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Title: Cornelius O'Dowd Upon Men And Women And Other Things In General
Author: Lever, Charles James
Language: English
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CORNELIUS O’DOWD UPON MEN AND WOMEN AND OTHER THINGS IN GENERAL

By Charles Lever

Originally Published In Blackwood’s Magazine

1864



CONTENTS:

     Myself.

     A Friend Of Gioberts: Being A Reminiscence Of Seventeen Years Ago.

     Garibaldi’s Worshippers.

     Something About Solferino And Ships.

     The Stranger At The Croce Di Malta.

     The Strange Man’s Sorrow.

     Italian Law And Justice.

     The Organ Nuisance And Its Remedy.

     R. N. F. The Great Chevalier D’industrie Of Our Day.

     Gàribàldi

     A New Investment.

     Italian Traits And Characteristics.

     The Decline Of Whist.

     One Of Our “Two Puzzles”.

     A Masterly Inactivity.

     A New Hansard.

     Foreign Clubs.

     A Hint For C. S. Examiners.

     Of Some Old Dogs In Office.

     Decline Of The Drama.

     Pensions For Governors.

     A Grumble.

     Of Our Brothers Beyond The Border.

     The Rule Nisi.

     On Climbing Boys.

     Linguists

     The Old Conjurors And The New.

     Gambling For The Million.

     The Intoxicating Liquors Bill.



TO JOHN ANSTER, ESQ., LL.D.

My dear Anster,

If you knew how often I have thought of you as I was writing this
book,--if you knew how there rose before my mind memories of long ago--of
those glorious evenings with all those fine spirits, to think of whom is
a triumph even with all its sadness,--and if you knew how I long to meet
once more the few soldiers who survive of that “old guard,”--you would
see how naturally I dedicate my volume to him who was the best of us.
Accept it, I beg you, as a token of recollection and regard from your
affectionate friend,

CORNELIUS O’DOWD.

Lago Maggiore, July 20,1864.



NOTICE.

AMIABLE AND ACCOMPLISHED READER,

As I have very little to say for myself that is not said in some of
my opening pages, there is no need that I should delay you on the
threshold.

You will learn, if you take the trouble, by what course of events I came
to my present pursuit, converting myself into what a candid, but not
complimentary, friend has called “a diverting Vagabond.”

The fact was, I gave the world every reasonable opportunity of knowing
that they had a remarkable man amongst them, but, with a stupidity all
their own, they wouldn’t see it; so that when the solicitor who once
gave me a brief died--I believe it was a softening of the brain--I
burned my wig and retired from the profession.

Now, let people say what they may, it is by no means easy to invent a
new line of life; and even if you should, there are scores of people
ready to start up and seize on your discovery; and as I write these
lines I am by no means sure that to-morrow will not see some other
Cornelius O’Dowd inviting the public to a feast of wisdom and
life-knowledge, with perhaps a larger stock than my own of “things not
generally known.” I will disparage no man’s wares. There is, I feel
assured, a market for us all. My rivals, or my imitators, whichever you
like to call them, may prove superior to me; they maybe more ingenious,
more various, more witty, or more profound; but take my word for it,
bland Header, there is always something in the original tap, whether
the liquor be Harvey sauce or L.L. whisky, and such is mine. You are, in
coming to me, frequenting the old house; and if I could only descend to
it, I could print you more testimonials to success than Mr Morrison’s
of the pills, or the other man of cod-liver oil, but I scorn to give the
names, imparted as they were in secret gratitude. One only trick of
the trade I will condescend to--it is to assure you that you had need
to beware of counterfeits, and that no O’Dowderies are genuine except
signed by me.

My heart is broke with requests for my autograph. Will a sympathising
public accept the above--which, of course, will be immediately
photographed.



CORNELIUS O’DOWD



MYSELF.

Bland Reader,--If you ever look into the Irish papers--and I hope
you are not so exclusive regarding them as is Mr Cobden with the
‘Times’--you will see that, under the title, “Landed Estates Court,
County Mayo,” Judge Dobbs has just sold the town and lands of
Kilmuray-nabachlish, Ballaghy, and Gregnaslattery, the property of
Cornelius O’Dowd, Esq. of Dowd’s Folly, in the same county.

Now the above-recited lands, measuring seven hundred and fourteen acres,
two roods, and eleven perches, statute measure, were mine, and I am the
Cornelius O’Dowd, Esq., referred to in the same paragraph.

Though it is perfectly true that, what between mortgages, settlement
claims, and bonds, neither my father nor myself owned these lands any
more than we did the island of Jamaica, it was a great blow to me to be
sold out; for, somehow or other, one can live a long time in Ireland on
parchment--I mean on the mere documents of an estate that has long
since passed away; but if you come once to an open sale and Judge Dobbs,
there’s an end of you, and you’ll not get credit for a pair of shoes the
day after.

My present reason for addressing you does not require that I should go
into my family history, or mention more of myself than that I was called
to the Bar in ‘42; that I stood an unsuccessful election for Athlone;
that I served as a captain in the West Coast Rifles; that I married a
young lady of great personal attractions; and completed my misfortunes
by taking the chairmanship of the Vichnasehneshee silver mines, that
very soon left me with nothing but copper in my own pocket, and sent me
to Judge Dobbs and his Court on the Inns Quay.

Like the rest of my countrymen, I was always hoping the Government would
“do something” for me. I have not missed a levee for fourteen years,
and I have shown the calves of my legs to every viceroyalty since Lord
Clarendon’s day; but though they all joked and talked very pleasantly
with me, none said, “O’Dowd, we must do something for you;” and if it
was to rain commissionerships in lunacy, or prison inspectorships, I
don’t believe one would fall upon C. O’D. I never knew rightly how it
was, but though I was always liked at the Bar mess, and made much of on
circuit, I never got a brief. People were constantly saying to me, “Con,
if you were to do this, that, or t’other,” you’d make a hit; but it
was always conditional on my being somewhere, or doing something that I
never had attempted before.

It was clear, if I was the right man, I wasn’t in the right place; and
this was all the more provoking, because, let me do what I would, some
one was sure to exclaim, “Con, my boy, don’t try that; it is certainly
not your line.” “What a capital agent for a new assurance company you’d
be!” “What a success you’d have had on the stage! You’d have played Sir
Lucius better than any living actor. Why don’t you go on the boards? Why
not start a penny newspaper? Why not give readings?” I wonder why they
didn’t tell me to turn organist or a painter in oils.

“You’re always telling us how much you know of the world, Mr O’Dowd,”
 said my wife; “I wish you could turn the knowledge to some account.”

This was scarcely generous, to say the least of it.

Mrs O’D. knew well that I was vain of the quality--that I regarded it
as a sort of specialty. In fact, deeming, with the poet, that the proper
study of mankind was man, I had devoted a larger share of my life to the
inquiry than quite consisted with professional advancement; and while
others pored over their Blackstone, I was “doing Baden;” and instead of
term reports and Crown cases, I was diverting myself in the Oberland or
on the Lago Maggiore.

“And with all your great knowledge of life,” continued she, “I don’t
exactly see what it has done for you.”

Now, Mrs O’Dowd being, as you may apprehend, a woman, I didn’t waste my
time in arguing with her--I didn’t crush her, as I might, by telling
her that the very highest and noblest of a man’s acquirements are, _ipso
facto_, the least marketable; and that the boasted excellence of all
classical education is in nothing so conspicuous as in the fact that
Greek and Latin cannot be converted into money as readily as vulgar
fractions and a bold handwriting. Being a woman, as I have observed,
Mrs O’D. would have read the argument backwards, and stood out for the
rule-of-three against Sophocles and “all his works.” I simply replied,
with that dignity which is natural to me, “I _am_ proud of my knowledge
of life; I do recognise in myself the analyst of that strange mixture
that makes up human chemistry; but it has never occurred to me to
advertise my discovery for sale, like Holloway’s Pills or somebody’s
cod-liver oil.” “Perhaps you knew nobody would buy it,” cried she,
and flounced out of the room, the bang of the door being one of the
“epigrams in action” wives are skilled in.

Now, with respect to my knowledge of life, I have often compared myself
to those connoisseurs in art who, without a picture or an engraving of
their own, can roam through a gallery, taking the most intense pleasure
in all it contains, gazing with ecstasy at the Raffaeles, and lingering
delighted over the sunny landscapes of Claude. To me the world has,
for years, imparted a sense of much enjoyment. Human nature has been
my gallery, with all its variety, its breadth, its effect, its warm
colouring, and its cold tints.

It has been my pride to think that I can recognise every style and every
“handling,” and that no man could impose a copy upon me for an original.
“And can it be possible,” cried I aloud, “that while picture-dealers
revel in fortune--fellows whose traffic goes no higher than coloured
canvass--that I, the connoisseur of humanity, the moral toxicologist--I,
who read men as I read a French comedy--that I should be obliged to deny
myself the generous claret my doctor thinks essential to my system, and
that repose and change of scene he deems of more consequence to me than
mere physic?”

I do not--I will not--I cannot, believe it. No class of persons could
be less spared than pilots. Without their watchful skill the rich argosy
that has entered the chops of the Channel would never anchor in the
Pool. And are there no sand-banks, no sunk rocks, no hidden reefs, no
insidious shoals, in humanity? Are there no treacherous lee-shores, no
dangerous currents, no breakers? It is amidst these and such as these
I purpose to guide my fellow-men, not pretending for a moment to the
possession of any heaven-born instinct, or any inspired insight into
Nature. No; I have toiled and laboured in the cause. The experience that
I mean to offer for sale I have myself bought, occasionally far more
dearly than I intend to dispose of it. _Haud ignarus mali_; I am willing
to tell where I have been shipwrecked, and who stole my clothes. “Don’t
tell me of your successes,” said a great physician to his colleague,
“tell me of your blunders; tell me of the people you’ve killed.” I am
ready to do this, figuratively of course, for they were all ladies; and
more, I will make no attempt to screen myself from the ridicule that may
attach to an absurd situation, nor conceal those experiences which may
subject me to laughter.

You may deem me boastful if I have to set forth my qualifications; but
what can I do? It is only when I have opened my pack and displayed my
wares that you may feel tempted to buy. I am driven, then, to tell you
that I know everybody that is worth knowing in Europe, and some two or
three in America; that I have been everywhere--eaten of everything--seen
everything. There’s not a railway guard from Norway to Naples doesn’t
grin a recognition to me; not a waiter from the Trois Frères to the
Wilde Mann doesn’t trail his napkin to earth as he sees me. Ministers
speak up when I stroll into the Chamber, and _prima donnas_ soar above
the orchestra, and warble in ecstasy as I enter the pit.

I don’t like--I declare to you I do not like--saying these things; it
smacks of vanity. Now for my plan. I purpose to put these my gifts at
your disposal The year before us will doubtless be an eventful one.
What between Danes, Poles, and Italians, there must be a row somewhere.
The French are very eager for war; and the Austrians, as Paddy
says, “are blue-moulded for want of a beatin’.” There will be grand
“battle-pieces” to paint; but, better than these, portraits, groups,
“tableaux de genre”--Teniers bits, too, at the porch of an ale-house,
and warm little interiors, in the style of Mieris. I shall be
instructive at times--very instructive; and whenever I am very nice
and dull, be assured that I’m “full of information, and know my subject
thoroughly.”

As “your own correspondent,” I am free to go wherever I please. I have
left Mrs O’D. in Ireland, and I revel in an Arcadian liberty. These
are all my credentials; and if with their aid I can furnish you any
amusement as to the goings-on of the world and its wife, or the doings
of that amiable couple in politics, books, theatres, or socialities,
I seek for nothing more congenial to my taste, nor more adapted to my
nature, as a bashful Irishman.

If I will not often obtrude, I will not altogether avoid, my personal
experiences; for there is this to be said, that no testimony is worth
much unless we know something of the temper, the tastes, and the
character of the witness. We have all heard, for instance, of the
gentleman who couldn’t laugh at Munden’s drolleries on the stage for
thinking of a debt of ten pounds that the actor owed him: and this same
spirit has a great deal to do--far more than we like to own--with
our estimate of foreign countries. It is so hard to speak well of the
climate where we had that horrible rheumatism, or laud the honesty of a
people when we think of that rascally scoundrel of the Hotel d’Odessa.
For these reasons I mean to come into the witness-box occasionally, and
give you frankly, not merely my opinions, but the way they were come by.
I don’t affect to be superior to prejudices; I have as many of these as
a porcupine has bristles. There’s all the egotism I mean to inflict on
you, unless it comes under the guise of an incident--“a circumstance
which really occurred to the author”--and now, _en route_.

I wonder am I right in thinking that the present race of travelling
English know less about the Continent and foreigners generally than
their predecessors of, say, five-and-twenty years ago. Railroads and
rapid travelling might be one cause; another is, that English is now
more generally spoken by all foreigners than formerly; and it may be
taken as a maxim, that nothing was ever asked or answered in broken
phraseology that was worth the hearing. People with a limited knowledge
of a strange language do not say what they _wish_, but what they _can_;
and there is no name for the helplessness of him who is tied up in his
preter-pluperfect tense. Now we English are not linguists; even our
diplomatists are remarkable for their little proficiency in French.
I’m not sure that we don’t benefit by this in the long-run. “Reden ist
silber, aber Schweigen ist gold”--“Speech is silver, but silence is
gold,” says the German adage; and what a deal of wisdom have I seen
attributed to a man who was posed by his declensions into a listener!
One of the only countrymen of my own who has made a great career lately
in public life is not a little indebted to deafness for it. He was so
unlike those rash, impetuous, impatient Irish, who _would_ interrupt--he
listened, or seemed to listen, and he even smiled at the sarcasms that
he did not hear.

Listening, if we did but know it, sits more gracefully on us than
speech, when that speech involves the denial of genders, and the utter
confusion of all cases and tenses.

Next to holding their tongues, there’s another thing I wish you English
would do abroad, which is, to dress like sane and responsible people.
Men are simply absurd; but the women, with their ill-behaved hoops and
short petticoats, are positively indecent; but the greatest of all
their travelling offences is the proneness to form acquaintance at
_tables-d’hôte_.

It is, first of all, a rank indiscretion for any but men to dine at
these places. They are almost, as a rule, the resort of all that is
disreputable in both sexes. You are sure to eat badly, and in the very
worst of company. My warning is, however, meant for my countrywomen
only: men can, or at least ought, to take care of themselves. As for
myself, don’t be shocked; but I do like doubtful company--that is, I am
immensely interested by all that class of people which the world calls
adventurers, whether the same be railroad speculators, fortune-hunters,
discoverers of inexhaustible mines, or Garibaldians. Your respectable
man, with a pocket-book well stored with his circular notes, and his
passport in order, is as uninteresting as a “Treckshuyt” on a Dutch
canal; but your “martyr to circumstance” is like a smart felucca in a
strong Levanter; and you can watch his course--how he shakes out his
reefs or shortens sail--how he flaunts out his bunting, or hides his
colours--with an unflagging interest I have often thought what a deal of
cleverness--what stores of practical ability--were lost to the world
in these out-at-elbow fellows, who speak every language fluently,
play every game well, sing pleasingly, dance, ride, row, and shoot,
especially with the pistol, to perfection. There they are, with a mass
of qualities that win success! and, what often is harder, win goodwill
in life! There they are, by some unhappy twist in their natures,
preferring the precarious existence of the race-course or the
billiard-table; while others, with about a tithe of their talents, are
high in place and power. I met one of these men to-day, and a strong
specimen of the class, well dressed, well whiskered, very quiet in
manner, almost subdued in tone, but with a slight restlessness in his
eye that was very significant. We found ourselves at table, over
our coffee, when the others had left, and fell into conversation. He
declined my offered cigar with much courtesy, preferring to smoke
little cigarettes of his own making; and really the manufacture was very
adroit, and, in its way, a study of the maker’s habits. We talked over
the usual topics--the bad dinner we had just eaten, the strange-looking
company, the discomfort of the hotel generally, and suchlike.

“Have we not met before?” asked he, after a pause. “If I don’t mistake,
we dined together aboard of Leslie’s yacht, the Fawn.”

I shook my head. “Only knew Sir Francis Leslie by name; never saw the
Fawn.”

The shot failed, but there was no recoil in his gun, and he merely bowed
a half apology.

“A yacht is a mistake,” added he, after another interval. “One is
obliged to take, not the men one wants, but the fellows who can bear the
sea. Leslie, for instance, had such a set that I left him at Messina.
Strange enough, they took us for pirates there.”

“For pirates!”

“Yes. There were three fishing-boats--what they call _Bilancelle_--some
fifteen or sixteen miles out at sea, and when they saw us coming along
with all canvass set, they hauled up their nets and ran with all speed
for shore. Rather absurd, wasn’t it? but, as I told Leslie about his
friends, ‘the blunder wasn’t so great after all; there was only a vowel
between Raffs and Riffs.’”

The disparagement of “questionable people” is such an old device of
adventurers, that I was really surprised such a master of his art as
my present friend would condescend to it. It belonged altogether to an
inferior practitioner; and, indeed, he quickly saw the effect it had
produced upon me, as he said, “Not that I care a straw for the fellows I
associate with; my theory is, a gentleman can know any one.”

Richard was himself again as he uttered this speech, lying well back
in his chair, and sending a thin cloud of incense from the angle of his
mouth.

“What snobs they were in Brummel’s day, for instance, always asking if
this or that man was fit to be known! Why, sir, it was the very fellows
they tabooed were the cream of the set; ‘it was the cards they threw out
were the trumps.’”

The illustration came so pat that he smiled as he perceived by a twinkle
of my eye that I appreciated it.

“My father,” continued he, “knew Brummel well, and he told me that his
grand defect was a want of personal courage--the very quality, of all
others, his career required. His impertinences always broke down when
brought to this test. I remember an instance he mentioned.

“Amongst the company that frequented Carlton House was a certain old
Admiral P------, whom the Prince was fond of inviting, though he did not
possess a single agreeable quality, or any one convivial gift, except a
great power of drinking the very strongest port without its producing
the slightest show of effect upon him.

“One night Brummel, evidently bent on testing the old sailor’s head,
seated himself next him, making it his business to pass the decanters as
briskly as he could. The admiral asked nothing better; filled and drank
bumpers. Not content with this legitimate test, Brummel watched his
opportunity when the admiral’s head was turned, and filled his glass
up to the brim. Four or five times was the trick repeated, and with
success; when at last the admiral, turning quickly around, caught him in
the very act, with the decanter still in his hand. Fixing his eyes
upon him with the fierceness of a tiger, the old man said, ‘Drink it,
sir--drink it!’ and so terrified was Brummel by the manner and the look
that he raised the glass to his lips and drained it, while all at the
table were convulsed with laughter.”

The Brummel school--that is, the primrose-glove adventurers--were a very
different order of men from the present-day fellows, who take a turn
in Circassia or China, or a campaign with Garibaldi; and who, with all
their defects, are men of mettle and pluck and daring. Of these latter I
found my new acquaintance to be one.

He sketched off the early part of the “expedition” graphically enough
for me, showing the disorder and indiscipline natural to a force
where every nationality of Europe was represented, and not by its most
favourable types.

“I had an Irish servant,” said he, “whose blunders would fill a volume.
His prevailing impression, perhaps not ill-founded on the whole, was,
that we all had come out for pillage; and while a certain reserve
withheld most of us from avowing this fact, he spoke of it openly and
freely, expatiating admiringly on Captain This and Major That, who
had done a fine stroke of work in such a store, or such another
country-house. As for his blunders, they never ceased. I was myself the
victim of an absurd one. On the march from Melazzo I got a severe
strain in the chest by my horse falling and rolling over me. No bone
was broken, but I was much bruised, and a considerable extravasation of
blood took place under the skin. Of course I could not move, and I was
provided with a sort of litter, and slung between two mules. The
doctor prescribed a strong dose of laudanum, which set me to sleep, and
despatched Peter back to Melazzo with an order for a certain ointment,
which he was to bring without delay, as the case was imminent; this was
impressed upon him, as the fellow was much given to wandering off, when
sent of a message, after adventures of his own.

“Fully convinced that I was in danger, away went Peter, very sad about
me, but even more distressed lest he should forget what he was sent for.
He kept repeating the words over and over as he went, till they became
by mere repetition something perfectly incomprehensible, so that when
he reached Melazzo nobody could make head or tail of his message. Group
after group gathered about and interrogated him, and at last, by means
of pantomime, discovered that his master was very ill. Signs were made
to inquire if bleeding was required, or if it was a case for amputation,
but he still shook his head in negative. ‘Is he dying?’ asked one,
making a gesture to indicate lying down. Peter assented. ‘Oh, then it
is the _unzione estrema_ he wants!’ ‘That’s it,’ cried Peter,
joyfully--‘unzione it is.’ Two priests were speedily found and
despatched; and I awoke out of a sound sleep under a tree to see three
lighted candles on each side of me, and two priests in full vestments
standing at my feet and gabbling away in a droning sort of voice,
while Peter blubbered and wrung his hands unceasingly. A jolly burst
of laughter from me soon dispelled the whole illusion, and Peter had to
hide himself for shame for a week after.”

“What became of the fellow--was he killed in the campaign?”

“Killed! nothing of the kind; he rose to be an officer, served on
Nullo’s staff, and is at this very hour in Poland, and, if I mistake
not, a major.”

“Men of this stamp make occasionally great careers,” said I, carelessly.

“No, sir,” replied he, very gravely. “To do anything really brilliant,
the adventurer must have been a gentleman at one time or other: the
common fellow stops short at petty larcenies; the man of good blood
always goes in for the mint.”

“There was, then,” asked I, “a good deal of what the Yankees call
‘pocketing’ in that campaign of Garibaldi’s?”

“Less than one might suppose. Have you not occasionally seen men at a
dinner-party pass this and refuse that, waiting for the haunch, or the
pheasant, or the blackcock that they are certain is coming, when all
of a sudden the jellies and ices make their appearance, and the curtain
falls? So it was with many of us; we were all waiting for Rome, and
licking our lips for the Vatican and the Cardinals’ palaces, when in
came the Piedmontese and finished the entertainment. If I meet you here
to-morrow, I can tell you more about this;” and so saying he arose, gave
me an easy nod, and strolled away.

“Who is that most agreeable gentleman who took his coffee with me?”
 asked I of the waiter as I entered the _salle_.

“It’s the Generale Inglese, who served with Garibaldi.”

“And his name?”

“Ah, _per bacco!_ I never heard his name--Garibaldi calls him Giorgio,
and the ladies who call here to take him out to drive now and then
always say Giorgino--not that he’s so very small, for all that.”

My Garibaldian friend failed in his appointment with me this morning.
We were to have gone together to a gallery, or a collection of ancient
armour, or something of this sort, but he probably saw, as your clever
adventurer _will_ see, with half an eye, that I could be no use
to him--that I was a wayfarer like himself on life’s highroad; and
prudently turned round on his side and went to sleep again.

There is no quality so distinctive in this sort of man or woman--for
adventurer has its feminine--as the rapid intuition with which he seizes
on all available people, and throws aside all the unprofitable ones. A
money-changer detecting a light napoleon is nothing to it. What are the
traits by which they guide their judgment--what the tests by which they
try humanity, I do not know, but that they do read a stranger at first
sight is indisputable. That he found out Cornelius O’Dowd wasn’t a
member of the British Cabinet, or a junior partner in Baring’s, was, you
may sneeringly conjecture, no remarkable evidence of acuteness. But why
should he discover the fact--fact it is--that he’d never be one penny
the richer by knowing me, and that intercourse with me was about as
profitable as playing a match at billiards “for the table”?

Say what people will against roguery and cheating, rail as they may at
the rapacity and rascality one meets with, I declare and protest, after
a good deal of experience, that the world is a very poor world to
him who is not the mark of some roguery! When you are too poor to be
cheated, you are too insignificant to be cherished; and the man that is
not worth humbugging isn’t very far from bankruptcy.

It gave me a sort of shock, therefore, when I saw that my friend took
this view of me, and I strolled down moodily enough to the Chamber of
Deputies. Turin is a dreary city for a lounger; even a resident finds
that he must serve a seven years’ apprenticeship before he gets any
footing in its stiff ungenial society--for of all Italians, nothing
socially is less graceful than a Piedmontese. They have none of the
courteous civility, none of the urbane gentleness of the peninsular
Italians. They are cold, reserved, proud, and eminently awkward; not the
less so, perhaps, that their habitual tongue is the very vilest jargon
that ever disfigured a human mouth. Of course this is an efficient
barrier against intercourse with strangers; and though French is spoken
in society, it bears about the same relation to that language at Paris,
as what is called pigeon-English at Hong-Kong does to the tongue in use
in Belgravia.

When I reached the Palazzo Carignan, as the Chamber is called, the
_séance_ was nearly over, and a scene of considerable uproar prevailed.
There had been a somewhat sharp altercation between General Bixio and
the “Left,” and M. Mordini had repeatedly appealed to the President to
make the General recall some offensive epithets he had bestowed on the
“party of movement.” There were the usual cries and gesticulations,
the shouts of derision, the gestures of menace; and, above all, the
tinkle-tinkle of the Presidents bell, which was no more minded than the
summons for a waiter in an Irish inn; and on they went in this hopeless
way, till some one, I don’t know why, cried out, “That’s enough--we are
satisfied;” by which it seemed that somebody had apologised, but for
what, or how, or to whom, I have not the very vaguest conception.

With all their depreciation of France, the Italians are the most
persistent imitators of Frenchmen, and the Chamber was exactly a copy of
the French Chamber in the old Louis Philippe days--all violence, noise,
sensational intensity, and excitement.

I have often heard public speakers mention the difficulty of adjusting
the voice to the size of a room in which they found themselves for the
first time, and the remark occurred to me as figuratively displaying one
of the difficulties of Italian public men. The speakers in reality never
clearly knew how far their words were to carry--whether they spoke to
the Chamber or to the Country.

Is there or is there not a public opinion in Italy? Can the public
speaker direct his words over the heads of his immediate surrounders
to countless thousands beyond them? If he cannot, Parliament is but a
debating-club, with the disadvantage of not being able to select the
subjects for discussion.

The glow of patriotism is never rightly warm, nor is the metal of party
truly malleable, without the strong blast of a public opinion.

The Turin Chamber has no echo in the country; and, so far as I see,
the Italians are far more eager to learn what is said in the French
Parliament than in their own.

I remember an old waiter at the Hibernian Hotel in Dublin, who got a
prize in the lottery and retired into private life, but who never could
hear a bell ring without crying out, “Coming, sir.” The Italians remind
me greatly of him: they have had such a terrible time of flunkeyism,
that they start at every summons, no matter what hand be on the
bell-rope.

To be sure the French did bully them awfully in the last war. Never was
an alliance more dearly paid for. We ourselves are not a very compliant
or conciliating race, but we can remember what it cost us to submit to
French insolence and pretension in the Crimea; and yet we did submit to
it, not always with a good grace, but in some fashion or other.

Here comes my Garibaldino again, and with a proposal to go down to Genoa
and look at the Italian fleet. I don’t suppose that either of us know
much of the subject; and indeed I feel, in my ignorance, that I might be
a senior Lord of the Admiralty--but that is only another reason for
the inquiry. “One is nothing,” says Mr Puff, “if he ain’t critical” So
Heaven help the Italian navy under the conjoint commentaries of myself
and my friend! Meanwhile, and before we start, one word more of Turin.



A FRIEND OF GIOBERTS: BEING A REMINISCENCE OF SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO.

Here I am at the “Feder” in Turin--as dirty a hotel, be it said
passingly, as you’ll find out of Ireland, and seventeen long years it
is since I saw it first. Italy has changed a good deal in the
meanwhile--changed rulers, landmarks, systems, and ideas; not so my
old acquaintance, the Feder! There’s the dirty waiter flourishing his
dirtier napkin; and there’s the long low-ceilinged _table-d’hôte_ room,
stuffy and smoky, and suffocating as ever; and there are the little
grinning coteries of threes and fours round small tables soaking their
rolls in chocolate, and puffing their “Cavours,” with faces as innocent
of soap as they were before the war of the liberation. After all,
perhaps, I’d have no objection if some friend would cry out, “Why, Con,
my boy, you don’t look a day older than when I saw you here in ‘46, I
think! I protest you have not changed in the least. What _elixir vitæ_
have you swallowed, old fellow? Not a wrinkle, nor a grey hair,” and so
on. And yet seventeen years taken out of the working part of a man’s
life--that period that corresponds with the interval between after
breakfast, we’ll say, and an hour before dinner--makes a great gap in
existence; for I did very little as a boy, being not an early riser,
perhaps, and now, in the evening of my days, I have got a theory that a
man ought to dine early and never work after it. Though I’m half
ashamed, on so short an acquaintance with my reader, to mention a
personal incident, I can scarcely avoid--indeed I cannot avoid--relating
a circumstance connected with my first visit to the “Hotel Feder.”

I was newly married when I came abroad for a short wedding-tour. The
world at that time required new-married people to lay in a small stock
of Continental notions, to assist their connubiality and enable them to
wear the yoke with the graceful ease of foreigners; and so Mrs O’D. and
I started with one heart, one passport, and--what’s not so pleasant--one
hundred pounds, to comply with this ordinance. Of course, once over the
border--once in France--it was enough. So we took up our abode in a
very unpretending little hotel of Boulogne-sur-Mer called “La Cour de
Madrid,” where we boarded for the moderate sum of eleven francs fifty
centimes per diem--the odd fifty being saved by my wife not taking the
post-prandial cup of coffee and rum.

There was not much to see at Boulogne, and we soon saw it. For a week or
so Mrs O’D. used to go out muffled like one of the Sultan’s five hundred
wives, protesting that she’d surely be recognised; but she grew out of
the delusion at last, and discovered that our residence at the Cour de
Madrid as effectually screened us from all remark or all inquiry as if
we had taken up our abode in the Catacombs.

Now when one has got a large stock of any commodity on hand--I don’t
care what it is--there’s nothing so provoking as not to find a market.
Mrs O’D.’s investment was bashfulness. She was determined to be the
most timid, startled, modest, and blushing creature that ever wore
orange-flowers; and yet there was not a man, woman, or child in the
whole town that cared to know whether the act for which she left England
was a matrimony or a murder.

“Don’t you hate this place, Cornelius?”--she never called me Con in the
honeymoon. “Isn’t it the dullest, dreariest hole you have ever been in?”

“Not with you.”

“Then don’t yawn when you say so. I abhor it. It’s dirty, it’s vulgar,
it’s dear.”

“No, no. It ain’t dear, my love; don’t say, dear.”

“Billiards perhaps, and filthy cigars, and that greenish
bitter--anisette, I think they call it--are cheap enough, perhaps; but
these are all luxuries I can’t share in.”

Here was the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand that presaged the first
connubial hurricane. A married friend--one of much experience and
long-suffering--had warned me of this, saying, “Don’t fancy you’ll
escape, old fellow; but do the way the Ministry do about Turkey--put the
evil day off; diplomatise, promise, cajole, threaten a bit if needs be,
but postpone;” and, strong with these precepts, I negotiated, as the
phrase is, and, with a dash of reckless liberality that I tremble at now
as I record it, I said, “You’ve only to say where--nothing but where
to, and I’ll take you--up the Rhine, down the Danube, Egypt, the
Cataracts------”

“I don’t want to go so far,” said she, dryly. “Italy will do.”

This was a stunner. I hoped the impossible would have stopped her, but
she caught at the practicable, and foiled me.

“There’s only one objection,” said I, musing.

“And what may that be? Not money, I hope.”

“Heaven forbid--no. It’s the language. We get on here tolerably well,
for the waiter speaks broken English; but in Italy, dearest, English is
unknown.”

“Let us learn Italian, then. My aunt Groves said I had a remarkable
talent for languages.”

I groaned inwardly at this, for the same aunt Groves had vouched for
a sum of seventeen hundred and odd pounds as her niece’s fortune, but
which was so beautifully “tied up,” as they called it, that neither
Chancellor nor Master were ever equal to the task of untying it.

“Of course, dearest, let us learn Italian;” and I thought how I’d crush
a junior counsel some day with a smashing bit of Dante.

We started that same night--travelled on day after day--crossed
Mont Cenis in a snow-storm, and reached the Feder as wayworn and
wretched-looking a pair as ever travelled on an errand of bliss and
beatitude.

“In for a penny” is very Irish philosophy, but I can’t help that; so I
wrote to my brother Peter to sell out another hundred for me out of the
“Threes,” saying “dear Paulina’s health required a little change to a
milder climate” (it was snowing when I wrote, and the thermometer over
the chimneypiece at 9° Reaumur, with windows that wouldn’t shut, and a
marble floor without carpet)--“that the balmy air of Italy” (my teeth
chattered as I set it down) “would soon restore her; and indeed already
she seemed to feel the change.” That she did, for she was crouching over
a pan of charcoal ashes, with a railroad wrapper over her shoulders.

It’s no use going over what is in every one’s experience on first coming
south of the Alps--the daily, hourly difficulty of not believing that
you have taken a wrong road and got into Siberia; and strangest of
all it is to see how little the natives think of it. I declare I often
thought soap must be a great refrigerant, and I wish some chemist would
inquire into the matter.

“Are we ever to begin this blessed language?” said Mrs O’D. to me, after
four days of close arrest--snow still falling and the thermometer going
daily down, down, lower and lower. Now I had made inquiries the day
before from the landlord, and learned that he knew of a most competent
person, not exactly a regular teacher who would insist upon our going
to work in school fashion, but a man of sense and a gentleman--indeed,
a person of rank and title, with whom the world had gone somewhat badly,
and who was at that very moment suffering for his political opinions,
far in advance, as they were, of those of his age.

“He’s a friend of Gioberti,” whispered the landlord in my ear, while his
features became animated with the most intense significance. Now, I
had never so much as heard of Gioberti, but I felt it would be a
deep disgrace to confess it, and so I only exclaimed, with an air of
half-incredulity, “Indeed!”

“As true as I’m here,” replied he. “He usually drops in about noon to
read the ‘Opinione,’ and, if you permit, I’ll send him up to you. His
name is Count Annibale Castrocaro.”

I hastened forthwith to Mrs O’D., to apprise her of the honour that
awaited us; repeating, a little _in extenso_, all that the host had
said, and finishing with the stunning announcement, “and a friend of
Gio-berti.” Mrs O’Dowd never flinched under the shock, and, too proud to
own her ignorance, she pertly remarked, “I don’t think the more of him
for that.”

I felt that she had beat me, and I sat down abashed and humiliated.
Meanwhile Mrs O’D. retired to make some change of dress; but,
reappearing after a while in her smartest morning toilette, and a very
coquettish little cap, with cherry-coloured ribbons, I saw what the word
Count had done at once.

Just as the clock struck twelve, the waiter flung wide the double doors
of our room, and announced, as pompously as though for royalty, “II
Signor Conte di Castrocaro,” and there entered a tall man slightly
stooping in the shoulders, with a profusion of the very blackest hair
on his neck and shoulders, his age anything from thirty-five to
forty-eight, and his dress a shabby blue surtout, buttoned to the throat
and reaching below the knees. He bowed and slid, and bowed again, till
he came opposite where my wife sat, and then, with rather a dramatic
sort of grace, he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. She
reddened a little, but I saw she wasn’t displeased with the air of
homage that accompanied the ceremony, and she begged him to be seated.

I own I was disappointed with the Count, his hair was so greasy, and
his hands so dirty, and his general get-up so uncared for; but Mrs O’D.
talked away with him very pleasantly, and he replied in his own broken
English, making little grimaces and smiles and gestures, and some very
tender glances, do duty where his parts of speech failed him. In fact, I
watched him as a sort of psychological phenomenon, and I arrived at the
conclusion that this friend of Gioberti’s was a very clever artist.

All was speedily settled for the lessons--hour, terms, and mode of
instruction. It was to be entirely conversational, with a little
theme-writing, no getting by heart, no irregular verbs, no declensions,
no genders. I did beg hard for a little grammar, but he wouldn’t hear of
it. It was against his “system,” and so I gave in.

We began the next day, but the Count ignored me altogether, directing
almost all his attentions to Mrs O’D.; and as I had already some small
knowledge of the elementary part of the language, I was just as well
pleased that she should come up, as it were, to my level. From this
cause I often walked off before the lesson was over, and sometimes,
indeed, I skulked it altogether, finding the system, as well as
Gioberti’s friend, to be an unconscionable bore. Mrs O’D., on the
contrary, displayed an industry I never believed her to possess, and
would pass whole evenings over her exercises, which often covered
several sheets of letter-paper.

We had now been about five weeks in Turin, when my brother wrote to
request I would come back as speedily as I could, that a case in which
I held a brief was high in the cause-list, and would be tried very early
in the session. I own I was not sorry at the recall. I detested the
dreary life I was leading. I hated Turin and its bad feeding and bad
theatres, its rough wines and its rougher inhabitants.

“Did you tell the Count we are off on Saturday?” asked I of Mrs O’D.

“Yes,” said she, dryly.

“I suppose he’s inconsolable,” said I, with a sneer.

“He’s very sorry we’re going, if you mean that, Mr O’Dowd; and so am I
too.”

“Well, so am not I; and you may call me a Dutchman if you catch me here
again.”

“The Count hopes you will permit him to see you. He asked this morning
whether he might call on you about four o’clock.”

“Yes, I’ll see him with sincere pleasure for once,” I cried; “since it
is to say good-bye to him.”

I was in my dressing-room, packing up for the journey, when the Count
was announced and shown in. “Excuse me, Count,” said I, “for receiving
you so informally, but I have a hasty summons to call me back to
England, and no time to spare.”

“I will, notwithstanding, ask you for some of that time, all precious as
it is,” said he in French, and with a serious gravity that I had never
observed in him before.

“Well, sir,” said I, stiffly; “I am at your orders.”

It is now seventeen long years since that interview, and I am free to
own that I have not even yet attained to sufficient calm and temper
to relate what took place. I can but give the substance of our
conversation. It is not over-pleasant to dwell on, but it was to this
purport:--The Count had come to inform me that, without any intention or
endeavour on his part, he had gained Mrs O’Dowd’s affections and won her
heart! Yes, much-valued reader, he made this declaration to me, sitting
opposite to me at the fire, as coolly and unconcernedly as if he was
apologising for having carried off my umbrella by mistake. It is true,
he was most circumstantial in showing that all the ardour was on one
side, and that he, throughout the whole adventure, conducted himself
as became a Gran’ Galantuomo, and the friend of Gioberti, whatever that
might mean.

My amazement--I might almost call it my stupefaction--at the
unparalleled impudence of the man, so overcame me, that I listened to
him without an effort at interruption.

“I have come to you, therefore, to-day,” said he, “to give up her
letters.”

“Her letters!” exclaimed I; “and she has written to you!”

“Twenty-three times in all,” said he, calmly, as he drew a large black
pocket-book from his breast, and took out a considerable roll of papers.
“The earlier ones are less interesting,” said he, turning them over. “It
is about here, No. 14, that they begin to develop feeling. You see she
commences to call me ‘Caro Animale’--she meant to say Annibale, but,
poor dear! she mistook. No. 15 is stronger--‘Animale Mio’--the same
error; and here, in No. 17, she begins, ‘Diletto del mio cuore, quando
non ti vedo, non ti sento, il cielo stesso, non mi sorride piu. Il mio
Tiranno’--that was _you_.”

I caught hold of the poker with a convulsive grasp, but quick as thought
he bounded back behind the table, and drew out a pistol, and cocked it.
I saw that Gioberti’s friend had his wits about him, and resumed the
conversation by remarking that the documents he had shown me were not in
my wife’s handwriting.

“Very true,” said he; “these, as you will perceive by the official
stamp, are sworn copies, duly attested at the Prefettura--the originals
are safe.”

“And with what object,” asked I, gasping--“safe for what?”

“For you, lllustrissimo,” said he, bowing, “when you pay me two thousand
francs for them.”

“I’ll knock your brains out first,” said I, with another clutch at the
poker, but the muzzle of the pistol was now directly in front of me.

“I am moderate in my demands, signor,” said he, quietly; “there are men
in my position would ask you twenty thousand; but I am a galantuomo----”

“And the friend of Gioberti,” added I, with a sneer.

“Precisely so,” said he, bowing with much grace.

I will not weary you, dear reader, with my struggles--conflicts that
almost cost me a seizure on the brain--but hasten to the result. I beat
down the noble Count’s demand to one-half and for a thousand francs
I possessed myself of the fatal originals, written unquestionably and
indisputably by my wife’s hand; and then, giving the Count a final piece
of advice, never to let me see more of him, I hurried off to Mrs O’Dowd.

She was out paying some bills, and only arrived a few minutes before
dinner-hour.

“I want you, madam, for a moment here,” said I, with something of
Othello, in the last act, in my voice and demeanour.

“I suppose I can take off my bonnet and shawl first, Mr O’Dowd,” said
she, snappishly.

“No, madam; you may probably find that you’ll need them both at the end
of our interview.”

“What do you mean, sir?” asked she, haughtily.

“This is no time for grand airs or mock dignity, madam,” said I, with
the tone of the avenging angel. “Do you know these? are these in your
hand? Deny it if you can.”

“Why should I deny it? Of course they’re mine.”

“And you wrote this, and this, and this?” cried I, almost in a scream,
as I shook forth one after another of the letters.

“Don’t you know I did?” said she, as hotly; “and nothing beyond a venial
mistake in one of them!”

“A what, woman? a what?”

“A mere slip of the pen, sir. You know very well how I used to sit up
half the night at my exercises?”

“Exercises!”

“Well, themes, if you like better; the Count made me make clean copies
of them, with all his corrections, and send them to him every day--here
are the rough ones;” and she opened a drawer filled with a mass of
papers all scrawled over and blotted. “And now, sir, once more, what do
you mean?”

I did not wait to answer her, but rushed down to the landlord. “Where
does that Count Castrocaro live?” I asked.

“Nowhere in particular, I believe, sir; and for the present he has left
Turin--started for Genoa by the diligence five minutes ago. He’s a Gran’
Galantuomo, sir,” added he, as I stood stupefied.

“I am aware of that,” said I, as I crept back to my room to finish my
packing.

“Did you settle with the Count?” asked my wife at the door.

“Yes,” said I, with my head buried in my trunk.

“And he was perfectly satisfied?”

“Of course he was--he has every reason to be so.”

“I am glad of it,” said she, moving away--“he had a deal of trouble with
those themes of mine. No one knows what they cost him.” I could have
told what they cost _me_; but I never did, till the present moment.

I need not say with what an appetite I dined on that day, nor with what
abject humility I behaved to my wife, nor how I skulked down in the
evening to the landlord to apologise for not being able to pay the bill
before I left, an unexpected demand having left me short of cash.
All these, seventeen years ago as they are, have not yet lost their
bitterness, nor have I yet arrived at the time when I can think with
composure of this friend of Gioberti.

Admiral Dalrymple tells us, amongst his experiences as a farmer, that he
gave twenty pounds for a dung-hill, “and he’d give ten more to any one
who’d tell him what to do with it.” I strongly suspect this is pretty
much the case with the Italians as regards their fleet. There it is--at
least, there is the beginning of it; and when it shall be complete,
where is it to go? what is it to protect? whom to attack?

The very last thing Italians have in their minds is a war with England.
If we have not done them any great or efficient service, we have always
spoken civilly of them, and bade them a God-speed. But, besides a
certain goodwill that they feel for us, they entertain--as a nation with
a very extended and ill-protected coast-line ought--a considerable dread
of a maritime power that could close every port they possess, and lay
some very important towns in ashes.

Now, it is exactly by the possession of a fleet that, in any future
war between England and France, these people may be obliged to ally
themselves to France. The French will want them in the Mediterranean,
and they cannot refuse when called on.

Count Cavour always kept telling our Foreign Office, “A strong Italy is
the best thing in the world for you. A strong Italy is the surest of all
barriers against France.” There may be some truth in the assertion if
Italy could spring at once--Minerva fashion--all armed and ready for
combat, and stand out as a first-rate power in Europe; but to do this
requires years of preparation, long years too; and it is precisely
in these years of interval that France can become all-dominant in
Italy--the master, and the not very merciful master, of her destinies
in everything. France has the guardianship of Italy--with this addition,
that she can make the minority last as long as she pleases.

Perhaps my Garibaldian companion has impregnated me with an unreasonable
amount of anti-French susceptibility, for certainly he abuses our dear
allies with a zeal and a gusto that does one’s heart good to listen to;
and I do feel like that honest Bull, commemorated by Mathews, that “I
hate prejudice--I hate the French.” So it is: these revolutionists,
these levellers, these men of the people, are never weary of reviling
the French Emperor for being a _parvenu_. Human inconsistency cannot go
much farther than this. Not but I perfectly agree with my Garibaldian,
that we have all agreed to take the most absurdly exaggerated estimate
of the Emperor’s ability. Except in some attempts, and not always
successful attempts, to carry out the policy and plans of the first
Empire, there is really nothing that deserves the name of statesmanship
in his career. Wherever he has ventured on a policy, and accompanied it
by a prediction, it has been a failure. Witness the proud declaration
of Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic, with its corroboration in the
Treaty of Villafranca! The Emperor, in his policy, resembles one of
those whist-players who never plan a game, but play trick by trick, and
rather hope to win by discovering a revoke than from any honest success
of their own hand. It is all the sharp practice of statecraft that
he employs: nor has he many resources in cunning. The same dodge that
served him in the Crimea he revived at Villafranca. It is always the
same ace he has in his sleeve!

The most ardent Imperialist will not pretend to say that he knows his
road out of rome or Mexico, or even Madagascar. For small intrigue,
short speeches to deputations, and mock stag-hunts, he has not his
superior anywhere. And now, here we are in Genoa, at the Hotel Feder,
where poor O’Connell died, and there’s no fleet, not a frigate, in the
port.

“Where are they?”

“At Spezia.”

“Where is Spezia?”

The landlord, to whom this question is propounded, takes out of a
pigeon-hole of his desk a large map and unfolds it, saying, proudly,
“There, sir, that is Spezia--a harbour that could hold Portsmouth,
and Plymouth, and Brest, and Cherbourg “--I’m not sure he didn’t say
Calais--“and yet have room for our Italian fleet, which, in two years’
time, will be one of the first in Europe.”

“The ships are building, I suppose?” said I.

“They are.”

“And where?”

“In America, at Toulon, and in England.”

“None in Italy?”

“Pardon me; there is a corvette on the stocks at Leghorn, and they are
repairing a boiler at Genoa. Ah! Signor John Bull, take care; we have
iron and coal mines, we have oak and hemp, and tallow and tar. There
was a winged lion once that swept the seas before people sang ‘Rule
Britannia.’ History is going to repeat itself.”

“Let me be called at eight to-morrow morning, and my coffee be ready by
nine.”

“And we shall want a vetturino for Spezia,” added my Garibaldian; “let
him be here by eleven.”



GARIBALDI’S WORSHIPPERS.

The road from Genoa to Spezia is one of the most beautiful in Europe. As
the Apennines descend to the sea they form innumerable little bays and
creeks, alongside of which the road winds--now coasting the very shore,
now soaring aloft on high-perched cliffs, and looking down into deep
dells, or to the waving tops of tall pine-trees. Seaward, it is a
succession of yellow-stranded bays, land-locked and narrow; and on the
land side are innumerable valleys, some waving with horse-chestnut and
olive, and others stern and rock-bound, but varying in colour from the
bluish-grey of marble to every shade of porphyry.

For several miles after we left Genoa, the road presented a succession
of handsome villas, which, neglected and uncared for, and in most
part untenanted, were yet so characteristically Italian in all their
vast-ness--their massive style and spacious plan--as to be great
ornaments of the scenery. Their gardens, too--such glorious wildernesses
of rich profusion--where the fig and the oleander, the vine and the
orange, tangle and intertwine--and cactuses, that would form the wonder
of our conservatories, are trained into hedgerows to protect cabbages.
My companion pointed out to me one of these villas on a little jutting
promontory of rock, with a narrow bay on one side, almost hidden by the
overhanging chestnut-trees. “That,” said he, “is the Villa Spinola. It
was from there, after a supper with his friend Vecchi, that Garibaldi
sailed on his expedition to Marsala. A sort of decent secrecy was
maintained as to the departure of the expedition; but the cheers of
those on shore, as the boats pulled off, told that the brave buccaneers
carried with them the heartfelt good wishes of their countrymen.”
 Wandering on in his talk from the campaign of Sicily and Calabria,
my companion spoke of the last wild freak of Garibaldi and the day of
Aspromonte, and finally of the hero’s imprisonment at Varignano, in the
Gulf of Spezia.

It appeared from his account that the poor wounded sufferer would have
fared very ill, had it not been for the provident kindness and care of
his friends in England, who supplied him with everything he could want
and a great deal he could by no possibility make use of. Wine of
every kind, for instance, was largely sent to one who was a confirmed
water-drinker, and who, except when obliged by the impure state of the
water, never ventured to taste wine. If now and then the zealous anxiety
to be of service had its ludicrous side--and packages arrived of which
all the ingenuity of the General’s followers failed to detect what the
meaning might be--there was something very noble and very touching in
this spontaneous sympathy of a whole people, and so Garibaldi felt it.

The personal homage of the admirers--the worshippers they might be
called--was, however, an infliction that often pushed the patience of
Garibaldi’s followers to its limit, and would have overcome the gentle
forbearance of any other living creature than Garibaldi himself. They
came in shoals. Steamboats and diligences were crammed with them, and
the boatmen of Spezia plied as thriving a trade that summer as though
Garibaldi were a saint, at whose shrine the devout of all Europe came to
worship. In vain obstacles were multiplied and difficulties to entrance
invented. In vain it was declared that only a certain number of visitors
were daily admitted, and that the number was already complete. In vain
the doctors announced that the General’s condition was prejudiced, and
his feverish state increased, by these continual invasions. Each new
arrival was sure to imagine that there was something special or peculiar
in his case to make him an exception to any rule of exclusion.

“I knew Garibaldi in Monte Video. You have only to tell him it’s
Tomkins; he’ll be overjoyed to see me.” “I travelled with him from
Manchester to Bridgeport; he’ll remember me when he sees me; I lent him
a wrapper in the train.” “I knew his son Menotti when at school.” “I was
in New York when Garibaldi was a chandler, and I was always asking
for his candles;” such and suchlike were the claims which would not
be denied. At last the infliction became insupportable. Some nights
of unusual pain and suffering required that every precaution against
excitement should be taken, and measures were accordingly concerted how
visitors should be totally excluded. There was this difficulty in the
matter, that it might fall at this precise moment some person of real
consequence might have, or some one whose presence Garibaldi would
really have been well pleased to enjoy. All these considerations were,
however, postponed to the patient’s safety, and an order was sent to
the several hotels where strangers usually stopped to announce that
Garibaldi could not be seen.

“There is a story,” said my companion, “which I have heard more than
once of this period, but for whose authenticity I will certainly not
vouch. _Se non vero e’ ben trovato_, as regards the circumstance. It
was said that a party of English ladies had arrived at the chief hotel,
having come as a deputation from some heaven-knows-what association in
England, to see the General, and make their own report on his health,
his appearance, and what they deemed his prospect of perfect recovery.
They had come a very long journey, endured a considerable share of
fatigues and certain police attentions, which are not exactly what
are called amenities. They had come, besides, on an errand which might
warrant a degree of insistance even were they--which they were not--of
an order that patiently puts up with denial. When their demand for
admission was replied to by a reference to the general order excluding
all visitors, they indignantly refused to be classed in such a category.
They were not idle tourists, or sensation-hunting travellers. They were
a deputation! They came from the Associated Brothers and Sisters
of Freedom--from the Branch Committee of the Ear of Crying
Nationalities--they were not to be sent away in this light and
thoughtless manner.

“The correspondence was animated. It lasted the whole day, and the
last-sent epistle of the ladies bore the date of half-past eleven at
night. This was a document of startling import; for, after expressing,
and not always in most measured phrase, the indignant disappointment of
the writers, it went on to throw out, but in a cloud-like misty sort
of way, the terrible consequences that might ensue when they returned to
England with the story of their rejection.

“Perhaps this was a mere chance shot; at all events, it decided the
battle. The Garibaldians read it as a declaration of strict blockade;
and that, from the hour of these ladies’ arrival in England, all
supplies would be stopped. Now, as it happened that, in by far the
greater number of cases, the articles sent out found their way to the
suite of Garibaldi, not to the General himself, and that cambric shirts
and choice hosiery, silk vests, and fur-lined slippers, became the
ordinary wear of people to whom such luxuries were not known even by
description, it was no mean menace that seemed to declare all this was
to have an end.

“One used to sleep in a rich fur dressing-gown; another took a bottle of
Arundel’s port at his breakfast; a third was habituating himself to that
English liqueur called ‘Punch sauce,’ and so on; and they very reasonably
disliked coming back to the dietary supplied by Victor Emmanuel.

“It was in this critical emergency that an inventive genius developed
itself. There was amongst the suite of Garibaldi an old surgeon, Eipari,
one of the most faithful and attached of all his followers, and who bore
that amount of resemblance to Garibaldi which could be imparted by hair,
mustache, and beard of the same yellowish-red colour, and eyes somewhat
closely set. To put the doctor in bed, and make him personate the
General, was the plan--a plan which, as it was meant to save his chief
some annoyance, he would have acceded to were it to cost him far more
than was now intended.

“To the half-darkened room, therefore, where Eipari lay dressed in
his habitual red shirt, propped up by pillows, the deputation was
introduced. The sight of the hero was, however, too much for them. One
dropped, Madonna-wise, with hands clasped across her bosom, at the foot
of his bed; another fainted as she passed the threshold; a third gained
the bedside to grasp his hand, and sank down in an ecstasy of devotion
to water it with her tears; while the strong-minded woman of the party
took out her scissors and cut four several locks off that dear and noble
head. They sobbed over him--they blubbered over him--they compared him
with his photograph, and declared he was libelled--they showered cards
over him to get his autograph; and when, at length, by persuasion,
not unassisted by mild violence, they were induced to withdraw, they
declared that, for those few moments of ecstasy, they’d have willingly
made a pilgrimage to Mecca.

“It is said,” continued my informant, “that Ripari never could be
induced to give another representation; and that he declared the
luxuries that came from England were dear at the cost of being caressed
by a deputation of sympathisers.

“But to Garibaldi himself, the sympathy and the sympathisers went on to
the last; and kind wishes and winter-clothing still find their way, with
occasionally very tiresome visitors, to the lone rock at Caprera.”



SOMETHING ABOUT SOLFERINO AND SHIPS.

Our host of the Feder was not wrong. There was not a word of
exaggeration in what he said of Spezia. It could contain all the
harbours of France and England, and have room for all the fleets of
Europe besides. About seven miles in depth, and varying in width from
two to three and a half, it is fissured on every side by beautiful
little bays, with deep water everywhere, and not a sunk rock, or shoal,
or a bar, throughout the whole extent. Even the sea-opening of the Gulf
has its protection by the long coast-line of Tuscany, stretching away
to the southward and eastward, so that the security is perfect, and a
vessel once anchored within the headlands between Lerici and Palmaria is
as safe as in dock.

The first idea of making a great arsenal and naval depot of Spezia came
from the Great Emperor. It is said that he was not more than one day
there, but in that time he planned the fort which bears his name, and
showed how the port could be rendered all but impregnable. Cavour took
up the notion, and pursued it with all his wonted energy and activity
during the last three or four years of his life. He carried through the
Chamber his project, and obtained a vote for upwards of two millions
sterling; but his death, which occurred soon after, was a serious blow
to the undertaking; and, like most of the political legacies of the
great statesman, the arsenal of Spezia fell into the hands of weak
executors.

The first great blunder committed was to accord the chief contract to
a bubble company, who sold it, to be again resold; so that it is said
something like fifteen changes of proprietary occurred before the first
spadeful of earth was turned.

The inordinate jealousy Italians have of foreigners, and their fear lest
they should “utilise” Italy, and carry away all her wealth with them,
has been the source of innumerable mistakes. From this, and their
own ignorance of marine engineering, Spezia has already, without the
slightest evidence of a commencement, swallowed up above eight millions
of francs--the only palpable results being the disfigurement of a very
beautiful road, and the bankruptcy of some half-dozen contractors.

There is nothing of which one hears more, than of the readiness and
facility with which an Italian learns a new art or a new trade, adapts
himself to the use of new tools, and acquires a dexterity in the
management of new machinery.

Every newly-come English engineer was struck with this, and expressed
freely his anticipations of what so gifted a people might become.
After a while, however, if questioned, he would confess himself
disappointed--that after the first extraordinary show of intelligence
no progress was made--that they seemed marvellous in the initiative, but
did nothing after. They speedily grew weary of whatever they could do or
say, no matter in what fashion, and impatiently desired to try something
new. The John Bull contentedness to attain perfection in some one
branch, and never ask to go beyond it, was a sentiment they could not
understand. Every one, in fact, would have liked to do everything, and,
as a consequence, do it exceedingly ill.

Assuredly the Count Cavour was the political Marquis de Carabas of
Italy. Everything you see was his! No other head seemed to contrive, no
other eye to see, nor ear to hear. These railroads--as much for military
movements as passenger traffic--this colossal harbour, even to the two
iron-clads that lie there at anchor--were all of his designing. They
are ugly-looking craft, and have a look of pontoons rather than ships
of war; but they are strong, and have a low draught of water, and were
intended especially for the attack of Venice, just when the Emperor
pulled up short at Villafranca. It is not generally known, I believe,
but I can vouch for the fact, that so terrified were the Austrians on
receiving at Venice the disastrous news of Solferino, that three of the
largest steamers of the Austrian Lloyd’s Company were brought up, and
sunk within twelve hours after the battle. So hurriedly was the whole
done that no time was given to remove the steward’s stores, and the
vessels went down as they stood!

This reminds me of a little incident, for whose exact truth I can
guarantee. On the day of the battle of Solferino, the Austrian Envoy
at Rome dined with the Cardinal Antonelli. It was a very joyous little
dinner, each in the highest spirits--satisfied with the present, and
full of hope for the future. The telegram which arrived at mid-day told
that the troops were in motion, and that the artillery fire had already
opened. The position was a noble one--the army full of spirit, and all
confident that before the sun should set the tide of victory would have
turned, and the white legions of the Danube be in hot pursuit of their
flying enemy. Indeed, the Envoy came to dinner fortified with a mass of
letters from men high in command, all of which assumed as indisputable
that the French must be beaten. Of the Italians they never spoke at all.

As the two friends sat over the dessert, they discussed what at that
precise moment might be going on over the battle-field. Was the conflict
still continuing? Had the French reserves been brought up? Had they,
too, been thrown back, beaten and disordered? and where was the fourth
corps under the Prince Napoleon? They were forty thousand strong--could
they have arrived in time from the Po? All these casualties, and many
others, did they talk over, but never once launching a doubt as to the
issue, or ever dreaming that the day was not to reverse all the late
past, and bring back the Austrians in triumph to Milan.

As they sat, the Prefect of Police was announced and introduced. He
came with the list of the persons who were to be arrested and sent to
prison--they were one hundred and eighteen, some of them among the first
families of Rome--so soon as certain tidings of the victory arrived, and
the game of reaction might be safe to begin.

“No news yet, Signor Prefetto! come back at ten,” said the Cardinal

At ten he presented himself once more. The Cardinal and his friend were
taking coffee, but less joyous, it seemed, than before. At least they
looked anxious for news, and started at every noise in the street that
might announce new-come tidings. “We have heard nothing since you were
here,” said the Cardinal. “His Excellency thinks that, at a moment
of immense exigency, they may not have immediately bethought them of
sending off a despatch.”

“There can be no doubt what the news will be when it comes,” said the
Envoy, “and I’d say, make the arrests at once.”

“I don’t know; I’m not sure. I think I’d rather counsel a little more
patience,” said the Cardinal. “What if you were to come back at, let us
say, midnight.” The Prefect bowed, and withdrew.

At midnight it was the same scene, only that the actors were more
agitated; the Envoy, at least, worked up to a degree of impatience that
bordered on fever; for while he persisted in declaring that the result
was certain, he continued to censure, in very-severe terms, the culpable
carelessness of those charged with the transmission of news. “Ah!” cried
he, “there it comes at last!” and a loud summons at the bell resounded
through the house.

“A telegram, Eminence,” said the servant, entering with the despatch.
The Envoy tore it open: there were but two words,--“_Sanglante
déroute_.”

The Cardinal took the paper from the hands of the overwhelmed and
panic-struck minister, and read it. He stood for a few seconds gazing on
the words, not a line or lineament in his face betraying the slightest
emotion; then, turning to the Envoy, he said, “Bon soir; allons dormir;”
 and moved away with his usual quick little step, and retired.

And all this time I have been forgetting the Italian fleet, which lies
yonder beneath me. The Garibaldi, that they took from the Neapolitans;
the Duca di Genova, the Maria Adelaide, and the Regina are there, all
screw-propellers of fifty guns each; the Etna, a steam-corvette; and
some six or seven old sailing craft, used as school ships; and, lastly,
the two cuirassée gunboats, Formidabile and Terribile, and which, with a
jealousy imitated from the French, no one is admitted on board of.
They are provided with “rams” under the water-line, and have a strange
apparatus by which about one-third of the deck towards the bow can be
raised, like the lid of a snuff-box, leaving the forepart of the ship
almost on a level with the water. Under what circumstances, and how,
this provision is to be made available, I have not the very vaguest
conception.

These vessels were never intended as sea-going ships; and the batteries
are an exaggeration of the mistake in the Gloire, for even with the
slightest sea the ports must be closed. Besides this defect, they roll
abominably, and with a full head of steam on they cannot accomplish
seven knots.

Turning from the ships to the harbour, I could not help thinking of
Sydney Smith’s remark on the Reform Club, “I prefer your room to your
company;” for, after all, what a sorry stud it is for such a magnificent
stable! It is but a beginning, you will say. True enough, and so is
everything just now here; but, except the Genoese, the Italians have few
real sailors. There are no deep-sea fisheries, and the small craft which
creep along close to shore are not the nurseries of seamen. The world,
however, has resolved, by a large vote, to be hopeful about Italy; and,
of course, she will have a fleet, as she will have all the trade of the
Levant, immensely productive mines, and vast regions of cotton. “What
for no?” as Meg Dodds says; but I can’t help thinking there are no
people in Europe so much alike as the Italians and the Irish; and I ask
myself, How is it that every one is so sanguine about the one, and
so hopeless about the other? Why do we hear of the capacity and the
intelligence of the former, and only of the latter what pertains to
their ignorance and their sloth? Oh! unjust generation of men! have
not my poor countrymen all the qualities you extol in these same
Peninsulars, plus a few others not to be disparaged?



THE STRANGER AT THE CROCE DI MALTA.

At the Croce di Malta, where we stopped--the Odessa, we heard,
was atrociously bad--we met a somewhat depressed countryman, whose
familiarity with place and people was indicated by several little
traits. He rebuked the waiter for the salad oil, and was speedily
supplied with better; he remonstrated about the wine, and a superior
“cru” was served the day following. The book of the arrivals, too, was
brought to him each day as he sat down to table, and he grunted out,
I remember, in no very complimentary fashion as he read our names,
“Nobodies.”

My Garibaldian friend had gone over to Massa, so that I found myself
alone with this gentleman on the night of my arrival; for, when the
company of the _table-d’hôte_ withdrew, he and I were discovered, as the
stage-people say, seated opposite to each other at the fire.

It blew hard without; the sea beat loudly on the shingly shore, and
even sent some drifts of spray against the windows; while within doors
a cheerful wood-fire blazed on the ample hearth, and the low-ceilinged
room did not look a whit the worse that it suggested snugness instead
of splendour. I had got my cup of coffee and my cognac on a little table
beside me; and while I filled the bowl of my pipe, I bethought me how
cheap and come-at-able are often the materials of our comfort, if one
had but the prudence which ignores all display. My companion, apparently
otherwise occupied in thought, sat gazing moodily at the fire, and to
all seeming unaware of my presence.

“Will my smoking annoy you, sir?” asked I, as I was ready to begin.

“No,” said he, without looking up. “I’d like to know where one could go
to live nowadays if it did.”

“Very true,” said I; “the practice is almost universal”

“So is child-murder, so is profane swearing, so is wearing a beard, and
poisoning by strychnine.”

I was somewhat struck by his enumeration of modern atrocities, and I
said, in a tone intended to invite converse, “You are no admirer, then,
of what some are fain to call progress?”

He started, and, turning a fierce sharp glance on me, said, “I’d rather
you’d touch me with that hot poker there, sir, than hurl that hateful
word at my ears. If there’s a thing I hate the most, it’s what cant--a
vile modern slang--calls ‘Progress.’ You’re just in the spot at this
moment to mark one of its high successes. Do you know Spezia?” “Not in
the least; never was here before.” “Well, sir, I have known it, I’ll not
stop to count how many years; but I knew it when that spot yonder, where
you see that vile tall chimney, with its tail of murky smoke, was a
beautiful little villa, all overgrown with fig and olive trees. Where
you perceive that red glare--the flame of a smelting furnace--there was
an orangery. I ought to know the spot well. There, where a summerhouse
stood, on that rocky point, they have got a crane and a windlass. Now,
turn to this other side. The road you saw to-day, crossed with four
main lines, cut up, almost impassable between mud, rubbish, and fallen
timber, with swampy excavations on one side and brick-fields on the
other, led--ay, and not four years ago--along the margin of the sea,
with a forest of chestnuts on the other side, two lines of acacias
forming a shade along it, so that in the mid-day of an Italian July you
might walk it in delicious shadow. In the Gulf itself the whole scene
was mirrored, and not a headland, nor rock, nor cliff, that was not
pictured below. It was, in a word, a little paradise; nor were the
people all unworthy of their lovely birthplace. They were a quiet,
civil, obliging, simple-minded set--if not inviting strangers to settle
amongst them, never rude or repelling to them; equitable in dealings,
and strange to all disturbance or outrage. What they are now is no more
easy to say than what a rivulet is when a torrent has carried away its
banks and swept its bed. Two thousand navvies, the outsweepings of jails
and the galleys, have come down to the works; a horde of contractors,
sub-contractors, with the several staffs of clerks, inspectors, and
suchlike, have settled on the spot, ravaging its beauty, uprooting its
repose, vulgarising its simple rusticity, and converting the very gem
of the Mediterranean into a dreary swamp--a vast amphitheatre, where
liberated felons, robbing contractors, foul miasma, centrifugal pumps,
and tertian fevers, fight all day for the mastery. And for what?--for
what? To fill the pockets of knavish ministers and thieving
officials--to make an arsenal that will never be finished, for a fleet
that will never be built.” My companion, it is needless to say, was no
optimist; but the strange point was, that while he was unsparing of his
censure on Cavour and the “Piedmontese party,” he was no apologist for
the old state of things in Italy. So far from it, that he launched out
freely in attack of Papal bigotry, superstition, and corruption, and
freely corroborated our own Premier’s assertions, by calling the Pope’s
the “worst government in Europe.” In fact, he showed very clearly that
the smaller states of Italy were well or ill administered in the direct
ratio that they admitted or rejected Papal interference,--Modena being
the worst, and Tuscany the best of them.

Though he certainly knew his subject so far as details went--for he not
merely knew Italy well in its several provinces, but he understood the
characters and tempers of the leading Italians--yet, with all this, I
could not help asking him, If he was not satisfied with the old Italy,
and yet did not like the new, what he did wish for?

“I have my theory on that subject, sir,” said he; “nor am I the less
enamoured of it that I never yet met the man I could induce to adopt
it.”

“It is no worse than the fate of all discoverers, I suppose,” said I;
“Columbus saw land two whole days before his followers.”

“Columbus was a humbug, sir, and no more discovered America than you
did.”

I was so afraid of a digression here that I stammered out a partial
concurrence, and asked for some account of his project for Italy.

“I’d unite her to Greece, sir. These people, with the exception of a
small circle around Rome, are not Latins--they are Greeks. I’d bring
them back to the parent stock, who are the only people in Europe with
craft and subtlety to rule them. Take my word for it, sir, they’d not
cheat the ‘Hellenes’ as they do the French and the English; and as the
only true way to reform a nation is to make vice unprofitable, I’d unite
them to a race that could outrogue and outwit them on every hand. What
is it, I ask you, makes of the sluggish, indolent, careless Irishman,
the prudent, hard-working, prosperous fellow you see him in the States?
Simply the fact, that the craft by which he outwitted John Bull no
longer serves him. The Yankee is too shrewd to be jockeyed by it, and
Paddy must use his hands instead of his head. The same would happen with
the Italian. Give him a Greek master, and you’ll see what he’ll become.”

“But the Greeks, after all,” said I, “do not present such a splendid
example of order and prosperity. They are little better than brigands.”

“And don’t you see why?” broke he in. “Have you ever looked into a
gambling-house when the company had no ‘pigeon,’ and were obliged to
play against each other. They have lost all decency--all the semblance
of good manners and decorum. Whatever little politeness they had put
on to impose upon the outsider was gone, and there they were in all the
naked atrocity of their bad natures. It is thus you see the Greeks. You
have dropped in upon them unfairly; you have invaded a privacy they had
hoped might be respected. Give them a nation to cheat, however; let
the pigeon be introduced, and you’ll not see a better bred and a more
courtly people in Europe.”

That they had great social qualities he proceeded to show from a number
of examples. They were, in fact, in the world of long ago what the
French are to our own day, and there was no reason to suppose that
the race had lost its old characteristics. According to my companion’s
theory, Force had only its brief interval of domination anywhere; the
superior intelligence was sure to gain the upper hand at last; and
we, in our opposition to this law, were supply retarding an inevitable
tendency of nature--protracting the fulfilment of what we could not
prevent.

I got him back from these speculations to speak of himself, and he told
me some experiences which will, perhaps, account for the displeasure
with which he regards the changed fortunes of Spezia. I shall give
his narrative as nearly as I can in his own words, and in a chapter to
itself.



THE STRANGE MAN’S SORROW.

“When I first knew Spezia, it was a very charming spot to pass the
summer in. The English had not found it out A bottle of Harvey sauce or
a copy of ‘Galignani’ had never been seen here; and the morning meal,
which now figures in my bill as ‘Dejeuner complet--two francs.’ was then
called ‘Coffee,’ and priced twopence. I used to pass my day in a small
sail-boat, and in my evenings I played halfpenny whist with the judge
and the commander of the forces and a retired envoy, who, out of a
polite attention to me as a stranger, agreed to play such high stakes
during my sojourn at the Baths.

“They were excellent people, of unblemished character, and a politeness
I have rarely seen equalled. Nobody could sneeze without the whole
company rising to wish him a long and prosperous life, or a male heir
to his name; and as for turning the trump card without a smile and a bow
all round to the party, it was a thing unheard of.

“I thought if I could only secure a spot to live in in such an Arcadia,
it would be charming, but this was a great difficulty. No one had any
accommodation more than he wanted for himself. The very isolation that
gave the place its charm excluded all speculation, and not a house was
to be had. In my voyagings, however, around the Gulf, I landed one
day at a little inlet, surrounded with high lands, and too small to
be called a bay, and there, to my intense astonishment, I discovered a
small villa. It looked exactly like the houses one sees in a toy-shop,
and where you take off the roof to peep in and see how neatly the stairs
are made and the rooms divided; but there was a large garden at one
side and an orangery at the other, and it all looked the neatest and
prettiest little thing one ever saw off the boards of a minor theatre. I
drew my boat on shore and strolled into the garden, but saw no one, not
even a dog. There was a deep well with a draw-bucket, and I filled my
gourd with ice-cold water; and then plucking a ripe orange that had just
given me a bob in the eye, I sat down to eat it. While I was engaged, I
heard a wicket open and shut, and saw an old man, very shabbily dressed,
and with a mushroom straw hat, coming towards me. Before I could make
excuses for my intrusion, he had welcomed me to Pertusola--‘The Nook,’
in English--and invited me to step in and have a glass of wine.

“I took him for the steward or fattore, and acceded, not sorry to ask
some questions about the villa and its owner. He showed me over the
house, explaining with much pride how a certain kitchen-range came from
England, though nobody ever knew the use of it, but it was all very
comfortable. The silk-worms and dried figs and salt-fish occupied more
space, and contributed more odour, perhaps, than a correct taste would
have approved of. Yet there were capabilities--great capabilities;
and so, before I left, I took it from the old gentleman in the
rusty costume, who turned out to be the proprietor, a marquis, the
‘commendatore’ of I don’t know what order, and various other dignities
beside, all recited and set forth in the lease.

“I suppose I have something of Robinson Crusoe in my nature, for I loved
the isolation of this spot immensely. It wasn’t an island, but it was
all but an island. Towards the land, two jutting promontories of rock
denied access to anything not a goat; the sea in front; an impenetrable
pine wood to the rear: and there I lived so happily, so snugly, that
even now, when I want a pleasant theme to doze over beside my wood-fire
of an evening, I just call up Pertusola, and ramble once again through
its olive groves, or watch the sunset tints as they glow over the Carara
mountains.

“I smartened the place up wonderfully, within doors and without. I got
flowers, roots, and annuals, and slips of geraniums, and made the little
plateau under my drawing-room window a blaze of tulips and ranunculuses,
so that the Queen--she was at Spezia for the bathing--came once to see
my garden, as one of the show spots of the place. Her Majesty was as
gracious as only royalty knows how to be, and so were all her suite in
their several ways; but there was one short, fat, pale-faced man, with
enormous spectacles, who, if less polite than the rest, was ten times
as inquisitive. He asked about the soil, and the drainage, the water and
its quality--was it a spring--did it ever fail--and when, and how? Then
as to the bay itself, was it sheltered, and from what winds? What the
anchorage was like--mud--and why mud? And when I said there was always
a breeze even in summer, he eagerly pushed me to explain, why? and I did
explain that there was a cleft or gully between the hills, which acted
as a sort of conductor to the wind; and on this he went back to verify
my statement, and spent some time poking about, examining everything,
and stationing himself here and there on points of rock, to experience
the currents of air. ‘You are right,’ said he, as he got into his boat,
‘quite right; there is a glorious draught here for a smelting-furnace.’

“I thought it odd praise at the time, but before six months I received
notice to quit.

“Pertusola had been sold to a lead company, one of the directors having
strongly recommended the site as an admirable harbour, with good water,
and a perpetual draught of wind, equal to a blast-furnace.”

Looking at the dress-coat in which you once captivated dinner-parties,
on a costeimonger--seeing the strong-boned hunter that has carried you
over post and rail, in a cab,--are sore trials; but nothing, according
to my companion’s description, to the desecration of your house and home
by its conversion into a factory. Such an air of the “Inferno,” too,
pervades the smelting-house, with its lurid glow, its roar, its flash,
and its furious heat, that I could readily forgive him the passionate
warmth with which he described it.

“They had begun that chimney, sir,” cried he, “before I got out of the
house. I had to cross on a plank over a pit before my door, where they
were riddling the ore. The morning I left, I covered my eyes, not to see
the barbaric glee with which they destroyed all around, and I left the
place for ever. I crossed over the Gulf, and I took that house you can
see on the rocky point called Marola. It had no water; there was no
depth to anchor in; and not a breath of air could come at it except in
stillness. No more terrors of smelting-house here, thought I. Well, sir,
I must be brief; the whole is too painful to dwell on. I hadn’t been
eight months there when a little steamer ran in one morning, and
four persons in plain clothes landed from her, and pottered about the
shore--I thought looking for anemones. At last they strolled up to my
house, and asked permission to have a look at the Gulf from my terrace.
I acceded, and in they came. They were all strangers but one, and who do
you think he was? The creature with the large spectacles! My blood ran
cold when I saw him.

“‘You used to live yonder, if I mistake not,’ said he to me, coolly.

“‘Yes, and I might have been living there still,’ replied I, ‘if it
had not been for the prying intrusion of a stranger, to whom I was weak
enough to be polite.’

“He never noticed my taunt in the least, but, calmly opening the window,
passed out upon the terrace. The others speedily gathered around him,
and I saw that he knew the whole place as if it had been his bedroom;
for not only did he describe the exact measurements between various
points, but the depth of water, the character of the bottom, the
currents, and the prevailing winds. He went on, besides, to show how, by
running out a pier here, and a breakwater there--by filling up this, and
deepening that--safe anchorage could be secured in all weathers; while
the headlands could be easily fortified, and ‘at a moderate cost,’ I
quote himself, ‘of say twenty two or three millions of francs, while a
fort erected on the island there would command the whole entrance.’

“‘And who, in the name of all Utopia, wants to force it?’ cried I; for,
as they talked so openly, I thought I might interpose as frankly.

“He never seemed to resent my remark as obtrusive, but said quietly,
‘Who knows? the French perhaps--perhaps your own people one of these
days.’

“I’d like to have said, but I didn’t, ‘We could walk in and walk out
here, with our iron-clads, as coolly as a man goes out in the rain with
a mackintosh.’

“They remained fully an hour, talking as freely as if I was born deaf
and dumb. At last they arose to leave, and the owl-faced man--he looked
exactly like an owl--said, with a little grin, ‘We’re going to disturb
you again.’

“‘How so?’ cried I; ‘you can’t smelt lead here.’

“‘No, but we’re going to make an arsenal. Where you stand now will be a
receiving-dock, and that garden of yours a patent slip. You’ll have to
clear out before the New Year.’

“‘Who is he? who is that with the spectacles?’ asked I of one of the
servants, who waited outside with cloaks and umbrellas.

“‘That’s the Conte di Cavour,’ said the fellow, haughtily; and thus was
the whole murder out at once. They turned me out, sir, in two months,
and I never ventured to take a lease of a place till he died. After that
event, I purchased a little spot on the island of Tino yonder, and built
myself a cottage. They could neither smelt metal nor build a ship there,
and I hugged myself at the thought of safety. But, would you believe
it? last week--only last week--his successor, in rummaging over Cavour’s
papers in the Foreign Office, comes upon a packet labelled ‘Spezia,’ and
discovers a memorandum in these words, ‘The English Admiral, at dinner
to-day, laughed at the idea of defending the mouth of the Gulf from
the island. He said the entrance should be two-thirds closed by a
breakwater, and a strong fort _à fleur d’eau_ built on Tino. I have
thought of it all night; he is perfectly right, and I’ll do it;’ and
here, sir,” said my companion, drawing a paper from his pocket, “is a
‘sommation’ from the minister to surrender my holding on Tino, receiving
a due compensation for the same, and once more betake myself, heaven
knows where; for, though the great Count Cavour is dead and gone,
his grand intentions are turning up every day, out of drawers and
pigeonholes, and I shrewdly suspect that neither Pio Nono nor myself
will live to see the last of them.”



ITALIAN LAW AND JUSTICE.

My Garibaldian friend has returned, but only to bid me good-bye and be
off again. The Government, it would seem, are rather uneasy as to the
movements of the “Beds,” and quietly intimated to my friend that
they were sure he had something particular to do--some urgent private
affairs--at Geneva; and, like the well-bred dog in the story, he does
not wait for any further suggestions, but goes at once.

He revenged himself, however, all the time at breakfast, by talking very
truculently before the waiters of what would happen when Garibaldi took
the field again, and how miserably small Messrs Batazzi & Co. would look
under the circumstances. Indeed, as he warmed with his subject, he
went the length of declaring that, without a very ample apology for the
events of Aspromonte, he did not believe Garibaldi would consent to take
Venice, or drive the French out of Rome.

With a spirit of tantalising he prolonged this same breakfast for
upwards of two hours, during which the officer of the gendarmerie came
and went, and came again, very eager to see him depart, but evidently
with instructions neither to molest nor interfere with him.

“Just look at that beggar,” cried the Garibaldian; “if he has come in
here once during the last hour, he has come a dozen times, and all on my
account! And I mean to smoke three ‘cavours’ over my anisetto before I
leave. Waiter, tell the vetturino he’ll have plenty of time to throw
a feed to his cattle before I start. You know,” added he, “if I was
disposed to be troublesome, I’d not budge: I’d write up to Turin to the
Legation and claim British protection; and I’d have these fellows on the
hip, for they stupidly gave me a reason for my expulsion. They said I
was conspiring. Now I could say, Prove it; and if we only went to law,
it would take ten or twelve years to decide it.”

My companion now went on to show that, by a small expenditure of money
and a very ordinary exercise of ingenuity, a lawsuit need never end
in Italy. “First of all, you could ask the opposite party, Who was his
advocate? and on his naming him, you could immediately set to work to
show that this man was a creature so vile and degraded, no man with
the commonest pretension to honesty would dream of employing him. The
history of his father could be adduced, and any private little anecdotes
of his mother would find a favourable opportunity for mention. Though a
mere skirmish, if judiciously managed, this will occupy a week or two,
and at the same time serve to indicate that you mean to show fight; for
by this time the ‘Legale’s’ blood will be up, and he is certain to make
reprisals on _your_ man, so that for a month or so you and the other
principal are in the position of men who, having come out to fight
a duel, are first gratified with the spectacle of a row between the
seconds. However, at last it is arranged that the lawyers are worthy
of each other; and the next step is to demand the names of all the
witnesses. This opens a campaign of unlimited duration, for, as nobody
is rash enough to trust himself or his cause to real and _bonâ-fide_
testimony, witnesses are usually selected amongst the most astute and
ready-witted persons of your acquaintance.” “Oh,” cried I, “this is a
little too strong, isn’t it?” “Let me give you an instance,” said he,
good-humouredly, and not in the least disposed to be displeased with my
expression of distrust. “Some time back an American gentleman took up
his abode for some weeks on the Chiaja at Naples, and in the same house
there lived an Italian, with whom, from frequently meeting on the stairs
and corridors, a sort of hat-touching acquaintance had grown up. At
length one day, as the American was passing hastily out, the Italian
accosted him with a courteous bow and smile, and said, ‘When will it be
your perfect convenience, signor, to repay me that little loan of two
hundred ducats it was my happy privilege to have lent you last month?’

“The American, astounded as he was, had yet patience to inquire whether
he had not mistaken him for another.

“The other smiled somewhat reproachfully, as he said, ‘I trust, signor,
you are not disposed to ignore the obligation. You are the gentleman who
lives, I believe, on the second floor left?’

“‘Very true; I do live there, and I owe you nothing. I never borrowed a
carlino from you--I never spoke to you before; and if you ever take the
liberty to speak to me again, I’ll knock you down.’

“The Italian smiled again, not so blandly, perhaps, but as
significantly, and saying, ‘We shall see,’ bowed and retired.

“The American thought little more of the matter till, going to the
Prefecture to obtain his visé for Borne, he discovered that his passport
had been stopped, and a detainer put upon him for this debt. He hastened
at once to his Minister, who referred him to the law-adviser of the
Legation for counsel. The man of law looked grave; he neither heeded the
angry denunciations of the enraged Yankee, nor his reiterated assurances
that the whole was an infamous fraud. He simply said, ‘The case is
difficult, but I will do my best.’ After the lapse of about a week, a
message came from the Prefect to say that the stranger’s passport was at
his service whenever he desired to have it.

“‘I knew it would be so!’ cried the American, as he came suddenly upon
his lawyer in the street. ‘I was certain that you were only exaggerating
the difficulty of a matter that must have been so simple; for, as I
never owed the money, there was no reason why I should pay it.’

“‘It was a case for some address, notwithstanding,’ said the other,
shaking his head.

“‘Address! fiddle-stick! It was a plain matter of fact, and needed
neither skill nor cunning. You of course showed that this fellow was a
stranger to me--that we had never interchanged a word till the day he
made this rascally demand?’

“‘I did nothing of the kind, sir. If I had put in so contemptible a
plea, you would have lost your cause. What I did was this: I asked what
testimony he could adduce as to the original loan, and he gave me the
name of one witness, a certain Count well known in this city, who was at
breakfast with him when you called to borrow this money, and who saw the
pieces counted out and placed in your hand.’

“‘You denounced this fellow as a perjurer?’

“‘Far from it, sir. I respect the testimony of a man of station and
family, and I would not insult the feelings of the Count by daring to
impugn it; but as the plaintiff had called only one witness to the loan,
I produced two just as respectable, just as distinguished, who saw you
repay the debt! You are now free; and remember, sir, that wherever
your wanderings lead you, never cease to remember that, whatever be
our demerits at Naples, at least we can say with pride, The laws are
administered with equal justice to all men!’”

The entrance of the gendarme at this moment cut short the question I
was about to ask, whether I was to accept this story as a fact or as a
parable.

“Here he comes again. Only look at the misery in the fellow’s face! and
you see he has his orders evidently enough; and he dare not hurry me. I
think I’ll have a bath before I start.”

“It is scarcely fair, after all,” said I. “I suppose he wants to get
back to his one o’clock dinner.”

“I could no more feel for a gendarme than I could compassionate a
scorpion. Take the best-natured fellow in Europe--the most generous, the
most trustful, the most unsuspecting--make a brigadier of Gendarmerie of
him for three months, and he’ll come out scarcely a shade brighter than
the veriest rascal he has handcuffed! Do you know what our friend yonder
is at now?”

“No. He appears to be trying to take a stain out of one of his yellow
gauntlets.”

“No such thing. He is noting down your features--taking a written
portrait of you, as the man who sat at breakfast with me on a certain
morning of a certain month. Take my word for it, some day or other when
you purchase a hat too tall in the crown, or you are seen to wear your
whiskers a trifle too long or bushy, an intimation will reach you at
your hotel, that the Prefect would like to talk with you; the end of
which will be the question, ‘Whether there is not a friend you are most
anxious to meet in Switzerland, or if you have not an uncle impatient to
see you at Trieste?’ And yet,” added he, after a pause, “the Piedmontese
are models of liberality and legality in comparison with the officials
in the south. In Sicily, for instance, the laws are more corruptly
administered than in Turkey. I’ll tell you a case, which was, however,
more absurd than anything else. An English official, well known at
Messina, and on the most intimate terms with the Prefect, came back from
a short shooting-excursion he had made into the interior, half frantic
with the insolence of the servants at a certain inn. The proprietor
was absent, and the waiter and the cook--not caring, perhaps, to be
disturbed for a single traveller--had first refused flatly to admit him;
and afterwards, when he had obtained entrance, treated him to the worst
of food, intimating at the same time it was better than he was used
to, and plainly giving him to understand that on the very slightest
provocation they were prepared to give him a sound thrashing. Boiling
over with passion, he got back to Messina, and hastened to recount his
misfortunes to his friend in power.

“‘Where did it happen?’ asked the hard-worked Prefect, with folly enough
on his hands without having to deal with the sorrows of Great Britons.

“‘At Spalla deMonte.’

“‘When?’

“‘On Wednesday last, the 23d.’

“‘What do you want me to do with them?’

“‘To punish them, of course.’

“‘How--in what way?’

“‘How do I know? Send them to jail.’

“‘For how long?’

“‘A month if you can--a fortnight at least.’

“‘What are the names?’ asked the Prefect, who all this time continued to
write, filling up certain blanks in some printed formula before him.

“‘How should I know their names? I can only say that one was the cook,
the other the waiter.’

“‘There!’ said the Prefect, tossing two sheets of printed and
written-over paper towards him--‘there! tell the landlord to fill in the
fellows’ names and surnames, and send that document to the Podesta. They
shall have four weeks, and with hard labour.’

“The Englishman went his way rejoicing. He despatched the missive, and
felt his injuries were avenged.

“Two days after, however, a friend dropped in, and in the course of
conversation mentioned that he had just come from Spalla de Monte, where
he had dined so well and met such an intelligent waiter; ‘which, I own,’
said he, ‘surprised me, for I had heard of their having insulted some
traveller last week very grossly.’

“The Englishman hurried off to the Prefecture. ‘We are outraged,
insulted, laughed at!’ cried he: ‘those fellows you ordered to prison
are at large. They mock your authority and despise it.’

“A mounted messenger was sent off at speed to bring up the landlord to
Messina, and he appeared the next morning, pale with fear and trembling.
He owned that the Prefect’s order had duly reached him, that he had
understood it thoroughly; ‘but, Eccellenza,’ said he, crying, ‘it was
the shooting season; people were dropping in every day. Where was I to
find a cook or a waiter? I must have closed the house if I parted with
them; so, not to throw contempt on your worship’s order, I sent two
of the stablemen to jail in their place, and a deal of good it will do
them.’”

While I was laughing heartily at this story, my companion turned towards
the gendarme and said, “Have you made a note of his teeth? you see they
are tolerably regular, but one slightly overlaps the other in front.”

“Signor Générale,” said the other, reddening, “I’ll make a note of
_your_ tongue, which will do quite as well.”

“Bravo!” said the Garibaldian; “better said than I could have given you
credit for. I’ll not keep you any longer from your dinner. Will you bear
me company,” asked he of me, “as far as Chiavari? It’s a fine day, and
we shall have a pleasant drive.”

I agreed, and we started.

The road was interesting, the post-horses which we took at Borghetto
went well, and the cigars were good, and somehow we said very little to
each other as we went.

“This is the real way to travel,” said my companion; “a man to smoke
with and no bother of talking; there’s Chiavari in the hollow.”

I nodded, and never spoke.

“Are you inclined to come on to Genoa?”

“No.”

And soon after we parted--whether ever to meet again or not is not so
easy to say, nor of very much consequence to speculate on.



THE ORGAN NUISANCE AND ITS REMEDY.

There is scarcely any better measure of the amount of comfort a man
enjoys than in the sort of things of which he makes grievances. When
the princess in the Eastern story passed a restless night on account of
the rumpled rose-leaf she lay on, the inference is, that she was not,
like another character of fiction, accustomed to “lie upon straw.”

Thus thinking, I was led to speculate on what a happy people must
inhabit the British Islands, seeing the amount of indignation and
newspaper wrath bestowed upon what is called the Organ Nuisance. Now,
granting that it is not always agreeable to have a nasal version of the
march in ‘William Tell,’ ‘Home, sweet Home,’ or ‘La Donna è mobile,’
under one’s window at meal-times, in the hours of work, or the darker
hours of headache, surely the nation which cries aloud over this as a
national calamity must enjoy no common share of Fortune’s favour, and
have what the Yankees call a “fine time” here below.

Scarcely a week, however, goes over without one of these persecutors of
British ears being brought up to justice, and some dreary penny-a-liner
appears to prosecute in the person of a gentleman of literary pursuits,
whose labours, like those of Mr Babbage, may be lost to the world, if
the law will not hunt down the organs, and cry “Tally high-ho” to the
“grinders.”

It might be grave matter of inquiry whether the passing annoyance
of ‘Cherry ripe’ was not a smaller infliction than some of the tiresome
lucubrations it has helped to muddle; and I half fancy I’d as soon
listen to the thunder as drink the small beer it has soured into
vinegar.

However, as the British Public is resolved on making it a grievance, and
as some distinguished statesman has deemed it worth his while to devise
a bill for its suppression, it is in vain to deny that the evil is one
of magnitude. England has declared she will not be ground down by the
Savoyard, and there is no more to be said of it.

A great authority in matters of evasion once protested that he would
engage to drive a coach-and-six through any Act of Parliament that ever
was framed, and I believe him. So certain is language to be too wide or
too narrow--to embrace too much, and consequently fail in
distinctness, or to include too little, and so defeat the attempt to
particularise--that it does not call for more than an ordinary amount of
acuteness to detect the flaws of such legislation. Then, when it comes
to a discussion, and amendments are moved, and some honourable gentleman
suggests that after the word “Whereas” in section 93 the clause should
run “in no case, save in those to be hereafter specified,” &c., there
comes a degree of confusion and obscurity that invariably renders
the original parent of the measure unable to know his offspring, and
probably intently determined to destroy it. That in their eagerness for
law-making the context of these bills is occasionally overlooked, one
may learn from the case of an Irish measure where a fine was awarded as
the punishment of a particular misdemeanour, and the Act declared that
one-half of the sum should go to the county, one-half to the informer.
Parliament, however, altered the law, but overlooked the context.
Imprisonment with hard labour was decreed as the penalty of the offence,
and the clause remained--“one-half to the county, one-half to the
informer.”

A Judge of no mean acuteness, the Chief Baron O’Grady, once declared,
with respect to an Act against sheep-stealing, that after two careful
readings he could not decide whether the penalties applied to the
owner, of the sheep, the thief, or the sheep itself, for that each
interpretation might be argumentatively sustained.

How will you suppress the organ-grinder after this? What are the limits
of a man’s domicile? How much of the coast does he own beyond his
area-railings? Is No. 48 to be deprived of the ‘Hat-catcher’s Daughter’
because 47 is dyspeptic? Are the maids in 32 not to be cheered by ‘Sich
a gettin’ up stairs’ because there is a nervous invalid in 33? How long
may an organ-man linger in front of a residence to tune or adjust his
barrels--the dreariest of all discords? Can legislation determine how
long or how loud the grand chorus in ‘Nabucco’ should be performed? What
endless litigation will be instituted by any attempt to provide for
all these and a score more of similar casualties, not to speak of the
insolent persecution that may be practised by the performance of tunes
of a party character. Fancy Dr Wiseman composing a pastoral to the air
of ‘Croppies, lie down,’ or the Danish Minister writing a despatch to
the inspiriting strains of ‘Schleswig-Holstein meer-umschlungen.’ There
might come a time, too, when ‘Sie sollen ihm nicht haben’ might grate on
a French ambassador’s ears. Can your Act take cognisance of all these?

I see nothing but inextricable confusion in the attempt--confusion,
difficulty, and defeat. There will be an Act, and an Act to amend that
Act, and another Act to alter so much of such an Act, and then a final
Act to repeal them all; so that at last the mover of a bill on the
subject will be the greatest “organ nuisance” that the world has yet
heard of.

It was “much reflecting” over these things, as my Lord Brougham says,
that I sauntered along the Riviera from Genoa, and came to the little
town of Chiavari, with its long sweep of yellow beach in front and its
glorious grove of orange-trees behind--sure, whether the breeze came
from land or sea, to inhale health and perfume. There is a wide old
Piazza in the centre of the town, with a strange, dreary sort of inn
with a low-arched entrance, under whose shade sit certain dignitaries of
the place of an evening, sipping their coffee and talking over what they
imagine to be the last news of the day. From these “Conscript Fathers” I
learned that Chiavari is the native place of the barrel-organ, that
from this little town go forth to all the dwellers in remotest lands
the grinders of the many-cylindered torment, the persecutor of the
prose-writer, the curse of him who calculates. Just as the valleys of
Savoy supply white-mice men, and Lucca produces image-carriers, so does
Chiavari yield its special product, the organ-grinder. Other towns,
in their ambitions, have attempted the “industry,” but they have
egregiously failed; and Chiavari remains as distinctive in its product
as Spitalfields for its shawls, or Dresden for its china. Whether there
may be some peculiarity in the biceps of the Chiavarian, or some ulnar
development which imparts power to his performance, I know not. I am
forced to own that I have failed to discover to what circumstance or
from what quality this excellence is derivable; but there is the fact,
warranted and confirmed by a statistical return, that but for Chiavari
we should have no barrel-organs.

“Never imagine,” said a wise prelate, “that you will root Popery out of
England till you destroy Oxford. If you want to get rid of the crows,
you must pull down the rookery.” The words of wisdom flashed suddenly
over my mind as I walked across the silent Piazza at midnight; and I
exclaimed--“Yes! here is the true remedy for the evil. With two hours
of a gunboat and four small Armstrongs the thing is done; batter down
Chiavari, and Bab-bage will bless you with his last breath. Pull down
the cookery, and crush the young rooks in the ruins. Smash the cradle
and the babe within it, and you need not fear the man!”

There is a grand justice in the conception that is highly elevating.
There is something eminently fine in making Chiavari, like the Cities
of the Plain, a monument over its own iniquity. Leave not one stone upon
another of it, and there will be peace in our homes and stillness in our
streets. No more shall the black-bearded tormentor terrorise over Baker
Street, or lord it in the Edgeware Road.

Commander Snort of the Sneezer will in a brief forenoon emancipate
not only Europe and America, but the dweller beyond Jordan and the
inhabitant of the diggings by Bendigo. Lay Chiavari in ashes, and you
will no longer need Inspector D, nor ask aid from the head-office. Here
is what the age especially worships, a remedy combining cheapness
with efficiency. It may be said that we have no more right to destroy
Chiavari than Kagosima, but that question is at least debatable. Are not
the headaches of tens of thousands of more avail than the head of one?
What becomes of that noble principle, the greatest happiness of the
greatest number? The Italians, too, might object: true, but they are
neither Americans nor French. They come into the category of states that
may be bullied. The countries which have an extended seaboard and weak
naval armaments are like people with a large glass frontage and no
shutters. There is nothing to prevent us shying a stone at the Italian
window as we pass up to Constantinople, even though we run away
afterwards. I repeat, therefore, the plan is feasible. As to its
cheapness, it would not cost a tithe of what we spent in destroying the
tea-tray fortifications of Satsuma; and as we have a classic turn for
monuments, a pyramid of barrel-organs in Charing Cross might record to a
late posterity the capture of Chiavari.

I am not without a certain sort of self-reproach in all this. I feel
it is a weakness perhaps, but I feel that we are all of us too hard on
these organ fellows--for, after all, are they not, in a certain sense,
the type and embodiment of our age? Is not repetition, reiteration, our
boldest characteristic? Is there, I ask, such a “Grind” in the world as
Locke King, and his motion for Reform? What do you say to “Rest and be
thankful,” and, above all, what to the “Peace-at-any-price people”?

Is ‘Cherry ripe’ more wearisome than these? Would all Chiavari assembled
on Wimbledon make up a drearier discord than a ministerial explanation?
In all your experience of bad music, do you know anything to equal a
Foreign Office despatch? and we are without a remedy against
these. Bring up John Bright to-morrow for incessantly annoying the
neighbourhood of Birmingham, by insane accusations against his own
country and laudations of America, and I doubt if you could find a
magistrate on the bench to commit him; and will you tell me that the
droning whine of ‘Garibaldi’s March’ is worse than this? As to the
_Civis Romanus_ cant, it is too painful to dwell on, now that we are
derided, ridiculed, and sneered at from Stockholm to Stamboul. Like
Canning’s philanthropist, we have been asking every one for his story;
never was there a soul so full of sympathy for sorrow. We have heard the
tale of Italy, the sufferings of the Confederates, the crying wrongs
of Poland, and the still more cruel, because less provoked, trials of
Denmark. We have thrown up hands and eyes--sighed, groaned, wept; we
have even denounced the ill-doers, and said, What a terrible retribution
awaited them! but, like our great prototype, when asked for assistance,
we have said,

“I’ll see you ------ first.”

Let us be merciful, therefore, and think twice before we batter down
Chiavari. The organ nuisance is a bore, no doubt; but what are the most
droning ditties that ever addled a weary head, compared to the tiresome
grind of British moral assistance, and the greatness of that _Civis
Romanus_ who hugs his own importance and helps nobody?



R. N. F. THE GREAT CHEVALIER D’INDUSTRIE OF OUR DAY.

I was struck the other day by an account of an application made to the
Lord Mayor of London by a country clergyman, to give, as a warning to
others, publicity to a letter he had just received from the East. The
clergyman, it seems, had advertised in the ‘Times’ for pupils, and gave
for address a certain letter of the Greek alphabet. To this address
there came in due time an answer from a gentleman, dated Constantinople,
stating that he was an Anglo-Indian on his way to England, to place
his two sons in an educational establishment; but that having, by
an excursion to Jerusalem, exhausted his immediate resources, he was
obliged to defer the prosecution of his journey till the arrival of some
funds he expected from India--certain to arrive in a month or two.
Not wishing, however, to delay the execution of his project, and being
satisfied with the promises held forth by the advertiser, he purposed
placing his sons under his care, and to do so, desired that forty pounds
might be remitted him at once, to pay his journey to England, for which
convenience he, the writer, would not alone be obliged, but also extend
his patronage to the lender, by recommending him to his friend Sir Hugh
Rose, who was himself desirous of sending his sons to be educated in
England. The address of a banker was given to whom the money should be
remitted, and an immediate reply requested, or “application should be
made in some other quarter.”

Now, the clergyman did not answer this strange appeal, but he inserted
another advertisement, changing, however, the symbol by which he was
to be addressed, and appearing in this way to be a different person. To
this new address there came another letter, perfectly identical in style
and matter: the only change was, that the writer was now at the Hôtel
de la Reine d’Angleterre at Buda; but all the former pledges of future
protection were renewed, as well as the request for a prompt reply, or
“application will be made in another quarter.”

The clergyman very properly laid the matter before the Lord Mayor, who,
with equal propriety, stamped the attempt as the device of a swindler,
against which publicity in the newspapers was the best precaution. The
strangest thing of all, however, was, that nobody appeared to know the
offender; nor was there in the ‘Times,’ or in the other newspapers where
the circumstances were detailed, one single surmise as to the identity
of this ingenious individual. It is the more singular, since this man
is a specialty--an actual personification of some of the very subtlest
rogueries of the age we live in!

If any of my readers can recall a very remarkable exposure the ‘Times’
newspaper made some ten or twelve years ago, of a most shameful fraud
practised upon governesses, by which they were induced to deposit a sum
equivalent to their travelling expenses from England to some town on the
Continent, as a guarantee to the employer, they will have discovered
the gentleman with the two sons to be educated--the traveller in Syria,
the friend of Sir Hugh Rose, the Anglo-Indian who expects eight hundred
pounds in two months, but has a present and pressing necessity for
forty.

The governess fraud was ingenious. It was done in this way: An
advertisement appeared in the ‘Times,’ setting forth that an English
gentleman, travelling with his family abroad, wanted a governess--the
conditions liberal, the requirements of a high order. The family
in question, who mixed with the very best society on the Continent,
required that the governess should be a lady of accomplished manners,
and one in every respect qualified for that world of fashion to which
she would be introduced as a member of the advertiser’s family. The
advertiser, however, found that all the English ladies who had hitherto
filled this situation in his family had, through the facilities thus
presented them of entrance into life, made very advantageous marriages;
and to protect himself against the loss entailed by the frequent call on
him for travelling expenses--bringing out new candidates for the hands
of princes and grand-dukes--he proposed that the accepted governess
should deposit with him a sum--say fifty pounds--equivalent to the
charge of the journey; and which, if she married, should be confiscated
to the benefit of her employer.

The scheme was very ingenious; it was, in fact, a lottery in which you
only paid for your ticket when you had drawn a prize. Till the lucky
number turned up, you never parted with your money. Was there ever any
such bribe held forth to a generation of unmarried and marriageable
women? There was everything that could captivate the mind: the tour
on the Continent--the family who loved society and shared it so
generously--the father so parental in his kindness, and who evidently
gave the governess the benediction of a parent on the day she may have
married the count; and all secured for what--for fifty pounds? No; but
for the deposit, the mere storing up of fifty pounds in a strong box;
for if, after two years, the lady neither married nor wished to remain,
she could claim her money and go her way.

The success was immense; and as the advertiser wrote replies from
different towns to different individuals, governesses arrived at
Brussels, at Coblentz, at Frankfort, at Mayence, at Munich, at Nice--and
heaven knows where besides--whose deposits were lodged in the hands of
N. F. That ingenious gentleman straightway departed, and was no more
seen, and only heard of when the distress and misery of these unhappy
ladies had found their way to the public press. The ‘Times,’ with all
that ability and energy it knows how to employ, took the matter up,
published some of the statements--very painful and pathetic they
were--of the unfortunate victims of this fraud, and gave more than
one “leader” to its exposure. Nor was the Government wanting in proper
activity. Orders were sent out from the Foreign Office to the different
legations and consulates abroad, to warn the police in the several
districts against the machinations of this artful scoundrel, should he
chance to be in their neighbourhood. Even more distinct instructions
were sent out to certain legations, by which R. N. F. could be arrested
on charges that would at least secure his detention till the law
officers had declared what steps could be taken in his behalf. It was
not the age of photography, but a very accurate description of the
man’s appearance and address was furnished, and his lofty stature,
broad chest, burly look, and bushy whiskers--a shade between red and
auburn--were all duly posted in each Chancellerie of the Continent.

For a while it seemed as if he lived in retirement--his late success
enabled this to be an “elegant retirement”--and it is said that he
passed it on the Lake of Como, in a villa near that of the once Queen
Caroline. There are traditions of a distinguished stranger--a man of
rank and a man of letters--who lived there estranged from all the
world, and deeply engaged in the education of his two sons. One of these
youths, however, not responding to all this parental devotion, involved
himself in some scrape, fled from his father’s roof, and escaped into
Switzerland. N. F., as soon as he could rally from the first shock of
the news, hastened after, to bring him back, borrowing a carriage from a
neighbouring nobleman in his haste. With this he crossed the frontier
at Chiasso, but never to come back again. The coachman, indeed, brought
tidings of the sale of the equipage, which the illustrious stranger had
disposed of, thus quitting a neighbourhood he could only associate with
a sorrowful past, and a considerable number of debts into the bargain.
Another blank occurs here in history, which autobiography alone perhaps
could fill. It would be unfair and un-philosophical to suppose that
because we cannot trace him he was inactive: we might as reasonably
imply that the moon ceased to move when we lost sight of her. At all
events, towards the end of autumn of that last year of the war in the
Crimea, a stout, well-dressed, portly man, with an air of considerable
assurance, swaggered into the Chancellerie of her Majesty’s Legation at
Munich, notwithstanding the representations of the porter, who would,
if he had dared, have denied him admittance, and asked, in a voice of
authority, if there were no letters there for Captain F. The gentleman
to whom the question was addressed was an attaché of the Legation, and
at that time in “charge” of the mission, the Minister being absent.
Though young in years, F. could scarcely, in the length and breadth of
Europe, have fallen upon one with a more thorough insight into every
phase and form of those mysteries by which the F. category of men exist.
Mr L. was an actual amateur in this way, and was no more the man to be
angry with F. for being a swindler, than with Ristori for being Medea or
Macready being Macbeth. Not that he had the slightest suspicion at the
time of F.’s quality, as he assured him that there were no letters for
that name.

“How provoking!” said the Captain, as he bit his lip. “They will be
so impatient in England,” muttered he to himself, “and I know Sidney
Herbert is sure to blame _me_.” Then he added aloud, “I am at a
dead-lock here. I have come from the Crimea with despatches, and
expected to find money here to carry me on to England; and these stupid
people at the War Office have forgotten all about it. Is it not enough
to provoke a saint?”

“I don’t know; I never was a saint,” said the impassive attaché.

“Well, it’s trying to a sinner,” said F., with a slight laugh; for
he was one of those happy-natured dogs who are not indifferent to the
absurd side of even their own mishaps. “How long does the post take to
England?”

“Three days.”

“And three back--that makes six; a week--an entire week.”

“Omitting Sunday,” said the grave attaché, who really felt an interest
in the other’s dilemma.

“All I can say is, it was no fault of mine,” cried F., after a moment.
“If I am detained here through their negligence, they must make the
best excuse they can. Have you got a cigar?” This was said with his eyes
fixed on a roll of Cubans on the table.

“Take one,” said the other.

“Thanks,” said F., as he selected three. “I’ll drop in to-morrow, and
hope to have better luck.”

“How much money do you want?” asked Mr L.

“Enough to carry me to London.”

“How much is that?”

“Let me see. Strasbourg--Paris, a day at Paris; Cowley might detain me
two days: fifteen or twenty pounds would do it amply.”

“You shall have it.”

“All right,” said F., who walked to the fire, and, lighting his cigar,
smoked away; while the other took some notes from a table-drawer and
counted them.

“Shall I give you a formal receipt for this?” asked F.

“You can tell them at the Office,” said L., as he dipped his pen into
the ink and continued the work he had been previously engaged in. F.
said a few civil words--the offhand gratitude of a man who was fully as
much in the habit of bestowing as of receiving favours, and withdrew. L.
scarcely noticed his departure; he was deep in his despatch, and wrote
on. At length he came to the happy landing-place, that spot of rest for
the weary foot--“I have the honour to be, my Lord,” and he arose and
stood at the fire.

As L. smoked his cigar he reflected, and as he reflected he remembered;
and, to refresh his memory, he took out some papers from a pigeon-hole,
and at last finding what he sought, sat down to read it. The document
was a despatch, dated a couple of years back, instructing H.M.’s
representative at the Court of Munich to secure the person of a certain
N. F., and hold him in durance till application should be made to the
Bavarian Government for his extradition and conveyance to England. Then
followed a very accurate description of the individual--his height,
age, general looks, voice, and manner--every detail of which L. now saw
closely tallied with the appearance of his late visitor.

He pondered for a while over the paper, and then looked at his watch. It
was five o’clock! The first train to Augsburg was to start at six. There
was little time, consequently, to take the steps necessary to arrest a
person on suspicion; for he should first of all have to communicate
with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who should afterwards back his
application to the Prefect of Police. The case was one for detail,
and for what the Germans insist upon, much writing--and there was very
little time to do it in. L., however, was not one to be easily defeated.

If baffled in one road, he usually found out another. He therefore
wrote a brief note to the Minister, stating that he might require his
assistance at a later hour of the evening, and at a time not usually
official. This done, he despatched another note to Captain E. F., saying
familiarly it was scarcely worth while trying to catch the mail-train
that night, and that perhaps instead he would come over and take a
_tétè-à-tête_ dinner with him at the Legation.

F. was overjoyed as he read it! No man ever felt a higher pleasure in
good company, nor knew better how to make it profitable. If he had been
asked to choose, he would infinitely rather have had the invitation to
dine than the twenty pounds he had pocketed in the morning. The cognate
men of the world--and all members of the diplomatic career are to a
certain extent in this category--were in F.’s estimation the “trump
cards” of the pack, with which he could “score tricks” innumerable, and
so he accepted at once; and, in a very few minutes after his acceptance,
made his appearance in a correct dinner-dress and a most unexceptionable
white tie.

“Couldn’t refuse that pleasant offer of yours, L.” (he was familiar at
once, and called him L.), “and here I am!” said he, as he threw himself
into an easy-chair with all the bland satisfaction of one who looked
forward to a good dinner and a very enjoyable evening.

“I am happy to have secured you,” said L., with a little laugh to
himself at the epigram of his phrase. “Do you like caviar?”

“Delight in it!”

“I have just got some fresh from St Petersburg, and our cook here is
rather successful in his caviar soup. We have a red trout from the
_Tegen See_, a saddle of Tyrol mutton, and a pheasant--_voilà votre
diner!_ but I can promise you a more liberal _carte_ in drinkables; just
say what you like in the way of wine!”

F.’s face beamed over with ecstasy. It was one of the grand moments of
his life; and if he could, hungry as he was, he would have prolonged it!
To be there the guest of her Majesty’s mission; to know, to feel, that
the arms of England were over the door! that he was to be waited on
by flunkies in the livery of the Legation, fed by the cook who had
ministered to official palates, his glass filled with wine from
the cellar of him who represented royalty! These were very glorious
imaginings; and little wonder that F., whose whole life was a Poem in
its way, should feel that they almost overcame him. In fact, like the
woman in the nursery song, he was ready to exclaim, “This is none of
me!” but still there were abundant evidences around him that all was
actual, positive, and real.

“By the way,” said L., in a light, careless way, “did you ever in your
wanderings chance upon a namesake of yours, only that he interpolates
another Christian name, and calls himself R. Napoleon F.?”

The stranger started: the fresh, ruddy glow of his cheek gave way to
a sickly yellow, and, rising from his chair, he said, “Do you mean to
‘split’ on me, sir?”

“I’m afraid, F.,” said the other, jauntily, “the thing looks ugly. You
are R. N. F.!”

“And are you, sir, such a scoundrel--such an assassin--as to ask a man
to your table in order to betray him?”

“These are strong epithets, F., and I’ll not discuss them; but if you
ask, Are you going to dine here today? I’d say, No. And if you should
ask, Where are, you likely to pass the evening? I’d hint, In the city
jail.”

At this F. lost all command over himself, and broke out into a torrent
of the wildest abuse. He was strong of epithets, and did not spare
them. He stormed, he swore, he threatened, he vociferated; but L.,
imperturbable throughout all, only interposed with an occasional mild
remonstrance--a subdued hint--that his language was less than polite or
parliamentary. At length the door opened, two gendarmes appeared, and N.
F. was consigned to their hands and removed.

The accusations against him were manifold; from before and since the day
of the governesses, he had been living a life of dishonesty and fraud.
German law proceedings are not characterised by any rash impetuosity;
the initial steps in F.’s case took about eighteen months, during which
he remained a prisoner. At the end of this time the judges discovered
some informality in his committal; and as L. was absent from Munich,
and no one at the Legation much interested in the case, the man was
liberated on signing a declaration--to which Bavarian authorities,
it would seem, attach value--that he was “a rogue and a vagabond;”
 confessions which the Captain possibly deemed as absurd an act of
“surplusage” as though he were to give a written declaration that he was
a vertebrated animal and a biped.

He went forth once more, and, difficult as it appears to the
intelligence of honest and commonplace folk, he went forth to prosper
and live luxuriously--so gullible is the world, so ready and eager to
be cheated and deceived. Sir Edward Lytton has somewhere declared that
a single number of the ‘Times’ newspaper, taken at random, would be
the very best and most complete picture of our daily life--the fullest
exponent of our notions, wants, wishes, and aspirations. Not a hope, nor
fear, nor prejudice--not a particle of our blind trustfulness, or of our
as blind unbelief, that would not find its reflex in the broadsheet. R.
N. F. had arrived at the same conclusion, only in a more limited sense.
The advertisement columns were all to him. What cared he for foreign
wars, or the state of the Funds? as little did he find interest in
railway intelligence, or “our own correspondent.” What he wanted was,
the people who inquired after a missing relative--a long-lost son or
brother, who was supposed to have died in the Mauritius or Mexico: an
affectionate mother who desired tidings as to the burial-place of a
certain James or John, who had been travelling in a particular year in
the south of Spain: an inquirer for the will of Paul somebody: or
any one who could supply evidence as to the marriage of Sarah Meekins
_alias_ Crouther, supposed to have been celebrated before her Majesty’s
Vice-Consul at Kooroobakaboo--these were the paragraphs that touched
him.

Never was there such a union of intelligence and sympathy as in him! He
knew everybody, and seemed not alone to have been known to, but actually
beloved by, every one. It was in _his_ arms poor Joe died at Aden. _He_
gave away Maria at Tunis. He followed Tom to his grave at Corfu; and he
was the mysterious stranger who, on board the P. and O. boat, offered
his purse to Edward, and was almost offended at being denied. The way in
which this man tracked the stories of families through the few lines
of a newspaper advertisement was positively marvellous. Whatever was
wanting in the way of evidence of this, or clue to that, came at once
into his attributions.

A couple of years ago, an English lady, the wife of a clergyman, passed
a winter at Rome with her daughter, and in the mixed society of that
capital made acquaintance with a Polish Count of most charming manners
and fascinating address. The acquaintance ripened into intimacy, and
ended in an attachment which led to the marriage of the young lady with
the distinguished exile.

On arriving in England, however, it was discovered that the accomplished
Count was a common soldier, and a deserter from the Prussian army; and
means were accordingly had recourse to in order to obtain a divorce, and
the breach of a marriage accomplished under a fraudulent representation.
While the proceedings were but in the initiative, there came a letter
from Oneglia, near Nice, to the afflicted mother of the young lady,
recalling to her mind the elderly gentleman with the blue spectacles who
usually sat next her at the English Church at Rome. He was the writer of
the present letter, who, in turning over the columns of the ‘Times’ read
the melancholy story of her daughter’s betrayal and misery. By one of
those fortunate accidents more frequent in novels than in life, he had
the means of befriending her, and very probably of rescuing her from
her present calamity. He, the writer, had actually been present at the
wedding, and as a witness had signed the marriage-certificate of that
same _soi-disant_ Count Stanislaus Sobieski Something-or-other, at
Lemberg, in the year ‘49, and knew that the unhappy but deserted wife
was yet living. A certain momentary pressure of money prevented his
at once coming to England to testify to this fact; but if a small sum,
sufficient to pay a little balance he owed his innkeeper and wherewithal
to make his journey to England, were forwarded to the address of
Frederick Brooks, Esq., or lodged to his account at the Bank of French &
Co., Florence, he would at once hasten to London and depose formally
to every fact he had stated. By the merest accident I myself saw this
letter, which the lady had, for more accurate information about the
writer, sent to the banker at Florence, and in an instant I detected the
fine Roman hand of R. N. F. It is needless to say that this shot went
wide of the mark.

But that this fellow has lived for upwards of twenty years, travelling
the Continent in every direction, eating and drinking at the best
hotels, frequenting theatres, cafés, and public gardens, denying himself
nothing, is surely a shame and a disgrace to the police of Europe, which
has been usually satisfied to pass him over a frontier, and suffer him
to continue his depredations on the citizens of another state. Of the
obloquy he has brought upon his own country I do not speak. We must, I
take it, have our scoundrels like other people; the only great grievance
here is, that the fellow’s ubiquity is such that it is hard to believe
that the swindler who walked off with the five watches from Hamburg is
the same who, in less than eight days afterwards, borrowed fifty ducats
from a waiter at Naples, and “bolted.”

Of late I have observed he has dropped his second _prénom_ of Napoleon,
and does not call himself by it. There is perhaps in this omission a
delicate forbearance, a sense of refined deference to the other bearer
of that name, whom he recognises as his master.

In the ingenuity of his manifold devices even religion has not escaped
him, and it would be impossible to count how often he has left the
“Establishment” for Rome, been converted, reconverted, reconciled, and
brought home again--always, be it noted, at the special charge of so
much money from the Church Fund, or a subscription from the faithful,
ever zealous and eager to assist a really devout and truly sincere
convert!

That this man is an aspiring and ambitious vagabond may be seen in the
occasional raids he makes into the very best society, without having, at
least to ordinary eyes, anything to obtain in these ventures, beyond the
triumph of seeing himself where exposure and detection would be
certain to be followed by the most condign punishment. At Rome, for
instance--how, I cannot say--he obtained admission to the Duc de
Grammont’s receptions; and at Florence, under the pretext of being
a proprietor, and “a most influential” one, of the ‘Times,’ he
breakfasted, by special invitation, with Baron Ricasoli, and had a long
and most interesting conversation with him as to the conditions--of
course political--on which he would consent to support Italian unity.
These must have been done in pure levity; they were imaginative
excursions, thrown off in the spirit of those fanciful variations great
violinists will now and then indulge in, as though to say, “Is there a
path too intricate for me to thread, is there a pinnacle too fine for me
to balance on?”

A great deal of this fellow’s long impunity results from the shame men
feel in confessing to have been “done” by him. Nobody likes the avowal,
acknowledging, as it does, a certain defect in discrimination, and a
natural reluctance to own to having been the dupe of one of the most
barefaced and vulgar rogues in Europe.

There is one circumstance in this case which might open a very curious
psychological question; it is this: F.’s victims have not in general been
the frank, open, free-giving, or trustful class of men; on the contrary,
they have usually been close-fisted, cold, cautious people, who
weigh carefully what they do, and are rarely the dupes of their own
impulsiveness. F. is an Irishman, and yet his successes have been
far more with English--ay, even with Scotchmen--than with his own
countrymen.

In part this may be accounted for by the fact that F. did not usually
present himself as one in utter want and completely destitute; his
appeal for money was generally made on the ground of some speculation
that was to repay the lender; it was because he knew “something to
your advantage” that he asked for that £10. He addressed himself, in
consequence, to the more mercantile spirit of a richer community--to
those, in fact, who, more conversant with trade, better understood the
meaning of an investment.

But there was another, and, as I take it, a stronger and less fallible
ground for success. This fellow has, what all Irishmen are more or less
gifted with, an immense amount of vitality, a quality which undeniably
makes a man companionable, however little there may be to our taste in
his manner, his education, or his bearing. This same vitality imparts
itself marvellously to the colder temperaments of others, and gives out
its own warmth to natures that never of themselves felt the glow of an
impulse, or the glorious furnace-heat of a rash action.

This was the magnetism he worked with. “Canny” Scotchmen and shrewd
Yankees--ay, even Swiss innkeepers--felt the touch of his quality.
There was, or there seemed to be, a geniality in the fellow that, in its
apparent contempt for all worldliness, threw men off their guard, and
it would have smacked of meanness to distrust a fellow so open and
unguarded.

Now Paddy has seen a good deal of this at home, and could no more be
humbugged by it than he could believe a potato to be a truffle.

F. was too perfect an artist ever to perform in an Irish part to an
Irish audience, and so he owes little or nothing to the land of his
birth.

Apart from his unquestionable success, which of course settles the
question, I would not have called him a great performer--indeed, my
astonishment has always been how he succeeded, or with whom.

“Don’t tell me of Beresford’s blunders,” said the Great Duke after
Albuera. “Did he beat Soult? if so, he was a good officer.”

This man’s triumphs are some twenty odd years of expensive living, with
occasional excursions into good society. He wears broadcloth, and dines
on venison, when his legitimate costume had been the striped uniform of
the galleys, and his diet the black bread of a convict.

The injury these men do in life is not confined to the misery their
heartless frauds inflict, for the very humblest and poorest are often
their victims: they do worse, in the way they sow distrust and suspicion
of really deserving objects, in the pretext they afford the miserly man
to draw closer his purse-strings, and “not be imposed on;” and, worst of
all, in the ill repute they spread of a nation which, not attractive by
the graces of manner or the charms of a winning address, yet cherished
the thought that in truthfulness and fair dealing there was not one
could gainsay it.

As I write, I have just heard tidings of R. N. F. One of our most
distinguished travellers and discoverers, lately returning from Venice
to the South, passed the night at Padua, and met there what he described
as an Indian officer--Major Newton--who was travelling, he said, with a
nephew of Lord Palmer-ston’s.

The Major was a man fall of anecdote, and abounded in knowledge of
people and places; he had apparently been everywhere with everybody,
and, with a communicativeness not always met with in old soldiers, gave
to the stranger a rapid sketch of his own most adventurous life. As the
evening wore on, he told too how he was waiting there for a friend,
a certain N. F., who was no other than himself, the nephew of Lord
Palmerston being represented by his son, an apt youth, who has already
given bright promise of what his later years may develop.

N. F. retired to bed at last, so much overcome by brandy-and-water that
my informant escaped being asked for a loan, which I plainly see he
would not have had the fortitude to have refused; and the following
morning he started so early that N. F., wide awake as he usually is, was
not vigilant enough to have anticipated.

I hope these brief details, _pour servir à l’histoire de Monsieur R. N.
F._, may save some kind-hearted traveller from the designs of a thorough
blackguard, and render his future machinations through the press more
difficult to effect and more certain of exposure.

I had scarcely finished this brief, imperfect sketch, when I read in
‘Galignani’ the following:--

“Swindling on the Continent.--A letter from Venice of March 29 gives us
the following piece of information which may still be of service to some
of our readers, though, from the fact with which it concludes, it
would seem that the proceedings, of the party have been brought to a
standstill, at least for some time. This is not, however, it may be
recollected, the first occasion we have had to bring the conduct of
the individual referred to under the notice of our readers for similar
practices:--

“‘I am informed that one Mr Newton, _alias_ Neville, _alias_ Fane, and
with a dozen other _aliases_, has been arrested at Padua for swindling.
This ubiquitous gentleman has been travelling for some years at the
expense of hotel-keepers, and other geese easily fleeced, on the
Continent In the year 1862, Mr Neville and his two sons made their
suspicious appearance at Venice, and they now, minus the younger son,
have visited Padua as Mr Robert N. Newton and son, taking up their
residence at the Stella d’Oro. They arrived without luggage and without
money, both of which had been lost in the Danube; but they expected
remittances from India! The obliging landlord lent money, purchased
clothes, fed them gloriously, and contrived, between the 8th Feb.
and 25th of March, to become the creditor of Newton and son for 1000
swanzig. The expenses continued, but the remittances never came.
The patient landlord began to lose that virtue, and denounced these
_aliases_ as swindlers. The police of Vienna, hearing of the event, sent
information that these two accommodating gentlemen had practised the
victimising art for two months in December last at the Hotel Regina
Inghilterre, at Pesth, run up a current account of 700 florins, and
decamped; and a hotel-keeper recognised the scamps as having re-resided
at the Luna, in Venice, in 1862, and “plucked some profit from that
pale-faced moon.” Mr Newton’s handwriting proved him to be in 1863
one Major Fane, who had generously proposed to bring all his family,
consisting of ten persons, to pass the winter at the Barbesi Hotel at
Venice, if the proprietor would forward him 700 fr., as, owing to his
wife’s prolonged residence at Rome and Naples, he was short of money,
which, however, he expected, would cease on the arrival of supplies from
Calcutta. These gentlemen are now in durance vile, and there is no
doubt but that this letter will lead to their recognition by many other
victims.’”

Let no sanguine enthusiast for the laws of property imagine, however,
that this great man’s career is now ended, and that R. N. F. will no
more go forth as of old to plunder and to rob. Imprisonment for debt is
a grievous violation of personal liberty certainly, but it is finite;
and some fine morning, when the lark is carolling high in heaven, and
the bright rivulets are laughing in the gay sunlight, R. N. F. will
issue from his dungeon to taste again the sweets of liberty, and to
partake once more of the fleshpots of some confiding landlord. F. is a
man of great resources, doubtless. When he repeats a part, he feels
the same sort of repugnance that Fechter would to giving a fiftieth
representation of Hamlet, but he would bow to the necessity which a
clamorous public imposes, however his own taste might rebel against the
dreariness of the task. Still, I feel assured that he will next appear
in a new part. We shall hear of him--that is certain. He will be in
search of a lost will, by which he would inherit millions, or a Salvator
Rosa that he has been engaged to buy for the Queen, or perhaps he will
be a missionary to assist in that religious movement now observable in
Italy. How dare I presume, in my narrow inventiveness, to suggest to
such a master of the art as he is? I only know that, whether he comes
before the world as the friend of Sir Hugh Rose, a proprietor of the
‘Times,’ the agent of Lord Palmerston, or a recent convert from Popery,
he will sustain his part admirably; and that same world that he has
duped, robbed, and swindled for more than a quarter of a century will
still feed and clothe him--still believe in the luggage that never
comes, and the remittance that will never turn up.

After all, the man must be a greater artist than I was willing to
believe him to be. He must be a deep student of the human heart--not,
perhaps, in its highest moods; and he must well understand how to touch
certain chords which give their response in unlimited confidence and
long credit.

No doubt there must be some wondrous fascination in these changeful
fortunes--these ups and downs of life--otherwise no man could have
gone, as he has, for nigh thirty years, hunted, badgered, insulted,
and imprisoned in almost every capital of Europe, and yet no sooner
liberated than, like a giant refreshed, he again returns to his old
toil, never weary wherever the bread of idleness can be eaten, and where
a lie will pay for his liquor.

Talk of novel-writers--this is the great master of fiction--the man who
brings the product of imagination to the real test of credibility--the
actual interest of his public. Let him fail in his description, his
narrative, the progress of his events, or their probability, and he
is ruined at once. He must not alone arrange the circumstances of his
story, but he must perform the hero, and that, too, as we saw lately
at Padua, without any adventitious aid of dress or costume. I can fancy
what a sorry figure some of our popular tale-writers would present if
they had to appeal to an innkeeper with this poor story of their luggage
lost in the Danube. What a contempt the rascal must have had for Italian
notions of geography, too, when he adopted a river so remote from
where he stood! And yet I’d swear he was as cool, as collected, and as
self-sustained at that moment, as ever was Mr Gladstone in the House as
he rose to move a motion of supply.

Well, he is in Padua now, doubtless dreaming of fresh conquests, and not
impossibly speculating on a world whose gullibility is indeed infinite,
and which actually seems to take the same pleasure in being cheated in
Fact as it does in being deceived in Fiction. Who knows if the time is
not coming when, instead of sending a box of new novels to the country,
some Mr Mudie will despatch one of these R. N. F. folk by a fast
train, with a line to say, “A great success: his Belgian rogueries most
amusing; the exploit at Madrid equal to anything in ‘Gil Bias’.”



GÀRIBÀLDI

We had a very witty Judge in Ireland, who was not very scrupulous about
giving hard knocks to his brothers on the bench, and who, in delivering
a judgment in a cause, found that he was to give the casting-vote
between his two colleagues, who were diametrically opposed to each
other, and who had taken great pains to lay down the reasons for their
several opinions at considerable length. “It now comes to my turn,” said
he, “to declare my view of this case, and fortunately I can afford to
be brief. I agree with my brother B. from the irresistible force of the
admirable argument of my brother M.”

The story occurred to me as I thought over Garibaldi and the
enthusiastic reception you gave him in England; for I really felt, if it
had not been for Carlyle, I might have been a bit of a hero-worshipper
myself The grand frescoes in caricature of the popular historian have,
however, given me a hearty and wholesome disgust to the whole thing; not
to say that, however enthusiastic a man may feel about his idol, he must
be sorely ashamed of his fellow-worshippers. “Lie down with dogs, and
you’ll get up with fleas,” says an old Irish adage; but what, in the
name of all entomology, is a man to get up with who lies down with these
votaries of Garibaldi? So fine a fellow, and so mangy a following, it
would be hard to find. The opportunity for all the blatant balderdash
of shopkeeping eloquence, of that high “Falootin” style so popular over
the Atlantic, of those grand-sounding periods about freedom and love
of country, was not to be lost by a set of people who, in all their
enthusiasm for Garibaldi, are intently bent on making themselves
foreground figures in the tableau that should have been filled by
himself alone.

“Sir Francis Burdett call _you_ his friend!--as well call a Bug his
bedfellow!” said the sturdy old yeoman, whose racy English I should like
to borrow, to characterise the stupid incongruity between Garibaldi and
his worshippers. It is not easy to conceive anything finer, simpler,
more thoroughly unaffected, or more truly dignified, than the man
himself. His noble head; his clear, honest, brown eye; his finely-traced
mouth, beautiful as a woman’s, and only strung up to sternness when
anything ignoble or mean had outraged him; and, last of all, his voice
contains a fascination perfectly irresistible, allied, as you knew and
felt these graces were, with a thoroughly pure, untarnished nature. The
true measure of the man lies in the fact that, though his life has been
a series of the boldest and most daring achievements, his courage is
about the very last quality uppermost in your mind when you meet him.
It is of the winning softness of his look and manner, his kind
thoughtfulness for others, his sincere pity for all suffering, his
gentleness, his modesty, his manly sense of brotherhood with the very
humblest of the men who have loved him, that you think: these are the
traits that throw all his heroism into shadow; and all the glory of the
conqueror pales before the simple virtues of the man.

He never looked to more advantage than in that humble life of Caprera,
where people came and went--some, old and valued friends, whose presence
warmed up their host’s heart; others, mere passing acquaintances, or,
as it might be, not even that; worshippers or curiosity-seekers--living
where and how they could in that many-roomed small house; diving into
the kitchen to boil their coffee; sallying out to the garden to pluck
their radishes; down to the brook for a cress, or to the seaside to
catch a fish,--all more or less busy in the midst of a strange
idleness; for there was not--beyond providing for the mere wants of the
day--anything to be done. The soil would not yield anything. There was
no cultivation outside that little garden, where the grand old soldier
delved, or rested on his spade-handle as he turned his gaze over the
sea, doubtless thinking of the dear land beyond it.

At dinner--and what a strange meal it was--all met, full of the little
incidents of an uneventful day. The veriest trifles they were, but of
interest to those who listened, and to none more than Garibaldi himself,
who liked to hear who had been over to Maddalena, and what sport they
had; or whether Albanesi had taken any mullet, and who it was said he
could mend the boat? and who was to paint her? Not a word was spoken
of the political events of the world, and every mention of them was
as rigidly excluded as though a government spy had been seated at the
table.

He rarely spoke himself, but was a good listener--not merely hearing
with attention, but showing, by an occasional suggestion or a hint, how
his mind speculated on the subject before him. If, however, led to speak
of himself or his exploits, the unaffected ease and simplicity of the
man became at once evident. Never, by any chance, would an expression
escape him that redounded to his own share in any achievement;
without any studied avoidance the matter would somehow escape, or, if
accidentally touched on, be done so very lightly as to make it appear of
no moment whatever.

To have done one-tenth of what Garibaldi has done, a man must
necessarily have thrown aside scruples which he would never have
probably transgressed in his ordinary life. He must have been often
arbitrary, and sometimes almost cruel; and yet, ask his followers, and
they will tell you that punishment scarcely existed in the force under
his immediate command--that the most hardened offender would have
quailed more under a few stern words of reproof from “the General” than
from a sentence that sent him to a prison.

That, to effect his purpose, he would lay hands on what he needed, not
recklessly or indifferently, but thoughtfully and doubtless regretfully,
we all know. I can remember an instance of this kind, related to me by
a British naval officer, who himself was an actor in the scene. “It was
off La Plata,” said my informant, “when Garibaldi was at war with Rosas,
that the frigate I commanded was on that station, as well as a small
gun-brig of the Sardinian navy, whose captain never harassed his men by
exercises of gunnery, and, indeed, whose ship was as free from any ‘beat
to quarters,’ or any sudden summons to prepare for boarders, as though
she had been a floating chapel.

“Garibaldi came alongside me one day to say that he had learned the
Sardinian had several tons of powder on board, with an ample supply
of grape, shell, and canister, not to speak of twelve hundred stand of
admirable arms. ‘I want them all,’ said he; ‘my people are fighting with
staves and knives, and we are totally out of ammunition. I want them,
and he won’t let me have them.’

“‘He could scarcely do so,’ said I, ‘seeing that they belong to his
Government, and are not in _his_ hands to bestow.’

“‘For that reason I must go and take them,’ said Garibaldi. ‘I mean to
board him this very night, and you’ll see if we do not replenish our
powder-flasks.’

“‘In that case,’ said I, ‘I shall have to fire on you. It will be
Piracy; nothing else.’

“‘You’ll not do so;’ said he, smiling.

“‘Yes, I promise you that I will. We are at peace and on good terms with
Sardinia, and I cannot behave other than as a friend to her ships of
war.’

“‘There’s no help for it, then,’ said Garibaldi, ‘if you see the thing
in that light:’ and good-humouredly quitted the subject, and soon after
took his leave.”

“And were you,” asked I of my informant, Captain S.----“were you
perfectly easy after that conversation? I mean, were you fully satisfied
that he would not attempt the matter in some other way?”

“Never more at ease in my life. I knew my man; and that, having left
me under the conviction he had abandoned the exploit, nothing on earth
would have tempted him to renew it in any shape.”

It might be a matter of great doubt whether any greater intellectual
ability would not have rather detracted from than increased Garibaldi’s
power as a popular leader. I myself feel assured that the simplicity,
the trustfulness, the implicit reliance on the goodness of a cause as a
reason for its success, are qualities which no mere mental superiority
could replace in popular estimation. It is actually Love that is
the sentiment the Italians have for him; and I have seen them,
hard-featured, ay, and hard-natured men, moved to tears as the litter
on which Garibaldi lay wounded was carried down to the place of
embarkation.

Garibaldi has always been a thoughtful, silent, reflective man, not
communicative to others, or in any way expansive; and from these
qualities have come alike his successes and his failures. Of the
conversations reported of him by writers I do not believe a syllable. He
speaks very little; and, luckily for him, that little only with those on
whose integrity he can rely not to repeat him.

Cavour, who knew men thoroughly, and studied them just as closely as he
studied events, understood at once that Garibaldi was the man he wanted.
He needed one who should move the national heart--who, sprung from the
people himself, and imbued with all the instincts of his class, should
yet not dissever the cause of liberty from the cause of monarchy. To
attach Garibaldi to the throne was no hard task. The King, who led the
van of his army, was an idol made for such worship as Garibaldi’s. The
monarch who could carry a knapsack and a heavy rifle over the cliffs
of Monte Rosa from sunrise to sunset, and take his meal of hard bread
before he “turned in” at night in a shepherd’s shieling, was a King
after the bold buccaneer’s own heart.

To what end inveigh against the luxuries of a court, its wasteful
splendours, or its costly extravagance, with such an example? This
strong-sinewed, big-boned, unpoetical King has been the hardest nut ever
republicanism had to crack!

It might be possible to overrate the services Garibaldi has rendered
to Italy--it would be totally impossible to exaggerate those he has
rendered the Monarchy; and out of Garibaldi’s devotion to Victor
Emmanuel has sprung that hearty, honest, manly appreciation of the King
which the Italians unquestionably display. A merely political head of
the State, though he were gifted with the highest order of capacity,
would have disappeared altogether from view in the sun-splendour of
Garibaldi’s exploits; not so the King Victor Emmanuel, who only shone
the brighter in the reflected blaze of the hero who was so proud to
serve him.

Yet for all that friendship, and all the acts that grew out of it,
natural and spontaneous as they are, one great mind was needed to guide,
direct, encourage, or restrain. It was Cavour who, behind the scenes,
pulled all the wires; and these heroes--heroes they were too--were but
his puppets.

Cavour died, and then came Aspromonte.

If any other man than Garibaldi had taken the present moment to make
a visit--an almost ostentatious visit--to Mazzini, it might be a grave
question how far all the warm enthusiasm of this popular reception could
be justified. Garibaldi is, however, the one man in Europe from whom
no one expects anything but impulsive action. It is in the very
unreflectiveness of his generosity that he is great. There has not been,
I am assured, for many years back, any very close or intimate friendship
between these two men; but it was quite enough that Mazzini was in
trouble and difficulty, to rally to his side that brave-hearted
comrade who never deserted his wounded. Nor is there in all Garibaldi’s
character anything finer or more exalted than the steadfast adherence he
has ever shown to his early friendships. No flatteries of the great--no
blandishments of courts and courtiers--none of those seductive
influences which are so apt to weave themselves into a man’s nature when
surrounded by continual homage and admiration--not any of these have
corrupted that pure and simple heart; and there is not a presence
so exalted, nor a scene of splendour so imposing, as could prevent
Garibaldi from recognising with eager delight any the very humblest
companion that ever shared hardship and danger beside him.

To have achieved his successes, a man must of necessity have rallied
around him many besides enthusiasts of the cause; he must have recruited
amongst men of broken fortunes--reckless, lawless fellows, who accepted
the buccaneer’s life as a means of wiping off old scores with that old
world “that would have none of them.” It was not amidst the orderly, the
soberly-trained, and well-to-do that he could seek for followers. And
what praise is too great for him who could so inspire this mass, heaving
with passion as it was, with his own noble sentiments, and make them
feel that the work before them--a nation’s regeneration--was a task too
high and too holy to be accomplished by unclean hands? Can any eulogy
exaggerate the services of a man who could so magnetise his fellow-men
as to associate them at once with his nobility of soul, and elevate them
to a standard little short of his own? That he _did_ do this we have the
proof. Pillage was almost unknown amongst the Garibaldians; and these
famished, ill-clad, shoeless men marched on from battle to battle
with scarcely an instance of crime that called for the interference of
military law.

Where is the General who could boast of doing as much? Where is the
leader who could be bold enough to give such a pledge for his followers?
Is there an army in Europe--in the world--for whom as much could be
said?

All honour, therefore, to the man--not whose example only, but whose
very contact suggests high intent and noble action. All honour to
him who brings to a great cause, not alone the dazzling splendour
of heroism, but the more enduring brightness of a pure and unsullied
integrity!

Such a man may be misled; he can never be corrupted.



A NEW INVESTMENT.

I am not so sure how far we ought to be grateful for it, but assuredly
the fact is so, that nothing has so much tended to show the world with
what little wisdom it is governed than the Telegraph. It is not merely
that cabinets are no longer the sole possessors of early intelligence,
though this alone was once a very great privilege; and there is no
over-estimating the power conferred by the exclusive possession of
a piece of important news--a battle won or lost, the outbreak of a
revolution, the overthrow of a throne--even for a few hours before it
became the property of the public. The telegraph, however, is the great
disenchanter. The misty uncertainty, the cloud-like indistinctness that
used of old to envelop all ministerial action, converting Downing
Street into a sort of Olympus, and making a small mythology out of
Precis-writers, is all gone, all dispersed. Three or four cold hard
lines, thin and terse as the wire that conveyed them, are sworn enemies
to all style, and especially to all the evasive cajoleries of those
dissolving views of events diplomacy loves to revel in. What becomes of
the graceful drapery in which statesmen used to clothe the great facts
of the world, when a simple despatch, “fifteen words, exclusive of
the address,” tells the whole story? and when we have read that “the
insurgents are triumphant everywhere, the king left the capital at four
o’clock, a provisional government was proclaimed this morning,” and
suchlike, what do we care for the sonorous periods in which official
priestcraft chants the downfall of a dynasty?

The great stronghold of statecraft was, however, Speculation--I mean
that half-prophetic view of events which we always conceded to those
who looked over the world from a higher window than ourselves. What
has become of this now? Who so bold as to predict what, while he is yet
speaking, may be contradicted? who is there hardy enough to forecast
what the events of the last half-hour may have falsified, and five
minutes more will serve to publish to the whole world?

It may be amusing to read the comments of the speech or the leading
article, but the “despatch” is the substance: and however clever the
variations, the original melody remains unaltered. Let any one imagine
to himself a five-act drama, preceded by a telegraphic intimation of
all its incidents--how insupportable would the slow procession of events
become after such a revelation! Up to this, Ministers performed a sort
of Greek chorus, chanting in ambiguous phrase the woes that invaded
those who differed from them, and the heart-corroding sorrows that sat
below the “gangway.” There has come an end to all this. All the dramatic
devices of those days are gone, and we live in an age in which many
men are their own priests, their lawyers, and their doctors, and where,
certes, each man is his own prophet.

These reflections have been much impressed upon me by a ramble I
took yesterday in company with one of the most agreeable of all our
diplomatists--one of those men who seem to weld into their happy natures
all the qualities which make good companionship, and blend with the
polished manners of a courtier the dash of an Eton boy and the deep
reflectiveness of a man of the world--a man to whom nothing comes wrong,
and whom you would be puzzled to say whether he was more in his element
at a cabinet council, or one of a shooting-party in the Highlands.

“I say, O’Dowd,” cried he, after a pause of some time in our
conversation, “has it never struck you that those tall poles and wires
are destined to be the end of both your trade and mine, and that within
a very few years neither of our occupations will have a representative
left? Take my word for it,” said he, more solemnly, “in less than
ten years from the present date a penny-a-liner will be as rare as
a posthorse, and a post-shay not more a curiosity than a
minister-plenipotentiary.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I am certain of it. People nowadays won’t travel eight miles an hour,
or be satisfied to hear of events ten days after they’ve happened. Life
is too short for all this now, and, as we can’t lengthen our days, we
must shorten our incidents. We are all more or less like that gentleman
Mathews used to tell us of at Boulogne, who said to the waiter, ‘Let me
have some-thing expensive; I am only here for an hour.’ Have you ever
thought seriously on the matter?”

“Never,” said I.

“You ought, then,” said he. “I tell you again, we are all in the same
category with flint locks and wooden ships--we belong to the past. Don’t
you know it? Don’t you feel it?”

“I don’t like to feel it,” said I, peevishly.

“Nonsense!” cried he, laughing. “Self-deception does nothing in the
matter, say what one will. A modern diplomatist is only a ‘smooth-Bore.’
What ‘our own correspondent’ represents, I leave to your own modesty.”

“It will be a bad day for us when the world comes to that knowledge,”
 said I, gloomily.

“Of course it will, but there’s no help for it. Old novels go to the
trunkmakers; second-hand uniforms make the splendour of dignity-balls in
the colonies: who is to say that there may not be a limbo for us also?
At all events, I have a scheme for our transition state--a plan I have
long revolved in my mind--and there’s certainly something in it.

“First of all realise it, as the Yankees say, that neither a government
nor a public will want either of us. When the wires have told that
the Grand-Duke Strong-grog-enofif was assassinated last night, or that
Prince Damisseisen has divorced his wife and married a milliner,
Downing Street and Printing-house Square will agree that all the moral
reflections the events inspire can be written just as well in Piccadilly
as from a palace on the Neva, or a den on the Danube. Gladstone will be
the better pleased, and take another farthing off ‘divi-divi,’ or some
other commodity in general use and of universal appreciation. Don’t you
agree to that?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know,” drawled he out, in mimicry of my tone: “are you so
conceited about your paltry craft that you fancy the world cares for the
manner of it, or that there is really any excellence in the cookery?
Not a bit of it, man. We are bores both of us; and what’s worse--far
worse--we are bygones. Can’t you see that when a man buys a canister
of prepared beef-tea, he never asks any one to pour on the boiling
water--he brews his broth for himself? This is what people do with
the telegrams. They don’t want you or me to come in with the kettle:
besides, all tastes are not alike; one man may like his Bombardment of
Charleston weaker; another might prefer his Polish Massacre more highly
flavoured. This is purely a personal matter. How can you suit the
capricious likings of the million, and of the million--for that’s the
worst of it--the million that don’t want you? What a practical rebuke,
besides, to prosy talkers and the whole long-winded race, the sharp,
short tap of the telegraph! Who would listen to a narrative of Federal
finance when he has read ‘Gold at 204--Chase rigged the market’? Who
asks for strategical reasons in presence of ‘Almighty whipping--lost
eighty thousand--Fourth Michigan skedaddled ‘?

“How graphic will description become--how laconic all comment! You will
no more listen to one of the old circumlocutionary conversers than you
would travel by the waggon, or make a voyage in a collier.

“How, I would ask, could the business of life go on in an age active as
ours if all coinage was in copper, and vast transactions in money should
be all conducted in the base metal? Imagine the great Kings of Finance
counting over the debts of whole nations in penny-pieces, and you have
at once a picture of what, until a few years ago, was our intellectual
condition. How nobly Demosthenic our table-talk will be!--how grandly
abrupt and forensic!

“There is nothing, however, over which I rejoice more than in the
utter extinction of the anecdote-mongers--the insufferable monsters
who related Joe Millers as personal experiences, or gave you their own
versions of something in the morning papers. Thank heaven they are done
for!

“Last of all, the unhappy man who used to be sneered at for his silence
in company, will now be on a par with his fellows. The most bashful will
be able to blurt out, ‘Poles massacred,’ ‘Famine in Ireland,’ ‘Feast at
the Mansion House,’ ‘Collision at Croydon,’ ‘Bank discount eleven.’

“Who will dare to propagate scandal, when all amplification is denied
him? How much adulteration will the liquor bear which is measured by
drop? Nor will the least of our benefits be the long, reflective
pauses--those brilliant ‘flashes of silence’ which will supersede the
noise, turmoil, and confusion of what we used to call conversation. No,
no, Corneli mi. The game is up. ‘Our own Correspondent’ is a piece that
has run its course, and there’s nothing to do but take a farewell
benefit and quit the boards.”

“If I could fall back on my pension like you, I’d perhaps take the
matter easier,” said I, gruffly.

“Well, I think you ought to be pensioned. If I was a Minister, I’d
propose it. My notion is this: The proper subjects for pension are those
who, if not provided for by the State, are likely to starve. They are,
consequently, the class of persons who have devoted their lives to
an unmarketable commodity--such as poonah-painting, Berlin-wool work,
despatch-writing, and suchlike. I’d include ‘penny-a-lining’--don’t be
offended because you get twopence, perhaps. I’d pension the whole of
them--pretty much as I’d buy off the organ-man, and request him to move
on.”

“As, however,” said I, “we are not fortunate enough to figure in the
Estimates, may I ask what is the grand scheme you propose for our
employment?”

“I’m coming to it. I’d have reached it ere this, if you had not required
such a positive demonstration of your utter uselessness. You have
delayed me by what Guizot used to call ‘an obstructive indisposition to
believe.’”

“Go on; I yield--that is, under protest.” “Protest as much as you like.
In diplomacy a protest means, ‘I hope you won’t; but if you will, I
can’t help it,’ _Vide_ the correspondence about the annexation of Nice
and Savoy. Now to my project. It is to start a monster hotel--one of
those gigantic establishments for which the Americans are famous--in
some much-frequented part of Europe, and to engage as part of the
household all the ‘own time’ celebrities of diplomacy and letters. Every
one knows--most of us have, indeed, felt--the desire experienced to see,
meet, and converse with the noticeable men of the world--the people who,
so to say, leave their mark on the age they live in--the cognate
signs of human algebra. Only fancy, then, with what ecstasy would the
traveller read the prospectus of an establishment wherein, as in a
pantheon, all the gods were gathered around him. What would not the
Yankee give for a seat at a table where the great Eltchi ladled out the
soup, and the bland-voiced author of ‘The Woman in White’ lisped out,
‘Sherry, sir?’ Only imagine being handed one’s fish by the envoy
that got us into the Crimean war, or taking a potato served by the
accomplished writer of ‘Orley Farm’! Picture a succession of celebrities
in motion around the table, and conceive, if you can, the vainglorious
sentiment of the man that could say, ‘Lyons, a little more fat;’
or, ‘Carlyle, madeira;’ and imagine the luxury of that cup of tea so
gracefully handed you by ‘Lost and Saved,’ and the culminating pride of
taking your flat candlestick from the fingers of ‘Eleanor’s Victory.’

“Who would not cross the great globe to live in such an atmosphere of
genius and grandeur? for if there be, as there may, souls dead to
the charms of literary greatness, who in this advanced age of ours is
indifferent to the claims of high rank and station and title? Fancy
sending a K.C.B. to call a cab, or ordering a special envoy to fetch the
bootjack! I dare not pursue the theme. I cannot trust myself to dwell
on a subject so imbued with suggestiveness--all the varying and wondrous
combinations such a galaxy of splendour and power would inevitably
produce. What wit, what smartness, what epigram would abound! What
a hailstorm of pleasantries, and what stories of wise aphorisms
and profound reflections! How I see with my mind’s eye the literary
traveller trying to overhear the Attic drolleries of the waiters as they
wash up their glasses, or endeavouring to decoy Boots into a stroll with
a cigar, well knowing his charming article on Dickens.

“The class-writers would of course have their specialties.
‘Soapy-Sponge’ would figure in the stable-yard, and ‘Proverbial
Philosophy’ watch the trains as a touter. Fabulous prices might be
obtained for a room in such an establishment, and every place at the
_table-d’hôte_ should be five guineas at least. For, after all,
what would be an invitation to Compiègne to a sojourn here? Material
advantages might possibly incline to the side of the Imperial board; but
would any one presume to say that the company in the one was equal to
the ‘service’ at the other? Who would barter the glorious reality of
the first for the mean and shallow mockery of the last? Last of all, how
widespread and powerful would be the influence of such an establishment
over the manners of our time! Would Cockneyism, think you, omit its
H’s in presence of that bland individual who offers him cheese? Would
presumption dare to criticise in view of that ‘Quarterly’ man who is
pouring out the bitter beer? What a check on the expansive balderdash of
the ‘gent’ at his dessert to know and feel that ‘Adam Bede’ was behind
him!

“Would Brown venture on that anecdote of Jones if the napkin-in-hand
listener should be an ex-envoy renowned for his story-telling? Who
would break down in his history, enunciate a false quantity, misquote a
speech, or mistake the speaker, in such hearing? Some one might object
to the position and to the functions I assign to persons of a certain
distinction, and say that it was unworthy of an ex-ambassador to act
as a hall-porter, or a celebrated prose-writer to clean the knives. I
confess I do not think so. I shrewdly suspect a great deal of what we
are pleased to call philosophy is only a well-regulated self-esteem,
and that the man who feels himself immeasurably above another in mind,
capacity, and attainments, and yet sees that other vastly superior
in station and condition, has within his heart a pride all the more
exalting that it is stimulated by the sense of a great injustice, and
the profound consciousness that it is to himself, to his own nature, he
must look to redress the balance that fortune would set against him.

“In the brilliant conversation of the servants’ hall, then, would these
many gifted men take their revenge; and what stores of good stories,
what endless drolleries, what views of life, and what traits of
character, would they derive from the daily opportunities! It has
constantly been remarked by foreigners that there is no trait of
our national manners less graceful in itself than the way in which
inferiors, especially menials, are addressed in England. It is alleged,
perhaps with some truth, that we mark every difference of class more
decisively than other nations; and certainly in our treatment of
servants there is none of that same confidential tone so amusing in a
French vaudeville. The scheme I now suggest will be the effective remedy
for this.

“Will Jones, think you, presume to be imperative if it be Alfred
Tennyson who has brought up his hot water? Will Brown be critical about
the polish, if it be Owen Meredith has taken him his boots? Will even
Snooks cry out, ‘Holloa, you fellow!’ to a passing waiter, if the
individual so addressed might chance to be an Oriental Secretary or a
Saturday Reviewer?

“And would the most infatuated of Bagmen venture on what O’Connell used
to call a ‘chuck-under-the-chin manner,’ were the chamber-maid to be
Margaret Maitland?

“Such, in brief, is my plan, O’Dowd; nor is the least of its advantages
that it gets rid of the Pension List, and that beggarly £1200 a-year by
which wealthy England assumes to aid the destitute sons and daughters
of letters. As for myself, I have fixed on my station. I mean to be
swimming-master, and the prospectus shall announce that His Excellency
the late Minister at the Court of-----ducks ladies every morning from
eight till nine. Think over the project, and drop me a hint as to the
sort of place would suit you.”



ITALIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERISTICS.

My diplomatic friend is rarely very serious in his humour; this morning,
however, he was rather disposed that way, and so I took the opportunity
to question him about Italy, a country where he has lived long, and
whose people he certainly understands better than most Englishmen. I
gathered from him that he considered the English were thoroughly
well informed on Italy, but in the most hopeless ignorance as to the
Italians. “As for the house and the furniture, you know it all.” said
he; “but of the company you know positively nothing.”

Byron understood them better than any other Englishman. He had his
admission _par la petite porte_--that is, he gained his knowledge
through his vices; and the Italians were so flattered to see a great
Milor adapt himself so readily to their lax notions and loose morality
that they grew frank and open with him.

His pretended--I suppose it was only pretended--dislike to England
disarmed them, too, of all distrust of him; and for the first time they
felt themselves judged by a man who did not think Charing Cross finer
than the Piazza del Popolo.

Byron’s rank and station gained him a ready acceptance where the masses
of our travelling countrymen would not be received; for the Italians
love rank, and respect all its gradations. Even the republics were great
aristocracies; and in all their imitations of France they have never
affected “equality.” They love splendour too, and display; and in all
their festivals you see something like an effort to recall a time when
their cities were the grandest and their citizens the proudest in all
Europe.

They are a very difficult people to understand. There are not so many
salient points in the Italian as in the German or the Frenchman; his
character is not so strongly accented; his traits are finer--his shades
of temperament more delicate.

Besides this, there is another difficulty: one is immensely aided in
their appreciation of a people by their lighter drama, which is in a
measure a reflex of the daily sayings and doings of those who listen to
it. Now the Italians have no comedy, or next to none; so barren are they
in this respect, that more than once have I asked myself, Can there be
any domesticity in a nation which has not mirrored itself on the stage?
What sort of a substance can that be that never had a shadow?

The immortal Goldoni, as they print him in all the play-bills, is
ineffably stupid, his characters ill drawn, his plots meagre, and his
dialogue as flat as the talk of a three-volume novel. The only palpable
lesson derivable from him is, that all ranks and classes stand pretty
much on an equality, and that as regards modes of expression the count
and his coachman are precisely on a level. There is scarcely a trait of
humour in these pieces--never, by any accident, anything bordering on
wit. The characters talk the veriest commonplaces, and announce the most
humdrum intentions in phraseology as flat and wearisome.

Now you will ask, perhaps, Is this a fair type of the present-day
habits--are the Italians of our time like those of Goldoni’s? My reply
would be, that it would be difficult to imagine a people who have
changed less within a century. The same small topics, the same petty
interests engage them. They display the same ardent enthusiasm about
trifles, and the same thorough indifference to great things, as their
grandfathers; and they are marvellously like the dreary puppets that the
immortal dramatist has given us as their representatives.

It has been reproached to Sheridan, that no people in real life ever
displayed such brilliancy in conversation as the characters in the
‘School for Scandal;’ and tame as Goldoni reads, I verily believe his
dialogue is rather above the level of an Italian salon.

The great interests of Life, the game of politics, the contests and
reverses of party, literature in its various forms, and the sports of
the field, form topics which make the staple of our dinner-talk. Instead
of these the Italians have their one solitary theme--the lapses of their
neighbours, the scandals of the small world around them. Not that they
are uncharitable or malevolent; far from it. They discuss a frailty as a
board of physicians might a malady, and without the slightest thought of
imputing blame to “the patient.” They have now and then a hard word for
an unfortunate husband, but even him they treat rather as one ignorant
of conventional usages and the ways of the polite world, than as a man
radically bad or cruel.

They have in their blood the old Greek sensitiveness to suffering,
and they dislike painful scenes and disastrous catastrophes; and
this sentiment they carry to extremes. Although they have the finest
representative of Othello--Salvini--at this moment in Europe, the
terrible scene of the murder of Desdemona is a shock that many would
shrink from witnessing. They will bear any strain on the imagination,
but their fine-strung nerves revolt against the terrible in action.
To this natural refinement is owing much of that peculiar softness of
manner and reluctance to disoblige which foreigners frequently mistake
for some especial desire to win their favour.

The idleness which would make an Englishman awkward sits gracefully on
the Italian. He knows how to “do nothing” with dignity. Be assured, if
Hercules had been of Anglo-Saxon blood, Omphale would never have set him
down to spin; but being what he was, I could swear he went through his
tomfoolery gracefully.

And with all this, is it not strange that these are the people who
furnish the most reckless political enthusiasts of the world, and who,
year after year, go to the scaffold for “an idea”? There is something
hysterical in this Italian nature, which prompts to paroxysms like
these--some of that impulsive fury which, in the hill-tribes of India,
sends down hordes of fanatics to impale themselves on British bayonets.
The men like Orsini abound--calm of look, mild of speech, and gentle in
manner, and yet ready to commit the greatest of crimes and confront the
most terrible of deaths for a mere speculative notion--the possibility
of certain changes producing certain contingencies, and of which other
changes are to ensue, and Italy become something that she never was
before, nor would the rest of Europe suffer her to remain, if ever she
attained to it.

Wine-tasters tell us it is vain to look for a bottle of unadulterated
port: I should in the same way declare that there are few rarer things
to be found than a purely Italian society. The charm of their glorious
climate; the beauty of their country, the splendour of their cities,
rich in centuries of associations, have attracted strangers from every
corner of the Old World and the New; and the salons of Italy are but
caravanserais, where all nations meet and all tongues are spoken.

The Italians like this; it flatters national pride, and it suits
national indolence. The outer barbarians from the Neva or the Thames
have fine houses and give costly entertainments. Their sterner looks and
more robust habits are meet subject for the faint little jests that are
bandied in some _patois_; and each thinks himself the superior of his
neighbour. But as for the home life of these people, who has seen
it? What is known of it? Into that long, lofty, arched-ceilinged
drawing-room, lighted by its one lamp, where sits the Signora with
her daughter and the grimy-looking, ill-shaven priest, there is not,
perhaps, much temptation to enter, nor is the conversation of a kind
one would care to join in; and there is but this, and the noisy, almost
riotous, reception after the opera, where a dozen people are contending
at “Lansquenet,” while one or perhaps two thump the piano, and some
three or four shout rather than sing the last popular melody of the
season, din being accepted as gaiety, and a clamour that would make
deafness a blessing being taken for the delight of a charmed assembly.

I have been told that Cavour once said, that no great change would be
accomplished in Italy till the Italians introduced the public-school
system of England. So long as the youth of the country were given up
for education to the priests--the most illiterate, narrow-minded, and
bigoted class in Europe--so long would they carry with them through life
the petty prejudices of their early days; or, in emancipating themselves
from these, fall into a scepticism whose baneful distrust would damp
the ardour of all patriotism, and sap the strength of every high and
generous emulation. As the great statesman said, “I want Italians to be
Italians, and not to be bad Frenchmen.”

With a Peninsular Eton or Rugby at work, who is to say what might not
come of a people whose intellectual qualities are unquestionably
so great? The system which imparts to boys the honourable sense of
responsibility, the high value of truthfulness, the scorn of all that is
mean,--this is what is wanting here. Let the Italian start in life with
these, and it would not be easy to set limits to what his country may
become in greatness.

I have never heard of a people with so little self-control; and their
crimes are, in a large majority of cases, the results of some passionate
impulse rather than of a matured determination to do wrong. It is by no
means uncommon to find that your butler or your coachman has taken to
his bed ill of a _rabbia_, as they call it--a fit of passion, in plain
words, brought on by a reproof he has considered unjust. This same
_rabbia_ is occasionally a serious affair. Some short time ago, an
actor, who was hissed off the stage at Turin, went home and died of it;
and within a very few weeks, a case occurred in Florence which would
be laughable if it had not terminated so tragically. One of the new
guardians of the public safety, habited in a strange travestie of an
English police-costume, was followed through the streets by a crowd of
boys, who mocked and jeered him on his dress. Seeing that he resented
their remarks with temper, they only became more aggressive, and at last
went so far as to pursue him through the city with yells and cries. The
man, overcome with passion, got _rabbia_, and died. Ridicule is the one
thing no Italian can bear. When you lose temper with an Italian, and
give way to any show of violence before him, he is triumphant; his cheek
glows, his eye brightens, his chest expands, he sees he has you at a
disadvantage, and regards you as one who in a moment of passion has
thrown his cards on the table and exposed his hand. After this it is
next to impossible to regain your position before him. If you be
calm, however, and if, besides being calm, you can be sarcastic, he is
overcome at once.

It is a rare thing--one of the rarest--to see this weapon employed in
the debates; but when it does occur, it is ever successful. The fact
is, that Wit, which forms the subtlety of other nations, is not subtle
enough for the Italian; and the edge that cuts so cleanly elsewhere
makes a jagged wound with them.

After all, they are very easy to live with. If the social atmosphere
is not very stimulating or invigorating, it is easy to breathe, and
pleasant withal; and one trait of theirs is not without its especial
merit--they are less under the control of conventionalities than any
people I ever heard of, and consequently have few affectations. If they
do assume any little part, or play off any little game, it is with the
palpable object of a distinct gain by it; never is it done for personal
display or individual glory. There are no more snobs in Italy than
there are snakes in Iceland; and that, after all, is, as the world goes,
saying something for a people.

Of all the nations of Europe, I know of none, save Italy, in which the
characters are the same in every class and gradation. The appeal you
would make to the Italian noble must be the same you would address to
the humble peasant on his property. The point of view is invariably
identical; the sympathies are always alike. No matter what differences
education may have instituted and habits implanted, the nobleman and his
lackey think and feel and reason alike. Separate them how you will in
station, and they will still approach the consideration of any subject
in the same spirit, and regard it with the same hopes and fears, the
same expectations and distrusts. To this trait, of whose existence
Cavour well knew, was owing the marvellous unanimity in the nation on
the last war with Austria. The appeal to the prince could be addressed,
and was addressed, to the peasant. There was not an argument that spoke
to the one which was not re-echoed in the heart of the other. In fact,
the chain that binds the social condition of Italy is shorter than
elsewhere, and the extreme links are less remote from each other than
with most nations of Europe.

Every Italian is a conspirator, whether the question be the gravest
or the lightest; all must be done in it ambiguously--secretly--
mysteriously. Whatever is conducted openly is deemed to be done
stupidly. To take a house, buy a horse, or hire a servant without the
intervention of another man to disparage the article, chaffer over the
price, and disgust the vendor, is an act of impetuous folly. “Why didn’t
you tell _me!_” says your friend, “that you wished to have that villa?
My coachman is half-brother to the wife of the _fattore_. I could have
learned everything that could be urged against its convenience, and
learned, besides, what peculiar pressure for money affected the owner.”
 Besides this, everything must be done as though by mere hazard: you
really never knew there was a house there, never noticed it; you even
sneer at the taste of the man who selected the spot, and wonder “what he
meant by it.” In nine cases out of ten the other party is not deceived
by this skirmishing; he fires a little blank-cartridge too, and so goes
on the engagement. All have great patience; life, at least in Italy, is
quite long enough for all this; no one is overburdened with business;
the days are usually wearisome, and the theatres are only open of an
evening!

It is, besides, so pleasant and so interesting to the Italian to pit
his craft against another man’s, and back his own subtlety against his
neighbour’s. It is a sort of gambling of which he never wearies; for
the game is one that demands not merely tact, address, and cunning,
but face, voice, manner, and bearing. It is temperament. Individuality
itself is on the table; and so is it, that you may assume it as certain
that the higher organisation will invariably rise the winner.

Imagine Bull in such a combat, and you have a picture of the most
hopeless incapacity. He frets, fumes, storms, and sulks; but what avails
it? he is “done” in the end; but he is no more aware that the struggle
he has been engaged in is an intellectual one, than was the Bourgeois
Gentilhomme conscious that he had been for forty years “talking prose.”

The Priest was doubtless the great originator of all this mechanism
of secrecy and fraud. For centuries the Church has been the Tyrant of
Italy. The whole fate and fortunes of families depended on the will of
a poor, ill-clad, ignoble-looking creature, who, though he sat at meals
with the master, ate and talked like a menial. To this man was known
everything--all that passed beneath the roof. Not alone was he aware of
the difficulties, the debts, the embarrassments of the family, but to
him were confided their feelings, their shortcomings, their sorrows, and
it might be their shame. From him there was nothing secret; and he sat
there, in the midst of them, a sort of Fate, wielding the power of one
who knew every spring and motive that could stir them, every hope that
could thrill, every terror that could appal them. There was no escape
from him--cold, impassive spectator of good or evil fortune, without one
affection to attach him to life, grimly watching the play of passions
which made men his slaves, and only interested by the exercise of a
power that degraded them. The layman could not outwit him, it is true,
but he could steal something of the craft that he could not rival. This
he has done; how he has employed it any one can at least imagine who has
had dealings in Italy.



THE DECLINE OF WHIST.

What is the reason of the decline of Whist? Why is it that every year we
find fewer players, and less proficiency in those who play? It is a far
graver question than it may seem at first blush, and demands an amount
of investigation much deeper than I am able to give it here.

Of course I am prepared to hear that people nowadays are too
accomplished and too intellectual to be obliged to descend for their
pastime to a mere game at cards; that higher topics engage and higher
interests occupy them; that they read and reflect more than their
fathers and grandfathers did; and that they would look down with disdain
upon an intellectual combat where the gladiators might be the last
surviving veterans of a bygone century.

Now, if the conversational tone of our time were pre-eminently
brilliant--if people were wiser, wittier, more amusing, and more
instructive than formerly--if we lived in an age of really good
talkers,--I might assent to the force of this explanation; but what is
the truth? Ours is, of all the times recorded by history, the dullest
and dreariest: rare as whist-players are, pleasant people are still
rarer. It is not merely that the power of entertaining is gone, but so
has the ambition. Nobody tries to please, and the success is admirable!
It is fashionable to be stupid, and we are the most modish people in the
universe. It is absurd, then, in a society whose interchange of thought
is expressed in monosyllables, and a certain haw-haw dreariness pervades
all intercourse, to say that people are above Whist. Why, they are below
Push-pin!

It would be sufficient to point to the age when Whist was most in vogue,
to show that it flavoured a society second to none in agreeability; and
who were the players? The most eminent divines, the greatest ministers,
the most profound jurists, the most subtle diplomatists. What an
influence a game so abounding in intellectual teaching must have
exercised on the society where it prevailed, can scarcely be computed.
Blackstone has a very remarkable passage on the great social effect
produced upon the Romans by their popular games; and he goes so far as
to say that society imbibes a vast amount of those conventionalities
which form its laws, from an Tin-conscious imitation of the rules which
govern its pastimes. Take our own time, and I ask with confidence,
should we find such want of purpose as our public men exhibit, such
uncertainty, such feebleness, and such defective allegiance to party,
in a whist-playing age? Would men be so ready as we see them to renounce
their principles, if they bore fresh in their mind all the obloquy that
follows “a revoke”? Would they misquote their statistics in face of the
shame that attends on “a false score”? Would they be so ready to assert
what they know they must retract, if they had a recent recollection of
being called on “to take down the honours”?

Think, then, of the varied lessons--moral as well as mental--that the
game instils; the caution, the reserve, the patient attention, the
memory, the deep calculation of probabilities, embracing all the rules
of evidence, the calm self-reliance, and the vigorous daring that shows
when what seems even rashness may be the safest of all expedients.
Imagine the daily practice of these gifts and faculties, and tell me,
if you can, that he who exercises them can cease to employ them in his
everyday life. You might as well assert that the practice of gymnastics
neither develops the muscle nor increases strength.

I cannot believe a great public man to have attained a fall development
of his power if he has not been a whist-player; and for a leader of the
House, it is an absolute necessity. Take a glance for a moment at what
goes on in Parliament in this non-whist age, and mark the consequences.
Look in at an ordinary sitting of the House, and see how damaging to his
party that unhappy man is, who _will_ ask a question to-day which this
day week would be unanswerable. What is that but “playing his card out
of time”? See that other who rises to know if something be true; the
unlucky “something” being the key-note to his party’s politics which
he has thus disclosed. What is this but “showing his hand”? Hear that
dreary blunderer, who has unwittingly contradicted what his chief has
just asserted--“trumping,” as it were, “his partner’s trick.” Or that
still more fatal wretch, who, rising at a wrong moment, has taken “the
lead out of the hand” that could have won the game. I boldly ask, would
there be one--even one--of these solecisms committed in an age when
Whist was cultivated, and men were brought up in the knowledge and
practice of the odd trick?

Look at the cleverness with which Lord Palmerston “forces the hand” of
the Opposition. Watch the rapidity with which Lord Derby pounces upon
the card Lord Russell has let drop, and “calls on him to play it.” And
in the face of all this you will see scores of these bland whiskered
creatures Leech gives us in ‘Punch,’ who, if asked, “Can they play?”
 answer with a contemptuous ha-ha laugh, “I rather think not.”

To the real player, besides, Whist was never so engrossing as to exclude
occasional remark; and some of the smartest and wittiest of Talleyrand’s
sayings were uttered at the card-table. Imagine, then, the inestimable
advantage to the young man entering life, to be privileged to sit down
in that little chosen coterie, where sages dropped words of wisdom, and
brilliant men let fall those gems of wit that actually light up an era.
By what other agency--through what fortuitous combination of events
other than the game--could he hope to enjoy such companionship? How
could he be thrown not merely into their society, but their actual
intimacy?

It would be easy for me to illustrate the inestimable benefits of this
situation, if we possessed what, to the scandal of our age, we do
not possess--any statistics of Whist. Newspapers record the oldest
inhabitant or the biggest gooseberry, but tell us nothing biographical
of those who have illustrated the resources and extended the boundaries
of this glorious game. We even look in vain for any mention of Whist in
the lives of some of its first proficients. Take Cavour, for instance.
Not one of his biographers has recorded his passion for Whist, and yet
he was a good player: too venturous, perhaps--too dashing--but splendid
with “a strong hand!” During all the sittings of the Paris Congress he
played every night at the Jockey Club, and won very largely--some say
above twenty thousand pounds.

The late Prince Metternich played well, but not brilliantly. It was a
patient, cautious, back-game, and never fully developed till the last
card was played. He grew easily tired too, and very seldom could sit
out more than twelve or fourteen rubbers; unlike Talleyrand, who always
arose from table, after perhaps twelve hours’ play, fresher and brighter
than when he began. Lord Melbourne played well, but had moments of
distraction, when he suffered the smaller interests of politics to
interfere with his combinations. I single him out, however, as a
graceful compliment to a party who have numbered few good players in
their ranks; for certainly the Tories could quote folly ten to
one whisters against the Whigs. The Whigs are too superficial, too
crotchety, and too self-opinionated to be whist-players; and, worse than
all, too distrustful. A Whig could never trust his partner--he could not
for a moment disabuse himself of the notion that his colleague meant to
outwit him. A Whig, too, would invariably try to win by something
not perfectly legitimate; and, last of all, he would be incessantly
appealing to the bystanders, and asking if he had not, even if
egregiously beaten, played better than his opponents.

The late Cabinet of Lord Derby contained some good players. Two of the
Secretaries of State were actually fine players, and one of them adds
Whist to accomplishments which would have made their possessor an
Admirable Crichton, if genius had not elevated him into a far loftier
category than Crichtons belong to. Rechberg plays well, and likes
his game; but he is in Whist, as are all Germans, a thorough pedant. I
remember an incident of his whist-life sufficiently amusing in its way,
though, in relation, the reader loses what to myself is certainly the
whole pungency of the story: I mean the character and nature of the
person who imparted the anecdote to me, and who is about the most
perfect specimen of that self-possession, which we call coolness, the
age we live in can boast of.

I own that, in a very varied and somewhat extensive experience of men in
many countries, I never met with one who so completely fulfilled all the
requisites of temper, manner, face, courage, and self-reliance, which
make of a human being the most unabashable and unemotional creature that
walks the earth.

I tell the story as nearly as I can as he related it to me. “I used to
play a good deal with Rechberg,” said he, “and took pleasure in worrying
him, for he was a great purist in his play, and was outraged with
anything that could not be sustained by an authority. In fact, each
game was followed by a discussion of full half an hour, to the intense
mortification of the other players, though very amusing to me, and
offering me large opportunity to irritate and plague the Austrian.

“One evening, after a number of these discussions, in which Rechberg
had displayed an even unusual warmth and irritability, I found myself
opposed to him in a game, the interest of which had drawn around us a
large assembly of spectators--what the French designate as _la galerie_.
Towards the conclusion of the game it was my turn to lead, and I played
a card which so astounded the Austrian Minister, that he laid down his
cards upon the table and stared fixedly at me.

“‘In all my experience of Whist,’ said he, deliberately, ‘I never saw
the equal of that.’

“‘Of what?’ asked!

“‘Of the card you have just played,’ rejoined he. ‘It is not merely
that such play violates every principle of the game, but it actually
stultifies all your own combinations.’

“‘I think differently, Count,’ said I. ‘I maintain that it is good play,
and I abide by it.’

“‘Let us decide it by a wager,’ said he.

“‘In what way?’

“‘Thus: We shall leave the question to the _galerie_. You shall allege
what you deem to be the reasons for your play, and they shall decide if
they accept them as valid.’

“‘I agree. What will you bet?’

“‘Ten napoleons--twenty, fifty, five hundred if you like!’ cried he,
warmly.

“‘I shall say ten. You don’t like losing, and I don’t want to punish you
too heavily.’

“‘There is the jury, sir,’ said he, haughtily; ‘make your case.’

“‘The wager is this,’ said I, ‘that, to win, I shall satisfy these
gentlemen that for the card I played I had a sufficient and good
reason.’

“‘Yes.’

“‘My reason was this, then--I looked into your hand!’

“I pocketed his ten napoleons, but they were the last I won of him.
Indeed, it took a month before he got over the shock.”

It would be interesting if we had, which unhappily we have not, any
statistical returns to show what classes and professions have produced
the best whist-players. In my own experience I have found civilians the
superiors of the military.

Diplomatists I should rank first; their game was not alone finer and
more subtle, but they showed a recuperative power in their play
which others rarely possessed: they extricated themselves well out of
difficulties, and always made their losses as small as possible. Where
they broke down was when they were linked with a bad partner: they
invariably played on a level which he could never attain to, and in this
way cross purposes and misunderstandings were certain to ensue.

Lawyers, as a class, play well; but their great fault is, they play
too much for the _galerie_. The habit of appealing to the jury jags
and blurs the finer edge of their faculties, and they are more prone to
canvass the suffrages of the surrounders than to address themselves to
the actual issue. For this reason, Equity practitioners are superior to
the men in the courts below.

Physicians are seldom first-rate players--they are always behind their
age in Whist, and rarely, if ever, know any of the fine points which
Frenchmen have introduced into the game. Their play, too, is timid--they
regard trumps as powerful stimulants, and only administer them in
drop-doses. They seldom look at the game as a great whole, but play on,
card after card, deeming each trick they turn as a patient disposed of,
and not in any way connected with what has preceded or is to follow it.

Divines are in Whist pretty much where geology was in the time of the
first Georges; still I have met with a bishop and a stray archdeacon or
two who could hold their own. I am speaking here of the Establishment,
because in Catholic countries the higher clergy are very often good
players. Antonelli, for instance, might sit down at the Portland or the
Turf; and even my old friend G. P. would find that his Eminence was his
match.

Soldiers are sorry performers, for mess-play is invariably bad; but
sailors are infinitely worse. They have but one notion, which is to play
out all the best cards as fast as they can, and then appeal to their
partner to score as many tricks as they have--an inhuman performance,
which I have no doubt has cost many apoplexies.

On the whole, Frenchmen are better players than we are. Their game is
less easily divined, and all their intimations (_invites_) more subtle
and more refined. The Emperor plays well. In England he played a great
deal at the late Lord Eglinton’s, though he was never the equal of
that accomplished Earl, whose mastery of all games, especially those of
address, was perfection.

The Irish have a few brilliant players--one of them is on the bench; but
the Scotch are the most winning of all British whisters. The Americans
are rarely first-rate, but they have a large number of good second-class
players. Even with them, however, Whist is on the decline; and Euchre
and Poker, and a score more of other similar abominations, have usurped
the place of the king of games. What is to be done to arrest the
progress of this indifferentism?--how are we to awaken men out of the
stupor of this apathy? Have they never heard of the terrible warning
of Talleyrand to his friend who could not play, as he said, “Have you
reflected on the miserable old age that awaits you?” How much of human
nature that would otherwise be unprofitable can be made available by
Whist! What scores of tiresome old twaddlers are there who can still
serve their country as whisters! what feeble intelligences that can
flicker out into a passing brightness at the sight of the “turned
trump”!

Think of this, and think what is to become of us when the old, the
feeble, the tiresome, and the interminable will all be thrown broadcast
over society without an object or an occupation. Imagine what Bores will
be let loose upon the world, and fancy how feeble will be all efforts
of wit or pleasantry to season a mass of such incapables! Think, I say,
think of this. It is a peril that has been long threatening--even
from that time when old Lord Hertford, baffled and discouraged by
the invariable reply, “I regret, my Lord, that I cannot play Whist,”
 exclaimed, “I really believe that the day is not distant when no
gentleman can have a vice that requires more than two people!”



ONE OF OUR “TWO PUZZLES”.

The two puzzles of our era are, how to employ our women, and what to do
with our convicts; and how little soever gallant it may seem to place
them in collocation, there is a bond that unites the attempt to keep the
good in virtue with the desire to reform the bad from vice, which will
save me from any imputation of deficient delicacy.

Let us begin with the Women. An enormous amount of ingenuity has
been expended in devising occupations where female labour might be
advantageously employed, and where the more patient industry and more
delicate handiwork of women might replace the coarser mechanism of men.
Printing, bookbinding, cigar-making, and the working of the telegraph,
have been freely opened--and, I believe, very successfully--to female
skill; and scores of other callings have been also placed at their
disposal: but, strange enough, the more that we do, the more there
remains to be done; and never have the professed advocates of woman’s
rights been so loud in their demands as since we have shared with them
many of what we used to regard as the especial fields of man’s industry.
Women have taken to the practice of Medicine, and have threatened to
invade the Bar--steps doubtless anticipatory of the time when they shall
“rise in the House” or sit on the Treasury benches. Now, I have very
little doubt that we used not to be as liberal as we might in sharing
our callings with women. We had got into the habit of underrating their
capacities, and disparaging their fitness for labour, which was very
illiberal; but let us take care that the reaction does not cany us too
far on the other side, and that in our zeal to make a reparation we only
make a blunder, and that we encourage them to adopt careers and crafts
totally unsuited to their tastes and their powers.

It is quite clear--in fact, a mere glance at the detail of the
preliminary studies will suffice to show it--that medicine and surgery
should not be shared with them. For a variety of reasons, they ought
not to be encouraged to take holy orders; and, on the whole, it is very
doubtful if it would be a wise step to introduce them into the army,
much less into the navy. Seeing this, therefore, the question
naturally arises, Are women to be the mere drudges--the Helots of our
civilisation? Are we only to employ them in such humble callings as
exclude all ideas of future distinction? A very serious question this,
and one over which I pondered for more than half an hour last night, as
I lay under the influence of some very strong tea and a slight menace of
gout.

Women are very haughty creatures--very resentful of any supposed
slight--very aggressive, besides, if they imagine the time for attack
favourable. Will they sit down patiently as makers of pill-boxes and
artificial flowers? Will they be satisfied with their small gains and
smaller consideration? Will there not be ambitious spirits amongst
them who will ask, What do you mean to offer us? We are of a class who
neither care to bind books nor draw patterns. We are your equals--if
we were not distinctively modest, we might say something more than
your equals--in acquirement and information. We have our smattering
of physical-science humbug, as you have; we are read up in theological
disputation, and are as ready as you to stand by Colenso against Moses;
in modern languages we are more than your match. What have you to offer
us if we are too proud, or too poor, or too anything else, to stand
waiting for a buyer in the marriage-market of Belgravia? You will not
suffer us to enter the learned professions nor the Service; you will not
encourage us to be architects, attorneys, land-agents, or engineers. We
know and we feel that there is not one of these callings either above
our capacity or unsuited to our habits, but you deny us admittance; and
now we ask, What is your scheme for our employment? what project have
you that may point out to us a future of independence and a station of
respect? Have you such a plan? or, failing it, have you the courage to
proclaim to the world that all your boasted civilisation can offer us
is to become the governesses to the children of our luckier sisters? But
there are many of us totally unsuited to this, brought up with ways
and habits that would make such an existence something very like penal
servitude--what will you do with us?

With this cry--for it became a cry--in my ears, I tried to go asleep.
I counted seventeen hundred and forty-four; I thought of the sea; I
imagined I was listening to Dr Cumming; and I endeavoured to repeat
a distich of Martin Tupper: but the force of conscience and the congo
carried the day, and I addressed myself vigorously to the question.
I thought of making them missionaries, lighthouse-keepers, lunacy
commissioners, Garter Kings-at-Arms, and suchlike, when a brilliant
thought flashed across my brain, and, with the instinct of a great
success, I saw I had triumphed. “Yes,” cried I aloud, “there is one
grand career for women--a career which shall engage not alone all the
higher and more delicate traits of their organisation, which will call
forth their marvellous clear-sightedness and quick perception, their
tact, their persuasiveness, and their ingenuity, but will actually
employ the less commendable features of female nature, and find work for
their powers of concealment, their craft in deception, and their passion
for intrigue. How is it that we have never hit upon it before? for
of all the careers meant by nature for women, was there any one could
compare with Diplomacy!”

Here we have at once the long-sought-for career--the _desideratum tanti
studii_--the occupation for which men are too coarse, too clumsy, too
inept, and which requires the lighter touch and more delicate treatment
of female fingers. It is the everyday reproach heard of us abroad, that
our representatives are deficient in those smaller and nicer traits by
which irritations are avoided and unpleasant situations relieved. John,
they say, always imagines that to be national he must be “Bull,” and
toss on his horns “all and every” that opposes him. Now, late events
might have disabused foreign cabinets on this score: a quieter beast
than he has shown himself need not be wished for. Still, he has
bellowed, and lashed his tail, and cut a few absurd capers, to show
what he would be at if provoked; but the world has grown too wise to be
terrified by such exhibitions, and quietly settled down to the opinion
that there is nothing to fear from him. Now, how very differently might
all this have been if the Duchess of S. were Ambassador at Paris, and
the Countess of C. at St Petersburg, and Lady N. at Vienna! There would
have been no bluster, no rudeness, no bullying--none of that blundering
about declining a Congress to-day because a Congress “ought to follow
a war,” and proposing one to-morrow, “to prevent a war.” Women despise
logic, and consequently would not stultify it. A temperance apostle is
not likely to adulterate the liquor that he does not drink; and for
this reason, female intelligence would have escaped this “muddle.” Her
Ladyship would have thrown her blandishments over Rechberg--he is now
of the age when men are easy victims--all the little cajoleries and
flatteries of women’s art would have been exerted first to find out, and
then to thwart, his policy. It is notorious that English diplomacy knows
next to nothing through secret agency. Would such be the case if we had
women as envoys? What mystery would stand the assault of a fine lady,
trained and practised by the habits of her daily life?

They tell us that our fox-hunters would form the finest scout-cavalry
in Europe; and I am convinced that a London leader of fashion--I have a
dozen in my eye at this moment--would track an intrigue through all its
stages, and learn its intimate details of place and time and agency,
weeks before a merely male intelligence began to suspect the thing was
possible.

Imagine what a blue-book would be in these times--would there be
any reading could compare with it? We used to admire a certain
diplomatist--a pleasant narrator of court gossip--giving, as he did,
little traits of Kings and Kaisers, and telling us the way in which
majesty was graciously pleased to blow his royal nose. Imagine a female
pen engaged on such themes! What clever and sharp little touches would
reveal the whole tone of a “reception”! We should not be told “His
Majesty received me coldly,” but we would have a beautiful analysis
of the royal mind in all its varied moods of displeasure, concealment,
urbanity, reserve, and deception. Compared with the male version of the
same incident, it would be like Faraday’s report on a case of supposed
poisoning beside the blundering narrative of a country apothecary!

It is a long time--a very long time--before an old country has energy
enough to throw off any of its accustomed ways. It requires the vigorous
assault of young and sturdy intelligences, and, above all, immense
persistence, to effect it.

Light comes very slowly indeed through the fog of centuries’ growth, and
there is hope always when even the faintest flicker of a ray pierces the
Boeotian cloud. Now, for some years back, it may have been remarked that
a sort of suspicion has been breaking on the minds of our rulers, that
the finer, the higher, and subtler organisations of women might find
their suitable sphere of occupation in the diplomatic service.

“I don’t speak German, but I play the German flute,” said the apologetic
gentleman; and so might we say. We don’t engage ladies in diplomacy,
but we employ all the old women of our own sex! Wherever we find a
well-mannered, soft-spoken, fussy old soul, with a taste for fine
clothes and fine dinners, fond of court festivities, and heart and soul
devoted to royalties, we promote him. If he speak French tolerably, we
make him a Minister; if he be fluent, an Envoy Extraordinary.

I remember an old medical lecturer in Dublin formerly, who used to hold
forth on the Materia Medica in the hall of the University, and who,
seeing a “student” whose studies had been for some time before pursued
in Germany, appear in the lecture-room, with a note-book and pen to take
down the lecture--

“Tell that young gentleman,” said the Professor, “to put up his writing
materials, for there’s not one word he’ll hear from me that he’ll not
find in the oldest editions of the ‘Dublin Pharmacopoeia.’” In the same
spirit our diplomatists may sneer at the call for blue-books. We have
all of us had the whole thing already in the ‘Times;’ and why? Because
we choose to employ unsuitable tools. We want to shave with a hatchet
instead of a razor; for be it remarked, as no things are so essentially
unlike as those that have a certain resemblance, there is nothing in
nature so remote from the truly feminine finesse as the mind of a male
“old woman.”

It is simply to the flaws and failures of female intelligence that the
parallel applies. A very pleasant old parson, whom I knew when I was a
boy, and who used to discourse to me much about Edmund Burke and Gavin
Hamilton, told me once that he met old Primate Stewart one day returning
from a visitation, and turned his horse round to accompany the carriage
for some distance. “Doctor G.,” said the Archbishop, “you remind me most
strikingly of my friend Paley.”

“Oh, my Lord, it is too much honour: I have not the shadow of a
pretension to such distinction.”

“Well, sir, it is true; I have Paley before me as I look at you.”

“I am overwhelmed by your Lordship’s flattery.”

“Yes, sir; Paley rode just such another broken-down old grey nag as
that.”

Do not therefore disparage my plan for the employment of women in
diplomacy by any ungenerous comparisons with the elderly ladies at
present engaged in it. This would be as unfair as it is ungallant.

There are a variety of minor considerations which I might press into the
cause, but some of them would appeal less to the general mind than to
the official, and I omit them--merely observing what facilities it would
give for the despatch of business, if the Minister, besieged, as he
often now is, by lady-applicants for a husband’s promotion, instead of
the tedious inquiry, “Who is Mr D.?--where has he been?--what has he
done?--what is he capable of?” could simply say, “Make Mrs T. Third
Secretary at Stuttgart, and send Mrs O’Dowd as Vice-Consul to Simoom!”



A MASTERLY INACTIVITY.

It is no small privilege to you “gentlemen of England who live at home
at ease,” or otherwise, that you cannot hear how the whole Continent is
talking of you at this moment. We have, as a nation, no small share of
self-sufficiency and self-esteem. If we do not thank God for it, we are
right well pleased to know that we are not like that Publican there,
“who eats garlic, or carries a stiletto, or knouts his servants, or
indulges in any other taste or pastime of ‘the confounded foreigner.’”
 The ‘Times’ proclaims how infinitely superior we are every morning; and
each traveller--John Murray in hand--expounds in his bad French, that
an Englishman is the only European native brought up in the knowledge of
truth and the wash-tub.

By dint of time, iteration, and a considerable amount of that same
French I speak of, an article expressly manufactured for exportation, we
really did at last persuade patient and suffering Europe to take us
at our own valuation. We got them to believe that--with certain little
peculiarities, certain lesser vices, rather amiable than otherwise--no
nation, ancient or modern, could approach us. That we were at one and
the same time the richest, the strongest, the most honourable, the
most courageous people recorded in history; and not alone this, but the
politest and the most conciliatory, with the largest coal-fields and
the best cookery in Europe. Now, there is nothing more damaging than the
witness who proves too much. Miss Edgeworth tells us somewhere, I
think, of an Irish peer who, travelling in France with a negro servant,
directed him, if questioned on the subject, always to say his master was
a Frenchman. He was punctiliously faithful to his orders; but whenever
he said, “My massa a Frenchman,” he always added, “So am I.”

In the same spirit has Bull gone and damaged himself abroad. He might
have enjoyed an unlimited credit for his stories of English wealth and
greatness--how big was our fleet, and how bitter our beer; he might have
rung the changes over our just pride in our insular position and
our income-tax, and none dared to dispute him; but when, in the warm
expansiveness of his enthusiasm, he proceeded to say, not merely that we
dressed better and dined better than the foreigner, but that our manners
were more polished, our address more insinuating, and the amiability
of our whole social tone more conspicuous, “Mossoo,” taking him to
represent all from Stockholm to Sicily, began to examine for himself,
and after some hesitation to ask, “What if the wealth be only like
the politeness? What if the national character be about as rude as the
cookery? What if English morality turn out to be a jumble and confusion,
very like English-French? Who is to tell us that the coal-fields may not
be as easily exhausted as the civility?” These were very ugly doubts,
and for some years back foreigners, after that slow fashion in which
public opinion moves amongst them, have been turning them over and over,
but in a manner that showed a great revulsion had taken place on the
Continent with regard to the estimate of England.

A nation usually judges another nation by the individuals and by the
Government. Now it is no calumny to say that, taking them _en masse_,
the English who travel abroad, whether it be from indifference, from
indolence, from a rooted confidence in their own superiority, or
from some defect in character, neither win favour for themselves, nor
affection for their country from foreigners. So long as we were looked
upon, however, as colossal in wealth and power, a certain rude and
abrupt demeanour was taken as the type of a people too practical to
be polished. It grew to be thought that intense activity and untiring
energy had no time to bestow on mere forms. When, however, a suspicion
began to get abroad--it was a cloud no bigger at first than a man’s
hand--that if we had the money it was to hoard it, and if we had the
power it was to withhold its exercise; that we wanted, in fact, to
impose on the world by the menace of a force we never meant to employ,
and to rule Europe as great financiers “bear” the Stock Exchange--then,
and then for the first time, there arose that cry against England as a
sham and an imposition, of which, as I said before, it is very pleasant
for you at home if the sounds have not reached you.

All our late policy has led to this. Ever ready to join with France, we
always leave her in the lurch. We went with her to Mexico, and left her
when she landed. We did our utmost to launch her into a war for Poland,
in which we had never the slightest intention of joining. Always prompt
for the initiative, we stop short immediately after. I have a friend who
says, “I am very fond of going to church, but I don’t like going in.”
 This is exactly the case of England. She won’t go in.

Now, I am fully persuaded it would have been a mistake to have joined in
the Mexican campaign. I cannot imagine such a congeries of blunders as
a war for the Poles. But why entertain these questions? Why discuss
them in cabinets, and debate them in councils? Why convey the false
impression that you are indignant when you are indifferent, or feel
sympathy for sufferings of which you will do nothing but talk?

“Masterly inactivity” was as unlucky a phrase as ever was coined. It has
led small statesmanship into innumerable blunders, and made second-rate
politicians fancy that whenever they folded their arms they were
dignified. To obtain the credit for a masterly inactivity, it is first
of all essential you should show that you could do something very great
if you would. There would be no credit in a man born deaf and dumb
having observed a discreet silence. To give England, therefore, the
prestige for this high quality, it was necessary that she should seem
to bestir herself. The British lion must have got up, rolled his eyes
fearfully, and even lashed his tail, before he resolved on the masterly
inactivity of lying down again.

In Knickerbocker’s ‘History of New York’ we have a very graphic
description of the ship in which the first Dutch explorers sailed for
the shores of North America. “The vessel was called the _Goede Vrouw_
(Good Woman), a compliment to the wife of the President of the West
India Company, who was allowed by every one, except her husband, to be
a sweet-tempered lady--when not in liquor. It was, in truth, a gallant
vessel of the most approved Dutch construction--made by the ablest
ship-carpenters of Amsterdam, who, as is well known, always model their
ships after the fair forms of their countrywomen. Accordingly, it had
one hundred feet in the keel, one hundred feet in the beam, and one
hundred feet from the bottom of the stern-post to the taffrel. Like the
beauteous model, who was declared to be the greatest belle of
Amsterdam, it was full in the bows, with a pair of enormous cat-heads, a
copper-bottom, and withal a prodigious poop.”

It is, however, with her sailing qualities we are more interested than
with her build. “Thus she made as much lee-way as head-way--could
get along nearly as fast with the wind ahead as at poop, and was
particularly great in a calm.” Would not one say, in reading this
description, that the humorist was giving prophetically a picture of the
England of the present day, making as much lee-way as head-way, none the
better, wherever the winds came from, and only great in a calm? The very
last touch he gives is exquisite. “Thus gallantly furnished, she floated
out of harbour sideways, like a majestic goose.” Can anything be more
perfect; can anything more neatly typify the course the vessel of the
State is taking, “floating out sideways, like a majestic goose!” amidst
the jeers and mockeries of beholding Europe.

Our whole policy consists in putting forward some hypothetical case, in
which, if certain other states were to do something which would cause
another country to do something else, then England would be found in
that case---- God forgive me!

I was going to quote some of that balderdash which reminds one of ‘The
Rivals,’ where Acres says, “If you had called me a poltroon, Sir Lucas!”

“Well, sir, and if I had?”

“In that case I should have thought you a very ill-bred man.”

See what it is to have a literary Foreign Secretary; see how he
goes back to our great writers, not alone for his style, but his
statesmanship. We have been insulted, mocked, and sneered at; our
national honour derided, our national strength defied; but we are told
it is all right: our policy is a “masterly inactivity,” and the Funds
are at ninety-one and one-eighth!

The ‘Times.’ too, is of the same cheery and encouraging spirit, and
philosophically looks on the misfortunes of our friends pretty much
as friends’ misfortunes are usually regarded in life--occasions for a
tender pity, and a hopeful trust in Providence. Let them--the writer
speaks of the Allied armies--let them go on in the career of rapine and
cruelty; let them ravage the Duchies and dismember Denmark; but a time
will come when the terrible example of unlawful aggression shall be
retorted upon themselves, and the sorrows of Schleswig be expiated on
the soil of the Fatherland.

“They are going to hang Larry,” cried the wife of a condemned felon to
the lawyer, who had hurried into court, having totally forgotten he had
ever engaged to defend the prisoner.

“Let them hang him, and I’ll make it the dearest hanging ever they
hanged.”

These may be words of comfort in Downing Street. I wonder what the Danes
think of them?



A NEW HANSARD.

There is an annual publication called the ‘Wreck Register,’ which
probably few of us have ever seen, if even heard of. Its object is to
record all the wrecks which have occurred during the preceding year,
accompanying the narrative by such remarks or observations as may
contribute to explain each catastrophe, or offer likelihood of
prevention in future. It is, though thoroughly divested of any
sensational character, one of the dreariest volumes one can take up.
Disaster follows disaster so fast, that at length the reader begins to
imagine that shipwreck is the all but invariable event of a voyage,
and that they who cross the ocean in safety are the lucky mortals of
humanity.

Fortunately, however, long as the catalogue of misfortune is, this
is not the case, and we have the satisfaction of learning that the
percentage of loss is decreasing with every year. The higher knowledge
and attainments of merchant captains, and the increase of refuge
harbours, are the chief sources of this security. The old ignorance, in
which a degree or two of latitude more or less was a light error in a
ship’s reckoning, is now unheard of, and they who command merchant-ships
in our day are a very well informed and superior order of men. With
reference to the conduct and capacity of these captains, this ‘Wreck
Register,’ is a very instructive publication. If, for instance, you
find that Captain Brace, who was wrecked on the Azores in ‘52, was again
waterlogged at sea in ‘61, and ran into an iceberg off Newfoundland
in ‘62, you begin, mayhap unfairly, to couple him too closely with
disaster, and you turn to the inquest over his calamities to see what
estimate was formed of his conduct. You learn, possibly, that in
one case he was admonished to more caution; in another, honourably
acquitted; and in the last instance smartly reprimanded, and his
certificate suspended for six months or a year. Now, though you have
never heard of Captain Brace in your life, nor are probably likely to
encounter him on sea or land, you cannot avoid a certain sense of relief
at the thought that so unlucky a commander, to say the least of it,
is not likely for a while to imperil more lives, and that the warning
impressed by his fate will also be a salutary lesson to many others.

It was in reflecting over this system of inquiry and sentence, that
it occurred to me what to admirable thing it would be to introduce
the ‘Wreck Register’ into politics, and to have a yearly record of all
parliamentary shipwrecks; all the bills that foundered, the motions that
were stranded, the amendments lost in a fog!--to be able to look back
and reflect over the causes of these disasters, investigating patiently
how and why and where they happened, and asking ourselves, Have we
any better security for the future? are we better acquainted with the
currents, the soundings, or the headlands? and, above all, what amount
of blame, if any, is attributable to the commander?

If we find, for instance, that the barque Young Reform, no matter how
carefully fitted out for sea--new sheathed and coppered, with bran-new
canvass, and a very likely crew on board--never leaves the port that
she does not come back crippled; and that old and experienced captains,
however confidently they may take the command at first, frankly own that
they’ll never put foot in her again, you very naturally begin to suspect
that there’s something wrong in her build. She is either too unwieldy,
like the Great Eastern, or she is too long to turn well, or she requires
such incessant repair; or, most fatal of all, she is entered for a trade
where nobody wants her; and therefore you resolve that, come what will,
you’ll avoid her.

What an inestimable benefit to the student of politics would a few such
brief notices be, instead of sending him, as we send him now, to the
dreary pages of Hansard! Imagine what a neat system of mnemonics would
grow out of the plan, when, instead of poring over interminable columns
of tiresome repetition, you had the whole narrative in few words--thus:
“Barque Reform, John Russell, commander, lost A.D. 1854 The
Commissioners seeing that this vessel was built for the most part of
old materials, totally unseaworthy, are of opinion that she ought not
to have sailed at all; and severely censure the commander, J. R, for
foolhardiness and obstinacy, he having, as it has been proved, acted
in entire opposition to ‘his owners.’ On the pressing recommendation,
however, of the owners, and at the representation that E. has been long
in the service, and is, although too self-confident, a very respectable
man, his certificate has been restored to him.”

Lower down comes the entry:--

“The Young Reform.--This was a full-rigged ship, in great part
constructed on the lines of the barque lost in 1854. She sailed on the
28th February 1859, commanded by Captain Dizzy. No insurance could be
effected upon her on any terms, as the crew were chiefly apprentices,
and a very mutinous spirit aboard. She put back, completely crippled,
after three days’ stormy weather; and though the commander averred that
some enemies of his owners had laid down false buoys in the channel, he
was not listened to by the Commissioners, who withheld his certificate.
Has never been employed since, and his case by many considered a very
hard one.”

Of course, all the small class of coasting vessels--railroad bills and
suchlike--suffer great losses. They are usually ill-found and badly
manned; but now and then we come upon curious escapes, where a measure
slips through unobserved, like a blockade-runner; and it is ten to one
in such cases they have that crafty old pilot Pam on board, who has been
more than fifty years at sea, and is as wide awake now as on his first
day.

What analogies press in on every hand! Look at the way each party bids
for and buys up the old materials of the other, fancying they have some
“lines” of their own that will turn out a clipper to beat everything.
And think of those “Sailors’ Homes,” where old salts chew their quids at
ease--those snug permanent Under-Secretaryships, those pleasant asylums
in the Treasury or the Mint! Picture to your mind the dark den in
Downing Street, where the Whipper-in confers in secret, and have you not
at once before you the shipping-office, and the crimp, and the “ordinary
seaman” higgling for an extra ten shillings of wages, or begging
that his grog may not be watered? And, last of all, see the old
lighthouse-keepers, the veteran First Clerks who serve every
Administration, and keep their lamps bright for all parties--a fine set
of fellows in their way, though some people will tell you that they have
their favourites too, and are not so brisk about the fog-signals if they
don’t like the skipper.

I think I have done enough to show that such a work as I speak of would
redound to public benefit; and I only ask, if my suggestion be approved
of, that I may be remembered as the inventor, and not treated as
Admiralty Lords do the constructors of new targets, testing the metal
and torturing the man. Bear in mind, therefore, if the political ‘Wreck
Register’ be ever carried into execution, its device must be “O’Dowdius
fecit.”

It might not be amiss, in the spirit that has suggested this
improvement, to organise in connection with the proceedings of the House
a code of signals on the plan of Admiral Fitzroy’s storm-signals, and
which, from the great tower, or some similar eminence, might acquaint
members what necessity for their presence existed. Fancy, for instance,
the relief an honourable gentleman would experience on seeing the
fine-weather flag up, and knowing thereby that something of no moment
was being discussed--a local railroad, a bill to enable some one to
marry his grandmother, or a measure for Ireland! Imagine the fog-signal
flying, and see how instantaneously it would he apprehended that D. G.
was asking the noble Lord at the head of the Government a question so
intensely absurd as to show a state of obscurity in his own faculties,
in comparison to which fog is a thin atmosphere! Or mark what excitement
would be felt as the storm-drum was hoisted, telling how the Government
craft was being buffeted and knocked about, and the lifeboat of the
Opposition manned to take charge of the ship if abandoned! What a mercy
to those poor, hard-worked, harassed, and wearied “whips”! what a
saving there would be in club-frequenting and in cab-hire! Now would the
lounger, as he strolled along Pall-Mall, say, “No need to hurry.”
 “light airs of wind from the east” means a member for Galway and some
balderdash about the Greeks. “Thick weather in the Channel” implies
troubles in Ireland--nothing very new or interesting. “Dirty weather
to the east’ard” would show mischief in the Danubian provinces, and a
general sense of unquiet in the regions of the Sultan Redcliffe. These
are hints which I have not patented, and the chances are that “My Lords”
 will speedily adopt them, and call them their own.



FOREIGN CLUBS.

How is it, will any one tell me, that all foreign Clubs are so ineffably
stupid? I do not suspect that we English are pre-eminent for social
gifts; and yet we are the only nation that furnishes clubable men.
Frenchmen are wittier, Germans profounder, Russians--externally at
least--more courteous and accommodating; and yet their Clubs are mere
_tripots_--gambling establishments; and, except play, no other feature
of Club-life is to be found in them.

To give a Club its peculiar “cachet”--its, so to say, trade-mark--you
require a class of men who make the Club their home, and whose interest
it is that all the internal arrangements should be as perfect, as well
ordered, and frictionless as may be. Good furniture, good servants, good
lighting, good cookery, well-adjusted temperature, and a well-chosen
cellar, are all essentials. In a word, the Club is to be the realisation
of what we all think so much of--comfort. Now, how very few foreigners
either understand or care for this! Every one who has travelled abroad
has seen the “Cercle,” or “L’Union,” or whatever its name be, where
men of the highest station--ministers, ambassadors, generals, and
suchlike--met to smoke and play whist, with a sanded floor, a dirty
attendance, and yet no one ever complained. They drank detestable beer,
and inhaled a pestilent atmosphere, and sat in draughts, without a
thought that there was anything to be remedied, or that human skill
could or need contrive anything better for their accommodation.

When these establishments were succeeded by the modern Club, with its
carpeted floor, silk hangings, ormolu lamps, and velvet couches, the
change was made in a pure spirit of Anglomanie; somebody had been over
to London, and come back full of the splendours of Pall-Mall. The work
of imitation, so far as decoration went, was not difficult. Indeed, in
some respects, in this they went beyond us, but there ended the success.
The Club abroad is a room where men gamble and talk of gambling, but no
more; it is not a Club.

For the working of the Club, as for that of constitutional government, a
special class are required. It, is the great masses of the middle ranks
in England, varied enough in fortune, education, habits, and tastes, but
still one in some great condition of a status, that supply the materials
for the work of a parliamentary government; and it is through the supply
of a large community of similar people that Clubs are maintained in
their excellence with us.

For the success of a Club you need a number of men perfectly incapable
of all life save such as the Club supplies; who repair to the Club,
not alone to dine and smoke and sup, and read their paper, but to
interchange thought in that blended half-confidence that the Club
imparts; to hear the gossip of the day told in the spirit of men of
their own leanings; to ascertain what judgments are passed on public
events and public characters by the people they like to agree with;--in
fact, to give a sort of familiar domestic tone to intercourse,
suggesting the notion that the Club is a species of sanctuary where men
can talk at their ease. The men who furnish this category with us are
neither young nor old, they are the middle-aged, retaining some of the
spring and elasticity of youth, but far more inclining to the solidity
of riper years. If they frequent the Opera, it is to a stall, not to the
_coulisses_, they go. They are more critical than they used to be
about their dinners, and they have a tendency to mix seltzer with their
champagne. They have reached that bourne in which egotism has become an
institution; and by the transference of its working to the Club, they
accomplish that marvellous creation by which each man sees himself and
his ways and his wants and his instincts reflected in a thousand varied
shapes.

Now, there are two things no nation of the Continent possesses--Spring,
and middle-aged people. You may be young for a good long spell--some
have been known, by the judicious appliances of art, to keep on for
sixty years or so; but when you do pass the limit, there is no neutral
territory--no _mezzo termine_. Fall out of the Young Guard, and you must
serve as a Veteran. The levity and frivolity, the absence of all serious
interest in life, which mark the leisure classes abroad, follow men
sometimes even to extreme old age. The successive changes of temperament
and taste which we mark at home have no correlatives abroad.
The foreigner inhabits at sixty the same sort of world he did at
six-and-twenty: he does not dance so much, but he lingers in the
ballroom, and he is just as keenly alive to all the little naughty talk
that amused him forty years ago, and folly as much interested to hear
that the world is just as false and as wicked as it used to be when he
was better able to contribute to its frailty and wickedness.

Not one of these men, with their padded pectorals and dyed whiskers,
will admit that they are of an age to require comfort. They are ardent
youths all of them, turning night into day as of old, and no more
sensible of fatigue from late hours, hot rooms, and dissipation, than
they were a quarter of a century back.

Can you fancy anything less clubable than a set of men like this? You
might as well set before me the stale bon-bons and sugar-plums of a
dessert for a dinner, as ask me to take such people for associates and
companions. The tone of everlasting trifling disgraces even idleness;
and these men contrive in their lives to reverse the laws of physics,
since it is by their very levity that they fall.

The humoristic temperament is the soul of Club-life. It is the keen
appreciation of others in all their varied moods and shades of feeling
that imparts the highest enjoyment to that strange democracy, the
Club; and foreigners are immensely deficient in this element. They are
infinitely readier, smarter, and wittier than Englishmen. They will hit
in an epigram what we would take an hour to embrace in an argument; but
for the racy pleasure of seeing how such a man will listen to this,
what such another will say to that, how far individuality, in fact, will
mould and fashion the news of the day, and assimilate its mental food
to its own digestive powers, there is nothing like the Englishman--and
especially the Englishman of the Club.

There is nothing like Major Pendennis to be found from Trolhatten
to Messina, and yet Pendennis is a class with us; and it is in
the nicely-blended selfishness and complaisance, the egotism and
obligingness, that we find the purest element of Club-life.

The Parisian are the best--far and away the best--of all foreign Clubs;
best in their style of “get-up,” decoration, and arrangement, and best
also in tone and social manner. The St Petersburg Club is the most
gorgeous, the habits the most costly, the play the highest. It is not
very long since that a young Russian noble lost in one evening a sum
equal to a hundred thousand pounds. The Vienna Club is good in its own
stiff German way; but, generally speaking, German Clubs are very ill
arranged, dirty, and comfortless. The Italian are better. Turin, Naples,
and Florence have reasonably good Clubs. Home has nothing but the
thing called the English Club, a poorly-got-up establishment of small
whist-players and low “points.”

It is a very common remark, that costume has a great influence
over people’s conduct, and that the man in his shooting-jacket will
occasionally give way to impulsive outbursts that he had never thought
of yielding to in his white-cravat moments. Whether this be strictly
true or not, there is little doubt that the style and character of the
room a man sits in insensibly affects his manner and his bearing, and
that the habits which would not be deemed strange in the low-ceilinged
chamber, with the sanded floor and the “mutton lights,” would be totally
indecorous in the richly-carpeted room, a blaze of wax-light, and
glittering with decoration. Now this alternating between Club and _Café_
spoils men utterly. It engenders the worst possible style--a double
manner. The over-stiffness here and the over-ease there are alike
faulty.

The great, the fatal defect of all foreign Clubs is, the existence of
some one, perhaps two tyrants, who, by loud talk, swagger, an air of
presumed superiority and affectation of “knowing the whole thing,”
 browbeat and ride rough-shod over all their fellows. It is in the want
of that wholesome corrective, public opinion, that this pestilence is
possible. Of public opinion the Continent knows next to nothing in any
shape; and yet it is by the unwritten judgments of such a tribunal that
society is guided in England, and the same law that discourages the
bully supports and encourages the timid, without either the one or the
other having the slightest power to corrupt the court, or coerce its
decrees. Club-life is, in a way, the normal school for parliamentary
demeanour; and until foreigners understand the Club, they will never
comprehend the etiquette of the “Chamber.”



A HINT FOR C. S. EXAMINERS.

I have frequently heard medical men declare that no test of a
candidate’s fitness to be admitted as a physician was equal to a brief
examination at the bedside of a sick man. To be able to say, “There is
a patient; tell us his malady, and what you will do for it,” was
infinitely better than long hours spent in exploring questions of minute
anatomy and theoretical physic. In fact, for all practical purposes,
it was more than likely he would be the best who would make the least
brilliant figure in an examination; and the man whose studies had
familiarised him with everything from Galen to John Hunter, would cut
just as sorry a figure if called on to treat a case of actual malady.

It cannot possibly be otherwise. All that mere examination can effect,
is to investigate whether an individual has duly prepared himself
for the discharge of certain functions; but it never can presume to
ascertain whether the person is one fitted by nature, by habit, by
taste, or inclination, for the duties before him. Why, the student who
may answer the most abstruse questions in anatomy, may himself have
nerves so weak as to faint at the sight of blood. The physician who has
Paracelsus by heart, may be so deficient in that tact of eye, or ear,
or touch, as to render his learning good for nothing. Half an hour in
an hospital would, however, test these qualities. You would at once see
whether the candidate was a mere mass of book-learning, or whether he
was one skilled in the aspect of disease, trained to observe and
note all the indications of malady, and able even instantaneously to
pronounce upon the gravity of a case before him. This is exactly what
you want. No examination of a man’s biceps and deltoid, the breadth of
his chest or the strength of his legs, would tell you whether he was
a good swimmer--five minutes in deep water would, however, decide the
matter.

Now, I shall not multiply arguments to prove my position. I desire to be
practical in these “O’Dowdiana,” and I strive not to be prosy. What
I would like, then, is to introduce this system of--let us call
it--Test-examination, into the Civil Service.

I have the highest respect for the pedagogues of Burlington House. I
think highly of Ollendorff and I believe Colenso’s Arithmetic a great
institution. I venerate the men who invent the impossible questions; but
I own I have the humblest opinion of those who answer them. I’d as soon
take a circus-horse, trained to fire a pistol and sit down like a dog,
to carry me across a stiff country, as I’d select one of these fellows
for an employ which required energy, activity, or ready-wittedness.
There is no such inefficiency as self-sufficiency; and this is the
very quality instilled by the whole system. Ask the veterans of the
Admiralty, the War Office, the Board of Trade, and the Customs, and
you will get but the same report, that for thorough incompetency and
inordinate conceit there is nothing like the prize candidate of a Civil
Service examination. Take my word for it, you could not find a worse
pointer than the poodle which would pick you out all the letters of the
alphabet.

What I should therefore suggest is, to introduce into the Civil Service
something analogous to this clinical examination; something that might
test the practical fitness of the candidate, and show, not whether
the man has been well prepared by a “grinder,” but whether he be a
heaven-born tide-waiter, one of Nature’s own gaugers or vice-consuls.

I know it is not easy to do this in all cases. There are employments,
too, wherein it is not called for. Mere clerkship, for instance, is an
occupation of such uniformity that a man is just like a sewing-machine,
and where, the work being adjusted to him, he performs it as a matter of
routine. There are, however, stations which are more or less provocative
of tact and ready-wittedness, and which require those qualities which
schoolmasters cannot give nor Civil Service examiners take away; such as
tact, promptitude, quickness in emergency, good-natured ease, patience,
and pluck above all. These, I say, are great gifts, and it would be well
if we knew how to find them. Let us take, by way of illustration, the
Messenger Service. These Foreign Office Mercuries, who travel the whole
globe at a pace only short of the telegraph, are wonderful fellows, and
must of necessity be very variously endowed. What capital sleepers,
and yet how easily awakened! What a deal of bumping must their heads be
equal to! What an indifference must they be endowed with to bad roads
and bad dinners, bad servants and bad smells! How patient they must be
here--how peremptory there! How they must train their stomach to
long fastings, and their skins to little soap! What can Civil Service
examination discover of all or any of these aptitudes? Is it written in
Ollendorf, think you, how many hours a man can sit in a caleche? Will
decimal fractions support his back or strengthen his lumbar vertebrae?
What system of inquiry will declare whether the weary traveller will not
oversleep himself, or smash the head of his postilion for not awaking
him at a frontier? How will you test readiness, endurance, politeness,
familiarity with ‘Bradshaw’ and Continental moneys?

I think I have hit on a plan for this, suggested to me, I frankly own,
by analogy with the clinical system. I would lay out the Green Park--it
is convenient to Downing Street, and well suited to the purpose--as
a map of Europe, marking out the boundaries of each country, and
stationing posts to represent capital cities. At certain frontiers I
would station representatives of the different nations as distinctly
marked as I could procure them: that is to say, I’d have a very polite
Frenchman, a very rude and insolent Prussian, a sulky Belgian, a roguish
Italian, and an extremely dirty Russian. Leicester Square could supply
all. It being all duly prepared, I’d start my candidate, with a heavy
bag filled with its usual contents of, let us say, a large box of
cigars, a set of fire-irons, twenty pots of preserved meats, a case
of stuffed birds, four cricket-balls, and a photograph machine, some
blue-books, and a dozen of blacking. I’d start him with this, saying
simply, “Vienna, calling at Stuttgart and Turin;” not a word more;
and then I’d watch my man--how he’d cross the Channel--how he’d cajole
Moossoo--and whether he’d make straight for the Rhine or get entangled
in Belgian railroads. I’d soon see how he dealt with the embarrassments
of the roads and relished the bad diet; and not alone would I test him
by hardships and hunger, fatigue and occasional upsets; but I’d try
his powers of self-resistance by surrounding him with dissolute young
_attachés_ given to blind hookey and lansquenet. I’d have him invited
to ravishing orgies, and tempted in as many ways as St Anthony; and
all these after long privations. Then, I’d have him kept waiting either
under a blazing sun or a deep snow, or both alternately, to test his
cerebral organisation; and I’d try him with impure drinking water and
damp sheets; and, last of all, on his return, I’d make him pass his
accounts before some old monster of official savagery, who would
repeatedly impugn his honesty, call out for vouchers, and d--n his
eyes. The man “who came out strong” after all these difficulties I would
accept as fully equal to his responsibilities, for it would not be alone
in intellectuals he had been tested: the man’s temper, his patience, his
powers of endurance, his physical strength, his resources in emergency,
his readiness to meet difficulty, and, last of all, his self-devotion
in matters of official discipline, enabling him to combine with all the
noble qualities of a man the submissive attractions of a spaniel.

“Are you sure,” asks some one, “that all these graces and
accomplishments can be had for £500 per annum?” Not a doubt of it. It is
a cheap age we live in; and if you wanted a shipload of clever fellows
for a new colony, I’d engage to supply you on easier terms than with the
same number of gardeners or strong-boned housemaids.

Last of all, this scheme might be made no small attraction in this
economical era--what is called self-supporting; for the public might be
admitted to paid seats, whence they could learn European geography by a
new and easy method. “Families admitted at a reduced rate--Schools and
Seminaries half-price.”



OF SOME OLD DOGS IN OFFICE.

Whenever the Budget comes on for discussion there are some three or four
speakers, of whom Mr Williams of Lambeth is sure to be one, ready to
suggest certain obvious economies by the suppression of some foreign
missions, such as Dresden, Hanover, Stuttgart, &c. They have not, it is
true, anything forcible or pungent to say on the subject; but as they
say the same thing every year, the chances are that, on the drip-drip
principle, they will at last succeed either in abolishing these
appointments, or reducing the salaries of those who hold them.

Ministers of course defend them, and Opposition leaders, who hope
one day to be Ministers, will also blandly say a word or two in their
favour. For my own part, I don’t think the country cares much about the
matter, or interests itself more deeply who drones away life at Hanover
than who occupies an apartment at Hampton Court. In each case it is a
sort of dowager asylum, where antiquated respectability may rest and be
thankful.

The occupants of these snug berths, however far from England--at least
in so far as regards any knowledge of public opinion--are sure to
be greatly alarmed at these suggestions for their suppression. Poor
pigeons! if you only knew what a sorry sportsman it is who fires at you,
you’d never flutter a wing. Be of good heart, I say. Even if Williams’s
gun go off at all, the recoil may hurt himself, but it will never damage
you. Take my word for it, “the smooth-Bore of Lambeth never hit
anything yet.” This assurance of mine--I have given it scores of times
personally--never gives the comfort that it ought; for these timid
souls, bullied by long dealings with the Office--tormented, as
Mr Carlyle would say, with much First Clerk--grow to be easily
panic-stricken, and have gloomy nightmares of a time when there shall be
no more life-certificates nor any quarter-days.

I cannot enter into their feelings, but I suppose they are reasonable.
I conclude that one would like to have a salary, and to be paid it
punctually. Self-preservation is a law that we all recognise; and some
of these officials may possibly feel that there is no other line of life
open to them, and that, if you take away from them their mission,
they will be poor indeed. You will think me perhaps as absurd as Mrs
Nickleby, who connected roast-pork and canaries, if I confess to you
that it is an old mastiff that my father had when I was a boy that
brought these people very forcibly to my mind. Poor old Turco!--I
can’t know how old he was, but he was nearly blind, exceedingly feeble,
intensely stupid, and much given to sleep. Still, whenever any one of
the family--he didn’t mind the servants--would go out to the stableyard,
he’d rouse himself up, and, affecting to believe it was an intruder,
he’d give a fierce bark or two, when, discovering his error, he’d wag
his tail and go back to his den--all this being evidently done to show
that he was as vigilant as ever--a sort of protest, that said, “Don’t
believe one word about my being blind and toothless, still less flatter
yourself that the place is secure. It requires all my activity and
watchfulness to protect; but go back in peace, I’m ready for them.”

Now, this is exactly what Turco is doing at Munich and Dresden. Whenever
Williams comes out with a hint that he is not wanted, Turco makes a
furious noise, rushes here and there after a turkey-cock if he can find
one, and thoroughly satisfies the family that he is an invaluable beast,
and could not be dispensed with.

Like Turco, too, who always barked, or tried to bark, whenever he heard
any noise or commotion going on outside, these people are sure to make
an uproar if there be any excitement in their neighbourhood. No sooner
did Schleswig-Holstein begin to trouble the world, than despatches
began to pour in from places that a few weeks before even the messengers
scarcely knew on the map. They related interviews with unknown princes
and unheard-of ministers, and spoke of hopes, fears, wishes, and
anxieties of people who had not, to our appreciation, a more palpable
existence than the creatures of the heathen mythology! Much grumbling,
and sore of ear, Williams goes back to his kennel.

“What! suppress the mission at Hohen-Schwein-stadt, when I hold here,”
 exclaims the Minister, “the admirable report of our diplomatic agent
on the state of public feeling in that important capital? Will the
honourable gentleman, to whose long experience of foreign politics I am
ready to bow, inform me how the relations of England with the
Continent are to be carried on unless through the intervention of
such appointments? Can the honourable member for ------” (a shipowner,
perhaps) “carry on his great and important business without agencies?
Can the honourable gentleman himself” (a brewer) “be certain that the
invigorating and admirable produce of his manufacture will attain the
celebrity that it merits, or become the daily beverage of countless
thousands in the tropics, unassisted by those aids which to commerce
or diplomacy are alike indispensable?” This is very like the Premier’s
eloquence. I almost think I am listening to him, and even see the smile
of triumph with which he appeals at the peroration to his friends to
cheer him. Turco is safe this time; and, better still, he need never
bark again till next Easter and another Budget.

It is a very curious thing--it opens a whole realm of speculation--how
small and few are the devices of humanity. We fancy we are progressing
simply because we change. We give up alchemy, and we believe in
medicine; we scout witchcraft, and we take to spirit-rapping;
and instead of monasteries and monks, we have missions and
plenipotentiaries. If it be a fine thing to die for one’s country, it’s
a pleasant one to live for it; to know that you inhabit an impenetrable
retreat, which no “Own Correspondents” ever invade, and where, if it was
not for Williams, no sense of fear or alarm could come to disturb the
tranquil surface of a stagnant existence.

It is astonishing, too, what a wholesome dread and apprehension of
England and English power is maintained through the means of these small
legations in secluded spots of the Continent, in remote little duchies,
without trade or commerce, far away from the sea, where no one ever
heard of imports or exports, and the name of Gladstone had never been
spoken. In such places as these, a meddlesome old envoy, with plenty of
spare time on hand, often gets us thoroughly hated, always referring
to England as a sort of court of last appeal on every question, social,
moral, religious, or political, and dimly alluding to Lord Palmerston as
a kind of Rhadamanthus, whose judgments fall heavily on ill-doers.

The helpless hopeless condition of small states in all such conflicts
was actually pitiable. The poor little trembling King Charles dog in the
cage of the lion, and who felt that he only lived on sufferance, was the
type of them. I remember an incident which occurred some years ago
at the Bagni di Lucca, which will illustrate what I mean. An English
stranger at one of the hotels, after washing his hands, threw his
basinful of soap-and-water out of the window just as the Grand-duke was
passing, deluging his imperial highness from head to foot. The stranger
hurried at once to the street, and, throwing himself before the dripping
sovereign, made the most humble and apologetic excuses for his act; but
the Grand-duke stopped him short at once, saying, “There, there! say no
more of it: don’t mention the matter to any one, or I shall get into a
correspondence with Palmerston, and be compelled to pay a round sum to
you for damages!”

After all, one could say for these small posts in diplomacy what, I
think it was Croker said for certain rotten boroughs in former days, “If
you had not had such posts, you would have lost the services of a number
of able and instructive men, who, entering public life by the small
door, are sure to leave it by the grand entrance.”

These small missions are very often charming centres of society in
places one would scarcely hope for it; and from these little-known
legations, every now and then, issue men whom it would not be safe for
Williams to bark at, and whom, even if he were rabid, he would not bite.



DECLINE OF THE DRAMA.

What a number of ingenious reasons have been latterly given for the
decline of the Drama, and the decrease of interest now felt for the
stage. Some aver that people are nowadays too cultivated, too highly
educated, to take pleasure in a play; others opine that the novel has
supplanted the drama; others again declare that it is the prevalence
of a religious sentiment on the subject that has damaged theatrical
representation. For my own part, I take a totally different view of the
subject. My notion is this: the world will never pay a high price for
an inferior article, if it can obtain a first-rate one for nothing; in
other words, people are come to the conclusion that the best actors are
not to be found on the boards of the Haymarket or the Adelphi, but
in the world at large--at the Exchange, in the parks, on railroads or
river-steamers, at the soirées of learned societies, in Parliament, at
Civic dinners or Episcopal visitations.

Why has the masquerade ceased to interest and amuse? Simply because no
travestie of costume, no change of condition, is so strikingly ludicrous
as what we see on every side of us. The illiterate man with the revenue
of a prince; the millionaire who cannot write his name, and whom
yesterday we saw as a navvy; the Emperor who, a few years back, lodged
over the bootmaker’s; the out-at-elbow followers of imperial fortune,
now raised to the highest splendour, and dispensing hospitalities more
than regal in magnificence;--these are the spectacles which make the
masquerade a tiresome mockery; and it is exactly because we get the
veritable article for nothing that we neither seek playhouse nor
ballroom, but go out into the streets and highways for our drama,
and take our Kembles and Macreadys as we find them at taverns, at
railway-stations, on the grassy slopes of Malvern, or the breezy cliffs
of Brighton. Once admit that the wild-flower plucked at random has more
true delicacy of tint and elegance of form, and there is no going back
to the tasteless mockery of artificial wax and wire. The broad boards of
real life are the true stage; and he who cannot find matter of interest
or amusement in the piece performed, may rely upon it that the cause is
in himself, and not in the drama. Some will say, The world is just what
it always was. People are no more fictitious now than at any other time.
There was always, and there will be always, a certain amount of false
pretension in life which you may, if you like, call acting. And to this
I demur _in toto_, and assert that as every age has its peculiar
stamp of military glory, or money-seeking, or religious fervour, or
dissipation, or scientific discovery, or unprofitable trifling, so the
mark of our own time will be found to be its thorough unreality. Every
one is in travestie. Selfishness is got up to play philanthropy, apathy
to perform zeal, intense self-seeking goes in for love of country; and,
to crown all, one of the most ordinary and vulgar minds of all Europe
now directs and disposes of the fate and fortunes of all Christendom.

Daily habit familiarises us with the acting of the barrister. His
generous trustfulness, his love of all that is good, his scorn for Vice,
his noble pity, and the withering sarcasm with which he scathes the
ill-doer, we know, can be had, in common cases, for ten pounds ten
shillings; and five times as much will enlist in our service the same
qualities in a less diluted form; while, by quadrupling the latter sum,
we arrive at a self-devotion before which brotherly love pales, and old
friendships seem a cold and selfish indifferentism. We had contracted
for this man’s acuteness, his subtlety, his quick perception, and his
ready-wittedness; but he gives, besides these, his hearty trustfulness,
his faith in our honour, his conviction in our integrity: he knows our
motives; he has been inside our bosom, and comes out to declare that all
is pure and spotless there; and he does this with a trembling lip and a
swelling throat, the sweat on his brow and the tear in his eye, it being
all the while a matter of mere accident that he had not been engaged on
the opposite side, and all the love he bears us been “briefed” for the
defendant.

Look at the physician, too. Who is it, then, enters the sick-room with
the footfall of a cat, and draws our curtain as gently as a zephyr might
stir a rose-leaf, whose tender accents fall softly on our ear, and who
asks with the fondest anxiety how we have passed the night? Who is
it that cheers, consoles, encourages, and supports us? Who associates
himself with our sufferings, and winces under our pain, and as suddenly
rallies as we grow better, and joins in our little sickbed drolleries?
Who does all these?--a consummate actor, who takes from thirty to forty
daily “benefits,” and whose performances are paid at a guinea a scene!

The candidate on the hustings, the Government commissioner on his tour
of inspection, the vicar-general of my lord bishop, the admiral on his
station, the minister at the grand-ducal Court, are all good specimens
of common acting--parts which can be filled with very ordinary
capacities, and not above the powers of everyday artists. They conjugate
but one verb, and on its moods and tenses they trade to the end of the
chapter. These men never soar into the heroic regions of the drama;
they infuse no imagination into their parts. They are as unpoetical as a
lord-in-waiting. There are but two stops on their organ. They are bland,
or they are overbearing; they are either beautifully gentle, or they are
terrible in their wrath.

It is a strange feature of our age that the highest walk of the
real-life drama should be given up to the men of money, and that Finance
should be the most suggestive of all that is creative, fanciful, and
imaginative. What a commentary on our era! It is no paradox I pronounce
here. The greatest actor I ever saw, the most consummate artist, was a
railroad contractor; that is, he had more persuasiveness, more of that
magnetic captivation which subordinates reason to mere hope, than
any one I ever listened to. He scorned the pictorial, he despised all
landscape effects, he summoned to his aid no assistance from gorge or
mountain, no deep-bosomed wood or bright eddying river; he was a man of
culverts and cuttings, of quartz and limestone and flint; with a glance
he could estimate traffic, and with the speed of the lightning-flash
tell you what dividend could come of the shares.

It was, however, in results that he was grandiose. Hear him on the theme
of a completed line, a newly-opened tunnel, or a finished viaduct--it
was a Poem! Such a picture of gushing beatitude as he could paint! It
was the golden age--prosperity, happiness, and peace on every side;
the song of the husbandman at his plough mingling with the hum of the
village school; the thousand forms of civilisation, from cheap sugar to
penny serials, that would permeate the land; the peasant studying
social science over his tea, and the railway-guard supping his “cheap
Gladstone” as he speculated on the Antiquity of Man. Never was such an
Eden on earth, and all to be accomplished at the cost of a mere million
or two, with a “limited liability.”

With what a grand contempt this great man talked of the people who
busied themselves in the visionary pursuits of politics or literature,
or who devoted themselves to the Arts or Field-sports! With him
earthworks were the grandest achievements of humanity, and there was
no such civiliser as a parliamentary train. Had he been simply an
enthusiast, that fatal false logic that _will_ track enthusiasm--however
it be guided--would have betrayed him: but the man was not an
enthusiast--he was a great actor; and while to capitalists and
speculators he appealed by all the seductive inducements of profits,
premiums, and preference shares, to the outer and unmoneyed world he
made his approaches by a beautiful and touching philanthropy.

Did he believe in all this? Heaven knows. He talked and acted as if he
did; and though, when I last saw him, he had smashed his banker,
ruined his company, and beggared the shareholders, he was high-hearted,
hopeful, and buoyant as ever. It was a general who had lost a battle,
but he meant to recruit another army. It was some accidental rumour of
a war--some stupid disturbance on the Danube or the Black Sea--that
had frightened capital and made “money tight.” The scheme itself was
a glorious project--an unrivalled investment. Never was there such a
paying line--innumerable towns, filled with a most migratory population,
ever on the move, and only needing to learn the use of certain luxuries
to be constantly in demand of them.

With a good harvest, however, and money easy, if Lord Russell could only
be commonly civil to the Continental Cabinets, all would go well yet.
The bounties of Providence would be diffused over the earth--food would
be cheap, taxation reduced, labour plenty, and “then, sir, these worthy
people shall have their line, if I die for it.”

I find it very hard to believe in Borneo’s love or Othello’s jealousy.
I cannot, let me do all that I will, accept them as real, even in their
most impassioned moments, and yet this other man holds me captive. If
I had a hundred pounds in the world, I’d put it into his scheme, and I
really feel that, in not borrowing the money to make a venture, I am
a poor-spirited creature that has not the courage to win his way to
fortune.

And yet these fellows have no aid from dress or make-up. They are not
surrounded with all the appliances that aid a deception. They come to us
in their everyday apparel, and, mayhap, at inopportune moments, when
we are weary, or busy, or out of sorts, to talk of what we are not
interested in, and have no relish for. With their marvellous tact they
conquer apathy and overcome repugnance; they gain a hearing, and they
obtain at least time for more. There is much in what they say that
we feel no interest in; but now and then they _do_ touch a chord that
vibrates within us; and when they do so, it is like magic the instinct
with which they know it. It was that Roman camp, that lead-mine, that
trout-stream, or that paper-mill, did the thing; and the rogue saw it as
plainly as if he had a peep into our brain, and could read our thoughts
like a printed book. These then, I say, are the truly great actors, who
walk the boards of life with unwritten parts, who are the masters of our
emotions, even to the extent of taking away our money, and who demand
our trustfulness as a right not to be denied them.

Now, what a poor piece of mockery, of false tinsel and fringe and folly
and pretence, is your stage-player beside one of these fellows! Who is
going to sit three weary hours at the Haymarket, bored by the assumed
plausibility of the actor, when the real, the actual, the positive
thing that he so poorly simulates is to be met on the railroad, at the
station, in the club, on the chain-pier, or the penny steamer? Is there
any one, I ask, who will pay to see the plaster-cast when he can
behold the marble original for nothing? You say, “Are you going to the
masquerade?” and I answer, “I am at it.” _Circumspice!_ Look at the
mock royalties hunting (Louis XIV. fashion) in the deep woods of
Fontainebleau. Look at haughty lords and ladies--the haughtiest the
earth has ever seen--vying in public testimonies of homage--as we saw
a few days ago--to the very qualities that, if they mean anything,
mean the subversion of their order. Look at the wasteful abundance of
a prison dietary, and the laudable economy which half-starves the
workhouse. Look at the famished curate, with little beyond Greek roots
to support him, and see the millionaire, who can but write his name,
with a princely fortune; and do you want Webster or Buckstone to give
these “characters” more point?

Will you take a box for the ‘Comedy of Errors,’ when you can walk
into the Chancery Court for nothing? Will you pay for ‘Much Ado about
Nothing,’ when a friendly order can admit you to the House? And as for
a ‘New Way to Pay Old Debts,’ commend me to Commissioner Goulburn in
Bankruptcy; while ‘Love’s Last Shift’ is daily performed at the Court of
Probate, under the distinguished patronage of Judge Wills. Is there any
need to puzzle one’s head over the decline of the drama, then? You
might as well ask if a moderate smoker will pay exorbitantly for dried
cabbage-leaves, when he can have prime Cubans for the trouble of taking
them!



PENSIONS FOR GOVERNORS.

I do not remember ever to have read more pompons nonsense than was
talked a few days ago in Parliament on the subject of pensions for
retired colonial governors.

On all ordinary occasions the strongest case a man can have with the
British public is to be an ill-used man--that is to say, if you be a man
of mark, or note, or station. To be ill-used, as one poor, friendless,
and ignoble, is no more than the complement of your condition. It is in
the fitness of things that pauperism, which we English have declared
to be illegal, should neither be fondled nor caressed. To be ill-used
profitably there must be something pictorial in your case; it must have
its reliefs of light as well as shade. There must be little touches,
a bright “has been,” sunny spots of a happy past Without the force
of these contrasts, there is no possibility of establishing the grand
grievance which is embodied in ill-usage.

Now, Mr B. C. who brought on this motion was a sorry artist, and the
whole sum and substance of his case was, that as we secured the services
of eminent and able men, we ought to pay them “properly.” Why, in that
one word “properly” lay the whole question. What constitutes proper
payment? Every career in life carries with it some circumstance either
of advantage or the reverse, which either compensates for the loss of a
material benefit, or is requited by some addition of a tangible profit.
The educated man who accepts three hundred a-year in the Church is
not recompensed, or considered to be recompensed, by this miserable
pittance. It is in the respect, the influence, the power, and the
reverence that attach to his calling he is rewarded. Place a layman in
the parish beside him with that income, and mark the difference of their
stations! The same of the soldier. Why or how does seven-and-sixpence
diurnally represent one the equal of the best in any society of the
land? Simply by a conventional treaty, by which we admit that a man,
at the loss of so much hard cash, may enjoy a station which bears no
imaginable proportion to his means.

On the other hand, there are large communities who, addressing
themselves to acquire wealth and riches, care very little for the
adventitious advantages of social state. As it is told of Theodore Hook,
at a Lord Mayor’s feast, that he laid down his knife and fork at the
fifth course, and declared “he would take the rest out in money;” so
there are scores of people who “go in” for the actual and the real. They
have no sympathy with those who “take out” their social status partly
in condition partly in cash, as is the case with the curate and the
captain.

Almost every man, at his outset in life, makes some computation of how
much his career can pay him in money, how much in the advantages of rank
and station. The bailiff on the estate makes very often a far better
income than the village doctor; but do you believe that Æsculapius would
change places with him for all that? Is not the unbought deference
to his opinion, the respect to his acquirements, the obedience to his
counsel, something in the contract he makes with the world? Does he
not recognise, every day of his life, that he is not measured by the
dimensions of the small house he resides in, or the humble qualities
of the hack he rides, but that he has an acceptance in society totally
removed from every question of his fortune?

In the great lottery we call life, the prizes differ in many things
besides degree. If the man of high ambition determine to strain every
nerve to attain a station of eminence and power, it may be that his
intellectual equal, fonder of ease, more disposed to tranquillity, will
settle down with a career that at the very best will only remove him a
step above poverty; and shall we dare to say that either is wrong? My
brother the Lord Chancellor is a great man, no doubt. The mace is a
splendid club, and the woolsack a most luxurious sofa; but as I walk
my village rounds of a summer’s morning, inhaling perfume of earth
and plant, following with my eye the ever-mounting lark, have I not
a lighter heart, a freer step, a less wearied head? Have I not risen
refreshed from sleep? not nightmared by the cutting sarcasms of some
noble earl on my fresh-gilt coronet, some slighting allusion to my
“newness in that place”? Depend upon it, the grand law of compensation
which we recognise throughout universal nature extends to the artificial
conditions of daily life, and regulates the action and adjusts the
inequalities of our social state.

What is a viceroy or a colonial governor? A man of eminence and ability,
doubtless, but who is satisfied to estrange himself from home and
country, and occupy himself with cares and interests totally new and
strange to him, for some five or fifteen thousand pounds a-year, plus
a great variety of other things, which to certain minds unquestionably
represent high value--the--station, the power, the prestige of a great
position, with all its surroundings of deference and homage. Large as
his salary is, it is the least distinctive feature of his high office.
In every attribute of rank the man is a king. In his presence the wisest
and the most gifted do no more than insinuate the words of their wisdom,
and beauty retires curtsying, after a few commonplaces from his lips.
Why, through all the employments of life, who ever attains to the like
of this? His presence is an honour, his notice is fame. To be his guest
is a distinction for a day; to be his host is to be illustrious for a
lifetime. Are these things nothing? Ask the noble earl as he sits in his
howdah; ask my lord marquis as he rides forth with a glittering staff.

Did any one, even Mr B. C. himself, ever imagine that Mr Macready
ought to be pensioned after he had played Cardinal Wolsey? Was it
ever proposed, even in Parliament, that Mr Kean should have a retiring
allowance when he had taken off his robes as Henry IV.? These eminent
men were, however, just as real, just as actual, during their brief hour
on the stage, as His Excellency the Viceroy or the “Lord High.” They
were there under a precisely similar compact. They had to represent a
state which had no permanence, and a power that had no stability. They
were to utter words which would be ridiculous from their lips to-morrow,
and to assume a port and bearing that must be abandoned when they
retired to change their clothes.

It is one of my very oldest memories as a boy that I dined in company
with Charles Kemble. There was a good deal of talking, and a fair share
of wine-drinking. In the course of the former came the question of the
French Revolution of ‘30, and the conduct of the French King on that
occasion. Kemble took no part in the discussion; he listened, or seemed
to listen, filled his glass and emptied it, but never spoke. At last,
when each speaker appeared to have said his say, and the subject
approached exhaustion, the great actor, with the solemnity of a judge in
a charge, and with a grand resonance of voice, said: “I’ll tell you how
it is, sirs; Charles X. has forfeited a--a--a right good engagement!”
 And that was exactly the measure that he and all his tribe took, and are
now taking, of kings and rulers--and let us profit by it. The colonial
king has his “engagement;” it is defined exactly like the actor’s. He is
to play certain parts, and for so many nights; he is to strut his hour
in the very finest of properties, and is sure, which the actor is not
always, of a certain amount of applause. No living creature believes
seriously in him, far less he himself, except, perhaps, in some
impassioned moment or other like that in which I once knew Othello so
far carried away that he flung Iago into the orchestra.

Pension Carlisle, pension Storks, if you will; but be just as well as
generous, and take care that you provide for Paul Bedford and Buckstone.

In Archbishop Whately’s ‘Historic Doubts,’ we find that the existence
of the first emperor can be disproven by the very train of argument
employed to deny the apostles. Let me suggest the converse of this mode
of reasoning, and ask, Is there a word you can say for the Viceroy
you cannot equally say for the actor? Have you an argument for him who
governs St Helena that will not equally apply to him who struts his hour
at the Haymarket?

I perceive that the writer of a letter to the ‘Times’ advocates the
claims of the ex-Governors, on the plausible plea that it is exactly the
very men who best represent the dignity of the station--best reflect the
splendour of the Sovereign--who come back poor and penniless from the
high office: while the penurious Governor, who has given dissatisfaction
everywhere, made the colony half rebellious by his narrow economies,
and degraded his station by contemptible savings, comes back wealthy and
affluent--self-pensioned, in fact, and independent.

To meet this end, the writer suggests that the Crown, as advised
thereon, should have a discretionary power of rewarding the well-doer
and refusing the claim of the unmeriting, which would distinctly
separate the case of the worthy servant of the Sovereign from that of
him who only employed his office to enrich himself.

There is a certain shallow--it is a very shallow--plausibility about
this that attracts at first sight; and there would unquestionably be
some force in it, if dinner-giving and hospitalities generally were the
first requisites of a colonial ruler; but I cannot admit this. I cannot
believe that the man who administers India or Canada, or even Jamaica
or Barbadoes, is only an expatriated Lord Mayor. I will not willingly
consent to accept it as qualification for a high trust that a man has
a good cook and an admirable cellar, and an ostentatious tendency to
display the merits of both. Mind, I am no ascetic who say this: I like
good dinners; I like occasionally--only occasionally though--very good
dinners. I feel with a clever countryman who said he liked being asked
out to dine, “it was flattering, and it was nourishing;” but with all
this I should never think of “elevating my host” to the dignity of high
statesmanship on the mere plea of his hospitality.

We have had some able men in our dependencies who were not in the least
given to social enjoyments, who neither understood them for themselves
nor thought of them for others--Sir Charles Napier, for instance. And
who, let me ask, would have lost the services of such a man to the
State, because he had not the tastes of a Sir William Curtis, nor could
add a “Cubitt” to his stature?

All discretionary powers are, besides, abuses. They are the snares and
pitfalls of official jobbery; and there would be no end of bickering and
complaining on the merits of this and the shortcomings of that man.
Not to say that such a system as this writer recommends would place a
Government in the false position of rewarding extravagance and offering
a premium for profusion, and holding up for an example to our colonial
fellow-subjects the very habits and tastes which are the bane and
destruction of young communities.

Can any one imagine a Cabinet Council sitting to determine whether the
ex-Governor of St Helena had or had not entertained the officers of the
509th Foot on their return from India, or whether he of Heligoland
had really fed his family on molluscs during all the time of his
administration, and sold the shells as magnesia? There could be but one
undeniable test of an ex-Governor’s due claim to a pension, since on the
question of a man’s hospitalities evidence would vary to eternity. There
are those whose buttermilk is better than their neighbours’ bordeaux. I
repeat, there could be but one test as to the claim; and as we read in
a police sheet, as a sufficient ground for arrest, the two words, “Drunk
and Disorderly,” so should any commission on pensions accept as valid
grounds for a pension, “Insolvent and a Bankrupt.”

To talk of these men as ill-used, or their case as a hard one, is simply
nonsense! You might as well say that the man you asked to dinner to-day
has a legitimate ground of complaint against you because you have not
invited him to breakfast to-morrow.



A GRUMBLE.

I wonder is the world as pleasant as it used to be? Not to myself, of
course--I neither ask nor expect it; but I mean to those who are in the
same position to enjoy it as I was--years ago. I am delicate about the
figures, for Mrs O’D. occasionally reads these sketches, and might feel
a wifelike antipathy to a record of this nature. I repeat--I wonder is
life as good fun as it was when I made my first acquaintance with it? My
impression is that it is not. I do not presume to say that all the same
elements are not as abundant as heretofore. There are young people, and
witty people, and, better, there are beautiful people, in abundance.
There are great houses as of yore, maintained, perhaps, with even more
than bygone splendour: the horses are as good--the dogs as good--the
trout-streams as well stocked--the grouse as abundant--foreign travel is
more easy--all travel is more facile--there are more books and more
illustrated newspapers; and yet, with all these advantages--very
tangible advantages too--I do not think the present occupants make the
house as pleasant as their fathers did, and for the very simple reason,
that they never try.

Indifferentism is the tone of the day. No one must be eager, pleased,
displeased, interested, or anxious about anything. Life is to be treated
as a tiresome sort of thing, but which is far too much beneath one to
be thought of seriously--a wearisome performance, which good manners
require you should sit out, though nothing obliges you to applaud or
even approve of it. This is the theory, and we have been most successful
in reducing it to practice. We are immensely bored, and we take good
care so shall be our neighbour. Just as we have voted that there is
nothing new, nothing strange, nothing amusing, we defy any one to differ
with us, on pain of pronouncing him vulgar. North American Indians are
not more case-hardened against any show of suffering under torture than
are our well-bred people against any manifestation of showing pleasure
in anything. “It wasn’t bad,” is about the highest expression of our
praise; and I doubt if we would accord more to heaven--if we got there.
The grand test of your modern Englishman is, to bear any amount of
amusement without wincing: no pleasure is to wring a smile from him, nor
is any expectancy to interest, or any unlooked-for event to astonish. He
would admit that “the Governor”--meaning his father--was surprised; he
would concede the fact, as recording some prejudice of a bygone age. As
the tone of manners and observance has grown universal, so has the very
expression of the features. They are intensely like each other. We are
told that a shepherd will know the actual faces of all the sheep in his
flock, distinguishing each from each at a glance. I am curious to know
if the Bishop of London knows even the few lost sheep that browse about
Rotten Eow of an afternoon, and who are so familiar to us in Leech’s
sketches. There they are--whiskered, bearded, and bored; fine-looking
animals in their way, but just as much living creatures in ‘Punch’
as they are yonder. It is said that they only want the stimulus of a
necessity, something of daring to tempt, or something of difficulty to
provoke them, to be just as bold and energetic as ever their fathers
were. I don’t deny it. I am only complaining of the system which makes
sheep of them, reduces life to a dreary table-land, making the stupid
fellows the standard, and coming down to their level for the sake of
uniformity. Formerly they who had more wit, more smartness, more worldly
knowledge than their neighbours, enjoyed a certain pre-eminence; the
flash of their agreeability lighted up the group they talked in, and
they were valued and sought after. Now the very homage rendered, even in
this small way, was at least a testimony that superiority was recognised
and its claims admitted. What is the case now? Apathy is excellence,
and the nearest approach to insensibility is the greatest eminence
attainable.

In the Regency, when George IV. was Prince, the clever talkers certainly
abounded; and men talk well or ill exactly as there is a demand for
the article. The wittiest conversationalist that ever existed would be
powerless in a circle of these modern “Unsurprised ones.” Their vacant
self-possession would put down all the Grattans and Currans and Jeffreys
and Sydney Smiths in the world. I defy the most brilliant, the readiest,
the most genial of talkers to vivify the mass of inert dulness he will
find now at every dinner and in every drawing-room.

The code of modern manners is to make ease the first of all objects;
and, in order that the stupidest man may be at his ease, the ablest is
to be sacrificed. He who could bring vast stores of agreeability to
the common stock must not show his wares, because there are a store of
incapables who have nothing for the market.

They have a saying in Donegal, that “the water is so strong it requires
two whiskies;” but I would ask what amount of “spirits” would enliven
this dreariness; what infusion of pleasantry would make Brown and Jones
endurable when multiplied by what algebraists call an _x_--an unknown
quantity--of other Browns and Joneses?

We are constantly calling attention to the fact of the influence exerted
over morals and manners in France by the prevailing tone of the lighter
literature, and we mark the increasing licentiousness that has followed
such works as those of Eugene Sue and the younger Dumas. Let us not
forget to look at home, and see if, in the days when the Waverleys
constituted almost all our lighter reading, the tone of society was not
higher, the spirit more heroic, the current of thought and expression
purer, than in these realistic days, when we turn for amusement to
descriptions of every quaint vulgarity that makes up the life of the
boarding-house or the strolling theatre.

The glorious heroism of Scott’s novels was a fine stream to turn
into the turbid river of our worldliness and money-seeking. It was
of incalculable benefit to give men even a passing glance of noble
devotion, high-hearted courage, and unsullied purity.

I can remember the time when, as freshmen in our first year, we went
about talking to each other of ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Kenilworth;’ and I can
remember, too, when the glorious spirit of those novels had so possessed
us, that our romance elevated and warmed us to an unconscious imitation
of the noble thoughts and deeds we had been reading.

Smile if you like at our boyish enthusiasm, it was better than the
mocking spirit engendered by all this realism, or the insensate craving
after stimulus taught by sensation novels.

Now, I am not old enough to remember the great talkers of the time when
George III. was King, or those who made Carlton House famous; but I
belonged to a generation where these men were remembered, and where it
was common enough to hear stories of their Attic nights, those _noctes
cænæque deorum_ which really in brilliancy must have far transcended
anything that Europe could boast of conversational power. The youth
of the time I speak of were full of these traditions. “If I am not the
rose, I grew near one,” was no foolish boast; and certainly there was
both in the tone of conversation and the temper of society a sentiment
that showed how the great men had influenced their age, and how, even
after their sun had gone down, a warm tint remained to remind the world
of the glorious splendour that had departed.

Being an Irishman, it is to Ireland I must go for my illustration, and
it is my pride to remember that I have seen some of those who were,
in an age of no common convivial excellence, amongst the first and the
greatest. They are gone, and I may speak of them by name--Lord
Plunkett, the Chief-Justice Bushe, Mr Casey, Sir Philip Crampton, Barré
Beresford--I need not go on. I have but to recall the leading men at the
bar, to make up a list of the most brilliant talkers that ever delighted
society. Nor was the soil exhausted with these; there came, so to say, a
second crop--a younger order of men--less versed in affairs, it is true,
less imbued with that vigorous conviviality that prevailed in their
fathers’ days--but of these I must not speak, for they have now grown up
to great dignities and stations, they have risen to eminence and honour
and repute, and might possibly be ashamed if it were known that they
were once so agreeable. Let me, however, record one who is no more,
but who possessed the charm of companionship to a degree I never knew
equalled in all my varied experiences of life,--one who could bring the
stores of a well-stocked mind, rich in scholarship, to bear upon any
passing incident, blended with the fascination of a manner that was
irresistible. Highly imaginative, and with a power of expression that
was positively marvellous, he gave to ordinary conversation an elevation
that actually conferred honour on those who were associated with it;
and high above all these gifts and graces, a noble nature, generous,
hopeful, and confiding. With an intellect that challenged any rivalry,
he had, in all that touched worldly matters, the simplicity of a child.
To my countrymen it is needless I should tell of whom I speak; to
others, I say his name was Mortimer O’Sullivan. The mellow cadence of
his winning voice, the beam of his honest eye, the generous smile that
never knew scorn, are all before me as I write, and I will write no
more.



OF OUR BROTHERS BEYOND THE BORDER.

There is a story current of a certain very eminent French naturalist,
who is so profoundly impressed by the truth of the Darwinian theory,
that he never passes the cage where the larger apes are confined in
the Jardin des Plantes without taking off his hat, making a profound
obeisance, and wishing them a _bon jour_.

This recognition is touching and graceful. The homage of the witches to
him who should be king hereafter, had in it a sort of mockery that made
it horrible; but here we have an act of generous courtesy, based alike
on the highest discoveries of science and the rules of the truest
good-breeding.

The learned professor, with all the instincts of great acquirements
and much self-knowledge united, admits them at once to equality and
fraternity--the liberty, perhaps, they will have to wait some time
for; but in that they are no worse off than some millions of their
fellow-countrymen.

One might speculate long--I don’t know exactly how profitably--on the
sense of gratitude these creatures must feel for this touching kindness,
how they must long for the good man’s visit, how they must wonder by
what steps he arrived at this astonishing knowledge, how surprised they
must feel that he does not make more converts; and, last of all, what
pains they must take to exhibit in their outward bearing and behaviour
that they are not unworthy of the high consideration he bestows on them!
Before him no monkey-tricks, no apish indecorums--none even of those
passing levities which young gorillas will indulge in just like other
youths. No; all must be staid, orderly, and respectful--heads held well
up--hands at rest--tails nowhere; in fact, a port and bearing that would
defy the most scrutinising observer to say that they were less eligible
company than that he had just quitted at the café.

I own I have not seen them during the moment of the Professor’s passage.
I am unable to state authentically whether all this be as I surmise, but
I have a strong impression it must be. Indeed, reflecting on the habits
and modes of the species, I should be rather disposed to believe
them given to an exuberant show of gratitude than to anything like
indifference, and expect to witness demonstrations of delight more
natural possibly than graceful.

Now, I have not the most remote intention of impugning the Professor’s
honesty. I give him credit--full credit--for high purpose, and for high
courage. “These poor brothers of ours,” says he, “have tails, it is
true, and they have not the hypocampus major; but let me ask you,
Monsieur le Duc, or you, Monseigneur the Archbishop, will you dare to
affirm on oath that you yourself are endowed with a hypocampus major
or minor? Are you prepared to stand forward and declare that the
convolutions of your brain are of the regulation standard--that the
medullary part is not disproportioned to the cineritious--that your falx
is not thicker or thinner than it ought--and that your optic thalami are
not too prominent? And if you are not ready to do this, what avails all
your assumption of superiority? In these--they are not many--lie the
alleged differences between you and your caged cousins yonder.” Thus
speaks, or might speak, the Professor; and, I repeat, I respect
his candour; but still I would venture to submit one small, perhaps
ungenerous doubt, and ask, Would he, acting on the noble instincts that
move him, vote these creatures an immediate and entire emancipation, or
would he not rather wait a while--a few years, say--till the habit
of sitting on chairs had worn off some of the tail, and a greater
familiarity with society suggested not to store up their dinner in their
jaws? Would he like to see them at once take their places in public
life, become public functionaries, and ministers, and grand cordons?

Would he not rather, with that philosophy his country eminently teaches,
say, “I will do the pity and the compassion. To me be the sympathetic
part of a graceful sorrow. To posterity I bequeath the recognition of
these poor captives. Let them be liberated, by all means; but let it
be when I shall be no longer here to witness it. Let others face that
glorious millennium of gorilla greatness.”

I am afraid he would reason in this fashion; it is one thing to have an
opinion, and to have what Frenchmen call the “courage of your opinion.”
 He would say, “If Nature work surely, she works slowly; her changes are
measured, regular, and progressive. With her there are no paroxysms;
all is orderly--all is gradual It took centuries of centuries to advance
these poor creatures to the point they occupy; their next stage on the
journey is perhaps countless years away. I will not attempt to forestall
what I cannot assist. I will let Time do its work. They are not
ill-treated, besides; that large creature with the yellow eyebrows
grinned at me very pleasantly this morning, and the she-ourang-outang
was whipping her infant most naturally as I came by.”

“What a cold-blooded philanthropy is this!” cries another. “You say
these are our brothers and our kinsmen; you declare that anatomy only
can detect some small and insignificant discrepancies between us, and
that even in these there are some of whose functions we know nothing,
and others, such as the prehensile power, where the ape has the best
of it. What do you mean by keeping them there ‘cribbed, cabined, and
confined’? Is a slight frontal inclination to disqualify a person from
being a prefect? Is an additional joint in the coccyx to prevent a man
sitting on the woolsack, or an extra inch in the astragalus to interfere
with his wearing spurs? If there be minute differences between us,
intercourse will abolish them. It will be of inestimable service
to yourselves to come into contact with these fresh, fine, generous
natures, uncontaminated by the vices of an effete and worn-out
civilisation. Great as are the benefits you extend to them, they will
repay you tenfold in the advantages to yourselves. Away with your
unworthy prejudices about a ‘black pigment’ and long heels! Take them to
your hearts and your hearths. You will find them brave--ay, braver than
your own race. Their teeth are whiter and their nails longer; there is
not a relation in life in which you will dare to call yourself their
better.”

I will go no farther, not merely because I have no liking for my
theme, but because I am pilfering. All these arguments--the very words
themselves--I have stolen from an American writer, who, in Horace
Greeley fashion, is addressing his countrymen on the subject of negro
equality. He not alone professes to show the humanity of the project,
but its policy--its even necessity. He declares to the whites, “You
want these people; without them you will sink lower and lower into that
effete degeneracy into which years of licentiousness have sunk you.
These gorillas--black men, I mean--are virtuous; they are abstemious;
they have a little smell, but no sensuality; they will make admirable
wives for your warriors; and who knows but one may be the mother of a
President as strikingly handsome as Ape Lincoln himself!” There is
no doubt much to be said for our long-heeled friends, whether with or
without a hypocampus major. I am not very certain that we compliment
them in the best taste when the handsomest thing we can say of them is,
that they are very like ourselves! It is our human mode, however, of
expressing admiration, and resembles the exclamation of the Oberland
peasant on seeing a pretty girl, “How handsome she’d be if she only had
a _goître!_”



THE RULE NISI.

A great many sea-captains discourage the use of life-preservers and
floating-belts on board ships of war, on the simple ground that men
should not be taught to rely for their safety on anything but what
conduces to save the ship. “Let there be but one thought, one effort,”
 say they, “and let that be for the common safety.” If they be
right--and I suspect they are--we have made a famous blunder by our late
legislation about divorce. Of all the crafts that ever were launched,
marriage is one from which fewest facilities of desertion should be
provided.

Romanism makes very few mistakes in worldly matters. There is no feature
of that Church so remarkable as its deep study and thorough acquaintance
with all the moods and wants and wishes of humanity. Whatever its
demerits, one cannot but admit that no other religion ever approached
it in intimacy with the human heart in all its emotions and in all its
strivings, whether for good or evil.

Rome declares against all breach of the marriage tie. The Church, with
a spirit of concession it knows how to carry through all its dealings,
modifies, softens, assuages, but never severs conjugalism. It makes
the tie occasionally a slip-knot, but it never cuts the string, and I
strongly suspect that it is wise in its legislation.

For a great many years we gave the policy that amount of imitation we
are wont to accord to Romanist practices; that is, we follow them in
part--we adopt the coat, but, to show that we are not mere imitators,
we cut off one of the skirts; and if we do not make the garment more
graceful, we at least consult our dignity, and that is something. We
made divorce the privilege of men rich enough to come to Parliament for
relief; we did with the question what some one proposed we should do
with poisons--make them so costly that only wealthy men should be able
to afford the luxury of suicide. So long as men believed that divorce
was immoral, I don’t think any one complained that it should be limited
to persons in affluence. We are a lord-loving race, we English, and are
quite ready to concede that our superiors should have more vices than
ourselves, just as they have more horses and more pheasants; and we
deemed it nothing odd or strange that he, whose right it was to walk
into the House of Peers, should walk out of matrimony when it suited
him.

Who knows?--perhaps we were flattered by the thought that great folk so
far conceded to a vulgar prejudice as to marry at all. Perhaps we hailed
their entrance into conjugalism as we are wont to do their appearance
at a circus or a public garden--a graceful acknowledgment that they
occasionally felt something like ourselves: at all events, we liked
it, and we showed we liked it by the zeal with which we read those
descriptions in newspapers of marriages in high life, and the delight
with which we talked to each other of people we never saw, nor probably
ever should see. It was not too much, therefore, to concede to them this
privilege of escape. It was very condescending of them to come to the
play at all; we had no right to insist that they should sit out the
whole performance.

By degrees, however, what with rich cotton-lords, and cheap
cyclopaedias, and penny trains, and popular lectures, there got up a
sort of impression--it was mere impression for a long time--that great
folk had more than their share of the puddings’ plums; and agitators
began to bestir themselves. What were the privileges of the higher
classes which would sit most gracefully on their inferiors? Naturally
we bethought us of their vices. It was not always so easy to adopt my
lord’s urbanity, his unassuming dignity, his well-bred ease; but one
might reasonably aspire to be as wicked. Sabbath-breaking had long since
ceased to be the privilege of the better classes, and so men’s minds
reverted to the question of divorce. “Let us get rid of our wives!”
 cried they; “who knows but the day may come when we shall kill
woodcocks?”

Now the law, in making divorce a very costly process, had simply desired
to secure its infrequency. It was not really meant to be a rich man’s
privilege. What was sought for was to oppose as many obstacles as could
be found, to throw in as many rocks as possible into the channel, so
that only he who was intently bent on navigating the stream would ever
have the energy to clear the passage. Nobody ever dreamed of making it
an open roadstead. In point of fact, the oft-boasted equality before
the law is a myth. The penalty which a labourer could endure without
hardship might break my lord’s heart; and in the very case before us of
divorce, nothing can possibly be more variable than the estimate formed
of the divorced individuals, according to the class of society they move
in.

What would be a levity here, would be a serious immorality there; and
a little lower down again, a mere domestic arrangement, slightly more
decorous and a shade more legal than the old system of the halter and
the public sale. It was declared, however, that this “relief”--that is
the popular phrase in such matters--should be extended to the poor
man. It was decided that the privilege to get rid of a wife was, as
Mr Gladstone says of the electoral right, the inalienable claim of a
freeman, and the only course was to lower the franchise.

Let us own, too, we were ashamed, as we had good right to be ashamed, of
our old _crim. con._ law. Foreigners, especially Frenchmen, had rung
the changes on our coarse venality and corruption; and we had come to
perceive--it took some time, though--that moneyed damages were scarcely
the appropriate remedy for injured honour.

Last of all, free-trade notions had turned all our heads: we were
for getting rid of all restrictions on every side; and we went about
repeating to each other those wise saws about buying in the cheapest and
selling in the dearest market, and having whatever we wanted, and doing
whatever we liked with our own. We are, there is no denying it, a nation
of shopkeepers; and the spirit of trade can be tracked through every
relation of our lives. It is commerce gives the tone to all our
dealings; and we have carried its enactments into the most sacred of all
our institutions, and imparted a “limited liability” even to marriage.

Cheapness became the desideratum of our age, We insisted on cheap gloves
and shoes and wine and ribbons, and why not cheap divorces? Philosophers
tell us that the alternate action of the seasons is one of the purest
and most enduring of all sources of enjoyment; that perpetual summer
or spring would weary and depress; but in the ever-changing aspect
of nature, and in the stimulation which diversity excites, we find an
unfailing gratification. If, therefore, it be pleasant to be married,
it may also be agreeable to be unmarried. It takes some time, however,
before society accommodates itself to these new notions. The newly
divorced, be it man or woman, comes into the world like a patient after
the smallpox--you are not quite certain whether the period of contagion
is past, or if it be perfectly safe to go up and talk to him. In fact,
you delay doing so till some strong-minded friend or other goes boldly
forward and shakes the convalescent by the hand. Even still there will
be timid people who know perhaps that their delicacy of constitution
renders them peculiarly sensitive, and who will keep aloof after all. Of
course, these and similar prejudices will give way to time. We have
our Probate Court; and the phrase _co-respondent_ is now familiar as a
household word.

Now, however tempting the theme, I am not going to inquire whether we
have done wisely or the reverse by this piece of legislation; whether,
by instilling certain precepts of self-control, a larger spirit of
accommodation, and a more conciliatory disposition generally, we might
have removed some of the difficulties without the heroic remedy of the
decree _nisi_; whether, in fact, it might not have been better to teach
people to swim, or even float, rather than make this great issue of
cheap life-belts. I am so practical that I rather address myself to
profit by what is, than endeavour by any change to make it better. We
live in a statistical age. We are eternally inquiring who it is wants
this, who consumes that, who goes to such a place, who is liable to this
or that malady. Classification is a passion with us; and we have bulky
volumes to teach us what sorts of people have chest affections, what are
most prone to stomachic diseases, who have ophthalmia, and who the
gout. We are also instructed as to the kind of persons most disposed to
insanity, and we have a copious list of occupations given us which
more or less incline those who profess them to derangement. Even the
Civil-Service Examiners have contributed their share to this mass of
entertaining knowledge, and shown from what parts of the kingdom bad
spellers habitually come, what counties are celebrated for cacography,
and in what districts etymology is an unknown thing. Would it not, then,
be a most interesting and instructive statistic that would give us
a tabular view of divorce, showing in what classes frailty chiefly
prevailed, with the relative sexes, and also a glimpse at the ages?
Imagine what a light the statement would throw on the morality of
classes, and what an incalculable benefit to parents in the choice of a
career for their children! For instance, no sensible father would select
a life of out-door exposure for a weak-chested son, or make a sailor of
one with an incurable sea-sickness. In the same way would he be guided
by the character of his children as to the perils certain careers would
expose them to.

A passing glance at the lists of divorce shows us that no
“promovent”--it is a delicate title, and I like it--no promovent figures
oftener than a civil engineer. Now, how instructive to inquire why!

What is there in embankments and earthworks and culverts that should
dispose the wife of him who makes them to infidelity? Why should a
tunnel only lead to domestic treachery? why must a cutting sever the
heart that designs it? I do not know; I cannot even guess. My ingenuity
stands stockstill at the question, and I can only re-echo, Why?

Next amongst the “predisposed” come schoolmasters, plasterers, &c. What
unseen thread runs through the woof of these natures, apparently so
little alike? It is the boast of modern science to settle much that
once was puzzling, and reconcile to a system what formerly appeared
discordant. How I wish some great Babbage-like intellect would bestir
itself in this inquiry.

Surely ethical questions are as well worthy of investigation as purely
physical or mechanical ones, and yet we ignore them most ignominiously.
We think no expense too great to test an Armstrong or a Whitworth gun;
we spend thousands to ascertain how far it will carry, what destructive
force it possesses, and how long it will resist explosion;--why not
appoint a commission of this nature on “conjugate;” why not ascertain,
if we can, what is the weak point in matrimony, and why are explosions
so frequent? Is the “cast” system a bad one, and must we pronounce
“welding” a failure? or, last of all, however wounding to our national
vanity, do “they understand these things better in France”?



ON CLIMBING BOYS.

With the common fate of all things human, it is said that every career
and walk in life has some one peculiar disparagement--something that,
attaching to the duties of the station as a sort of special grievance,
serves to show that none of us, no matter how favoured, are to imagine
there can be any lot exempted from its share of troubles. Ask the
soldier, the sailor, the parson, the doctor, the lawyer, or the actor,
and each will give you a friendly warning to adopt any other career than
his own.

In most cases the _quid amarum_, the one bitter drop, is to be found in
the career itself, something that belongs to that one craft or calling;
just as the white-lead colic, for instance, is the fatal malady of
painters. There are, however, a few rare cases in which the detracting
element attaches itself to the followers and not to the profession, as
though it would seem there was a something in the daily working of that
peculiar craft which warped the minds and coerced the natures of men
to be different from what temperament and character should have made of
them.

The two classes which most prominently exhibit what I mean are somewhat
socially separated, but they have a number of small analogies in common.
They are Sweeps and Statesmen! It would be tempting--but I resist the
temptation--to show how many points of resemblance unite them--how each
works in the dark, in a small, narrow, confined sphere, without view or
outlet; how the tendency of each is to scratch his way upwards and gain
the top, caring wonderfully little how black and dirty the process has
made him. One might even go farther, and mark how, when indolence or
weariness suggested sloth, the stimulus of a little fire underneath,
whether a few lighted straws or a Birmingham mass-meeting, was sure to
quicken progress and excite activity.

Again, I make this statement on the faith of Lord Shaftesbury, who
pronounced it before their Lordships in the Upper House:--“It is no
uncommon thing to buy and sell them. There is a regular traffic in them;
and through the agency of certain women, not the models of their sex,
you can get any quantity of them you want.” Last of all, on the same
high authority, we are told of their perfect inutility, “since there is
nothing that they do could not be better done by a machine.”

I resist, as I say, all temptations of this kind, and simply address
myself to the one point of similarity between them which illustrates the
theory with which I have started--and now to state this as formally as
I am able. Let me declare that in all the varied employments of life
I have never met with men who have the same dread of their possible
successors as sweeps and statesmen. The whole aim and object of each
is directed, first of all, to keep those who do their work as little
as possible, well knowing that the time will come when these small
creatures will find the space too confined for them, and set up for
themselves.

A volume might be written on the subtle artifices adopted to keep them
“little”--the browbeatings, the insults, the crushing cruelties, the
spare diet intermixed with occasional stimulants, the irregular hours,
and the heat and confinement of the sphere they work in. Still, nature
is stronger than all these crafty contrivances. The little sweep will
grow into the big sweep, and the small under-sec. will scratch his way
up to the Cabinet I will not impose on my reader the burden of carrying
along with him this double load. I will address myself simply to one
of these careers--the Statesman’s. It is a strange but a most
unquestionable fact, that no other class of men are so ill-disposed to
those who are the most likely to succeed them--not of an Opposition,
for that would be natural enough, but of their own party, of their
own colour, of their own rearing. Let us be just: when a man has long
enjoyed place, power, and pre-eminence, dispensed honours and pensions
and patronage, it is not a small trial to discover that one of those
little creatures he has made--whose first scraper and brush he himself
paid for--I can’t get rid of the sweep out of my head--will turn
insolently on him and declare that he will no longer remain a
subordinate, but go and set up for himself. This is excessively hard,
and might try the temper of a man even without a fit of the gout.

It is exactly what has just happened; an apprentice, called Gladstone,
having made a sort of connection in Manchester and Birmingham, a
district abounding in tall chimneys, has given warning to his master Pam
that he will not sweep any longer. He is a bold, aspiring sort of lad,
and he is not satisfied with saying--as many others have done--that he
is getting too broad-shouldered for his work; but he declares that the
chimneys for the future must be all made bigger and the flues wider,
just because he likes climbing, and doesn’t mean to abandon it. There is
no doubt of it. Manchester and Stockport and Birmingham have put this in
his head. Their great smelting-houses and steam-power factories require
big chimneys; and being an overbearing set of self-made vulgar fellows,
they say they ought to be a law to all England. You don’t want to make
cotton-twist, or broad-gauge iron; so much the worse for you. It is
the grandest object of humanity. Providence created men to manufacture
printed cottons and cheap penknives. We of Manchester understand what
our American friends call manifest destiny; we know and feel ours will
be--to rule England. Once let us only introduce big chimneys, and you’ll
see if you won’t take to spinning-jennies and mules and treddles;
and there’s that climbing boy Gladstone declares he’ll not leave the
business, but go up, no matter how dirty the flue, the day we want him.

Some shrewd folk, who see farther into the millstone than their
neighbours, have hinted that this same boy is of a crotchety, intriguing
type, full of his own ingenuity, and enamoured of his own subtlety;
so that make the chimney how great you will, he’ll not go up it, but
scratch out another flue for himself, and come out, heaven knows where
or how. Indeed, they tell that on one occasion of an alarm of fire
in the house--caused by a pantry-boy called Russell burning some
wasterpaper instead of going up the chimney as he was ordered--this
same Will began to tell how the Greeks had no chimneys, and a mass
of antiquarian rubbish of the same kind, so that his master, losing
patience, exclaimed, “Of all plagues in the world he knew of none to
compare with these ‘climbing boys!’”



LINGUISTS

There are two classes of people not a little thought of, and even
caressed, in society, and for whom I have ever felt a very humble
estimate--the men who play all manner of games, and the men who speak
several languages. I begin with the latter, and declare that, after
a somewhat varied experience of life, I never met a linguist that was
above a third-rate man; and I go farther, and aver, that I never chanced
upon a really able man who had the talent for languages.

I am well aware that it sounds something little short of a heresy to
make this declaration. It is enough to make the blood of Civil-Service
Commissioners run cold to hear it. It sounds illiberal--and, worse,
it seems illogical. Why should any intellectual development imply
deficiency? Why should an acquirement argue a defect? I answer, I don’t
know--any more than I know why sanguineous people are hot-tempered, and
leuco-phlegmatic ones are more brooding in their wrath. If--for I do not
ask to be anything higher than empirical--if I find that parsimonious
people have generally thin noses, and that the snub is associated with
the spendthrift, I never trouble myself with the demonstration, but I
hug the fact, and endeavour to apply it.

In the same spirit, if I hear a man in a salon change from French to
German and thence diverge into Italian and Spanish, with possibly a
brief excursion into something Scandinavian or Sclav--at home in each
and all--I would no more think of associating him in my mind with
anything responsible in station or commanding in intellect, than I
should think of connecting the servant that announced me with the last
brilliant paper in the ‘Quarterly.’

No man with a strongly-marked identity--and no really able man ever
existed without such--can subordinate that identity so far as to put on
the foreigner; and without this he never can attain that mastery of
a foreign language that makes the linguist. To be able to repeat
conventionalities--bringing them in at the telling moment, adjusting
phrases to emergencies, as a joiner adapts the pieces of wood to his
carpentry--may be, and is, a very neat and a very dexterous performance,
but it is scarcely the exercise to which a large capacity will address
itself. Imitation must be, in one sense or other, the stronghold of the
linguist--imitation of expression, of style, of accent, of cadence, of
tone. The linguist must not merely master grammar, but he must manage
gutturals. The mimicry must go farther: in simulating expression it must
affect the sentiment. You are not merely borrowing the clothes, but you
are pretending to put on the feelings, the thoughts, the prejudices
of the wearer. Now, what man with a strong nature can merge himself so
entirely in his fictitious being as not to burst the seams and tear the
lining of a garment that only impedes the free action of his limbs, and
actually threatens the very extinction of his respiration?

It is not merely by their greater adaptiveness that women are better
linguists than men; it is by their more delicate organisation, their
more subdued identity, and their less obstreperous temperaments, which
are consequently less egotistical, less redolent of the one individual
self. And what is it that makes the men of mark or note, the cognate
signs of human algebra, but these same characteristics; not always
good, not always pleasant, not always genial, but always associated with
something that declares preeminence, and pronounces their owner to be a
“representative man”?

When Lord Ward replied to Prince Schwartzenberg’s flippant remark on
the bad French of English diplomatists by the apology, “that we had not
enjoyed the advantage of having our capital cities so often occupied by
French troops as some of our neighbours,” he uttered not merely a smart
epigram but a great philosophical truth. It was not alone that we had
not possessed the opportunity to pick up an accent, but that we had not
subordinated our minds and habits to French modes and ways of thought,
and that the tone and temper of the French people had not been beaten
into us by the roll of a French drum. One may buy an accomplishment
too dearly. It is possible to pay too much even for a Parisian
pronunciation! Not only have I never found a linguist a man of eminence,
but I have never seen a linguist who talked well. Fluent they are, of
course, like the Stecknadel gun of the Prussians, they can fire without
cessation, but, like the same weapon, they are comparatively aimless. It
is a _feu roulant_, with plenty of noise and some smoke, but very
“few casualties” announce the success. The greatest linguist of modern
Europe, Mezzofanti, was a most inferior man. Of the countries whose
dialect he spoke to perfection, he knew nothing. An old dictionary would
have been to the full as companionable. I find it very hard not to be
personal just now, and give a list--it would be a long one--of all the
tiresome people I know, who talk four, five, some of them six modern
languages perfectly. It is only with an effort I abstain from mentioning
the names of some well-known men who are the charming people at Borne
and Vienna every winter, and each summer are the delight of Ems, of
Berlin, and of Ischl. What tyrants these fellows are, too, over the
men who have not got their gift of tongues! how they out-talk them and
overbear them! with what an insolent confidence they fall back upon
the petty superiority of their fluency, and lord it over those who are
immeasurably their masters! Just as Blondin might run along the rigging
of a three-decker, and pretend that his agility entitled him to command
a squadron!

Nothing, besides, is more imposing than the mock eloquence of good
French. The language in itself is so adaptive, it is so felicitous,
it abounds in such innumerable pleasant little analogies, such nice
conceits and suggestive drolleries, that he who acquires these has at
will a whole armoury of attack and defence. It actually requires years
of habit to accustom us to a display that we come at last to discover
implies no brilliancy whatever in him who exhibits, though it argues
immense resources in the treasury from which he derives this wealth.

I have known scores of delightful talkers--Frenchmen--who had no other
charm than what their language lent them. They were neither profound,
nor cultivated, nor witty--some were not even shrewd or acute; but all
were pleasant--pleasant in the use of a conversational medium, of
which the world has not the equal--a language that has its set form of
expression for every social eventuality, and that hits to a nicety every
contingency of the “salon;” for it is no more the language of natural
people than the essence of the perfumer’s shop is the odour of a field
flower. It is pre-eminently the medium of people who talk with tall
glasses before them, and an incense of truffles around them, and
well-dressed women--clever and witty, and not over-scrupulous in their
opinions--for their company. Then, French is unapproachable; English
would be totally unsuited to the occasion, and German even more so.
There is a flavour of sauer kraut about that unhappy tongue that would
vulgarise a Queen if she talked it.

To attain, therefore, the turns and tricks of this language--for it is
a Chinese puzzle in its involvements--what a life must a man have
led! What “terms” he must have “put in” at cafés and restaurants!
What seasons at small theatres--tripots and worse! What nights at
bals-masqués, Chateaux des Fleurs, and Cadrans rouges et bleus! What
doubtful company he must have often kept! What company a little more
than doubtful occasionally! What iniquities of French romance must he
have read, with all the cardinal virtues arrayed as the evil destinies
of humanity, and every wickedness paraded as that natural expansion of
the heart which alone raises man above the condition of the brute! I
ask, if proficiency must imply profligacy, would you not rather find a
man break down in his verbs than in his virtue? Would you not prefer
a little inaccuracy in his declensions to a total forgetfulness of the
decalogue? And, lastly of all, what man of real eminence could have
masqueraded--for it is masquerading--for years in this motley, and come
out, after all, with even a rag of his identity?

Many people would scruple to play at cards with a stranger whose mode of
dealing and general manipulation of the pack bespoke daily familiarity
with the play-table. They would infer that he was a regular and
professional gambler. In the very same way, and for the selfsame reason,
would I carefully avoid any close intimacy with the Englishman of fluent
French, well knowing he could not have graduated in that perfection save
at a certain price. But it is not at the moral aspect of the question I
desire particularly to look. I assert--and I repeat my assertion--that
these talkers of many tongues are poor creatures. There is no initiative
in them--they suggest nothing--they are vendors of second-hand wares,
and are not always even good selectors of what they sell. It is only
in narrative that they are at all endurable. They can _raconter_,
certainly; and so long as they go from salon to salon repeating in
set phrase some little misadventure or accident of the day, they are
amusing; but this is not conversation, and they do not converse.

“Every time a man acquires a new language, is he a new man?” is supposed
to have been a saying of Charles V.--a sentiment that, if he uttered it,
means more of sarcasm than of praise; for it is the very putting off
a man’s identity that establishes his weakness. All real force of
character excludes dualism. Every eminent, every able man has a certain
integrity in his nature that rejects this plasticity.

It is a very common habit, particularly with newspaper writers, to
ascribe skill in languages, and occasionally in games, to distinguished
people. It was but the other day we were told that Garibaldi spoke ten
languages fluently. Now Garibaldi is not really master of two. He
speaks French tolerably; and his native language is not Italian, but
a patois-Genoese. Cavour was called a linguist with almost as little
truth; but people repeat the story, just as they repeat that Napoleon I.
was a great chess-player. If his statecraft and his strategy had been on
a par with his chess, we should never have heard of Tilsit or Wagram.

Lord Castlereagh, the Duke of Wellington, and George Canning, each of
whom administered our foreign policy with no small share of success,
were not linguists; and as to Charles Fox, he has left a French sentence
on record that will last even as long as his own great name. I do not
want to decry the study of languages; I simply desire to affirm that
linguists--and through all I have said I mean colloquial linguists--are
for the most part poor creatures, not otherwise distinguished than
by the gift of tongues; and I want to protest against the undue
pre-eminence accorded to the possessors of a small accomplishment, and
the readiness with which the world, especially the world of society,
awards homage to an acquirement in which a boarding-school Miss can
surpass Lord Brougham. I mean to say a word or two about those who have
skill in games; but as they are of a higher order of intelligence, I’ll
wait till I have got “fresh wind” ere I treat of _them_.



THE OLD CONJURORS AND THE NEW.

As there are few better tests of the general health of an individual
than in the things he imagines to be injurious to him, so there is
no surer evidence of the delicate condition of a State than in the
character of those who are assumed to be dangerous to it. Now, after all
that has been said of Rome and the corruptions of Roman government, I do
not know anything so decidedly damnatory as the fact, to which allusion
was lately made in Parliament, that the Papal Government had ordered Mr
Home, the spiritualist, to quit the city and the States of his Holiness,
and not to return to them.

In what condition, I would ask, must a country be when such a man is
regarded as dangerous? and in what aspect of his character does the
danger consist?

Do we want ghosts or spirits to reveal to us any more of the iniquities
of that State than we already know? Is there a detail of its corrupt
administration that the press of Europe has not spread broadcast over
the world? What could Mr Home and all his spirits tell us of peculation,
theft, subornation, bigotry, and oppression, that the least observant
traveller has not brought home with him?

And then, as to the man himself, how puerile it is to give him this
importance! The solitary bit of cleverness about him is his statement
that he has no control whatever over the spirits that attend him. Asking
him not to summon them, is pretty like asking Mr Windham not to send for
his creditors. They come pretty much as they like, and probably their
visits are about equally profitable.

In this respect Home belongs to a very low order of his art. When Bosco
promises to make a bouquet out of a mouse-trap, or Houdin engages to
concoct a batter-pudding in your hat, each keeps his word. There is no
subterfuge about the temper the spirits may happen to be in, or of their
willingness or unwillingness to present themselves. The thing is done,
and we see it--or we think we see it, which comes much to the same.

With this provision of escape Mr Home secures himself against all
failure. Should, for instance, the audience prove to be of a more
discriminating and observant character than he liked or anticipated,
and the exhibition in consequence be rendered critical, all he had to
do was, to aver that the spirits would not come; it was no breakdown
on _his_ part Homer was sulky, or Dante was hipped, or Lord Bacon
was indisposed to meet company, and there was the end of it. You were
invited to meet celebrities, but it was theirs to say if they would
present themselves.

On the other hand, when the proper element of credulity offered--when
the séance was comprised of the select few, emotional, sensitive, and
hysterical as they ought to be--when the nervous lady sat beside the
timid gentleman, and neuralgia confronted confirmed dyspepsia--the
artist could afford to be daring, and might venture on flights that
astounded even himself. What limit is there, besides, to contagional
sympathy? Look at the crowded theatre, with its many-minded spectators,
and see how one impulse, communicated occasionally by a hireling, will
set the whole mass in a ferment of enthusiastic delight. Mark, too, how
the smile, that plays like an eddy on a lake, deepens into a laugh, and
is caught up by another and another, till the whole storm breaks out in
a hearty ocean of merriment. These, if you like, are spirits; but the
great masters of them are not men like Mr Home--they have ever been,
and still are, of a very different order. Shakespeare and Molière and
Cervantes knew something of the mode to summon these imps, and could
make them come at their bidding besides.

Was it--to come back to what I started with--was it in any spirit of
rivalry that the Papal Government drove Mr Home out of Home? Was it
that, assuming to have a monopoly in the wares he dealt in, they
would not stand a contraband trade? If so, their ground is at least
defensible; for what chance of attraction would there be for the winking
Virgin in competition with him who could “make a young lady ascend to
the ceiling, and come slowly down like a parachute!”--a spiritual fact
I have heard from witnesses who really, so far as character went, might
challenge any incredulity.

If the Cardinals were jealous of the Conjuror, the thing is intelligible
enough, and one must feel a certain degree of sympathy with the
old-established firm that had spent such enormous sums, and made such
stupendous preparations, when a pretender like this could come into
competition with them, without any other properties than could be
carried conveniently about him.

But let us be practical The Pope’s Government demanded of Mr Home that
he should have no dealings with the Evil One during his stay at Rome.
Now, I ask, what should we say of the efficacy of our police system
if we were to hear that the Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard lived in
nightly terror of the pickpockets who frequented that quarter, and
came to Parliament with a petition to accord him some greater
security against their depredations? Would not the natural reply be an
exclamation of astonishment that he who could summon to his aid every
alphabetical blue-coat that ever handled a truncheon, should deem any
increased security necessary to his peace? And so, would I ask, of what
avail these crowds of cardinals--these regiments of monsignori--these
battalions of bishops, Arch and simple?--of what use all the incense
and these chanted litanies, these eternal processions, and these saintly
shin-bones borne in costly array--if one poor mortal, supposed to live
on visiting terms with the Evil One, can strike such terror into the
whole army led on by Infallibility?

If I had been possessed of any peculiar dread of coming unexpectedly
on the Devil--as the old ladies of New York used to feel long ago
about suddenly meeting with the British army--I should certainly have
comforted myself by the thought that I could always go and sit down on
the steps of the Vatican. It would immediately have occurred to me, that
as Holyrood offers its sanctuary against the sheriff, the Quirinal would
be the sure retreat against Old Nick; and I have even pictured to myself
the rage of his disappointed malice as he saw me sheltering safely
beneath a protection he dared not invade. And now I am told to
relinquish all the blessed enjoyment of this immunity; that the Pope and
the Cardinals and Antonelli himself are not a whit better off than the
rest of us; that if Mr Home gets into Rome, there is nothing to prevent
his having the Devil at his tea-parties. What an ignoble confession
is this! Who will step forward any longer and contend that this costly
system is to be maintained, and all these saintly intercessors to be
kept on the most expensive of all pension-lists, if a poor creature like
Home can overthrow it all?

Can any one conceive such a spectacle as these gorgeous men of scarlet
and purple cringing before this poor pretender, and openly avowing
before Europe that there is no peace for them till he consents to cross
the Tiber?

Why--I speak, of course, in the ignorance of a laic--but, I ask, why not
fumigate him and cleanse him? When I saw him last, the process would not
have been so supererogatory. Why not exorcise and defy him? Why not say,
Come, and bring your friend if you dare; you shall see how we will treat
you. Only try it It is what we have been asking for nigh two thousand
years. Let the great culprit step forward and plead to his indictment.

I can fancy the Pope saying this--I can picture to myself the proud
attitude of the Pontiff declaring, “I have had enough of these small
devilries, like Louis Napoleon and Victor Emmanuel--I am sick of Mazzini
and his petty followers. Let us deal with the chief of the gang at once;
if we cannot convict him, he will be at least open to a compromise.”
 This, I say, I can comprehend; but it is clear and clean beyond me that
he should shirk the interview, and own he was afraid of it. It would not
surprise me to-morrow to hear that Lord Derby dreaded the Radicals, and
actually feared the debating powers of “Mr Potter of the Strikes.”



GAMBLING FOR THE MILLION.

Nothing shows what a practical people we are more than our establishment
of insurances against railroad accidents. The spirit of commercial
enterprise, by which a man charters himself for a railroad voyage with
an insured cargo of his bones, ligaments, cartilage, and adipose tissue,
abundantly proves that we are nature’s own traders and shopkeepers.

Any ordinary people less imbued with Liverpool and Manchester notions
would have bestirred themselves how to prevent, or at least lessen,
the number of those casualties. They would have set to work to see what
provisions could be adopted to give greater security to travel. We, on
the contrary are too business-like to waste time on this inquiry. We are
convinced that, let us build ships ever so strong, there will still
be shipwrecks. So we feel assured that a certain number of railway
accidents, as they are called, will continue to occur--be as broad gauge
as you will! We accept the situation, therefore, as the French say, and
insure; that is to say, we book a bet at very long odds--say, three to a
thousand--that we shall be rolled up, cut in two, flattened into a thin
sheeting, and ground into an impalpable powder, between Croydon
and Brighton. If we arrive safe, the assurance office pockets a few
shillings; if we win our wager, our executor receives a thousand pounds.

It is about the grimmest kind of gambling ever man heard of; and yet
we see folk of the most unquestionable propriety--dignitaries of the
Church, judges, civil and uncivil servants of the Crown, and scores of
others, whom nothing would tempt into the Cursaal at Ems or Baden, as
coolly as possible playing this terrific game, and backing themselves
heavily for a dorsal paralysis, a depressed fracture of the cranium, or
at least a compound dislocation of the hip-joint.

Now, if the Protestant Church entertained what the Romanists call
cases of conscience, I should like greatly to ask, Is this right? Is it
justifiable to make a contingent profit out of your cerebral vertebrae
or your popliteal space?

We have long been derided and scoffed at for making connubialism
marketable, and putting a price on a wife’s infidelity, but it strikes
me this is something worse; for what, after all, is a rib--a false rib,
too--compared with the whole bony skeleton?

“Allah is Allah,” said the Turkish admiral to Lady Hester Stanhope, “but
I have got two anchors astern,” showing that, with all his fatalism, he
did not despise what are technically called human means. So the reverend
Archdeacon, going down for his sea-baths, might say, “I’m not quite sure
they’ll carry me safely, but it shall not be all misfortune--I’ll take
out some of it in money.”

The system, however, has its difficulties; for though it is a round
game, the stakes are apportioned with reference to the rank and
condition of the winner--as, for instance, the Solicitor-General’s
collarbone is worth a shoemaker’s whole body, and a Judge’s patella is
of more value than a dealer in marine stores and his rising family. This
is a tremendous pull against the company, who not only give long, but
actually incalculable odds; for while Mr Briggs of the second class can
be crumpled up for two hundred pounds, the Hon. Sackville de Cressy in
the coupe cannot be even concussed under a thousand; while if the noble
Duke in the express carriage be only greatly alarmed, the cost may be
positively astounding.

This I certainly call hard--very hard. When you book a bet at Newmarket
you never have to consider the rank of your opponent, save as regards
his solvency. He may be a peer--he is very probably a publican--it is
perfectly immaterial to you; but not so here. The company is positively
staking against the incommensurable. They have no means of knowing
whether that large broad-shouldered man yonder is or is not a royal
duke; and when the telegraph announces a collision, it may chance that
the news has declared what will send every shareholder into bankruptcy,
or only graze them without hurting anybody.

We all know how a number of what are technically termed serious people
went to Exeter Hall to listen to the music of the ‘Traviata,’ what no
possible temptation would have induced them to hear within the walls
of a theatre. I will not question the propriety of a matter only to
be settled by a reference to conscience; but as the music and the
words--for the airs were sung--were the same, the hearers were not
improbably in the enjoyment of as emotional an amusement as though
they had gone for it to the Queen’s Theatre. Now, may not these railway
insurances be something of the same kind? May it not be a means by which
deans and canons and other broad-hatted dignitaries may enjoy a little
gambling without “going in” for Blind Hooky or Roulette? Regard for
decorum would prevent their sojourning at Homburg or Wiesbaden. They
could not, of course, be seen “punting” at the play-table at Ems; but
here is a legitimate game which all may join in, and where, certainly,
the anxiety that is said to impart the chief ecstasy to the gamester’s
passion rises to the very highest It is heads and tails for a smashing
stake, and ought to interest the most sluggish of mortals.

What a useful addition, then, would it be for one’s Bradshaw to have a
tabular view of the “odds” on the different lines, so that a speculative
individual, desiring to provide for his family, might know where to
address himself with best chance of an accident! One can imagine an
assurance company puffing its unparalleled advantages and unrivalled
opportunity, when four excursion trains were to start at five minutes’
intervals, and the prospect of a smash was little short of a certainty.
“Great attraction! the late rains have injured the chief portion of the
line, so that a disaster is confidently looked for every hour. Make your
game, gentlemen--make your game; nothing received after the bell rings.”



THE INTOXICATING LIQUORS BILL.

Anything more absurd than the late debate in the House on the best means
of suppressing intemperance it is very hard to imagine. First of all,
in the van, came the grievance to be redressed; and we had a statistical
statement of all the gallons of strong drink consumed--all the moneys
diverted from the legitimate uses of the family--all the debauchees
who rolled drunk through our streets, and all the offences directly
originating in this degrading vice. Now, what conceivable order of mind
could prompt a man to engage in such a laborious research? Who either
doubts the enormity of drunkenness or its frequency? It is a theme that
we hear of incessantly. The pulpit rings with it, the press proclaims
it, the judges declare it in all their charges, and a special class of
lecturers have converted it into a profession. None denied the existence
of the disease; what we craved was the cure. Some discrepancy of opinion
prevailed as to whether the vice was on the increase or the decrease.
Statistics were given, and, of course, statistics supported each
assertion. This, however, was a mere skirmish--the grand battle was, How
was drunkenness to be put down?

Mr Lawson’s plan was: If four-fifths of the ratepayers of any district
were agreed that no spirituous liquors should be sold there, that such
should become a law, and no licence for their sale should be issued. The
mover of this proposal, curiously enough, called this “bringing public
opinion to bear on the question.” What muddle of intelligence could
imagine this to be an exercise of public opinion I cannot imagine.
Such, however, is the plan. Drunkenness is to be repressed by making
it impossible. Did it never occur to the honourable gentleman, that all
legislative enactments whatever work not by enforcing what is good, but
by punishing what is evil? No law that ever was made would render people
honest and true to their engagements; but we arrive at a result not very
dissimilar by making dishonesty penal.

The Decalogue declares: “Thou shalt not commit a murder.” Human law
pronounces what will come of it if you do. It is, doubtless, very
imperfect legislation, but there is no help for it. We accept such
cases, however, as the best defences we can find for our social
condition, never for a moment presuming to think that we are rendering a
vice impossible by attaching to it a penalty.

Mr Lawson, however, says, There shall be no drunkenness, because there
shall be no liquor. Why not extend the principle--for it is a great
discovery--and declare that, wherever four-fifths of the ratepayers of
a town or borough are of opinion that ingratitude is a great offence to
morals and a stain to human nature, in that district where they reside
there shall be no benefits conferred, nor any act of kindly aid or
assistance rendered by one man to his neighbour? I have no doubt that,
by such legislation, you would put down ingratitude. We use acts in the
moral world pretty much as in the physical; and it is entirely by the
impossibility of committing the offence that this gentleman proposes
to prevent its occurrence. But, in the name of common sense, why do we
inveigh against monasteries and nunneries?--why are we so severe on a
system that substitutes restraint for reason, and instead of correction
supplies coercion? Surely this plan is based on exactly the same
principle. Would it, I ask, cure a man of lying--I mean the vice, not
the practice--to place him in a community where no party was permitted
to talk?

The example of the higher classes was somewhat ostentatiously paraded in
the debate, and members vied with each other in declaring how often
they dined out without meeting a drunkard in the company. This is very
gratifying and reassurring; but I am not aware that anybody ascribed
the happy change to the paucity of the decanters, and the difficulty of
getting the bottle; or whether it was that four-fifths of the party
had declared an embargo on the sherry, and realised the old proverb by
elevating necessity to the rank of virtue.

Let me ask, who ever imagined that the best way to render a soldier
brave in battle was to take care that he never saw an enemy, and only
frequented the society of Quakers? And yet this is precisely what
Mr Lawson suggests. If his system be true, what becomes of all moral
discipline and all self-restraint? It is not through my own convictions
that I am sober; it is through no sense of the degradation that pertains
to drunkenness, and the loss of social estimation that follows it, that
I am temperate. It is because four-fifths of the ratepayers declare that
I shall have no drink nearer than the next parish; and this reminds of
another weak point in the plan.

The Americans, who understand something of the evils of drink, on the
principle that made Doctor Panloss a good man, because he knew what
wickedness was, lately passed a law in Congress forbidding the use of
fermented liquors on board all the ships of war. It was one of those
sweeping pieces of legislation that men enact when driven to do
something, they know not exactly what, by the enormity of some great
abuse. Now, I have taken considerable pains to inquire how the plan
operates, and what success has waited on it. From every officer that I
have questioned I have received the same exact testimony: so long as the
ships are at sea the men only grumble at the privation; but once they
touch port, and boats’ crews are permitted to go ashore, drunkenness
breaks out with tenfold violence. For a while all real discipline is at
an end; parties are despatched to bring back defaulters, who themselves
get reeling drunk; petty officers are insulted, and scenes of violence
enacted that give the unhappy locality where they have landed the
aspect of a town taken by assault and given up to pillage. I am not now
describing altogether from hearsay; I have witnessed something of what I
speak.

As drunkenness, when the ship was at sea, was the rarest of all events,
and the good conduct of the men when on shore was the great object to
be obtained, this system may be, so far as the navy is concerned,
pronounced a decided failure. Whatever may be said about the policy of
sowing a man’s wild oats, nobody, so far as I know, ever hinted that the
crop should be perennial.

Legislation can no more make men temperate than it can make them cleanly
or courteous. If Parliament could work miracles of this sort, it would
make one really in love with constitutional government. But what a
crotchety thing all this amateur lawmaking is! Why did it not occur to
this well-intentioned gentleman to inquire how it is that drunkenness is
unknown, or nearly unknown, in what are called the better classes? How
is it that the orgies our grandfathers liked so well, and deemed the
great essence of hospitality, are no longer heard of? The three-bottle
man now could no more be found than the Plesiosaurus. He belongs to a
past totally and essentially irrevocable.

And by what has this happy change been effected? Surely not by
withdrawing temptation. Not only have we an infinitely wider choice in
fluids than our forefathers, but they are served and ministered with
appliances far more tasteful and seductive. It is, however, to the
higher tone of society the revolution is owing. Men saw that drunkenness
was disgraceful: it rendered society disorderly and riotous; it
interfered with all real conversational pleasure; it led to unmannerly
excesses, and to quarrels. A higher cultivation repudiated all these
things; and even they who, so to say, “liked their wine” too well, were
slow to disparage themselves by an indulgence which good taste declared
to be ungentlemanlike.

Is it completely impossible to introduce some such sentiment as this
into other orders of society? We see it certainly in some foreign
countries--why not in our own? Radical orators are incessantly telling
us of the mental powers and the intellectual cultivation of the
working-classes, and I am well-disposed to believe there is much truth
in what they say. Why not then adapt, to men so highly civilised, some
of those sentiments that sway the classes more favoured of fortune? The
French artisan would deem it a disgrace to be drunk--so the Italian;
even the German would only go as far as a sort of beery bemuddlement
that made him a more ideal representative of the Vaterland: why must the
Englishman, of necessity, be the inferior in civilisation to these? I am
not willing to believe the task of such a reformation hopeless, though I
am perfectly convinced that no greater folly could be committed than to
attempt it by an Act of Parliament.

When legislation has led men to be agreeable in society, unassuming in
manners, and gentle in deportment, it may make them temperate in their
liquor, but not before. The thing cannot be done in committee, nor by
a vote of the House. It is only to be accomplished by the filtering
process, by which the good habits of a nation drop down and permeate the
strata beneath; so that, in course of time, the whole mass, leavened
by the same ingredients, becomes one as completely in sentiment as in
interest. “Four-fifths of the ratepayers” will not effect this. After
all, Mr Lawson is only a second-hand discoverer. His bill was a mere
plagiarism from beginning to end. The whole text of his argument was
said and sung by poor Curran, full fifty odd years ago:--

     “My children, be chaste till you’re tempted;
        While sober, be wise and discreet;
     And humble your bodies with fasting
        Whenever you’ve nothing to eat.”


THE END.





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We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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