all have escaped
prosecution. He also allowed himself to look too lightly and indulgently
on the afflicting spectacle of female prostitution as it exists in London
and in all great cities. This was the only point on which I was disposed
to quarrel with him; for I could not but view it as a greater reproach to
human nature than the slave-trade or any sight of wretchedness that the
sun looks down upon. I often told him so; and that I was at a loss to
guess how a philosopher could allow himself to view it simply as part of
the equipage of civil life, and as reasonably making part of the
establishment and furniture of a great city as police-offices, lamp-
lighting, or newspapers. Waiving however this one instance of something
like compliance with the brutal spirit of the world, on all other subjects
he was eminently unworldly, child-like, simple-minded, and upright. He
would flatter no man: even when addressing nations, it is almost laughable
to see how invariably he prefaces his counsels with such plain truths
uttered in a manner so offensive as must have defeated his purpose if it
had otherwise any chance of being accomplished. For instance, in
addressing America, he begins thus:--'People of America! since your
separation from the mother-country your moral character has degenerated in
the energy of thought and sense; produced by the absence of your
association and intercourse with British officers and merchants: you have
no moral discernment to distinguish between the protective power of
England and the destructive power of France.' And his letter to the Irish
nation opens in this agreeable and conciliatory manner:--'People of
Ireland! I address you as a true philosopher of nature, foreseeing the
perpetual misery your irreflective character and total absence of moral
discernment are preparing for' &c. The second sentence begins thus--'You
are sacrilegiously arresting the arm of your parent kingdom fighting the
cause of man and nature, when the triumph of the fiend of French police-
terror would be your own instant extirpation--.' And the letter closes
thus:--'I see but one awful alternative--that Ireland will be a perpetual
moral volcano, threatening the destruction of the world, if the education
and instruction of thought and sense shall not be able to generate the
faculty of moral discernment among a very numerous class of the
population, who detest the civic calm as sailors the natural calm--and
make civic rights on which they cannot reason a pretext for feuds which
they delight in.' As he spoke freely and boldly to others, so he spoke
loftily of himself: at p. 313, of 'The Harp of Apollo,' on making a
comparison of himself with Socrates (in which he naturally gives the
preference to himself) he styles 'The Harp,' &c., 'this unparalleled work
of human energy.' At p. 315, he calls it 'this stupendous work;' and lower
down on the same page he says--'I was turned out of school at the age of
fifteen for a dunce or blockhead, because I would not stuff into my memory
all the nonsense of erudition and learning; and if future ages should
discover the unparalleled energies of genius in this work, it will prove
my most important doctrine--that the powers of the human mind must be
developed in the education of thought and sense in the study of moral
opinion, not arts and science.' Again, at p. 225 of his Sophiometer, he
says:--'The paramount thought that dwells in my mind incessantly is a
question I put to myself--whether, in the event of my personal dissolution
by death, I have communicated all the discoveries my unique mind possesses
in the great master-science of man and nature.' In the next page he
determines that he _has_, with the exception of one truth,--viz. 'the
latent energy, physical and moral, of human nature as existing in the
British people.' But here he was surely accusing himself without ground:
for to my knowledge he has not failed in any one of his numerous works to
insist upon this theme at least a billion of times. Another instance of
his magnificent self-estimation is--that in the title pages of several of
his works he announces himself as 'John Stewart, the only man of nature
[1] that ever appeared in the world.'

By this time I am afraid the reader begins to suspect that he was crazy:
and certainly, when I consider every thing, he must have been crazy when
the wind was at NNE; for who but Walking Stewart ever dated his books by a
computation drawn--not from the creation, not from the flood, not from
Nabonassar, or _ab urbe condita_, not from the Hegira--but from
themselves, from their own day of publication, as constituting the one
great era in the history of man by the side of which all other eras were
frivolous and impertinent? Thus, in a work of his given to me in 1812 and
probably published in that year, I find him incidentally recording of
himself that he was at that time 'arrived at the age of sixty-three, with
a firm state of health acquired by temperance, and a peace of mind almost
independent of the vices of mankind--because my knowledge of life has
enabled me to place my happiness beyond the reach or contact of other
men's follies and passions, by avoiding all family connections, and all
ambitious pursuits of profit, fame, or power.' On reading this passage I
was anxious to ascertain its date; but this, on turning to the title page,
I found thus mysteriously expressed: 'in the 7000th year of Astronomical
History, and the first day of Intellectual Life or Moral World, from the
era of this work.' Another slight indication of craziness appeared in a
notion which obstinately haunted his mind that all the kings and rulers of
the earth would confederate in every age against his works, and would hunt
them out for extermination as keenly as Herod did the innocents in
Bethlehem. On this consideration, fearing that they might be intercepted
by the long arms of these wicked princes before they could reach that
remote Stewartian man or his precursor to whom they were mainly addressed,
he recommended to all those who might be impressed with a sense of their
importance to bury a copy or copies of each work properly secured from
damp, &c. at a depth of seven or eight feet below the surface of the
earth; and on their death-beds to communicate the knowledge of this fact
to some confidential friends, who in their turn were to send down the
tradition to some discreet persons of the next generation; and thus, if
the truth was not to be dispersed for many ages, yet the knowledge that
here and there the truth lay buried on this and that continent, in secret
spots on Mount Caucasus--in the sands of Biledulgerid--and in hiding-
places amongst the forests of America, and was to rise again in some
distant age and to vegetate and fructify for the universal benefit of
man,--this knowledge at least was to be whispered down from generation to
generation; and, in defiance of a myriad of kings crusading against him,
Walking Stewart was to stretch out the influence of his writings through a
long series of [Greek: _lampadophoroi_] to that child of nature whom
he saw dimly through a vista of many centuries. If this were madness, it
seemed to me a somewhat sublime madness: and I assured him of my co-
operation against the kings, promising that I would bury 'The Harp of
Apollo' in my own orchard in Grasmere at the foot of Mount Fairfield; that
I would bury 'The Apocalypse of Nature' in one of the coves of Helvellyn,
and several other works in several other places best known to myself. He
accepted my offer with gratitude; but he then made known to me that he
relied on my assistance for a still more important service--which was
this: in the lapse of that vast number of ages which would probably
intervene between the present period and the period at which his works
would have reached their destination, he feared that the English language
might itself have mouldered away. 'No!' I said, '_that_ was not probable:
considering its extensive diffusion, and that it was now transplanted into
all the continents of our planet, I would back the English language
against any other on earth.' His own persuasion however was, that the
Latin was destined to survive all other languages; it was to be the
eternal as well as the universal language; and his desire was that
I would translate his works, or some part of them, into that language. [2]
This I promised; and I seriously designed at some leisure hour to
translate into Latin a selection of passages which should embody an
abstract of his philosophy. This would have been doing a service to all
those who might wish to see a digest of his peculiar opinions cleared from
the perplexities of his peculiar diction and brought into a narrow compass
from the great number of volumes through which they are at present
dispersed. However, like many another plan of mine, it went unexecuted.

On the whole, if Walking Stewart were at all crazy, he was so in a way
which did not affect his natural genius and eloquence--but rather exalted
them. The old maxim, indeed, that 'Great wits to madness sure are near
allied,' the maxim of Dryden and the popular maxim, I have heard disputed
by Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Wordsworth, who maintain that mad people are the
dullest and most wearisome of all people. As a body, I believe they are
so. But I must dissent from the authority of Messrs. Coleridge and
Wordsworth so far as to distinguish. Where madness is connected, as it
often is, with some miserable derangement of the stomach, liver, &c. and
attacks the principle of pleasurable life, which is manifestly seated in
the central organs of the body (i.e. in the stomach and the apparatus
connected with it), there it cannot but lead to perpetual suffering and
distraction of thought; and there the patient will be often tedious and
incoherent. People who have not suffered from any great disturbance in
those organs are little aware how indispensable to the process of thinking
are the momentary influxes of pleasurable feeling from the regular goings
on of life in its primary function; in fact, until the pleasure is
withdrawn or obscured, most people are not aware that they _have_ any
pleasure from the due action of the great central machinery of the system:
proceeding in uninterrupted continuance, the pleasure as much escapes the
consciousness as the act of respiration: a child, in the happiest state of
its existence, does not _know_ that it is happy. And generally whatsoever
is the level state of the hourly feeling is never put down by the
unthinking (_i.e._ by 99 out of 100) to the account of happiness: it is
never put down with the positive sign, as equal to + x; but simply
as = 0. And men first become aware that it _was_ a positive quantity,
when they have lost it (_i.e._ fallen into--x). Meantime the genial
pleasure from the vital processes, though not represented to the
consciousness, is _immanent_ in every act--impulse--motion--word--and
thought: and a philosopher sees that the idiots are in a state of
pleasure, though they cannot see it themselves. Now I say that, where this
principle of pleasure is not attached, madness is often little more than
an enthusiasm highly exalted; the animal spirits are exuberant and in
excess; and the madman becomes, if he be otherwise a man of ability and
information, all the better as a companion. I have met with several such
madmen; and I appeal to my brilliant friend, Professor W----, who is not a
man to tolerate dulness in any quarter, and is himself the ideal of a
delightful companion, whether he ever met a more amusing person than that
madman who took a post-chaise with us from ---- to Carlisle, long years
ago, when he and I were hastening with the speed of fugitive felons to
catch the Edinburgh mail. His fancy and his extravagance, and his furious
attacks on Sir Isaac Newton, like Plato's suppers, refreshed us not only
for that day but whenever they recurred to us; and we were both grieved
when we heard some time afterwards from a Cambridge man that he had met
our clever friend in a stage coach under the care of a brutal keeper.----
Such a madness, if any, was the madness of Walking Stewart: his health was
perfect; his spirits as light and ebullient as the spirits of a bird in
spring-time; and his mind unagitated by painful thoughts, and at peace
with itself. Hence, if he was not an amusing companion, it was because the
philosophic direction of his thoughts made him something more. Of
anecdotes and matters of fact he was not communicative: of all that he had
seen in the vast compass of his travels he never availed himself in
conversation. I do not remember at this moment that he ever once alluded
to his own travels in his intercourse with me except for the purpose of
weighing down by a statement grounded on his own great personal experience
an opposite statement of many hasty and misjudging travellers which he
thought injurious to human nature: the statement was this, that in all his
countless rencontres with uncivilized tribes, he had never met with any so
ferocious and brutal as to attack an unarmed and defenceless man who was
able to make them understand that he threw himself upon their hospitality
and forbearance.

On the whole, Walking Stewart was a sublime visionary: he had seen and
suffered much amongst men; yet not too much, or so as to dull the genial
tone of his sympathy with the sufferings of others. His mind was a mirror
of the sentient universe.--The whole mighty vision that had fleeted before
his eyes in this world,--the armies of Hyder-Ali and his son with oriental
and barbaric pageantry,--the civic grandeur of England, the great deserts
of Asia and America,--the vast capitals of Europe,--London with its
eternal agitations, the ceaseless ebb and flow of its 'mighty heart,'--
Paris shaken by the fierce torments of revolutionary convulsions, the
silence of Lapland, and the solitary forests of Canada, with the swarming
life of the torrid zone, together with innumerable recollections of
individual joy and sorrow, that he had participated by sympathy--lay like
a map beneath him, as if eternally co-present to his view; so that, in the
contemplation of the prodigious whole, he had no leisure to separate the
parts, or occupy his mind with details. Hence came the monotony which the
frivolous and the desultory would have found in his conversation. I,
however, who am perhaps the person best qualified to speak of him, must
pronounce him to have been a man of great genius; and, with reference to
his conversation, of great eloquence. That these were not better known and
acknowledged was owing to two disadvantages; one grounded in his imperfect
education, the other in the peculiar structure of his mind. The first was
this: like the late Mr. Shelley he had a fine vague enthusiasm and lofty
aspirations in connection with human nature generally and its hopes; and
like him he strove to give steadiness, a uniform direction, and an
intelligible purpose to these feelings, by fitting to them a scheme of
philosophical opinions. But unfortunately the philosophic system of both
was so far from supporting their own views and the cravings of their own
enthusiasm, that, as in some points it was baseless, incoherent, or
unintelligible, so in others it tended to moral results, from which, if
they had foreseen them, they would have been themselves the first to
shrink as contradictory to the very purposes in which their system had
originated. Hence, in maintaining their own system they both found
themselves painfully entangled at times with tenets pernicious and
degrading to human nature. These were the inevitable consequences of the
[Greek: _proton pheudos_] in their speculations; but were naturally
charged upon them by those who looked carelessly into their books as
opinions which not only for the sake of consistency they thought
themselves bound to endure, but to which they gave the full weight of
their sanction and patronage as to so many moving principles in their
system. The other disadvantage under which Walking Stewart labored, was
this: he was a man of genius, but not a man of talents; at least his
genius was out of all proportion to his talents, and wanted an organ as it
were for manifesting itself; so that his most original thoughts were
delivered in a crude state--imperfect, obscure, half developed, and not
producible to a popular audience. He was aware of this himself; and,
though he claims everywhere the faculty of profound intuition into human
nature, yet with equal candor he accuses himself of asinine stupidity,
dulness, and want of talent. He was a disproportioned intellect, and so
far a monster: and he must be added to the long list of original-minded
men who have been looked down upon with pity and contempt by commonplace
men of talent, whose powers of mind--though a thousand times inferior--
were yet more manageable, and ran in channels more suited to common uses
and common understandings.


[1] In Bath, he was surnamed 'the Child of Nature;'--which arose from his
contrasting on every occasion the existing man of our present experience
with the ideal or Stewartian man that might be expected to emerge in some
myriads of ages; to which latter man he gave the name of the Child of

[2] I was not aware until the moment of writing this passage that Walking
Stewart had publicly made this request three years after making it to
myself: opening the 'Harp of Apollo,' I have just now accidentally
stumbled on the following passage, 'This Stupendous work is destined, I
fear, to meet a worse fate than the Aloe, which as soon as it blossoms
loses its stalk. This first blossom of reason is threatened with the loss
of both its stalk and its soil: for, if the revolutionary tyrant should
triumph, he would destroy all the English books and energies of thought. I
conjure my readers to translate this work into Latin, and to bury it in
the ground, communicating on their death-beds only its place of
concealment to men of nature.'

From the title page of this work, by the way, I learn that 'the 7000th
year of Astronomical History' is taken from the Chinese tables, and
coincides (as I had supposed) with the year 1812 of our computation.


It is a remarkable proof of the inaccuracy with which most men read--that
Donne's _Biathanatos_ has been supposed to countenance Suicide; and
those who reverence his name have thought themselves obliged to apologize
for it by urging, that it was written before he entered the church. But
Donne's purpose in this treatise was a pious one: many authors had charged
the martyrs of the Christian church with Suicide--on the principle that if
I put myself in the way of a mad bull, knowing that he will kill me--I am
as much chargeable with an act of self-destruction as if I fling myself
into a river. Several casuists had extended this principle even to the
case of Jesus Christ: one instance of which, in a modern author, the
reader may see noticed and condemned by Kant, in his _Religion innerhalb
die gronzen der blossen Vernunft_; and another of much earlier date (as
far back as the 13th century, I think), in a commoner book--Voltaire's
notes on the little treatise of Beccaria, _Dei delitti e delle pene_.
These statements tended to one of two results: either they unsanctified
the characters of those who founded and nursed the Christian church; or
they sanctified suicide. By way of meeting them, Donne wrote his book: and
as the whole argument of his opponents turned upon a false definition of
suicide (not explicitly stated, but assumed), he endeavored to
reconstitute the notion of what is essential to create an act of suicide.
Simply to kill a man is not murder: _prima facie_, therefore, there
is some sort of presumption that simply for a man to kill himself--may not
always be so: there is such a thing as simple homicide distinct from
murder: there may, therefore, possibly be such a thing as self-homicide
distinct from self-murder. There _may_ be a ground for such a distinction,
_ex analogia_. But, secondly, on examination, _is_ there any ground for
such a distinction? Donne affirms that there is; and, reviewing several
eminent cases of spontaneous martyrdom, he endeavors to show that acts so
motived and so circumstantiated will not come within the notion of suicide
properly defined. Meantime, may not this tend to the encouragement of
suicide in general, and without discrimination of its species? No: Donne's
arguments have no prospective reference or application; they are purely
retrospective. The circumstances necessary to create an act of mere self-
homicide can rarely concur, except in a state of disordered society, and
during the _cardinal_ revolutions of human history: where, however, they
_do_ concur, there it will not be suicide. In fact, this is the natural
and practical judgment of us all. We do not all agree on the particular
cases which will justify self-destruction: but we all feel and
involuntarily acknowledge (_implicitly_ acknowledge in our admiration,
though not explicitly in our words or in our principles), that there _are_
such cases. There is no man, who in his heart would not reverence a woman
that chose to die rather than to be dishonored: and, if we do not say,
that it is her duty to do so, _that_ is because the moralist must
condescend to the weakness and infirmities of human nature: mean and
ignoble natures must not be taxed up to the level of noble ones. Again,
with regard to the other sex, corporal punishment is its peculiar and
_sexual_ degradation; and if ever the distinction of Donne can be applied
safely to any case, it will be to the case of him who chooses to die
rather than to submit to that ignominy. _At present_, however, there is
but a dim and very confined sense, even amongst enlightened men (as we may
see by the debates of Parliament), of the injury which is done to human
nature by giving legal sanction to such brutalizing acts; and therefore
most men, in seeking to escape it, would be merely shrinking from a
_personal_ dishonor. Corporal punishment is usually argued with a single
reference to the case of him who suffers it; and _so_ argued, God knows
that it is worthy of all abhorrence: but the weightiest argument against
it--is the foul indignity which is offered to our common nature lodged in
the person of him on whom it is inflicted. _His_ nature is _our_ nature:
and, supposing it possible that _he_ were so far degraded as to be
unsusceptible of any influences but those which address him through the
brutal part of his nature, yet for the sake of ourselves--No! not merely
for ourselves, or for the human race now existing, but for the sake of
human nature, which trancends all existing participators of that nature--
we should remember that the evil of corporal punishment is not to be
measured by the poor transitory criminal, whose memory and offence are
soon to perish: these, in the sum of things, are as nothing: the injury
which can be done him, and the injury which he can do, have so momentary
an existence that they may be safely neglected: but the abiding injury is
to the most august interest which for the mind of man can have any
existence,--viz. to his own nature: to raise and dignify which, I am
persuaded, is the first--last--and holiest command [1] which the
conscience imposes on the philosophic moralist. In countries, where the
traveller has the pain of seeing human creatures performing the labors of
brutes, [2]--surely the sorrow which the spectacle moves, if a wise
sorrow, will not be chiefly directed to the poor degraded individual--too
deeply degraded, probably, to be sensible of his own degradation, but to
the reflection that man's nature is thus exhibited in a state of miserable
abasement; and, what is worst of all, abasement proceeding from man
himself. Now, whenever this view of corporal punishment becomes general
(as inevitably it will, under the influence of advancing civilization), I
say, that Donne's principle will then become applicable to this case, and
it will be the duty of a man to die rather than to suffer his own nature
to be dishonored in that way. But so long as a man is not fully sensible
of the dishonor, to him the dishonor, except as a personal one, does not
wholly exist. In general, whenever a paramount interest of human nature is
at stake, a suicide which maintains that interest is self-homicide: but,
for a personal interest, it becomes self-murder. And into this principle
Donne's may be resolved.

       *       *       *       *       *

A doubt has been raised--whether brute animals ever commit suicide: to me
it is obvious that they do not, and cannot. Some years ago, however, there
was a case reported in all the newspapers of an old ram who committed
suicide (as it was alleged) in the presence of many witnesses. Not having
any pistols or razors, he ran for a short distance, in order to aid the
impetus of his descent, and leaped over a precipice, at the foot of which
he was dashed to pieces. His motive to the 'rash act,' as the papers
called it, was supposed to be mere taedium vitae. But, for my part, I
doubted the accuracy of the report. Not long after a case occurred in
Westmoreland which strengthened my doubts. A fine young blood horse, who
could have no possible reason for making away with himself, unless it were
the high price of oats at that time, was found one morning dead in his
field. The case was certainly a suspicious one: for he was lying by the
side of a stone-wall, the upper part of which wall his skull had
fractured, and which had returned the compliment by fracturing his skull.
It was argued, therefore, that in default of ponds, &c. he had
deliberately hammered with his head against the wall; this, at first,
seemed the only solution; and he was generally pronounced _felo de
se_. However, a day or two brought the truth to light. The field lay
upon the side of a hill: and, from a mountain which rose above it, a
shepherd had witnessed the whole catastrophe, and gave evidence which
vindicated the character of the horse. The day had been very windy; and
the young creature being in high spirits, and, caring evidently as little
for the corn question as for the bullion question, had raced about in all
directions; and at length, descending too steep a part of the field, had
been unable to check himself, and was projected by the impetus of his own
descent like a battering ram against the wall.

Of human suicides, the most affecting I have ever seen recorded is one
which I met with in a German book: the most calm and deliberate is the
following, which is _said_ to have occurred at Keswick, in Cumberland: but
I must acknowledge, that I never had an opportunity, whilst staying at
Keswick, of verifying the statement. A young man of studious turn, who is
said to have resided near Penrith, was anxious to qualify himself for
entering the church, or for any other mode of life which might secure to
him a reasonable portion of literary leisure. His family, however, thought
that under the circumstances of his situation he would have a better
chance for success in life as a tradesman; and they took the necessary
steps for placing him as an apprentice at some shopkeeper's in Penrith.
This he looked upon as an indignity, to which he was determined in no case
to submit. And accordingly, when he had ascertained that all opposition to
the choice of his friends was useless, he walked over to the mountainous
district of Keswick (about sixteen miles distant)--looked about him in
order to select his ground--cooly walked up Lattrig (a dependency of
Skiddaw)--made a pillow of sods--laid himself down with his face looking
up to the sky--and in that posture was found dead, with the appearance of
having died tranquilly.


[1] On which account, I am the more struck by the ignoble argument of
those statesmen who have contended in the House of Commons that such and
such classes of men in this nation are not accessible to any loftier
influences. Supposing that there were any truth in this assertion, which
is a libel not on this nation only, but on man in general,--surely it is
the duty of lawgivers not to perpetuate by their institutions the evil
which they find, but to presume and gradually to create a better spirit.

[2] Of which degradation, let it never be forgotten that France but thirty
years ago presented as shocking cases as any country, even where slavery
is tolerated. An eye-witness to the fact, who has since published it in
print, told me, that in France, before the revolution, he had repeatedly
seen a woman yoked with an ass to the plough; and the brutal ploughman
applying his whip indifferently to either. English people, to whom I have
occasionally mentioned this as an exponent of the hollow refinement of
manners in France, have uniformly exclaimed--'_That_ is more than I
can believe;' and have taken it for granted that I had my information from
some prejudiced Englishman. But who was my informer? A Frenchman, reader,
--M. Simond; and though now by adoption an American citizen, yet still
French in his heart and in all his prejudices.


It is asserted that this is the age of Superficial Knowledge; and amongst
the proofs of this assertion we find Encyclopaedias and other popular
abstracts of knowledge particularly insisted on. But in this notion and
its alleged proofs there is equal error--wherever there is much diffusion
of knowledge, there must be a good deal of superficiality: prodigious
_extension_ implies a due proportion of weak _intension_; a sea-like
expansion of knowledge will cover large shallows as well as large
depths. But in that quarter in which it is superficially cultivated the
intellect of this age is properly opposed in any just comparison to an
intellect without any culture at all:--leaving the deep soils out of the
comparison, the shallow ones of the present day would in any preceding one
have been barren wastes. Of this our modern encyclopedias are the best
proof. For whom are they designed, and by whom used?--By those who in a
former age would have gone to the fountain heads? No, but by those who in
any age preceding the present would have drunk at no waters at all.
Encyclopedias are the growth of the last hundred years; not because those
who were formerly students of higher learning have descended, but because
those who were below encyclopaedias have ascended. The greatness of the
ascent is marked by the style in which the more recent encyclopaedias are
executed: at first they were mere abstracts of existing books--well or ill
executed: at present they contain many _original_ articles of great
merit. As in the periodical literature of the age, so in the
encyclopaedias it has become a matter of ambition with the publishers to
retain the most eminent writers in each several department. And hence it
is that our encyclopaedias now display one characteristic of this age--the
very opposite of superficiality (and which on other grounds we are well
assured of)--viz. its tendency in science, no less than in other
applications of industry, to extreme subdivision. In all the employments
which are dependent in any degree upon the political economy of nations,
this tendency is too obvious to have been overlooked. Accordingly it has
long been noticed for congratulation in manufactures and the useful arts--
and for censure in the learned professions. We have now, it is alleged, no
great and comprehensive lawyers like Coke: and the study of medicine is
subdividing itself into a distinct ministry (as it were) not merely upon
the several organs of the body (oculists, aurists, dentists,
cheiropodists, &c.) but almost upon the several diseases of the same
organ: one man is distinguished for the treatment of liver complaints of
one class--a second for those of another class; one man for asthma--
another for phthisis; and so on. As to the law, the evil (if it be one)
lies in the complex state of society which of necessity makes the laws
complex: law itself is become unwieldy and beyond the grasp of one man's
term of life and possible range of experience: and will never again come
within them. With respect to medicine, the case is no evil but a great
benefit--so long as the subdividing principle does not descend too low to
allow of a perpetual re-ascent into the generalizing principle (the
[Greek: _to_] commune) which secures the unity of the science. In
ancient times all the evil of such a subdivision was no doubt realized in
Egypt: for there a distinct body of professors took charge of each organ
of the body, not (as we may be assured) from any progress of the science
outgrowing the time and attention of the general professor, but simply
from an ignorance of the organic structure of the human body and the
reciprocal action of the whole upon each part and the parts upon the
whole; an ignorance of the same kind which has led sailors seriously (and
not merely, as may sometimes have happened, by way of joke) to reserve one
ulcerated leg to their own management, whilst the other was given up to
the management of the surgeon. With respect to law and medicine then, the
difference between ourselves and our ancestors is not subjective but
objective; not, _i.e._ in our faculties who study them, but in the
things themselves which are the objects of study: not we (the students)
are grown less, but they (the studies) are grown bigger;--and that our
ancestors did not subdivide as much as we do--was something of their luck,
but no part of their merit. Simply as subdividers therefore to the extent
which now prevails, we are less superficial than any former age. In all
parts of science the same principle of subdivision holds: here therefore,
no less than in those parts of knowledge which are the subjects of
distinct civil professions, we are of necessity more profound than our
ancestors; but, for the same reason, less comprehensive than they. Is it
better to be a profound student, or a comprehensive one? In some degree
this must depend upon the direction of the studies: but generally, I
think, it is better for the interests of knowledge that the scholar should
aim at profundity, and better for the interests of the individual that he
should aim at comprehensiveness. A due balance and equilibrium of the mind
is but preserved by a large and multiform knowledge: but knowledge itself
is but served by an exclusive (or at least paramount) dedication of one
mind to one science. The first proposition is perhaps unconditionally
true: but the second with some limitations. There are such people as
Leibnitzes on this earth; and their office seems not that of planets--to
revolve within the limits of one system, but that of comets (according to
the theory of some speculators)--to connect different systems together. No
doubt there is much truth in this: a few Leibnitzes in every age would be
of much use: but neither are many men fitted by nature for the part of
Leibnitz; nor would the aspect of knowledge be better, if they were. We
should then have a state of Grecian life amongst us in which every man
individually would attain in a moderate degree all the purposes of the
sane understanding,--but in which all the purposes of the sane
understanding would be but moderately attained. What I mean is this:--let
all the objects of the understanding in civil life or in science be
represented by the letters of the alphabet; in Grecian life each man would
separately go through all the letters in a tolerable way; whereas at
present each letter is served by a distinct body of men. Consequently the
Grecian individual is superior to the modern; but the Grecian whole is
inferior: for the whole is made up of the individuals; and the Grecian
individual repeats himself. Whereas in modern life the whole derives its
superiority from the very circumstances which constitute the inferiority
of the parts; for modern life is _cast_ dramatically: and the difference
is as between an army consisting of soldiers who should each individually
be competent to go through the duties of a dragoon--of a hussar--of a
sharp-shooter--of an artillery-man--of a pioneer, &c. and an army on its
present composition, where the very inferiority of the soldier as an
individual--his inferiority in compass and versatility of power and
knowledge--is the very ground from which the army derives its superiority
as a whole, viz. because it is the condition of the possibility of a total
surrender of the individual to one exclusive pursuit. In science
therefore, and (to speak more generally) in the whole evolution of the
human faculties, no less than in Political Economy, the progress of
society brings with it a necessity of sacrificing the ideal of what is
excellent for the individual, to the ideal of what is excellent for the
whole. We need therefore not trouble ourselves (except as a speculative
question) with the comparison of the two states; because, as a practical
question, it is precluded by the overruling tendencies of the age--which
no man could counteract except in his own single case, _i.e._ by refusing
to adapt himself as a part to the whole, and thus foregoing the advantages
of either one state or the other. [1]


[1] The latter part of what is here said coincides, in a way which is
rather remarkable, with a passage in an interesting work of Schiller's
which I have since read, (_on the Aesthetic Education of Men_, in a
series of letters: vid. letter the 6th.) 'With us in  order to obtain the
representative _word_ (as it were) of the total species, we must
spell it out by the help of a series of individuals. So that on a survey
of society as it actually exists, one might suppose that the faculties of
the mind do really in actual experience show themselves in as separate a
form, and in as much insulation, as psychology is forced to exhibit them
in its analysis. And thus we see not only individuals, but whole classes
of men, unfolding only one part of the germs which are laid in them by the
hand of nature. In saying this I am fully aware of the advantages which
the human species of modern ages has, when considered as a unity, over the
best of antiquity: but the comparison should begin with the individuals:
and then let me ask where is the modern individual that would have the
presumption to step forward against the Athenian individual--man to man,
and to contend for the prize of human excellence? The polypus nature of
the Grecian republics, in which every individual enjoyed a separate life,
and if it were necessary could become a whole, has now given place to an
artificial watch-work, where many lifeless parts combine to form a
mechanic whole. The state and the church, laws and manners, are now torn
asunder: labor is divided from enjoyment, the means from the end, the
exertion from the reward. Chained for ever to a little individual fraction
of the whole, man himself is moulded into a fraction; and, with the
monotonous whirling of the wheel which he turns everlastingly in his ear,
he never develops the harmony of his being; and, instead of imaging the
totality of human nature, becomes a bare abstract of his business or the
science which he cultivates. The dead letter takes the place of the living
understanding; and a practised memory becomes a surer guide than genius
and sensibility. Doubtless the power of genius, as we all know, will not
fetter itself within the limits of its occupation; but talents of
mediocrity are all exhausted in the monotony of the employment allotted to
them; and that man must have no common head who brings with him the
geniality of his powers unstripped of their freshness by the ungenial
labors of life to the cultivation of the genial.' After insisting at some
length on this wise, Schiller passes to the other side of the
contemplation, and proceeds thus:--'It suited my immediate purpose to
point out the injuries of this condition of the species, without
displaying the compensations by which nature has balanced them. But I will
now readily acknowledge--that, little as this practical condition may suit
the interests of the individual, yet the species could in no other way
have been progressive. Partial exercise of the faculties (literally
"_one-sidedness_ in the exercise of the faculties") leads the individual
undoubtedly into error, but the species into truth. In no other way than
by concentrating the whole energy of our spirit, and by converging our
whole being, so to speak, into a single faculty, can we put wings as it
were to the individual faculty and carry it by this artificial flight far
beyond the limits within which nature has else doomed it to walk. Just as
certain as it is that all human beings could never, by clubbing their
visual powers together, have arrived at the power of seeing what the
telescope discovers to the astronomer; just so certain it is that
the human intellect would never have arrived at an analysis of the
infinite or a _Critical Analysis of the Pure Reason_ (the principal
work of Kant), unless individuals had dismembered (as it were) and
insulated this or that specific faculty, and had thus armed their
intellectual sight by the keenest abstraction and by the submersion of the
other powers of their nature. Extraordinary men are formed then by
energetic and over-excited spasms as it were in the individual faculties;
though it is true that the equable exercise of all the faculties in
harmony with each other can alone make happy and perfect men.' After this
statement, from which it should seem that in the progress of society
nature has made it necessary for man to sacrifice _his own_ happiness
to the attainment of _her_ ends in the development of his species,
Schiller goes on to inquire whether this evil result cannot be remedied;
and whether 'the totality of our nature, which art has destroyed, might
not be re-established by a higher art,'--but this, as leading to a
discussion beyond the limits of my own, I omit.


It has already, I believe, been said more than once in print that one
condition of a good dictionary would be to exhibit the _history_ of
each word; that is, to record the exact succession of its meanings. But
the philosophic reason for this has not been given; which reason, by the
way, settles a question often agitated, viz. whether the true meaning of a
word be best ascertained from its etymology, or from its present use and
acceptation. Mr. Coleridge says, 'the best explanation of a word is often
that which is suggested by its derivation' (I give the substance of his
words from memory). Others allege that we have nothing to do with the
primitive meaning of the word; that the question is--what does it mean
now? and they appeal, as the sole authority they acknowledge, to the

   Usus, penes quem est jus et norma loquendi.

In what degree each party is right, may be judged from this consideration
--that no word can ever deviate from its first meaning _per saltum_:
each successive stage of meaning must always have been determined by that
which preceded. And on this one law depends the whole philosophy of the
case: for it thus appears that the original and primitive sense of the
word will contain virtually all which can ever afterwards arise: as in the
_evolution_-theory of generation, the whole series of births is
represented as involved in the first parent. Now, if the evolution of
successive meanings has gone on rightly, _i.e._ by simply lapsing
through a series of close affinities, there can be no reason for recurring
to the primitive meaning of the word: but, if it can be shown that the
evolution has been faulty, _i.e._ that the chain of true affinities
has ever been broken through ignorance, then we have a right to reform the
word, and to appeal from the usage ill-instructed to a usage better-
instructed. Whether we ought to exercise this right, will depend on a
consideration which I will afterwards notice. Meantime I will first give a
few instances of faulty evolution.

1. _Implicit_. This word is now used in a most ignorant way; and from
its misuse it has come to be a word wholly useless: for it is now never
coupled, I think, with any other substantive than these two--faith and
confidence: a poor domain indeed to have sunk to from its original wide
range of territory. Moreover, when we say, _implicit faith_, or
_implicit confidence_, we do not thereby indicate any specific _kind_ of
faith and confidence differing from other faith or other confidence: but
it is a vague rhetorical word which expresses a great _degree_ of faith
and confidence; a faith that is unquestioning, a confidence that is
unlimited; _i.e._ in fact, a faith that _is_ a faith, a confidence that
_is_ a confidence. Such a use of the word ought to be abandoned to women:
doubtless, when sitting in a bower in the month of May, it is pleasant to
hear from a lovely mouth--'I put implicit confidence in your honor:' but,
though pretty and becoming to such a mouth, it is very unfitting to the
mouth of a scholar: and I will be bold to affirm that no man, who had ever
acquired a scholar's knowledge of the English language, has used the word
in that lax and unmeaning way. The history of the word is this.--
_Implicit_ (from the Latin _implicitus_, involved in, folded up) was
always used originally, and still is so by scholars, as the direct
antithete of explicit (from the Latin _explicitus_, evolved, unfolded):
and the use of both may be thus illustrated.

_Q._ 'Did Mr. A. ever say that he would marry Miss B.?'--_A._ 'No; not
explicitly (_i.e._ in so many words); but he did implicitly--by showing
great displeasure if she received attentions from any other man; by asking
her repeatedly to select furniture for his house; by consulting her on his
own plans of life.'

_Q._ 'Did Epicurus maintain any doctrines such as are here ascribed
to him?'--_A._ 'Perhaps not explicitly, either in words or by any other
mode of direct sanction: on the contrary, I believe he denied them--
and disclaimed them with vehemence: but he maintained them implicitly: for
they are involved in other acknowledged doctrines of his, and may be
deduced from them by the fairest and most irresistible logic.'

_Q._ 'Why did you complain of the man? Had he expressed any contempt
for your opinion?'--_A._ 'Yes, he had: not explicit contempt, I admit; for
he never opened his stupid mouth; but implicitly he expressed the utmost
that he could: for, when I had spoken two hours against the old newspaper,
and in favor of the new one, he went instantly and put his name down as a
subscriber to the old one.'

_Q._ 'Did Mr.---- approve of that gentleman's conduct and way of life?'--
_A._ 'I don't know that I ever heard him speak about it: but he seemed to
give it his implicit approbation by allowing both his sons to associate
with him when the complaints ran highest against him.'

These instances may serve to illustrate the original use of the word;
which use has been retained from the sixteenth century down to our own
days by an uninterrupted chain of writers. In the eighteenth century this
use was indeed nearly effaced  but still in the first half of that century
it was retained by Saunderson the Cambridge professor of mathematics (see
his Algebra, &c.), with three or four others, and in the latter half by a
man to whom Saunderson had some resemblance in spring and elasticity of
understanding, viz. by Edmund Burke. Since his day I know of no writers
who have avoided the slang and unmeaning use of the word, excepting
Messrs. Coleridge and Wordsworth; both of whom (but especially the last)
have been remarkably attentive to the scholar-like [1] use of words, and
to the history of their own language.

Thus much for the primitive use of the word _implicit_. Now, with
regard to the history of its transition into its present use, it is
briefly this; and it will appear at once, that it has arisen through
ignorance. When it was objected to a papist that his church exacted an
assent to a great body of traditions and doctrines to which it was
impossible that the great majority could be qualified, either as respected
time--or knowledge--or culture of the understanding, to give any
reasonable assent,--the answer was: 'Yes; but that sort of assent is not
required of a poor uneducated man; all that he has to do--is to believe in
the church: he is to have faith in _her_ faith: by that act he adopts
for his own whatsoever the church believes, though he may never have hoard
of it even: his faith is implicit, _i.e._ involved and wrapped up in
the faith of the church, which faith he firmly believes to be the true
faith upon the conviction he has that the church is preserved from all
possibility of erring by the spirit of God.' [2] Now, as this sort of
believing by proxy or implicit belief (in which the belief was not
_immediate_ in the thing proposed to the belief, but in the authority
of another person who believed in that thing and thus _mediately_ in
the thing itself) was constantly attacked by the learned assailants of
popery,--it naturally happened that many unlearned readers of these
protestant polemics caught at a phrase which was so much bandied between
the two parties: the spirit of the context sufficiently explained to them
that it was used by protestants as a term of reproach, and indicated a
faith that was an erroneous faith by being too easy--too submissive--and
too passive: but the particular mode of this erroneousness they seldom
came to understand, as learned writers naturally employed the term without
explanation, presuming it to be known to those whom they addressed. Hence
these ignorant readers caught at the last _result_ of the phrase 'implicit
faith' rightly, truly supposing it to imply a resigned and unquestioning
faith; but they missed the whole immediate cause of meaning by which only
the word 'implicit' could ever have been entitled to express that result.

I have allowed myself to say so much on this word 'implicit,' because the
history of the mode by which its true meaning was lost applies almost to
all other corrupted words--_mutatis mutandis_: and the amount of it
may be collected into this formula,--that the _result_ of the word is
apprehended and retained, but the _schematismus_ by which that result
was ever reached is lost. This is the brief theory of all corruption of
words. The word _schematismus_ I have unwillingly used, because no
other expresses my meaning. So great and extensive a doctrine however
lurks in this word, that I defer the explanation of it to a separate
article. Meantime a passable sense of the word will occur to every body
who reads Greek. I now go on to a few more instances of words that have
forfeited their original meaning through the ignorance of those who used

'_Punctual._' This word is now confined to the meagre denoting of
accuracy in respect to time--fidelity to the precise moment of an
appointment. But originally it was just as often, and just as reasonably,
applied to space as to time; 'I cannot punctually determine the origin of
the Danube; but I know in general the district in which it rises, and that
its fountain is near that of the Rhine.' Not only, however, was it applied
to time and space, but it had a large and very elegant figurative use.
Thus in the History of the Royal Society by Sprat (an author who was
finical and nice in his use of words)--I remember a sentence to this
effect: 'the Society gave punctual directions for the conducting of
experiments;' _i.e._ directions which descended to the minutiae and
lowest details. Again in the once popular romance of Parismus Prince of
Bohemia--'She' (I forget who) 'made a punctual relation of the whole
matter;' _i.e._ a relation which was perfectly circumstantial and
true to the minutest features of the case.


[1] Among the most shocking of the unscholarlike barbarisms, now
prevalent, I must notice the use of the word '_nice_' in an objective
instead of a subjective sense: '_nice_' does not and cannot express a
quality of the object, but merely a quality of the subject: yet we hear
daily of 'a very nice letter'--'a nice young lady,' &c., meaning a letter
or a young lady that it is pleasant to contemplate: but 'a nice young
lady'--means a fastidious young lady; and 'a nice letter' ought to mean a
letter that is very delicate in its rating and in the choice of its

[2] Thus Milton, who (in common with his contemporaries) always uses the
word accurately, speaks of Ezekiel 'swallowing his implicit roll of
knowledge'--_i.e._ coming to the knowledge of many truths not separately
and in detail, but by the act of arriving at some one master truth which
involved all the rest.--So again, if any man or government were to
suppress a book, that man or government might justly be reproached as the
implicit destroyer of all the wisdom and virtue that might have been the
remote products of that book.


It is a remarkable fact, that the very finest epigram in the English
language happens also to be the worst. _Epigram_ I call it in the
austere Greek sense; which thus far resembled our modern idea of an
epigram, that something pointed and allied to wit was demanded in the
management of the leading thought at its close, but otherwise nothing
tending towards the comic or the ludicrous. The epigram I speak of is the
well-known one of Dryden dedicated to the glorification of Milton. It is
irreproachable as regards its severe brevity. Not one word is there that
could be spared; nor could the wit of man have cast the movement of the
thought into a better mould. There are three couplets. In the first
couplet we are reminded of the fact that this earth had, in three
different stages of its development, given birth to a trinity of
transcendent poets; meaning narrative poets, or, even more narrowly, epic
poets. The duty thrown upon the second couplet is to characterize these
three poets, and to value them against each other, but in such terms as
that, whilst nothing less than the very highest praise should be assigned
to the two elder poets in this trinity--the Greek and the Roman--
nevertheless, by some dexterous artifice, a higher praise than the highest
should suddenly unmask itself, and drop, as it were, like a diadem from
the clouds upon the brows of their English competitor. In the kind of
expectation raised, and in the extreme difficulty of adequately meeting
this expectation, there was pretty much the same challenge offered to
Dryden as was offered, somewhere about the same time, to a British
ambassador when dining with his political antagonists. One of these--the
ambassador of France--had proposed to drink his master, Louis XIV., under
the character of the sun, who dispensed life and light to the whole
political system. To this there was no objection; and immediately, by way
of intercepting any further draughts upon the rest of the solar system,
the Dutch ambassador rose, and proposed the health of their high
mightinesses the Seven United States, as the moon and six [1] planets, who
gave light in the absence of the sun. The two foreign ambassadors,
Monsieur and Mynheer, secretly enjoyed the mortification of their English
brother, who seemed to be thus left in a state of bankruptcy, 'no funds'
being available for retaliation, or so they fancied. But suddenly our
British representative toasted _his_ master as Joshua, the son of
Nun, that made the sun and moon stand still. All had seemed lost for
England, when in an instant of time both her antagonists were checkmated.
Dryden assumed something of the same position. He gave away the supreme
jewels in his exchequer; apparently nothing remained behind; all was
exhausted. To Homer he gave A; to Virgil he gave B; and, behold! after
these were given away, there remained nothing at all that would not have
been a secondary praise. But, in a moment of time, by giving A _and_
B to Milton, at one sling of his victorious arm he raised him above Homer
by the whole extent of B, and above Virgil by the whole extent of A. This
felicitous evasion of the embarrassment is accomplished in the second
couplet; and, finally, the third couplet winds up with graceful effect, by
making a _resume_, or recapitulation of the logic concerned in the
distribution of prizes just announced. Nature, he says, had it not in her
power to provide a third prize separate from the first and second; her
resource was, to join the first and second in combination: 'To make a
third, she joined the former two.'

Such is the abstract of this famous epigram; and, judged simply by the
outline and tendency of the thought, it merits all the vast popularity
which it has earned. But in the meantime, it is radically vicious as
regards the filling in of this outline; for the particular quality in
which Homer is accredited with the pre-eminence, viz., _loftiness of
thought_, happens to be a mere variety of expression for that quality,
viz. _majesty_, in which the pre-eminence is awarded to Virgil. Homer
excels Virgil in the very point in which lies Virgil's superiority to
Homer; and that synthesis, by means of which a great triumph is reserved
to Milton, becomes obviously impossible, when it is perceived that the
supposed analytic elements of this synthesis are blank reiterations of
each other.

Exceedingly striking it is, that a thought should have prospered for one
hundred and seventy years, which, on the slightest steadiness of
examination, turns out to be no thought at all, but mere blank vacuity.
There is, however, this justification of the case, that the mould, the set
of channels, into which the metal of the thought is meant to run, really
_has_ the felicity which it appears to have: the form is perfect; and
it is merely in the _matter_, in the accidental filling up of the mould,
that a fault has been committed. Had the Virgilian point of excellence
been _loveliness_ instead of _majesty_, or any word whatever suggesting
the common antithesis of sublimity and beauty; or had it been power on the
one side, matched against grace on the other, the true lurking tendency of
the thought would have been developed, and the sub-conscious purpose of
the epigram would have fulfilled itself to the letter.

_N.B._--It is not meant that _loftiness of thought_ and _majesty_ are
expressions so entirely interchangeable, as that no shades of difference
could be suggested; it is enough that these 'shades' are not substantial
enough, or broad enough, to support the weight of opposition which the
epigram assigns to them. _Grace_ and _elegance_, for instance, are far
from being in all relations synonymous; but they are so to the full extent
of any purposes concerned in this epigram. Nevertheless, it is probable
enough that Dryden had moving in his thoughts a relation of the word
_majesty_, which, if developed, would have done justice to his meaning. It
was, perhaps, the decorum and sustained dignity of the _composition_--the
workmanship apart from the native grandeur of the materials--the majestic
style of the artistic treatment as distinguished from the original
creative power--which Dryden, the translator of the Roman poet, familiar
therefore with his weakness and with his strength, meant in this place to
predicate as characteristically observable in Virgil.


[1] '_Six planets_;'--No more had then been discovered.


There is nothing extraordinary, or that could merit a special notice, in a
simple case of oversight, or in a blunder, though emanating from the
greatest of poets. But such a case challenges and forces our attention,
when we know that the particular passage in which it occurs was wrought
and burnished with excessive pains; or (which in this case is also known)
when that particular passage is pushed into singular prominence as having
obtained a singular success. In no part of his poetic mission did Pope so
fascinate the gaze of his contemporaries as in his functions of satirist;
which functions, in his latter years, absorbed all other functions. And
one reason, I believe, why it was that the interest about Pope decayed so
rapidly after his death (an accident somewhere noticed by Wordsworth),
must be sought in the fact, that the most stinging of his personal
allusions, by which he had given salt to his later writings, were
continually losing their edge, and sometimes their intelligibility, as
Pope's own contemporary generation was dying off. Pope alleges it as a
palliation of his satiric malice, that it had been forced from him in the
way of retaliation; forgetting that such a plea wilfully abjures the
grandest justification of a satirist, viz., the deliberate assumption of
the character as something corresponding to the prophet's mission amongst
the Hebrews. It is no longer the _facit indignatio versum_. Pope's
satire, where even it was most effective, was personal and vindictive, and
upon that argument alone could not he philosophic. Foremost in the order
of his fulminations stood, and yet stands, the bloody castigation by
which, according to his own pretence, he warned and menaced (but by which,
in simple truth, he executed judgment upon) his false friend, Addison.

To say that this drew vast rounds of applause upon its author, and
frightened its object into deep silence for the rest of his life, like the
_Quos ego_ of angry Neptune, sufficiently argues that the verses must
have ploughed as deeply as the Russian knout. Vitriol could not scorch
more fiercely. And yet the whole passage rests upon a blunder; and the
blunder is so broad and palpable, that it implies instant forgetfulness
both in the writer and the reader. The idea which furnishes the basis of
the passage is this: that the conduct ascribed to Addison is in its own
nature so despicable, as to extort laughter by its primary impulse; but
that this laughter changes into weeping, when we come to understand that
the person concerned in this delinquency is Addison. The change, the
transfiguration, in our mood of contemplating the offence, is charged upon
the discovery which we are supposed to make as to the person of the
offender; that which by its baseness had been simply comic when imputed to
some corresponding author, passes into a tragic _coup-de-theatre_,
when it is suddenly traced back to a man of original genius. The whole,
therefore, of this effect is made to depend upon the sudden scenical
transition from a supposed petty criminal to one of high distinction. And,
meantime, no such stage effect had been possible, since the knowledge that
a man of genius was the offender had been what we started with from the
beginning. 'Our laughter is changed to tears,' says Pope, 'as soon as we
discover that the base act had a noble author.' And, behold! the initial
feature in the whole description of the case is, that the libeller was one
whom 'true genius fired:'

  'Peace to all such! But were there one whose mind
  True genius fires,' &c.

Before the offence is described, the perpetrator is already characterized
as a man of genius: and, _in spite of that knowledge_, we laugh. But
suddenly our mood changes, and we weep, but why? I beseech you. Simply
because we have ascertained the author to be a man of genius.

  'Who would not laugh, if such a man there be?
   Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?'

The sole reason for weeping is something that we knew already before we
began to laugh.

It would not be right in logic, in fact, it would be a mis-classification,
if I should cite as at all belonging to the same group several passages in
Milton that come very near to Irish bulls, by virtue of distorted
language. One reason against such a classification would lie precisely in
that fact--viz., that the assimilation to the category of bulls lurks in
the verbal expression, and not (as in Pope's case) amongst the conditions
of the thought. And a second reason would lie in the strange circumstance,
that Milton had not fallen into this snare of diction through any
carelessness or oversight, but with his eyes wide open, deliberately
avowing his error as a special elegance; repeating it; and well aware of
splendid Grecian authority for his error, if anybody should be bold enough
to call it an error. Every reader must be aware of the case--

  'Adam the goodliest man of men since born
  His sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve'--

which makes Adam one of his own sons, Eve one of her own daughters. This,
however, is authorized by Grecian usage in the severest writers. Neither
can it be alleged that these might be bold poetic expressions, harmonizing
with the Grecian idiom; for Poppo has illustrated this singular form of
expression in a prose-writer, as philosophic and austere as Thucydides; a
form which (as it offends against logic) must offend equally in all
languages. Some beauty must have been described in the idiom, such as
atoned for its solecism: for Milton recurs to the same idiom, and under
the same entire freedom of choice, elsewhere; particularly in this
instance, which has not been pointed out: 'And never,' says Satan to the
abhorred phantoms of Sin and Death, when crossing his path,

  'And never saw till now
  Sight more detestable than him and thee.'

Now, therefore, it seems, he _had_ seen a sight more detestable than
this very sight. He now looked upon something more hateful than X Y Z.
What was it? It was X Y Z.

But the authority of Milton, backed by that of insolent Greece, would
prove an overmatch for the logic of centuries. And I withdraw, therefore,
from the rash attempt to quarrel with this sort of bull, involving itself
in the verbal expression. But the following, which lies rooted in the mere
facts and incidents, is certainly the most extraordinary _practical_
bull [1] that all literature can furnish. And a stranger thing, perhaps,
than the oversight itself lies in this--that not any critic throughout
Europe, two only excepted, but has failed to detect a blunder so
memorable. All the rampant audacity of Bentley--'slashing Bentley'--all
the jealous malignity of Dr. Johnson--who hated Milton without disguise as
a republican, but secretly and under a mask _would_ at any rate have
hated him from jealousy of his scholarship--had not availed to sharpen
these practised and these interested eyes into the detection of an
oversight which argues a sudden Lethean forgetfulness on the part of
Milton; and in many generations of readers, however alive and awake with
malice, a corresponding forgetfulness not less astonishing. Two readers
only I have ever heard of that escaped this lethargic inattention; one of
which two is myself; and I ascribe my success partly to good luck, but
partly to some merit on my own part in having cultivated a habit of
systematically accurate reading. If I read at all, I make it a duty to
read truly and faithfully. I profess allegiance for the time to the man
whom I undertake to study; and I am as loyal to all the engagements
involved in such a contract, as if I had come under a _sacramentum
militare_. So it was that, whilst yet a boy, I came to perceive, with a
wonder not yet exhausted, that unaccountable blunder which Milton has
committed in the main narrative on which the epic fable of the 'Paradise
Lost' turns as its hinges. And many a year afterwards I found that Paul
Richter, whose vigilance nothing escaped, who carried with him through
life 'the eye of the hawk, and the fire therein,' had not failed to make
the same discovery. It is this: The archangel Satan has designs upon man;
he meditates his ruin; and it is known that he does. Specially to
counteract these designs, and for no other purpose whatever, a choir of
angelic police is stationed at the gates of Paradise, having (I repeat)
one sole commission, viz., to keep watch and ward over the threatened
safety of the newly created human pair. Even at the very first this duty
is neglected so thoroughly, that Satan gains access without challenge or
suspicion. That is awful: for, ask yourself, reader, how a constable or an
inspector of police would be received who had been stationed at No. 6, on
a secret information, and spent the night in making love at No. 15.
Through the regular surveillance at the gates, Satan passes without
objection; and he is first of all detected by a purely accidental
collision during the rounds of the junior angels. The result of this
collision, and of the examination which follows, is what no reader can
ever forget--so unspeakable is the grandeur of that scene between the two
hostile archangels, when the _Fiend_ (so named at the moment under
the fine machinery used by Milton for exalting or depressing the ideas of
his nature) finally takes his flight as an incarnation of darkness,

           'And fled
  Murmuring; and with him fled the shades of night.

The darkness flying with him, naturally we have the feeling that he
_is_ the darkness, and that all darkness has some essential relation
to Satan.

But now, having thus witnessed his terrific expulsion, naturally we ask
what was the sequel. Four books, however, are interposed before we reach
the answer to that question. This is the reason that we fail to remark the
extraordinary oversight of Milton. Dislocated from its immediate plan in
the succession of incidents, that sequel eludes our notice, which else and
in its natural place would have shocked us beyond measure. The simple
abstract of the whole story is, that Satan, being ejected, and sternly
charged under Almighty menaces not to intrude upon the young Paradise of
God, 'rides with darkness' for exactly one week, and, having digested his
wrath rather than his fears on the octave of his solemn banishment,
without demur, or doubt, or tremor, back he plunges into the very centre
of Eden. On a Friday, suppose, he is expelled through the main entrance:
on the Friday following he re-enters upon the forbidden premises through a
clandestine entrance. The upshot is, that the heavenly police suffer, in
the first place, the one sole enemy, who was or could be the object of
their vigilance, to pass without inquest or suspicion; thus they
_inaugurate_ their task; secondly, by the merest accident (no thanks
to their fidelity) they detect him, and with awful adjurations sentence
him to perpetual banishment; but, thirdly, on his immediate return, in
utter contempt of their sentence, they ignore him altogether, and
apparently act upon Dogberry's direction, that, upon meeting a thief, the
police may suspect him to be no true man; and, with such manner of men,
the less they meddle or make, the more it will be for their honesty.


[1] It is strange, or rather it is _not_ strange, considering the
feebleness of that lady in such a field, that Miss Edgeworth always
fancied herself to have caught Milton in a bull, under circumstances
which, whilst leaving the shadow of a bull, effectually disown the
substance. 'And in the lowest deep a lower deep still opens to devour me.'
This is the passage denounced by Miss Edgeworth. 'If it was already the
lowest deep,' said the fair lady, 'how the deuce (no, perhaps it might be
_I_ that said '_how the deuce_') could it open into a lower deep?' Yes,
how could it? In carpentry, it is clear to my mind that it could _not_.
But, in cases of deep imaginative feeling, no phenomenon is more natural
than precisely this never-ending growth of one colossal grandeur chasing
and surmounting another, or of abysses that swallowed up abysses.
Persecutions of this class oftentimes are amongst the symptoms of fever,
and amongst the inevitable spontaneities of nature. Other people I have
known who were inclined to class amongst bulls Milton's all-famous
expression of '_darkness visible_,' whereas it is not even a bold or
daring expression; it describes a pure optical experience of very common
occurrence. There are two separate darknesses or obscurities: first, that
obscurity _by_ which you see dimly; and secondly, that obscurity _which_
you see. The first is the atmosphere through which vision is performed,
and, therefore, part of the _subjective_ conditions essential to the act
of seeing. The second is the _object_ of your sight. In a glass-house at
night illuminated by a sullen fire in one corner, but else dark, you see
the darkness massed in the rear as a black object. _That_ is the 'visible
darkness.' And on the other hand, the murky atmosphere between you and the
distant rear is not the object, but the medium, through or athwart which
you descry the black masses. The first darkness is _subjective_ darkness;
that is, a darkness in your own eye, and entangled with your very faculty
of vision. The second darkness is perfectly different: it is _objective_
darkness; that is to say, not any darkness which affects or modifies your
faculty of seeing either for better or worse; but a darkness which is the
_object_ of your vision; a darkness which you see projected from yourself
as a massy volume of blackness, and projected, possibly, to a vast

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