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Title: The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon
Author: Irving, Washington
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT.


By Washington Irving



CONTENTS:

  Preface
  The Author’s Account of Himself
  The Voyage
  Roscoe
  The Wife
  Rip Van Winkle
  English Writers on America
  Rural Life in England
  The Broken Heart
  The Art of Book-making
  A Royal Poet
  The Country Church
  The Widow and her Son
  A Sunday in London
  The Boar’s Head Tavern
  The Mutability of Literature
  Rural Funerals
  The Inn Kitchen
  The Spectre Bridegroom
  Westminster Abbey
  Christmas
  The Stage-Coach
  Christmas Eve
  Christmas Day
  The Christmas Dinner
  London Antiques
  Little Britain
  Statford-on-Avon
  Traits of Indian Character
  Philip of Pokanoket
  John Bull
  The Pride of the Village
  The Angler
  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  L’Envoy



THE SKETCH-BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT.


“I have no wife nor children, good or bad, to provide for. A mere
spectator of other men’s fortunes and adventures, and how they play
their parts; which, methinks, are diversely presented unto me, as from a
common theatre or scene.”--BURTON.



PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION.


THE following papers, with two exceptions, were written in England, and
formed but part of an intended series for which I had made notes and
memorandums. Before I could mature a plan, however, circumstances
compelled me to send them piecemeal to the United States, where they
were published from time to time in portions or numbers. It was not my
intention to publish them in England, being conscious that much of their
contents could be interesting only to American readers, and, in truth,
being deterred by the severity with which American productions had been
treated by the British press.

By the time the contents of the first volume had appeared in this
occasional manner, they began to find their way across the Atlantic,
and to be inserted, with many kind encomiums, in the London Literary
Gazette. It was said, also, that a London bookseller intended to publish
them in a collective form. I determined, therefore, to bring them
forward myself, that they might at least have the benefit of my
superintendence and revision. I accordingly took the printed numbers
which I had received from the United States, to Mr. John Murray, the
eminent publisher, from whom I had already received friendly attentions,
and left them with him for examination, informing him that should he be
inclined to bring them before the public, I had materials enough on
hand for a second volume. Several days having elapsed without any
communication from Mr. Murray, I addressed a note to him, in which I
construed his silence into a tacit rejection of my work, and begged that
the numbers I had left with him might be returned to me. The following
was his reply:

MY DEAR SIR: I entreat you to believe that I feel truly obliged by your
kind intentions towards me, and that I entertain the most unfeigned
respect for your most tasteful talents. My house is completely filled
with workpeople at this time, and I have only an office to transact
business in; and yesterday I was wholly occupied, or I should have done
myself the pleasure of seeing you.

If it would not suit me to engage in the publication of your present
work, it is only because I do not see that scope in the nature of it
which would enable me to make those satisfactory accounts between us,
without which I really feel no satisfaction in engaging--but I will
do all I can to promote their circulation, and shall be most ready to
attend to any future plan of yours.

    With much regard, I remain, dear sir,
                     Your faithful servant,
                                 JOHN MURRAY.

This was disheartening, and might have deterred me from any further
prosecution of the matter, had the question of republication in Great
Britain rested entirely with me; but I apprehended the appearance of a
spurious edition. I now thought of Mr. Archibald Constable as publisher,
having been treated by him with much hospitality during a visit to
Edinburgh; but first I determined to submit my work to Sir-Walter (then
Mr.) Scott, being encouraged to do so by the cordial reception I had
experienced from him at Abbotsford a few years previously, and by the
favorable opinion he had expressed to others of my earlier writings. I
accordingly sent him the printed numbers of the Sketch-Book in a parcel
by coach, and at the same time wrote to him, hinting that since I had
had the pleasure of partaking of his hospitality, a reverse had taken
place in my affairs which made the successful exercise of my pen
all-important to me; I begged him, therefore, to look over the literary
articles I had forwarded to him, and, if he thought they would bear
European republication, to ascertain whether Mr. Constable would be
inclined to be the publisher.

The parcel containing my work went by coach to Scott’s address in
Edinburgh; the letter went by mail to his residence in the country. By
the very first post I received a reply, before he had seen my work.

“I was down at Kelso,” said he, “when your letter reached Abbotsford. I
am now on my way to town, and will converse with Constable, and do all
in my power to forward your views--I assure you nothing will give me
more pleasure.”

The hint, however, about a reverse of fortune had struck the quick
apprehension of Scott, and, with that practical and efficient good-will
which belonged to his nature, he had already devised a way of aiding me.
A weekly periodical, he went on to inform me, was about to be set up
in Edinburgh, supported by the most respectable talents, and amply
furnished with all the necessary information. The appointment of the
editor, for which ample funds were provided, would be five hundred
pounds sterling a year, with the reasonable prospect of further
advantages. This situation, being apparently at his disposal, he frankly
offered to me. The work, however, he intimated, was to have somewhat of
a political bearing, and he expressed an apprehension that the tone it
was desired to adopt might not suit me. “Yet I risk the question,” added
he, “because I know no man so well qualified for this important task,
and perhaps because it will necessarily bring you to Edinburgh. If my
proposal does not suit, you need only keep the matter secret and there
is no harm done. ‘And for my love I pray you wrong me not.’ If on the
contrary you think it could be made to suit you, let me know as soon as
possible, addressing Castle Street, Edinburgh.”

In a postscript, written from Edinburgh, he adds, “I am just come here,
and have glanced over the Sketch-Book. It is positively beautiful, and
increases my desire to crimp you, if it be possible. Some difficulties
there always are in managing such a matter, especially at the outset;
but we will obviate them as much as we possibly can.”

The following is from an imperfect draught of my reply, which underwent
some modifications in the copy sent:

“I cannot express how much I am gratified by your letter. I had begun to
feel as if I had taken an unwarrantable liberty; but, somehow or other,
there is a genial sunshine about you that warms every creeping thing
into heart and confidence. Your literary proposal both surprises and
flatters me, as it evinces a much higher opinion of my talents than I
have myself.”

I then went on to explain that I found myself peculiarly unfitted for
the situation offered to me, not merely by my political opinions, but by
the very constitution and habits of my mind. “My whole course of life,”
 I observed, “has been desultory, and I am unfitted for any periodically
recurring task, or any stipulated labor of body or mind. I have no
command of my talents, such as they are, and have to watch the varyings
of my mind as I would those of a weathercock. Practice and training
may bring me more into rule; but at present I am as useless for regular
service as one of my own country Indians or a Don Cossack.

“I must, therefore, keep on pretty much as I have begun; writing when I
can, not when I would. I shall occasionally shift my residence and write
whatever is suggested by objects before me, or whatever rises in my
imagination; and hope to write better and more copiously by and by.

“I am playing the egotist, but I know no better way of answering your
proposal than by showing what a very good-for-nothing kind of being I
am. Should Mr. Constable feel inclined to make a bargain for the wares I
have on hand, he will encourage me to further enterprise; and it will be
something like trading with a gypsy for the fruits of his prowlings, who
may at one time have nothing but a wooden bowl to offer, and at another
time a silver tankard.”

In reply, Scott expressed regret, but not surprise, at my declining what
might have proved a troublesome duty. He then recurred to the original
subject of our correspondence; entered into a detail of the various
terms upon which arrangements were made between authors and booksellers,
that I might take my choice; expressing the most encouraging confidence
of the success of my work, and of previous works which I had produced
in America. “I did no more,” added he, “than open the trenches with
Constable; but I am sure if you will take the trouble to write to him,
you will find him disposed to treat your overtures with every degree of
attention. Or, if you think it of consequence in the first place to
see me, I shall be in London in the course of a month, and whatever my
experience can command is most heartily at your command. But I can add
little to what I have said above, except my earnest recommendation to
Constable to enter into the negotiation.” *


     * I cannot avoid subjoining in a note a succeeding paragraph
     of Scott’s letter, which, though it does not relate to the
     main subject of our correspondence, was too characteristic
     to be omitted. Some time previously I had sent Miss Sophia
     Scott small duodecimo American editions of her father’s
     poems published in Edinburgh in quarto volumes; showing the
     “nigromancy” of the American press, by which a quart of wine
     is conjured into a pint bottle. Scott observes: “In my
     hurry, I have not thanked you in Sophia’s name for the kind
     attention which furnished her with the American volumes. I
     am not quite sure I can add my own, since you have made her
     acquainted with much more of papa’s folly than she would
     ever otherwise have learned; for I had taken special care
     they should never see any of those things during their
     earlier years. I think I have told you that Walter is
     sweeping the firmament with a feather like a maypole and
     indenting the pavement with a sword like a scythe--in other
     words, he has become a whiskered hussar in the 18th
     Dragoons.”


Before the receipt of this most obliging letter, however, I had
determined to look to no leading bookseller for a launch, but to throw
my work before the public at my own risk, and let it sink or swim
according to its merits. I wrote to that effect to Scott, and soon
received a reply:

“I observe with pleasure that you are going to come forth in Britain. It
is certainly not the very best way to publish on one’s own accompt; for
the booksellers set their face against the circulation of such works as
do not pay an amazing toll to themselves. But they have lost the art of
altogether damming up the road in such cases between the author and the
public, which they were once able to do as effectually as Diabolus in
John Bunyan’s Holy War closed up the windows of my Lord Understanding’s
mansion. I am sure of one thing, that you have only to be known to the
British public to be admired by them, and I would not say so unless I
really was of that opinion.

“If you ever see a witty but rather local publication called Blackwood’s
Edinburgh Magazine, you will find some notice of your works in the last
number: the author is a friend of mine, to whom I have introduced you
in your literary capacity. His name is Lockhart, a young man of very
considerable talent, and who will soon be intimately connected with
my family. My faithful friend Knickerbocker is to be next examined and
illustrated. Constable was extremely willing to enter into consideration
of a treaty for your works, but I foresee will be still more so when

    Your name is up, and may go
    From Toledo to Madrid.

“----And that will soon be the case. I trust to be in London about the
middle of the month, and promise myself great pleasure in once again
shaking you by the hand.”

The first volume of the Sketch-Book was put to press in London, as I had
resolved, at my own risk, by a bookseller unknown to fame, and without
any of the usual arts by which a work is trumpeted into notice.
Still some attention had been called to it by the extracts which had
previously appeared in the Literary Gazette, and by the kind word
spoken by the editor of that periodical, and it was getting into fair
circulation, when my worthy bookseller failed before the first month was
over, and the sale was interrupted.

At this juncture Scott arrived in London. I called to him for help, as I
was sticking in the mire, and, more propitious than Hercules, he put his
own shoulder to the wheel. Through his favorable representations, Murray
was quickly induced to undertake the future publication of the work
which he had previously declined. A further edition of the first volume
was struck off and the second volume was put to press, and from that
time Murray became my publisher, conducting himself in all his dealings
with that fair, open, and liberal spirit which had obtained for him the
well-merited appellation of the Prince of Booksellers.

Thus, under the kind and cordial auspices of Sir Walter Scott, I began
my literary career in Europe; and I feel that I am but discharging, in
a trifling degree, my debt of gratitude to the memory of that
golden-hearted man in acknowledging my obligations to him. But who of
his literary contemporaries ever applied to him for aid or counsel that
did not experience the most prompt, generous, and effectual assistance?

W. I.

SUNNYSIDE, 1848.



THE SKETCH BOOK.



THE AUTHOR’S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF

I am of this mind with Homer, that as the snaile that crept out of her
shel was turned eftsoones into a toad I and thereby was forced to make a
stoole to sit on; so the traveller that stragleth from his owne country
is in a short time transformed into so monstrous a shape, that he is
faine to alter his mansion with his manners, and to live where he can,
not where he would.--LYLY’S EUPHUES.

I was always fond of visiting new scenes, and observing strange
characters and manners. Even when a mere child I began my travels, and
made many tours of discovery into foreign parts and unknown regions of
my native city, to the frequent alarm of my parents, and the emolument
of the town crier. As I grew into boyhood, I extended the range of my
observations. My holiday afternoons were spent in rambles about the
surrounding country. I made myself familiar with all its places famous
in history or fable. I knew every spot where a murder or robbery had
been committed, or a ghost seen. I visited the neighboring villages,
and added greatly to my stock of knowledge, by noting their habits and
customs, and conversing with their sages and great men. I even journeyed
one long summer’s day to the summit of the most distant hill, whence I
stretched my eye over many a mile of terra incognita, and was astonished
to find how vast a globe I inhabited.

This rambling propensity strengthened with my years. Books of voyages
and travels became my passion, and in devouring their contents, I
neglected the regular exercises of the school. How wistfully would
I wander about the pier-heads in fine weather, and watch the parting
ships, bound to distant climes; with what longing eyes would I gaze
after their lessening sails, and waft myself in imagination to the ends
of the earth!

Further reading and thinking, though they brought this vague inclination
into more reasonable bounds, only served to make it more decided. I
visited various parts of my own country; and had I been merely a lover
of fine scenery, I should have felt little desire to seek elsewhere
its gratification, for on no country had the charms of nature been more
prodigally lavished. Her mighty lakes, her oceans of liquid silver; her
mountains, with their bright aerial tints; her valleys, teeming with
wild fertility; her tremendous cataracts, thundering in their solitudes;
her boundless plains, waving with spontaneous verdure; her broad, deep
rivers, rolling in solemn silence to the ocean; her trackless forests,
where vegetation puts forth all its magnificence; her skies, kindling
with the magic of summer clouds and glorious sunshine;--no, never need
an American look beyond his own country for the sublime and beautiful of
natural scenery.

But Europe held forth all the charms of storied and poetical
association. There were to be seen the masterpieces of art, the
refinements of highly cultivated society, the quaint peculiarities
of ancient and local custom. My native country was full of youthful
promise; Europe was rich in the accumulated treasures of age. Her very
ruins told the history of the times gone by, and every mouldering
stone was a chronicle. I longed to wander over the scenes of renowned
achievement--to tread, as it were, in the footsteps of antiquity--to
loiter about the ruined castle--to meditate on the falling tower--to
escape, in short, from the commonplace realities of the present, and
lose myself among the shadowy grandeurs of the past.

I had, besides all this, an earnest desire to see the great men of the
earth. We have, it is true, our great men in America: not a city but has
an ample share of them. I have mingled among them in my time, and been
almost withered by the shade into which they cast me; for there
is nothing so baleful to a small man as the shade of a great one,
particularly the great man of a city. But I was anxious to see the great
men of Europe; for I had read in the works of various philosophers, that
all animals degenerated in America, and man among the number. A great
man of Europe, thought I, must therefore be as superior to a great man
of America, as a peak of the Alps to a highland of the Hudson; and in
this idea I was confirmed by observing the comparative importance and
swelling magnitude of many English travellers among us, who, I was
assured, were very little people in their own country. I will visit this
land of wonders, thought I, and see the gigantic race from which I am
degenerated.

It has been either my good or evil lot to have my roving passion
gratified. I have wandered through different countries and witnessed
many of the shifting scenes of life. I cannot say that I have studied
them with the eye of a philosopher, but rather with the sauntering gaze
with which humble lovers of the picturesque stroll from the window
of one print-shop to another; caught sometimes by the delineations of
beauty, sometimes by the distortions of caricature, and sometimes by
the loveliness of landscape. As it is the fashion for modern tourists
to travel pencil in hand, and bring home their portfolios filled with
sketches, I am disposed to get up a few for the entertainment of my
friends. When, however, I look over the hints and memorandums I have
taken down for the purpose, my heart almost fails me, at finding how
my idle humor has led me astray from the great object studied by every
regular traveller who would make a book. I fear I shall give equal
disappointment with an unlucky landscape-painter, who had travelled on
the Continent, but following the bent of his vagrant inclination, had
sketched in nooks, and corners, and by-places. His sketch-book was
accordingly crowded with cottages, and landscapes, and obscure ruins;
but he had neglected to paint St. Peter’s, or the Coliseum, the cascade
of Terni, or the bay of Naples, and had not a single glacier or volcano
in his whole collection.



THE VOYAGE.

        Ships, ships, I will descrie you
          Amidst the main,
        I will come and try you,
        What you are protecting,
        And projecting,
          What’s your end and aim.
    One goes abroad for merchandise and trading,
    Another stays to keep his country from invading,
    A third is coming home with rich and wealthy lading.
    Hallo! my fancie, whither wilt thou go?
                                           OLD POEM.

To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an
excellent preparative. The temporary absence of worldly scenes and
employments produces a state of mind peculiarly fitted to receive
new and vivid impressions. The vast space of waters that separate the
hemispheres is like a blank page in existence. There is no gradual
transition by which, as in Europe, the features and population of one
country blend almost imperceptibly with those of another. From the
moment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy, until
you step on the opposite shore, and are launched at once into the bustle
and novelties of another world.

In travelling by land there is a continuity of scene, and a connected
succession of persons and incidents, that carry on the story of life,
and lessen the effect of absence and separation. We drag, it is true,
“a lengthening chain” at each remove of our pilgrimage; but the chain is
unbroken; we can trace it back link by link; and we feel that the last
still grapples us to home. But a wide sea voyage severs us at once.
It makes us conscious of being cast loose from the secure anchorage of
settled life, and sent adrift upon a doubtful world. It interposes a
gulf, not merely imaginary, but real, between us and our homes--a
gulf, subject to tempest, and fear, and uncertainty, rendering distance
palpable, and return precarious.

Such, at least, was the case with myself. As I saw the last blue lines
of my native land fade away like a cloud in the horizon, it seemed as if
I had closed one volume of the world and its concerns, and had time for
meditation, before I opened another. That land, too, now vanishing from
my view, which contained all most dear to me in life; what vicissitudes
might occur in it--what changes might take place in me, before I should
visit it again! Who can tell, when he sets forth to wander, whither he
may be driven by the uncertain currents of existence; or when he may
return; or whether it may be ever his lot to revisit the scenes of his
childhood?

I said, that at sea all is vacancy; I should correct the impression. To
one given to day-dreaming, and fond of losing himself in reveries, a sea
voyage is full of subjects for meditation; but then they are the wonders
of the deep and of the air, and rather tend to abstract the mind from
worldly themes. I delighted to loll over the quarter-railing or climb to
the main-top, of a calm day, and muse for hours together on the tranquil
bosom of a summer’s sea; to gaze upon the piles of golden clouds just
peering above the horizon, fancy them some fairy realms, and people
them with a creation of my own;--to watch the gently undulating billows
rolling their silver volumes, as if to die away on those happy shores.

There was a delicious sensation of mingled security and awe with which I
looked down, from my giddy height, on the monsters of the deep at their
uncouth gambols: shoals of porpoises tumbling about the bow of the ship;
the grampus, slowly heaving his huge form above the surface; or the
ravenous shark, darting, like a spectre, through the blue waters. My
imagination would conjure up all that I had heard or read of the watery
world beneath me; of the finny herds that roam its fathomless valleys;
of the shapeless monsters that lurk among the very foundations of the
earth; and of those wild phantasms that swell the tales of fishermen and
sailors.

Sometimes a distant sail, gliding along the edge of the ocean, would be
another theme of idle speculation. How interesting this fragment of a
world, hastening to rejoin the great mass of existence! What a glorious
monument of human invention; which has in a manner triumphed over
wind and wave; has brought the ends of the world into communion; has
established an interchange of blessings, pouring into the sterile
regions of the north all the luxuries of the south; has diffused the
light of knowledge, and the charities of cultivated life; and has thus
bound together those scattered portions of the human race, between which
nature seemed to have thrown an insurmountable barrier.

We one day descried some shapeless object drifting at a distance. At
sea, every thing that breaks the monotony of the surrounding expanse
attracts attention. It proved to be the mast of a ship that must have
been completely wrecked; for there were the remains of handkerchiefs, by
which some of the crew had fastened themselves to this spar, to prevent
their being washed off by the waves. There was no trace by which the
name of the ship could be ascertained. The wreck had evidently drifted
about for many months; clusters of shell-fish had fastened about it, and
long sea-weeds flaunted at its sides. But where, thought I, is the crew?
Their struggle has long been over--they have gone down amidst the roar
of the tempest--their bones lie whitening among the caverns of the deep.
Silence, oblivion, like the waves, have closed over them, and no one
can tell the story of their end. What sighs have been wafted after that
ship! what prayers offered up at the deserted fireside of home! How
often has the mistress, the wife, the mother, pored over the daily news,
to catch some casual intelligence of this rover of the deep! How has
expectation darkened into anxiety--anxiety into dread--and dread into
despair! Alas! not one memento may ever return for love to cherish. All
that may ever be known, is that she sailed from her port, “and was never
heard of more!”

The sight of this wreck, as usual, gave rise to many dismal anecdotes.
This was particularly the case in the evening, when the weather, which
had hitherto been fair, began to look wild and threatening, and gave
indications of one of those sudden storms that will sometimes break in
upon the serenity of a summer voyage. As we sat round the dull light of
a lamp, in the cabin, that made the gloom more ghastly, everyone had his
tale of shipwreck and disaster. I was particularly struck with a short
one related by the captain:

“As I was once sailing,” said he, “in a fine, stout ship, across the
banks of Newfoundland, one of those heavy fogs that prevail in those
parts rendered it impossible for us to see far ahead, even in the
daytime; but at night the weather was so thick that we could not
distinguish any object at twice the length of the ship. I kept lights
at the mast-head, and a constant watch forward to look out for fishing
smacks, which are accustomed to anchor of the banks. The wind was
blowing a smacking breeze, and we were going at a great rate through
the water. Suddenly the watch gave the alarm of ‘a sail ahead!’--it was
scarcely uttered before we were upon her. She was a small schooner, at
anchor, with her broadside toward us. The crew were all asleep, and had
neglected to hoist a light. We struck her just amidships. The force, the
size, and weight of our vessel, bore her down below the waves; we passed
over her and were hurried on our course. As the crashing wreck was
sinking beneath us, I had a glimpse of two or three half-naked wretches,
rushing from her cabin; they just started from their beds to be
swallowed shrieking by the waves. I heard their drowning cry mingling
with the wind. The blast that bore it to our ears, swept us out of all
further hearing. I shall never forget that cry! It was some time before
we could put the ship about, she was under such headway. We returned, as
nearly as we could guess, to the place where the smack had anchored. We
cruised about for several hours in the dense fog. We fired signal-guns,
and listened if we might hear the halloo of any survivors: but all was
silent--we never saw or heard any thing of them more.”

I confess these stories, for a time, put an end to all my fine fancies.
The storm increased with the night. The sea was lashed into tremendous
confusion. There was a fearful, sullen sound of rushing waves and broken
surges. Deep called unto deep. At times the black volume of clouds
overhead seemed rent asunder by flashes of lightning which quivered
along the foaming billows, and made the succeeding darkness doubly
terrible. The thunders bellowed over the wild waste of waters, and were
echoed and prolonged by the mountain waves. As I saw the ship staggering
and plunging among these roaring caverns, it seemed miraculous that she
regained her balance, or preserved her buoyancy. Her yards would dip
into the water; her bow was almost buried beneath the waves. Sometimes
an impending surge appeared ready to overwhelm her, and nothing but a
dexterous movement of the helm preserved her from the shock.

When I retired to my cabin, the awful scene still followed me. The
whistling of the wind through the rigging sounded like funereal
wailings. The creaking of the masts; the straining and groaning of
bulkheads, as the ship labored in the weltering sea, were frightful. As
I heard the waves rushing along the side of the ship, and roaring in my
very ear, it seemed as if Death were raging around this floating prison,
seeking for his prey: the mere starting of a nail, the yawning of a
seam, might give him entrance.

A fine day, however, with a tranquil sea and favoring breeze, soon put
all these dismal reflections to flight. It is impossible to resist the
gladdening influence of fine weather and fair wind at sea. When the ship
is decked out in all her canvas, every sail swelled, and careering gayly
over the curling waves, how lofty, how gallant, she appears--how she
seems to lord it over the deep!

I might fill a volume with the reveries of a sea voyage; for with me it
is almost a continual reverie--but it is time to get to shore.

It was a fine sunny morning when the thrilling cry of “land!” was given
from the mast-head. None but those who have experienced it can form an
idea of the delicious throng of sensations which rush into an American’s
bosom, when he first comes in sight of Europe. There is a volume of
associations with the very name. It is the land of promise, teeming with
everything of which his childhood has heard, or on which his studious
years have pondered.

From that time, until the moment of arrival, it was all feverish
excitement. The ships of war, that prowled like guardian giants along
the coast; the headlands of Ireland, stretching out into the channel;
the Welsh mountains towering into the clouds;--all were objects of
intense interest. As we sailed up the Mersey, I reconnoitred the shores
with a telescope. My eye dwelt with delight on neat cottages, with their
trim shrubberies and green grass-plots. I saw the mouldering ruin of an
abbey overrun with ivy, and the taper spire of a village church rising
from the brow of a neighboring hill;--all were characteristic of
England.

The tide and wind were so favorable, that the ship was enabled to come
at once to her pier. It was thronged with people; some idle lookers-on;
others, eager expectants of friends or relations. I could distinguish
the merchant to whom the ship was consigned. I knew him by his
calculating brow and restless air. His hands were thrust into his
pockets; he was whistling thoughtfully, and walking to and fro, a
small space having been accorded him by the crowd, in deference to his
temporary importance. There were repeated cheerings and salutations
interchanged between the shore and the ship, as friends happened to
recognize each other. I particularly noticed one young woman of humble
dress, but interesting demeanor. She was leaning forward from among the
crowd; her eye hurried over the ship as it neared the shore, to catch
some wished-for countenance. She seemed disappointed and sad; when I
heard a faint voice call her name.--It was from a poor sailor who had
been ill all the voyage, and had excited the sympathy of every one on
board. When the weather was fine, his messmates had spread a mattress
for him on deck in the shade, but of late his illness had so increased
that he had taken to his hammock, and only breathed a wish that he might
see his wife before he died. He had been helped on deck as we came up
the river, and was now leaning against the shrouds, with a countenance
so wasted, so pale, so ghastly, that it was no wonder even the eye of
affection did not recognize him. But at the sound of his voice, her eye
darted on his features: it read, at once, a whole volume of sorrow; she
clasped her hands, uttered a faint shriek, and stood wringing them in
silent agony.

All now was hurry and bustle. The meetings of acquaintances--the
greetings of friends--the consultations of men of business. I alone was
solitary and idle. I had no friend to meet, no cheering to receive. I
stepped upon the land of my forefathers--but felt that I was a stranger
in the land.



ROSCOE.

    ----In the service of mankind to be
    A guardian god below; still to employ
    The mind’s brave ardor in heroic aims,
    Such as may raise us o’er the grovelling herd,
    And make us shine for ever--that is life.
                                            THOMSON.

ONE of the first places to which a stranger is taken in Liverpool is
the Athenaeum. It is established on a liberal and judicious plan; it
contains a good library, and spacious reading-room, and is the great
literary resort of the place. Go there at what hour you may, you are
sure to find it filled with grave-looking personages, deeply absorbed in
the study of newspapers.

As I was once visiting this haunt of the learned, my attention was
attracted to a person just entering the room. He was advanced in life,
tall, and of a form that might once have been commanding, but it was
a little bowed by time--perhaps by care. He had a noble Roman style of
countenance; a a head that would have pleased a painter; and though some
slight furrows on his brow showed that wasting thought had been busy
there, yet his eye beamed with the fire of a poetic soul. There was
something in his whole appearance that indicated a being of a different
order from the bustling race round him.

I inquired his name, and was informed that it was ROSCOE. I drew back
with an involuntary feeling of veneration. This, then, was an author of
celebrity; this was one of those men whose voices have gone forth to
the ends of the earth; with whose minds I have communed even in the
solitudes of America. Accustomed, as we are in our country, to know
European writers only by their works, we cannot conceive of them, as of
other men, engrossed by trivial or sordid pursuits, and jostling with
the crowd of common minds in the dusty paths of life. They pass before
our imaginations like superior beings, radiant with the emanations of
their genius, and surrounded by a halo of literary glory.

To find, therefore, the elegant historian of the Medici mingling among
the busy sons of traffic, at first shocked my poetical ideas; but it is
from the very circumstances and situation in which he has been placed,
that Mr. Roscoe derives his highest claims to admiration. It is
interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create themselves,
springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but
irresistible way through a thousand obstacles. Nature seems to delight
in disappointing the assiduities of art, with which it would rear
legitimate dulness to maturity; and to glory in the vigor and luxuriance
of her chance productions. She scatters the seeds of genius to the
winds, and though some may perish among the stony places of the world,
and some be choked, by the thorns and brambles of early adversity, yet
others will now and then strike root even in the clefts of the rock,
struggle bravely up into sunshine, and spread over their sterile
birthplace all the beauties of vegetation.

Such has been the case with Mr. Roscoe. Born in a place apparently
ungenial to the growth of literary talent--in the very market-place of
trade; without fortune, family connections, or patronage; self-prompted,
self-sustained, and almost self-taught, he has conquered every obstacle,
achieved his way to eminence, and, having become one of the ornaments of
the nation, has turned the whole force of his talents and influence to
advance and embellish his native town.

Indeed, it is this last trait in his character which has given him the
greatest interest in my eyes, and induced me particularly to point him
out to my countrymen. Eminent as are his literary merits, he is but one
among the many distinguished authors of this intellectual nation.
They, however, in general, live but for their own fame, or their own
pleasures. Their private history presents no lesson to the world, or,
perhaps, a humiliating one of human frailty or inconsistency. At best,
they are prone to steal away from the bustle and commonplace of busy
existence; to indulge in the selfishness of lettered eas; and to revel
in scenes of mental, but exclusive enjoyment.

Mr. Roscoe, on the contrary, has claimed none of the accorded privileges
of talent. He has shut himself up in no garden of thought, nor elysium
of fancy; but has gone forth into the highways and thoroughfares of
life, he has planted bowers by the wayside, for the refreshment of the
pilgrim and the sojourner, and has opened pure fountains, where the
laboring man may turn aside from the dust and heat of the day, and drink
of the living streams of knowledge. There is a “daily beauty in his
life,” on which mankind may meditate, and grow better. It exhibits no
lofty and almost useless, because inimitable, example of excellence; but
presents a picture of active, yet simple and imitable virtues, which are
within every man’s reach, but which, unfortunately, are not exercised by
many, or this world would be a paradise.

But his private life is peculiarly worthy the attention of the citizens
of our young and busy country, where literature and the elegant arts
must grow up side by side with the coarser plants of daily necessity;
and must depend for their culture, not on the exclusive devotion of time
and wealth; nor the quickening rays of titled patronage; but on
hours and seasons snatched from the purest of worldly interests, by
intelligent and public-spirited individuals.

He has shown how much may be done for a place in hours of leisure by
one master-spirit, and how completely it can give its own impress to
surrounding objects. Like his own Lorenzo de’ Medici, on whom he
seems to have fixed his eye, as on a pure model of antiquity, he has
interwoven the history of his life with the history of his native town,
and has made the foundations of his fame the monuments of his virtues.
Wherever you go, in Liverpool, you perceive traces of his footsteps in
all that is elegant and liberal. He found the tide of wealth flowing
merely in the channels of traffic; he has diverted from it invigorating
rills to refresh the garden of literature. By his own example and
constant exertions, he has effected that union of commerce and the
intellectual pursuits, so eloquently recommended in one of his latest
writings;* and has practically proved how beautifully they may be
brought to harmonize, and to benefit each other. The noble institutions
for literary and scientific purposes, which reflect such credit on
Liverpool, and are giving such an impulse to the public mind, have
mostly been originated, and have all been effectively promoted, by
Mr. Roscoe; and when we consider the rapidly increasing opulence and
magnitude of that town, which promises to vie in commercial importance
with the metropolis, it will be perceived that in awakening an ambition
of mental improvement among its inhabitants, he has effected a great
benefit to the cause of British literature.


     * Address on the opening of the Liverpool Institution.


In America, we know Mr. Roscoe only as the author; in Liverpool he is
spoken of as the banker; and I was told of his having been unfortunate
in business. I could not pity him, as I heard some rich men do. I
considered him far above the reach of pity. Those who live only for the
world, and in the world, may be cast down by the frowns of adversity;
but a man like Roscoe is not to be overcome by the reverses of fortune.
They do but drive him in upon the resources of his own mind, to the
superior society of his own thoughts; which the best of men are apt
sometimes to neglect, and to roam abroad in search of less worthy
associates. He is independent of the world around him. He lives with
antiquity, and with posterity: with antiquity, in the sweet communion of
studious retirement; and with posterity, in the generous aspirings
after future renown. The solitude of such a mind is its state of highest
enjoyment. It is then visited by those elevated meditations which
are the proper aliment of noble souls, and are, like manna, sent from
heaven, in the wilderness of this world.

While my feelings were yet alive on the subject, it was my fortune
to light on further traces of Mr. Roscoe. I was riding out with a
gentleman, to view the environs of Liverpool, when he turned off,
through a gate, into some ornamented grounds. After riding a short
distance, we came to a spacious mansion of freestone, built in the
Grecian style. It was not in the purest style, yet it had an air of
elegance, and the situation was delightful. A fine lawn sloped away from
it, studded with clumps of trees, so disposed as to break a soft fertile
country into a variety of landscapes. The Mersey was seen winding a
broad quiet sheet of water through an expanse of green meadow land,
while the Welsh mountains, blended with clouds, and melting into
distance, bordered the horizon.

This was Roscoe’s favorite residence during the days of his prosperity.
It had been the seat of elegant hospitality and literary retirement. The
house was now silent and deserted. I saw the windows of the study, which
looked out upon the soft scenery I have mentioned. The windows were
closed--the library was gone. Two or three ill-favored beings were
loitering about the place, whom my fancy pictured into retainers of the
law. It was like visiting some classic fountain, that had once welled
its pure waters in a sacred shade, but finding it dry and dusty, with
the lizard and the toad brooding over the shattered marbles.

I inquired after the fate of Mr. Roscoe’s library, which had consisted
of scarce and foreign books, from many of which he had drawn the
materials for his Italian histories. It had passed under the hammer of
the auctioneer, and was dispersed about the country. The good people
of the vicinity thronged liked wreckers to get some part of the
noble vessel that had been driven on shore. Did such a scene admit of
ludicrous associations, we might imagine something whimsical in this
strange irruption in the regions of learning. Pigmies rummaging the
armory of a giant, and contending for the possession of weapons which
they could not wield. We might picture to ourselves some knot of
speculators, debating with calculating brow over the quaint binding and
illuminated margin of an obsolete author; of the air of intense, but
baffled sagacity, with which some successful purchaser attempted to dive
into the black-letter bargain he had secured.

It is a beautiful incident in the story of Mr. Roscoe’s misfortunes, and
one which cannot fail to interest the studious mind, that the parting
with his books seems to have touched upon his tenderest feelings, and
to have been the only circumstance that could provoke the notice of
his muse. The scholar only knows how dear these silent, yet eloquent,
companions of pure thoughts and innocent hours become in the season of
adversity. When all that is worldly turns to dross around us, these only
retain their steady value. When friends grow cold, and the converse of
intimates languishes into vapid civility and commonplace, these only
continue the unaltered countenance of happier days, and cheer us with
that true friendship which never deceived hope, nor deserted sorrow.

I do not wish to censure; but, surely, if the people of Liverpool had
been properly sensible of what was due to Mr. Roscoe and themselves, his
library would never have been sold. Good worldly reasons may, doubtless,
be given for the circumstance, which it would be difficult to combat
with others that might seem merely fanciful; but it certainly appears
to me such an opportunity as seldom occurs, of cheering a noble mind
struggling under misfortunes by one of the most delicate, but most
expressive tokens of public sympathy. It is difficult, however, to
estimate a man of genius properly who is daily before our eyes. He
becomes mingled and confounded with other men. His great qualities lose
their novelty; we become too familiar with the common materials which
form the basis even of the loftiest character. Some of Mr. Roscoe’s
townsmen may regard him merely as a man of business; others, as
a politician; all find him engaged like themselves in ordinary
occupations, and surpassed, perhaps, by themselves on some points of
worldly wisdom. Even that amiable and unostentatious simplicity of
character, which gives the nameless grace to real excellence, may cause
him to be undervalued by some coarse minds, who do not know that true
worth is always void of glare and pretension. But the man of letters,
who speaks of Liverpool, speaks of it as the residence of Roscoe.--The
intelligent traveller who visits it inquires where Roscoe is to be seen.
He is the literary landmark of the place, indicating its existence to
the distant scholar.--He is like Pompey’s column at Alexandria, towering
alone in classic dignity.

The following sonnet, addressed by Mr. Roscoe to his books, on parting
with them, has already been alluded to. If anything can add effect
to the pure feeling and elevated thought here displayed, it is the
conviction, that the who leis no effusion of fancy, but a faithful
transcript from the writer’s heart.

                TO MY BOOKS.

  As one who, destined from his friends to part,
    Regrets his loss, but hopes again erewhile
    To share their converse and enjoy their smile,
  And tempers as he may affliction’s dart;

  Thus, loved associates, chiefs of elder art,
    Teachers of wisdom, who could once beguile
    My tedious hours, and lighten every toil,
  I now resign you; nor with fainting heart;

  For pass a few short years, or days, or hours,
    And happier seasons may their dawn unfold,
    And all your sacred fellowship restore:
  When, freed from earth, unlimited its powers.
  Mind shall with mind direct communion hold,
   And kindred spirits meet to part no more.



THE WIFE.

    The treasures of the deep are not so precious
    As are the concealed comforts of a man
    Lock’d up in woman’s love. I scent the air
    Of blessings, when I came but near the house,
    What a delicious breath marriage sends forth--
    The violet bed’s no sweeter!
                                         MIDDLETON.

I HAVE often had occasion to remark the fortitude with which women
sustain the most overwhelming reverses of fortune. Those disasters which
break down the spirit of a man, and prostrate him in the dust, seem to
call forth all the energies of the softer sex, and give such intrepidity
and elevation to their character, that at times it approaches to
sublimity. Nothing can be more touching, than to behold a soft and
tender female, who had been all weakness and dependence, and alive to
every trivial roughness, while threading the prosperous paths of life,
suddenly rising in mental force to be the comforter and support of her
husband under misfortune, and abiding with unshrinking firmness the
bitterest blasts of adversity.

As the vine, which has long twined its graceful foliage about the oak,
and been lifted by it into sunshine, will, when the hardy plant is
rifted by the thunderbolt, cling round it with its caressing tendrils,
and bind up its shattered boughs, so is it beautifully ordered by
Providence, that woman, who is the mere dependent and ornament of man
in his happier hours, should be his stay and solace when smitten with
sudden calamity; winding herself into the rugged recesses of his nature,
tenderly supporting the drooping head, and binding up the broken heart.

I was once congratulating a friend, who had around him a blooming
family, knit together in the strongest affection. “I can wish you
no better lot,” said he, with enthusiasm, “than to have a wife
and children. If you are prosperous, there they are to share your
prosperity; if otherwise, there they are to comfort you.” And, indeed, I
have observed that a married man falling into misfortune, is more apt to
retrieve his situation in the world than a single one; partly, because
he is more stimulated to exertion by the necessities of the helpless and
beloved beings who depend upon him for subsistence, but chiefly because
his spirits are soothed and relieved by domestic endearments, and his
self-respect kept alive by finding, that, though all abroad is darkness
and humiliation, yet there is still a little world of love at home, of
which he is the monarch. Whereas, a single man is apt to run to waste
and self-neglect; to fancy himself lonely and abandoned, and his heart
to fall to ruin, like some deserted mansion, for want of an inhabitant.

These observations call to mind a little domestic story, of which I was
once a witness. My intimate friend, Leslie, had married a beautiful and
accomplished girl, who had been brought up in the midst of fashionable
life. She had, it is true, no fortune, but that of my friend was ample;
and he delighted in the anticipation of indulging her in every elegant
pursuit, and administering to those delicate tastes and fancies that
spread a kind of witchery about the sex.--“Her life,” said he, “shall be
like a fairy tale.”

The very difference in their characters produced a harmonious
combination; he was of a romantic, and somewhat serious cast; she was
all life and gladness. I have often noticed the mute rapture with which
he would gaze upon her in company, of which her sprightly powers made
her the delight: and how, in the midst of applause, her eye would still
turn to him, as if there alone she sought favor and acceptance. When
leaning on his arm, her slender form contrasted finely with his tall,
manly person. The fond, confiding air with which she looked up to
him seemed to call forth a flush of triumphant pride and cherishing
tenderness, as if he doated on his lovely burden from its very
helplessness. Never did a couple set forward on the flowery path of
early and well-suited marriage with a fairer prospect of felicity.

It was the misfortune of my friend, however, to have embarked his
property in large speculations; and he had not been married many months,
when, by a succession of sudden disasters, it was swept from him, and he
found himself reduced to almost penury. For a time he kept his situation
to himself, and went about with a haggard countenance, and a breaking
heart. His life was but a protracted agony; and what rendered it more
insupportable was the necessity of keeping up a smile in the presence of
his wife; for he could not bring himself to overwhelm her with the news.
She saw, however, with the quick eyes of affection, that all was not
well with him. She marked his altered looks and stifled sighs, and was
not to be deceived by his sickly and vapid attempts at cheerfulness. She
tasked all her sprightly powers and tender blandishments to win him back
to happiness; but she only drove the arrow deeper into his soul. The
more he saw cause to love her, the more torturing was the thought that
he was soon to make her wretched. A little while, thought he, and the
smile will vanish from that cheek--the song will die away from those
lips--the lustre of those eyes will be quenched with sorrow and the
happy heart which now beats lightly in that bosom, will be weighed down,
like mine, by the cares and miseries of the world.

At length he came to me one day, and related his whole situation in a
tone of the deepest despair. When I had heard him through, I inquired:
“Does your wife know all this?”--At the question he burst into an agony
of tears. “For God’s sake!” cried he, “if you have any pity on me don’t
mention my wife; it is the thought of her that drives me almost to
madness!”

“And why not?” said I. “She must know it sooner or later: you cannot
keep it long from her, and the intelligence may break upon her in a more
startling manner than if imparted by yourself; for the accents of those
we love soften the harshest tidings. Besides, you are depriving
yourself of the comforts of her sympathy; and not merely that, but also
endangering the only bond that can keep hearts together--an unreserved
community of thought and feeling. She will soon perceive that something
is secretly preying upon your mind; and true love will not brook
reserve; it feels undervalued and outraged, when even the sorrows of
those it loves are concealed from it.”

“Oh, but my friend! to think what a blow I am to give to all her future
prospects,--how I am to strike her very soul to the earth, by telling
her that her husband is a beggar! that she is to forego all the
elegancies of life--all the pleasures of society--to shrink with me into
indigence and obscurity! To tell her that I have dragged her down
from the sphere in which she might have continued to move in constant
brightness--the light of every eye--the admiration of every heart!--How
can she bear poverty? She has been brought up in all the refinements of
opulence. How can she bear neglect? She has been the idol of society.
Oh, it will break her heart--it will break her heart!”

I saw his grief was eloquent, and I let it have its flow; for sorrow
relieves itself by words. When his paroxysm had subsided, and he had
relapsed into moody silence, I resumed the subject gently, and urged
him to break his situation at once to his wife. He shook his head
mournfully, but positively.

“But how are you to keep it from her? It is necessary she should
know it, that you may take the steps proper to the alteration of your
circumstances. You must change your style of living--nay,” observing a
pang to pass across his countenance, “don’t let that afflict you. I am
sure you have never placed your happiness in outward show--you have yet
friends, warm friends, who will not think the worse of you for being
less splendidly lodged: and surely it does not require a palace to be
happy with Mary--”

“I could be happy with her,” cried he, convulsively, “in a hovel!--I
could go down with her into poverty and the dust!--I could--I could--God
bless her!--God bless her!” cried he, bursting into a transport of grief
and tenderness.

“And believe me, my friend,” said I, stepping up, and grasping him
warmly by the hand, “believe me, she can be the same with you. Ay, more;
it will be a source of pride and triumph to her--it will call forth all
the latent energies and fervent sympathies of her nature; for she will
rejoice to prove that she loves you for yourself. There is in every true
woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad
daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams, and blazes
in the dark hour of adversity. No man knows what the wife of his bosom
is--no man knows what a ministering angel she is--until he has gone with
her through the fiery trials of this world.”

There was something in the earnestness of my manner, and the figurative
style of my language, that caught the excited imagination of Leslie. I
knew the auditor I had to deal with; and following up the impression I
had made, I finished by persuading him to go home and unburden his sad
heart to his wife.

I must confess, notwithstanding all I had said, I felt some little
solicitude for the result. Who can calculate on the fortitude of one
whose life has been a round of pleasures? Her gay spirits might revolt
at the dark, downward path of low humility suddenly pointed out before
her, and might cling to the sunny regions in which they had hitherto
revelled. Besides, ruin in fashionable life is accompanied by so many
galling mortifications, to which, in other ranks, it is a stranger. In
short, I could not meet Leslie, the next morning, without trepidation.
He had made the disclosure.

“And how did she bear it?”

“Like an angel! It seemed rather to be a relief to her mind, for she
threw her arms around my neck, and asked if this was all that had lately
made me unhappy.--But, poor girl,” added he, “she cannot realize the
change we must undergo. She has no idea of poverty but in the abstract;
she has only read of it in poetry, where it is allied to love. She feels
as yet no privation; she suffers no loss of accustomed conveniences nor
elegancies. When we come practically to experience its sordid cares, its
paltry wants, its petty humiliations--then will be the real trial.”

“But,” said I, “now that you have got over the severest task, that of
breaking it to her, the sooner you let the world into the secret the
better. The disclosure may be mortifying; but then it is a single
misery, and soon over: whereas you otherwise suffer it, in anticipation,
every hour in the day. It is not poverty, so much as pretence, that
harasses a ruined man--the struggle between a proud mind and an empty
purse-the keeping up a hollow show that must soon come to an end. Have
the courage to appear poor, and you disarm poverty of its sharpest
sting.” On this point I found Leslie perfectly prepared. He had no false
pride himself, and as to his wife, she was only anxious to conform to
their altered fortunes.

Some days afterwards, he called upon me in the evening. He had disposed
of his dwelling-house, and taken a small cottage in the country, a few
miles from town. He had been busied all day in sending out furniture.
The new establishment required few articles, and those of the simplest
kind. All the splendid furniture of his late residence had been sold,
excepting his wife’s harp. That, he said, was too closely associated
with the idea of herself it belonged to the little story of their loves;
for some of the sweetest moments of their courtship were those when he
had leaned over that instrument, and listened to the melting tones of
her voice.--I could not but smile at this instance of romantic gallantry
in a doating husband.

He was now going out to the cottage, where his wife had been all
day superintending its arrangement. My feelings had become strongly
interested in the progress of his family story, and, as it was a fine
evening, I offered to accompany him.

He was wearied with the fatigues of the day, and, as we walked out, fell
into a fit of gloomy musing.

“Poor Mary!” at length broke, with a heavy sigh, from his lips.

“And what of her,” asked I, “has anything happened to her?”

“What,” said he, darting an impatient glance, “is it nothing to be
reduced to this paltry situation--to be caged in a miserable cottage--to
be obliged to toil almost in the menial concerns of her wretched
habitation?”

Has she then repined at the change?

“Repined! she has been nothing but sweetness and good-humor. Indeed, she
seems in better spirits than I have ever known her; she has been to me
all love, and tenderness, and comfort!”

“Admirable girl!” exclaimed I. “You call yourself poor, my friend;
you never were so rich,--you never knew the boundless treasures of
excellence you possessed in that woman.”

“Oh! but, my friend, if this first meeting at the cottage were over,
I think I could then be comfortable. But this is her first day of real
experience; she has been introduced into a humble dwelling,--she has
been employed all day in arranging its miserable equipments,--she has,
for the first time, known the fatigues of domestic employment,--she has,
for the first time, looked around her on a home destitute of every thing
elegant--almost of every thing convenient; and may now be sitting down,
exhausted and spiritless, brooding over a prospect of future poverty.”

There was a degree of probability in this picture that I could not
gainsay, so we walked on in silence.

After turning from the main road up a narrow lane, so thickly shaded
with forest-trees as to give it a complete air of seclusion, we came
in sight of the cottage. It was humble enough in its appearance for the
most pastoral poet; and yet it had a pleasing rural look. A wild vine
had overrun one end with a profusion of foliage; a few trees threw their
branches gracefully over it; and I observed several pots of flowers
tastefully disposed about the door, and on the grass-plot in front.
A small wicket-gate opened upon a footpath that wound through some
shrubbery to the door. Just as we approached, we heard the sound of
music--Leslie grasped my arm; we paused and listened. It was Mary’s
voice singing, in a style of the most touching simplicity, a little air
of which her husband was peculiarly fond.

I felt Leslie’s hand tremble on my arm. He stepped forward, to hear more
distinctly. His step made a noise on the gravel-walk. A bright beautiful
face glanced out at the window, and vanished--a light footstep-was
heard--and Mary came tripping forth to meet us. She was in a pretty
rural dress of white; a few wild flowers were twisted in her fine
hair; a fresh bloom was on her cheek; her whole countenance beamed with
smiles--I had never seen her look so lovely.

“My dear George,” cried she, “I am so glad you are come; I have been
watching and watching for you; and running down the lane, and looking
out for you. I’ve set out a table under a beautiful tree behind
the cottage; and I’ve been gathering some of the most delicious
strawberries, for I know you are fond of them--and we have such
excellent cream--and everything is so sweet and still here-Oh!”--said
she, putting her arm within his, and looking up brightly in his face,
“Oh, we shall be so happy!”

Poor Leslie was overcome.--He caught her to his bosom--he folded his
arms round her--he kissed her again and again--he could not speak, but
the tears gushed into his eyes; and he has often assured me, that
though the world has since gone prosperously with him, and his life has,
indeed, been a happy one, yet never has he experienced a moment of more
exquisite felicity.



RIP VAN WINKLE.

A POSTHUMOUS WRITING OF DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.

    By Woden, God of Saxons,
    From whence comes Wensday, that is Wodensday,
    Truth is a thing that ever I will keep
    Unto thylke day in which I creep into
    My sepulchre--
                                        CARTWRIGHT.

[The following Tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich
Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in the
Dutch History of the province and the manners of the descendants from
its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did not lie
so much among books as among men; for the former are lamentably scanty
on his favorite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and still
more, their wives, rich in that legendary lore, so invaluable to true
history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch family,
snugly shut up in its low-roofed farm-house, under a spreading sycamore,
he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black-letter, and
studied it with the zeal of a bookworm.

The result of all these researches was a history of the province, during
the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years since.
There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his
work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be.
Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little
questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely
established; and it is now admitted into all historical collections, as
a book of unquestionable authority.

The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work; and
now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to
say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier
labors. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby his own way; and though
it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of his
neighbors, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he felt
the truest deference and affection, yet his errors and follies
are remembered “more in sorrow than in anger,” and it begins to be
suspected, that he never intended to injure or offend. But however his
memory may be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear among many
folks, whose good opinion is well worth having; particularly by certain
biscuit-bakers, who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on their
new-year cakes, and have thus given him a chance for immortality,
almost equal to the being stamped on a Waterloo medal, or a Queen Anne’s
farthing.]


WHOEVER has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill
mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian
family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a
noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change
of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day
produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains;
and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect
barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in
blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky;
but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will
gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last
rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.

At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the
light smoke curling up from a Village, whose shingle roofs gleam among
the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the
fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great
antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the
early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government
of the good Peter Stuyvesant (may he rest in peace!), and there were
some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years,
built of small yellow bricks, brought from Holland, having latticed
windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.

In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell
the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived,
many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain,
a simple, good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a
descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous
days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort
Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of
his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple, good-natured man;
he was, moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient henpecked husband.
Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of
spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are apt
to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline
of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant
and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation, and a
curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the
virtues of patience and long-suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore,
in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing, and if so, Rip Van
Winkle was thrice blessed.

Certain it is, that he was a great favorite among all the good wives of
the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took his part in all
family squabbles, and never failed, whenever they talked those matters
over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van
Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever
he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings,
taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories
of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the
village, he was surrounded by a troop of them hanging on his skirts,
clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him with
impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood.

The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to
all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be for want of assiduity
or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long
and heavy as a Tartar’s lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even
though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry
a fowling-piece on his shoulder, for hours together, trudging through
woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels
or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the
roughest toil, and was a foremost man in all country frolics for husking
Indian corn, or building stone fences; the women of the village, too,
used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs
as their less obliging husbands would not do for them. In a word, Rip
was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing
family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.

In fact, he declared it was of no use to work on his farm; it was the
most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; everything
about it went wrong, in spite of him. His fences were continually
falling to pieces; his cow would either go astray, or get among the
cabbages; weeds were sure to grow quicker in his fields than anywhere
else; the rain always made a point of setting in just as he had some
out-door work to do; so that though his patrimonial estate had dwindled
away under his management, acre by acre, until there was little more
left than a mere patch of Indian corn and potatoes, yet it was the
worst-conditioned farm in the neighborhood.

His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged to
nobody. His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised
to inherit the habits, with the old clothes, of his father. He was
generally seen trooping like a colt at his mother’s heels, equipped in
a pair of his father’s cast-off galligaskins, which he had much ado to
hold up with one hand, as a fine lady does her train in bad weather.

Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish,
well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or
brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would
rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If left to himself, he
would have whistled life away, in perfect contentment; but his wife kept
continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness,
and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night,
her tongue was incessantly going, and every thing he said or did was
sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way
of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had
grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast
up his eyes, but said nothing. This, however, always provoked a fresh
volley from his wife, so that he was fain to draw off his forces, and
take to the outside of the house--the only side which, in truth, belongs
to a henpecked husband.

Rip’s sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked
as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in
idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of
his master’s going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit
befitting in honorable dog, he was as courageous an animal as ever
scoured the woods--but what courage can withstand the evil-doing and
all-besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue? The moment Wolf entered the
house, his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground, or curled between
his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting many a sidelong
glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least flourish of a broomstick or
ladle, he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.

Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony
rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue
is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long
while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting
a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle
personages of the village, which held its sessions on a bench before a
small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of his Majesty George the
Third. Here they used to sit in the shade through a long, lazy summer’s
day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless, sleepy
stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman’s
money to have heard the profound discussions which sometimes took place,
when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some passing
traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled
out by Derrick Van Bummel, the school-master, a dapper learned little
man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the
dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some
months after they had taken place.

The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas
Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the
door of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving
sufficiently to avoid the sun, and keep in the shade of a large tree; so
that the neighbors could tell the hour by his movements as accurately as
by a sun-dial. It is true, he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked his
pipe incessantly. His adherents, however (for every great man has
his adherents), perfectly understood him, and knew how to gather his
opinions. When any thing that was read or related displeased him, he was
observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth, frequent,
and angry puffs; but when pleased, he would inhale the smoke slowly
and tranquilly, and emit it in light and placid clouds, and sometimes,
taking the pipe from his mouth, and letting the fragrant vapor
curl about his nose, would gravely nod his head in token of perfect
approbation.

From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his
termagant wife, who would suddenly break in upon the tranquillity of
the assemblage, and call the members all to nought; nor was that august
personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of
this terrible virago, who charged him outright with encouraging her
husband in habits of idleness.

Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only
alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and the clamor of his
wife, was to take gun in hand, and stroll away into the woods. Here
he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share
the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a
fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor Wolf,” he would say, “thy mistress
leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live
thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!” Wolf would wag his
tail, look wistfully in his master’s face, and if dogs can feel pity, I
verily believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart.

In a long ramble of the kind, on a fine autumnal day, Rip had
unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill
mountains. He was after his favorite sport of squirrel-shooting, and the
still solitudes had echoed and re-echoed with the reports of his gun.
Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon, on a
green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that crowned the brow of a
precipice. From an opening between the trees, he could overlook all the
lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance
the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic
course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging
bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom and at last losing
itself in the blue highlands.

On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild,
lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from the impending
cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting
sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually
advancing; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over
the valleys; he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the
village; and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the
terrors of Dame Van Winkle.

As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance hallooing:
“Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!” He looked around, but could see
nothing but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He
thought his fancy must have deceived him, and turned again to descend,
when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air, “Rip Van
Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!”--at the same time Wolf bristled up his back,
and giving a low growl, skulked to his master’s side, looking fearfully
down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension stealing over
him; he looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange
figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of
something he carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human
being in this lonely and unfrequented place, but supposing it to be some
one of the neighborhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to
yield it.

On nearer approach, he was still more surprised at the singularity of
the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with
thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique
Dutch fashion--a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist--several pairs of
breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons
down the sides, and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulders
a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to
approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful
of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity; and
mutually relieving each other, they clambered up a narrow gully,
apparently the dry bed of a mountain torrent. As they ascended, Rip
every now and then heard long rolling peals, like distant thunder, that
seemed to issue out of a deep ravine, or rather cleft between lofty
rocks, toward which their rugged path conducted. He paused for an
instant, but supposing it to be the muttering of one of those transient
thunder-showers which often take place in the mountain heights, he
proceeded. Passing through the ravine, they came to a hollow, like a
small amphitheatre, surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the
brinks of which impending trees shot their branches, so that you only
caught glimpses of the azure sky, and the bright evening cloud. During
the whole time Rip and his companion had labored on in silence; for
though the former marvelled greatly what could be the object of carrying
a keg of liquor up this wild mountain, yet there was something strange
and incomprehensible about the unknown, that inspired awe, and checked
familiarity.

On entering the amphitheatre, new objects of wonder presented
themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd-looking
personages playing at ninepins. They were dressed in quaint outlandish
fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in
their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, of similar style
with that of the guide’s. Their visages, too, were peculiar; one had
a large head, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of another
seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white
sugar-loaf hat, set off with a little red cock’s tail. They all had
beards, of various shapes and colors. There was one who seemed to be
the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaten
countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger,
high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with
roses in them. The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old
Flemish painting, in the parlor of Dominie Van Schaick, the village
parson, and which had been brought over from Holland at the time of the
settlement.

What seemed particularly odd to Rip was, that though these folks were
evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the
most mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of
pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of
the scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled,
echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.

As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from
their play, and stared at him with such a fixed statue-like gaze, and
such strange uncouth, lack-lustre countenances, that his heart turned
within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the
contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait
upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the
liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.

By degrees, Rip’s awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when
no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage which he found had much
of the flavor of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty soul,
and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another;
and he reiterated his visits to the flagon so often, that at length his
senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head gradually
declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.

On waking, he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first
seen the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes--it was a bright sunny
morning. The birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and
the eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze.
“Surely,” thought Rip, “I have not slept here all night.” He recalled
the occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with the keg
of liquor--the mountain ravine--the wild retreat among the rocks--the
woe-begone party at ninepins--the flagon--“Oh! that flagon! that wicked
flagon!” thought Rip--“what excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle?”

He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean well-oiled
fowling-piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel
encrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He
now suspected that the grave roysterers of the mountains had put a trick
upon him, and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of his
gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, but he might have strayed away after a
squirrel or partridge. He whistled after him and shouted his name, but
all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was
to be seen.

He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening’s gambol, and if
he met with any of the party, to demand his dog and gun. As he rose to
walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting in his usual
activity. “These mountain beds do not agree with me,” thought Rip, “and
if this frolic, should lay me up with a fit of the rheumatism, I shall
have a blessed time with Dame Van Winkle.” With some difficulty he got
down into the glen: he found the gully up which he and his companion
had ascended the preceding evening; but to his astonishment a mountain
stream was now foaming down it, leaping from rock to rock, and filling
the glen with babbling murmurs. He, however, made shift to scramble
up its sides, working his toilsome way through thickets of birch,
sassafras, and witch-hazel; and sometimes tripped up or entangled by
the wild grape vines that twisted their coils and tendrils from tree to
tree, and spread a kind of network in his path.

At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs
to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such opening remained. The rocks
presented a high impenetrable wall, over which the torrent came tumbling
in a sheet of feathery foam, and fell into a broad deep basin, black
from the shadows of the surrounding forest. Here, then, poor Rip was
brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after his dog; he was
only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows, sporting high
in the air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice; and who,
secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and scoff at the poor
man’s perplexities. What was to be done? The morning was passing away,
and Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast. He grieved to give up
his dog and gun; he dreaded to meet his wife; but it would not do to
starve among the mountains. He shook his head, shouldered the rusty
firelock, and, with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned his
steps homeward.

As he approached the village, he met a number of people, but none
whom he new, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself
acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was
of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all
stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast eyes
upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of
this gesture, induced Rip, involuntarily, to do, the same, when, to his
astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!

He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange
children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his
gray beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized for an old
acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered:
it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he
had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had
disappeared. Strange names were over the doors--strange faces at the
windows--everything was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began
to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched.
Surely this was his native village, which he had left but a day before.
There stood the Kaatskill mountains--there ran the silver Hudson at
a distance--there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always
been--Rip was sorely perplexed--“That flagon last night,” thought he,
“has addled my poor head sadly!”

It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his own house,
which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the
shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay--the
roof had fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges.
A half-starved dog, that looked like Wolf, was skulking about it. Rip
called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed
on. This was an unkind cut indeed.--“My very dog,” sighed poor Rip, “has
forgotten me!”

He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van Winkle had
always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently
abandoned. This desolateness overcame all his connubial fears--he called
loudly for his wife and children--the lonely chambers rang for a moment
with his voice, and then all again was silence.

He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village
inn--but it too was gone. A large rickety wooden building stood in its
place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken, and mended with
old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, “The Union
Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree that used to
shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall
naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red nightcap,
and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage
of stars and stripes--all this was strange and incomprehensible. He
recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George,
under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe, but even this was
singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and
buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head
was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large
characters, “GENERAL WASHINGTON.”

There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip
recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was
a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed
phlegm and drowsy tranquillity. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas
Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering
clouds of tobacco-smoke, instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the
schoolmaster, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. In
place of these, a lean, bilious-looking fellow, with his pockets full
of handbills, was haranguing, vehemently about rights of
citizens-elections--members of Congress--liberty--Bunker’s hill--heroes
of seventy-six-and other words, which were a perfect Babylonish jargon
to the bewildered Van Winkle.

The appearance of Rip, with his long, grizzled beard, his rusty
fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and the army of women and children at
his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They
crowded round him, eying him from head to foot, with great curiosity.
The orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired,
“on which side he voted?” Rip stared in vacant stupidity. Another short
but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and rising on tiptoe,
inquired in his ear, “whether he was Federal or Democrat.” Rip
was equally at a loss to comprehend the question; when a knowing,
self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way
through the crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as
he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo,
the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating,
as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone, “What
brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob at his
heels; and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?”

“Alas! gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, “I am a poor, quiet
man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King, God bless
him!”

Here a general shout burst from the bystanders-“a tory! a tory! a spy!
a refugee! hustle him! away with him!” It was with great difficulty
that the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and having
assumed a tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown
culprit, what he came there for, and whom he was seeking. The poor
man humbly assured him that he meant no harm, but merely came there in
search of some of his neighbors, who used to keep about the tavern.

“Well--who are they?--name them.”

Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, Where’s Nicholas Vedder?

There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a
thin, piping voice, “Nicholas Vedder? why, he is dead and gone these
eighteen years! There was a wooden tombstone in the churchyard that used
to tell all about him, but that’s rotten and gone too.”

“Where’s Brom Dutcher?”

“Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he
was killed at the storming of Stony-Point--others say he was drowned in
a squall at the foot of Antony’s Nose. I don’t know--he never came back
again.”

“Where’s Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?”

“He went off to the wars, too; was a great militia general, and is now
in Congress.”

Rip’s heart died away, at hearing of these sad changes in his home
and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world. Every answer
puzzled him too, by treating of such enormous lapses of time, and of
matters which he could not understand: war--Congress-Stony-Point;--he
had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried out in despair,
“Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?”

“Oh, Rip Van Winkle!” exclaimed two or three. “Oh, to be sure! that’s
Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against the tree.”

Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself as he went up
the mountain; apparently as lazy, and certainly as ragged. The poor
fellow was now completely confounded. He doubted his own identity, and
whether he was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilderment,
the man in the cocked hat demanded who he was, and what was his name?

“God knows!” exclaimed he at his wit’s end; “I’m not myself--I’m
somebody else--that’s me yonder-no--that’s somebody else, got into my
shoes--I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and
they’ve changed my gun, and everything’s changed, and I’m changed, and I
can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!”

The by-standers began now to look at each other, nod, wink
significantly, and tap their fingers against their foreheads. There was
a whisper, also, about securing the gun, and keeping the old fellow from
doing mischief; at the very suggestion of which, the self-important man
with the cocked hat retired with some precipitation. At this critical
moment a fresh, comely woman pressed through the throng to get a peep
at the gray-bearded man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which,
frightened at his looks, began to cry. “Hush, Rip,” cried she, “hush,
you little fool; the old man won’t hurt you.” The name of the child,
the air of the mother, the tone of her voice, all awakened a train of
recollections in his mind.

“What is your name, my good woman?” asked he.

“Judith Cardenier.”

“And your father’s name?”

“Ah, poor man, Rip Van Winkle was his name, but it’s twenty years
since he went away from home with his gun, and never has been heard of
since,--his dog came home without him; but whether he shot himself,
or was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a
little girl.”

Rip had but one more question to ask; but he put it with a faltering
voice:

“Where’s your mother?”

Oh, she too had died but a short time since; she broke a blood-vessel in
a fit of passion at a New-England pedler.

There was a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence. The honest
man could contain himself no longer. He caught his daughter and her
child in his arms. “I am your father!” cried he-“Young Rip Van Winkle
once-old Rip Van Winkle now--Does nobody know poor Rip Van Winkle!”

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the
crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for
a moment exclaimed, “sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle--it is himself.
Welcome home again, old neighbor. Why, where have you been these twenty
long years?”

Rip’s story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had been to him
but as one night. The neighbors stared when they heard it; some were
seen to wink at each other, and put their tongues in their cheeks; and
the self-important man in the cocked hat, who, when the alarm was over,
had returned to the field, screwed down the corners of his mouth, and
shook his head--upon which there was a general shaking of the head
throughout the assemblage.

It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk,
who was seen slowly advancing up the road. He was a descendant of the
historian of that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the
province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and well
versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the neighborhood.
He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most
satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact, handed
down from his ancestor, the historian, that the Kaatskill mountains had
always been haunted by strange beings. That it was affirmed that the
great Hendrick Hudson, the first discoverer of the river and country,
kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years, with his crew of the
Half-moon; being permitted in this way to revisit the scenes of his
enterprise, and keep a guardian eye upon the river and the great city
called by his name. That his father had once seen them in their old
Dutch dresses playing at ninepins in the hollow of the mountain; and
that he himself had heard, one summer afternoon, the sound of their
balls, like distant peals of thunder.

To make a long story short, the company broke up, and returned to the
more important concerns of the election. Rip’s daughter took him home to
live with her; she had a snug, well-furnished house, and a stout cheery
farmer for a husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the urchins that
used to climb upon his back. As to Rip’s son and heir, who was the ditto
of himself, seen leaning against the tree, he was employed to work on
the farm; but evinced an hereditary disposition to attend to any thing
else but his business.

Rip now resumed his old walks and habits; he soon found many of his
former cronies, though all rather the worse for the wear and tear of
time; and preferred making friends among the rising generation, with
whom he soon grew into great favor.

Having nothing to do at home, and being arrived at that happy age when a
man can be idle with impunity, he took his place once more on the bench,
at the inn door, and was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the
village, and a chronicle of the old times “before the war.” It was some
time before he could get into the regular track of gossip, or could be
made to comprehend the strange events that had taken place during his
torpor. How that there had been a revolutionary war--that the country
had thrown off the yoke of old England--and that, instead of being a
subject to his Majesty George the Third, he was now a free citizen
of the United States. Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of
states and empires made but little impression on him; but there was
one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that
was--petticoat government. Happily, that was at an end; he had got his
neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever he
pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle. Whenever her
name was mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders,
and cast up his eyes; which might pass either for an expression of
resignation to his fate, or joy at his deliverance.

He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr.
Doolittle’s hotel. He was observed, at first, to vary on some points
every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so
recently awaked. It at last settled down precisely to the tale I have
related, and not a man, woman, or child in the neighborhood, but knew it
by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted
that Rip had been out of his head, and that this was one point on which
he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost
universally gave it full credit. Even to this day, they never hear a
thunder-storm of a summer afternoon about the Kaatskill, but they say
Hendrick Hudson and his crew are at their game of ninepins; and it is
a common wish of all henpecked husbands in the neighborhood, when life
hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out
of Rip Van Winkle’s flagon.

NOTE.

The foregoing tale, one would suspect, had been suggested to Mr.
Knickerbocker by a little German superstition about the Emperor
Frederick der Rothbart and the Kypphauser mountain; the subjoined note,
however, which had appended to the tale, shows that it is an absolute
fact, narrated with his usual fidelity.

“The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but
nevertheless I give it my full belief, for I know the vicinity of our
old Dutch settlements to have been very subject to marvellous events and
appearances. Indeed, I have heard many stranger stories than this, in
the villages along the Hudson; all of which were too well authenticated
to admit of a doubt. I have even talked with Rip Van Winkle myself,
who, when last I saw him, was a very venerable old man, and so
perfectly rational and consistent on every other point, that I think no
conscientious person could refuse to take this into the bargain; nay, I
have seen a certificate on the subject taken before a country justice,
and signed with cross, in the justice’s own handwriting. The story,
therefore, is beyond the possibility of doubt.

“D. K.”

POSTSCRIPT.

The following are travelling notes from a memorandum-book of Mr.
Knickerbocker:

The Kaatsberg or Catskill mountains have always been a region full of
fable. The Indians considered them the abode of spirits, who influenced
the weather, spreading sunshine or clouds over the landscape, and
sending good or bad hunting seasons. They were ruled by an old squaw
spirit, said to be their mother. She dwelt on the highest peak of the
Catskills, and had charge of the doors of day and night to open and shut
them at the proper hour. She hung up the new moons in the skies, and
cut up the old ones into stars. In times of drought, if properly
propitiated, she would spin light summer clouds out of cobwebs and
morning dew, and send them off from the crest of the mountain, flake
after flake, like flakes of carded cotton, to float in the air; until,
dissolved by the heat of the sun, they would fall in gentle showers,
causing the grass to spring, the fruits to ripen, and the corn to grow
an inch an hour. If displeased, however, she would brew up clouds black
as ink, sitting in the midst of them like a bottle-bellied spider in the
midst of its web; and when these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys!

In old times, say the Indian traditions, there was a kind of Manitou or
Spirit, who kept about the wildest recesses of the Catskill mountains,
and took a mischievous pleasure in wreaking all kind of evils and
vexations upon the red men. Sometimes he would assume the form of a
bear, a panther, or a deer, lead the bewildered hunter a weary chase
through tangled forests and among ragged rocks, and then spring off with
a loud ho! ho! leaving him aghast on the brink of a beetling precipice
or raging torrent.

The favorite abode of this Manitou is still shown. It is a rock or cliff
on the loneliest port of the mountains, and, from the flowering vines
which clamber about it, and the wild flowers which abound in its
neighborhood, is known by the name of the Garden Rock. Near the foot of
it is a small lake, the haunt of the solitary bittern, with water-snakes
basking in the sun on the leaves of the pond-lilies which lie on the
surface. This place was held in great awe by the Indians, insomuch that
the boldest hunter would not pursue his game within its precincts. Once
upon a time, however, a hunter who had lost his way penetrated to the
Garden Rock, where he beheld a number of gourds placed in the crotches
of trees. One of these he seized and made off with it, but in the hurry
of his retreat he let it fall among the rocks, when a great stream
gushed forth, which washed him away and swept him down precipices, where
he was dished to pieces, and the stream made its way to the Hudson, and
continues to flow to the present day, being the identical stream known
by the name of the Kaaterskill.



ENGLISH WRITERS ON AMERICA.

Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation, rousting herself
like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks;
methinks I see her as an eagle, mewing her mighty youth, and kindling
her endazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam.--MILTON ON THE LIBERTY OF
THE PRESS.

IT is with feelings of deep regret that I observe the literary animosity
daily growing up between England and America. Great curiosity has been
awakened of late with respect to the United States, and the London press
has teemed with volumes of travels through the Republic; but they seem
intended to diffuse error rather than knowledge; and so successful have
they been, that, notwithstanding the constant intercourse between
the nations, there is no people concerning whom the great mass of the
British public have less pure information, or entertain more numerous
prejudices.

English travellers are the best and the worst in the world. Where no
motives of pride or interest intervene, none can equal them for
profound and philosophical views of society, or faithful and graphical
description of external objects; but when either the interest or
reputation of their own country comes in collision with that of another,
they go to the opposite extreme, and forget their usual probity and
candor, in the indulgence of splenetic remark, and an illiberal spirit
of ridicule.

Hence, their travels are more honest and accurate, the more remote the
country described. I would place implicit confidence in an Englishman’s
description of the regions beyond the cataracts of the Nile; of unknown
islands in the Yellow Sea; of the interior of India; or of any other
tract which other travellers might be apt to picture out with the
illusions of their fancies. But I would cautiously receive his account
of his immediate neighbors, and of those nations with which he is in
habits of most frequent intercourse. However I might be disposed to
trust his probity, I dare not trust his prejudices.

It has also been the peculiar lot of our country to be visited by the
worst kind of English travellers. While men of philosophical spirit and
cultivated minds have been sent from England to ransack the poles, to
penetrate the deserts, and to study the manners and customs of barbarous
nations, with which she can have no permanent intercourse of profit or
pleasure; it has been left to the broken-down tradesman, the scheming
adventurer, the wandering mechanic, the Manchester and Birmingham agent,
to be her oracles respecting America. From such sources she is content
to receive her information respecting a country in a singular state of
moral and physical development; a country in which one of the greatest
political experiments in the history of the world is now performing; and
which presents the most profound and momentous studies to the statesman
and the philosopher.

That such men should give prejudicial accounts of America, is not a
matter of surprise. The themes it offers for contemplation, are too vast
and elevated for their capacities. The national character is yet in a
state of fermentation: it may have its frothiness and sediment, but
its ingredients are sound and wholesome; it has already given proofs of
powerful and generous qualities; and the whole promises to settle
down into something substantially excellent. But the causes which are
operating to strengthen and ennoble it, and its daily indications of
admirable properties, are all lost upon these purblind observers; who
are only affected by the little asperities incident to its present
situation. They are capable of judging only of the surface of things;
of those matters which come in contact with their private interests and
personal gratifications. They miss some of the snug conveniences
and petty comforts which belong to an old, highly-finished, and
over-populous state of society; where the ranks of useful labor are
crowded, and many earn a painful and servile subsistence, by studying
the very caprices of appetite and self-indulgence. These minor comforts,
however, are all-important in the estimation of narrow minds; which
either do not perceive, or will not acknowledge, that they are more than
counterbalanced among us, by great and generally diffused blessings.

They may, perhaps, have been disappointed in some unreasonable
expectation of sudden gain. They may have pictured America to themselves
an El Dorado, where gold and silver abounded, and the natives were
lacking in sagacity, and where they were to become strangely and
suddenly rich, in some unforeseen but easy manner. The same weakness
of mind that indulges absurd expectations, produces petulance in
disappointment. Such persons become embittered against the country on
finding that there, as everywhere else, a man must sow before he can
reap; must win wealth by industry and talent; and must contend with the
common difficulties of nature, and the shrewdness of an intelligent and
enterprising people.

Perhaps, through mistaken or ill-directed hospitality, or from the
prompt disposition to cheer and countenance the stranger, prevalent
among my countrymen, they may have been treated with unwonted respect
in America; and, having been accustomed all their lives to consider
themselves below the surface of good society, and brought up in a
servile feeling of inferiority, they become arrogant, on the common
boon of civility; they attribute to the lowliness of others their
own elevation; and underrate a society where there are no artificial
distinctions, and where, by any chance, such individuals as themselves
can rise to consequence.

One would suppose, however, that information coming from such sources,
on a subject where the truth is so desirable, would be received with
caution by the censors of the press; that the motives of these men,
their veracity, their opportunities of inquiry and observation, and
their capacities for judging correctly, would be rigorously scrutinized,
before their evidence was admitted, in such sweeping extent, against a
kindred nation. The very reverse, however, is the case, and it furnishes
a striking instance of human inconsistency. Nothing can surpass the
vigilance with which English critics will examine the credibility of
the traveller who publishes an account of some distant and comparatively
unimportant country. How warily will they compare the measurements of a
pyramid, or the description of a ruin; and how sternly will they censure
any inaccuracy in these contributions of merely curious knowledge, while
they will receive, with eagerness and unhesitating faith, the gross
misrepresentations of coarse and obscure writers, concerning a country
with which their own is placed in the most important and delicate
relations. Nay, they will even make these apocryphal volumes text-books,
on which to enlarge, with a zeal and an ability worthy of a more
generous cause.

I shall not, however, dwell on this irksome and hackneyed topic; nor
should I have adverted to it, but for the undue interest apparently
taken in it by my countrymen, and certain injurious effects which I
apprehend it might produce upon the national feeling. We attach too much
consequence to these attacks. They cannot do us any essential injury.
The tissue of misrepresentations attempted to be woven round us, are
like cobwebs woven round the limbs of an infant giant. Our country
continually outgrows them. One falsehood after another falls off of
itself. We have but to live on, and every day we live a whole volume of
refutation.

All the writers of England united, if we could for a moment suppose
their great minds stooping to so unworthy a combination, could not
conceal our rapidly growing importance and matchless prosperity. They
could not conceal that these are owing, not merely to physical and
local, but also to moral causes--to the political liberty, the general
diffusion of knowledge, the prevalence of sound, moral, and religious
principles, which give force and sustained energy to the character of
a people, and which in fact, have been the acknowledged and wonderful
supporters of their own national power and glory.

But why are we so exquisitely alive to the aspersions of England? Why
do we suffer ourselves to be so affected by the contumely she has
endeavored to cast upon us? It is not in the opinion of England alone
that honor lives, and reputation has its being. The world at large is
the arbiter of a nation’s fame: with its thousand eyes it witnesses a
nation’s deeds, and from their collective testimony is national glory or
national disgrace established.

For ourselves, therefore, it is comparatively of but little importance
whether England does us justice or not; it is, perhaps, of far more
importance to herself. She is instilling anger and resentment into the
bosom of a youthful nation, to grow with its growth, and strengthen
with its strength. If in America, as some of her writers are laboring
to convince her, she is hereafter to find an invidious rival, and a
gigantic foe, she may thank those very writers for having provoked
rivalship, and irritated hostility. Every one knows the all-pervading
influence of literature at the present day, and how much the opinions
and passions of mankind are under its control. The mere contests of the
sword are temporary; their wounds are but in the flesh, and it is the
pride of the generous to forgive and forget them; but the slanders of
the pen pierce to the heart; they rankle longest in the noblest spirits;
they dwell ever present in the mind, and render it morbidly sensitive
to the most trifling collision. It is but seldom that any one overt act
produces hostilities between two nations; there exists, most commonly, a
previous jealousy and ill-will, a predisposition to take offence. Trace
these to their cause, and how often will they be found to originate in
the mischievous effusions of mercenary writers, who, secure in their
closets, and for ignominious bread, concoct and circulate the venom that
is to inflame the generous and the brave.

I am not laying too much stress upon this point; for it applies most
emphatically to our particular case. Over no nation does the press
hold a more absolute control than over the people of America; for the
universal education of the poorest classes makes every individual a
reader. There is nothing published in England on the subject of our
country, that does not circulate through every part of it. There is not
a calumny dropt from an English pen, nor an unworthy sarcasm uttered by
an English statesman, that does not go to blight good-will, and add to
the mass of latent resentment. Possessing, then, as England does,
the fountain-head whence the literature of the language flows, how
completely is it in her power, and how truly is it her duty, to make it
the medium of amiable and magnanimous feeling--a stream where the two
nations might meet together and drink in peace and kindness. Should she,
however, persist in turning it to waters of bitterness, the time may
come when she may repent her folly. The present friendship of America
may be of but little moment to her; but the future destinies of that
country do not admit of a doubt; over those of England, there lower
some shadows of uncertainty. Should, then, a day of gloom arrive--should
those reverses overtake her, from which the proudest empires have
not been exempt--she may look back with regret at her infatuation, in
repulsing from her side a nation she might have grappled to her bosom,
and thus destroying her only chance for real friendship beyond the
boundaries of her own dominions.

There is a general impression in England, that the people of the United
States are inimical to the parent country. It is one of the errors
which have been diligently propagated by designing writers. There is,
doubtless, considerable political hostility, and a general soreness at
the illiberality of the English press; but, collectively speaking, the
prepossessions of the people are strongly in favor of England. Indeed,
at one time they amounted, in many parts of the Union, to an absurd
degree of bigotry. The bare name of Englishman was a passport to
the confidence and hospitality of every family, and too often gave a
transient currency to the worthless and the ungrateful. Throughout the
country, there was something of enthusiasm connected with the idea
of England. We looked to it with a hallowed feeling of tenderness and
veneration, as the land of our forefathers--the august repository of the
monuments and antiquities of our race--the birthplace and mausoleum of
the sages and heroes of our paternal history. After our own country,
there was none in whose glory we more delighted--none whose good opinion
we were more anxious to possess--none toward which our hearts yearned
with such throbbings of warm consanguinity. Even during the late war,
whenever there was the least opportunity for kind feelings to spring
forth, it was the delight of the generous spirits of our country to show
that, in the midst of hostilities, they still kept alive the sparks of
future friendship.

Is all this to be at an end? Is this golden band of kindred sympathies,
so rare between nations, to be broken forever?--Perhaps it is for the
best--it may dispel an allusion which might have kept us in mental
vassalage; which might have interfered occasionally with our true
interests, and prevented the growth of proper national pride. But it
is hard to give up the kindred tie! and there are feelings dearer than
interest--closer to the heart than pride--that will still make us cast
back a look of regret as we wander farther and farther from the paternal
roof, and lament the waywardness of the parent that would repel the
affections of the child.

Short-sighted and injudicious, however, as the conduct or England may be
in this system of aspersion, recrimination on our part would be equally
ill-judged. I speak not of a prompt and spirited vindication of our
country, or the keenest castigation of her slanderers--but I allude to
a disposition to retaliate in kind, to retort sarcasm and inspire
prejudice, which seems to be spreading widely among our writers. Let us
guard particularly against such a temper; for it would double the evil,
instead of redressing the wrong. Nothing is so easy and inviting as
the retort of abuse and sarcasm; but it is a paltry and an unprofitable
contest. It is the alternative of a morbid mind, fretted into petulance,
rather than warmed into indignation. If England is willing to permit the
mean jealousies of trade, or the rancorous animosities of politics, to
deprave the integrity of her press, and poison the fountain of public
opinion, let us beware of her example. She may deem it her interest
to diffuse error, and engender antipathy, for the purpose of checking
emigration: we have no purpose of the kind to serve. Neither have we
any spirit of national jealousy to gratify; for as yet, in all our
rivalships with England, we are the rising and the gaining party.
There can be no end to answer, therefore, but the gratification of
resentment--a mere spirit of retaliation--and even that is impotent. Our
retorts are never republished in England; they fall short, therefore,
of their aim; but they foster a querulous and peevish temper among
our writers; they sour the sweet flow of our early literature, and
sow thorns and brambles among its blossoms. What is still worse, they
circulate through our own country, and, as far as they have effect,
excite virulent national prejudices. This last is the evil most
especially to be deprecated. Governed, as we are, entirely by public
opinion, the utmost care should be taken to preserve the purity of
the public mind. Knowledge is power, and truth is knowledge; whoever,
therefore, knowingly propagates a prejudice, wilfully saps the
foundation of his country’s strength.

The members of a republic, above all other men, should be candid and
dispassionate. They are, individually, portions of the sovereign mind
and sovereign will, and should be enabled to come to all questions of
national concern with calm and unbiassed judgments. From the peculiar
nature of our relations with England, we must have more frequent
questions of a difficult and delicate character with her, than with
any other nation,--questions that affect the most acute and excitable
feelings: and as, in the adjustment of these, our national measures
must ultimately be determined by popular sentiment, we cannot be
too anxiously attentive to purify it from all latent passion or
prepossession.

Opening, too, as we do, an asylum for strangers every portion of the
earth, we should receive all with impartiality. It should be our pride
to exhibit an example of one nation, at least, destitute of national
antipathies, and exercising, not merely the overt acts of hospitality,
but those more rare and noble courtesies which spring from liberality of
opinion.

What have we to do with national prejudices? They are the inveterate
diseases of old countries, contracted in rude and ignorant ages, when
nations knew but little of each other, and looked beyond their own
boundaries with distrust and hostility. We, on the contrary, have sprung
into national existence in an enlightened and philosophic age, when the
different parts of the habitable world, and the various branches of the
human family, have been indefatigably studied and made known to each
other; and we forego the advantages of our birth, if we do not shake off
the national prejudices, as we would the local superstitions, of the old
world.

But above all let us not be influenced by any angry feelings, so far
as to shut our eyes to the perception of what is really excellent and
amiable in the English character. We are a young people, necessarily an
imitative one, and must take our examples and models, in a great degree,
from the existing nations of Europe. There is no country more worthy of
our study than England. The spirit of her constitution is most analogous
to ours. The manners of her people--their intellectual activity--their
freedom of opinion--their habits of thinking on those subjects which
concern the dearest interests and most sacred charities of private
life, are all congenial to the American character; and, in fact, are all
intrinsically excellent: for it is in the moral feeling of the people
that the deep foundations of British prosperity are laid; and however
the superstructure may be timeworn, or overrun by abuses, there must be
something solid in the basis, admirable in the materials, and stable in
the structure of an edifice that so long has towered unshaken amidst the
tempests of the world.

Let it be the pride of our writers, therefore, discarding all feelings
of irritation, and disdaining to retaliate the illiberality of British
authors, to speak of the English nation without prejudice, and with
determined candor. While they rebuke the indiscriminating bigotry with
which some of our countrymen admire and imitate every thing English,
merely because it is English, let them frankly point out what is
really worthy of approbation. We may thus place England before us as
a perpetual volume of reference, wherein are recorded sound deductions
from ages of experience; and while we avoid the errors and absurdities
which may have crept into the page, we may draw thence golden maxims of
practical wisdom, wherewith to strengthen and to embellish our national
character.



RURAL LIFE IN ENGLAND.

    Oh! friendly to the best pursuits of man,
    Friendly to thought, to virtue and to peace,
    Domestic life in rural pleasures past!
                                          COWPER.

THE stranger who would form a correct opinion of the English character,
must not confine his observations to the metropolis. He must go forth
into the country; he must sojourn in villages and hamlets; he must visit
castles, villas, farm-houses, cottages; he must wander through parks
and gardens; along hedges and green lanes; he must loiter about country
churches; attend wakes and fairs, and other rural festivals; and cope
with the people in all their conditions, and all their habits and
humors.

In some countries, the large cities absorb the wealth and fashion of
the nation; they are the only fixed abodes of elegant and intelligent
society, and the country is inhabited almost entirely by boorish
peasantry. In England, on the contrary, the metropolis is a mere
gathering-place, or general rendezvous, of the polite classes, where
they devote a small portion of the year to a hurry of gayety and
dissipation, and, having indulged this kind of carnival, return again to
the apparently more congenial habits of rural life. The various orders
of society are therefore diffused over the whole surface of the kingdom,
and the more retired neighborhoods afford specimens of the different
ranks.

The English, in fact, are strongly gifted with the rural feeling. They
possess a quick sensibility to the beauties of nature, and a keen relish
for the pleasures and employments of the country. This passion seems
inherent in them. Even the inhabitants of cities, born and brought up
among brick walls and bustling streets, enter with facility into rural
habits, and evince a tact for rural occupation. The merchant has his
snug retreat in the vicinity of the metropolis, where he often displays
as much pride and zeal in the cultivation of his flower-garden, and the
maturing of his fruits, as he does in the conduct of his business,
and the success of a commercial enterprise. Even those less fortunate
individuals, who are doomed to pass their lives in the midst of din and
traffic, contrive to have something that shall remind them of the green
aspect of nature. In the most dark and dingy quarters of the city, the
drawing-room window resembles frequently a bank of flowers; every spot
capable of vegetation has its grass-plot and flower-bed; and every
square its mimic park, laid out with picturesque taste, and gleaming
with refreshing verdure.

Those who see the Englishman only in town, are apt to form an
unfavorable opinion of his social character. He is either absorbed in
business, or distracted by the thousand engagements that dissipate time,
thought, and feeling, in this huge metropolis. He has, therefore, too
commonly, a look of hurry and abstraction. Wherever he happens to be, he
is on the point of going somewhere else; at the moment he is talking
on one subject, his mind is wandering to another; and while paying a
friendly visit, he is calculating how he shall economize time so as to
pay the other visits allotted to the morning. An immense metropolis,
like London, is calculated to make men selfish and uninteresting.
In their casual and transient meetings, they can but deal briefly in
commonplaces. They present but the cold superfices of character--its
rich and genial qualities have no time to be warmed into a flow.

It is in the country that the Englishman gives scope to his natural
feelings. He breaks loose gladly from the cold formalities and negative
civilities of town; throws off his habits of shy reserve, and becomes
joyous and free-hearted. He manages to collect round him all the
conveniences and elegancies of polite life, and to banish its
restraints. His country-seat abounds with every requisite, either for
studious retirement, tasteful gratification, or rural exercise. Books,
paintings, music, horses, dogs, and sporting implements of all kinds,
are at hand. He puts no constraint, either upon his guests or himself,
but, in the true spirit of hospitality, provides the means of enjoyment,
and leaves every one to partake according to his inclination.

The taste of the English in the cultivation of land, and in what is
called landscape gardening, is unrivalled. They have studied Nature
intently, and discovered an exquisite sense of her beautiful forms and
harmonious combinations. Those charms which, in other countries, she
lavishes in wild solitudes, are here assembled round the haunts of
domestic life. They seem to have caught her coy and furtive graces, and
spread them, like witchery, about their rural abodes.

Nothing can be more imposing than the magnificence of English park
scenery. Vast lawns that extend like sheets of vivid green, with here
and there clumps of gigantic trees, heaping up rich piles of foliage.
The solemn pomp of groves and woodland glades, with the deer trooping in
silent herds across them; the hare, bounding away to the covert; or the
pheasant, suddenly bursting upon the wing. The brook, taught to wind in
natural meanderings, or expand into a glassy lake--the sequestered pool,
reflecting the quivering trees, with the yellow leaf sleeping on its
bosom, and the trout roaming fearlessly about its limpid waters; while
some rustic temple, or sylvan statue, grown green and dank with age,
gives an air of classic sanctity to the seclusion.

These are but a few of the features of park scenery; but what most
delights me, is the creative talent with which the English decorate the
unostentatious abodes of middle life. The rudest habitation, the most
unpromising and scanty portion of land, in the hands of an Englishman of
taste, becomes a little paradise. With a nicely discriminating eye,
he seizes at once upon its capabilities, and pictures in his mind the
future landscape. The sterile spot grows into loveliness under his hand;
and yet the operations of art which produce the effect are scarcely to
be perceived. The cherishing and training of some trees; the cautious
pruning of others; the nice distribution of flowers and plants of tender
and graceful foliage; the introduction of a green slope of velvet turf;
the partial opening to a peep of blue distance, or silver gleam of
water;-all these are managed with a delicate tact, a pervading yet quiet
assiduity, like the magic touchings with which a painter finishes up a
favorite picture.

The residence of people of fortune and refinement in the country, has
diffused a degree of taste and elegance in rural economy that descends
to the lowest class. The very laborer, with his thatched cottage and
narrow slip of ground, attends to their embellishment. The trim hedge,
the grass-plot before the door, the little flower-bed bordered with snug
box, the woodbine trained up against the wall, and hanging its blossoms
about the lattice; the pot of flowers in the window; the holly,
providently planted about the house, to cheat winter of its dreariness,
and to throw in a semblance of green summer to cheer the fireside; all
these bespeak the influence of taste, flowing down from high sources,
and pervading the lowest levels of the public mind. If ever Love, as
poets sing, delights to visit a cottage, it must be the cottage of an
English peasant.

The fondness for rural life among the higher classes of the English has
had a great and salutary effect upon the national character. I do not
know a finer race of men than the English gentlemen. Instead of the
softness and effeminacy which characterize the men of rank in most
countries, they exhibit a union of elegance and strength, a robustness
of frame and freshness of complexion, which I am inclined to attribute
to their living so much in the open air, and pursuing so eagerly the
invigorating recreations of the country. The hardy exercises produce
also a healthful tone of mind and spirits, and a manliness and
simplicity of manners, which even the follies and dissipations of the
town cannot easily pervert, and can never entirely destroy. In the
country, too, the different orders of society seem to approach more
freely, to be more disposed to blend and operate favorably upon each
other. The distinctions between them do not appear to be so marked
and impassable as in the cities. The manner in which property has been
distributed into small estates and farms has established a regular
gradation from the noblemen, through the classes of gentry, small landed
proprietors, and substantial farmers, down to the laboring peasantry;
and while it has thus banded the extremes of society together, has
infused into each intermediate rank a spirit of independence. This, it
must be confessed, is not so universally the case at present as it was
formerly; the larger estates having, in late years of distress, absorbed
the smaller, and, in some parts of the country, almost annihilated the
sturdy race of small farmers. These, however, I believe, are but casual
breaks in the general system I have mentioned.

In rural occupation, there is nothing mean and debasing. It leads a man
forth among scenes of natural grandeur and beauty; it leaves him to the
workings of his own mind, operated upon by the purest and most elevating
of external influences. Such a man may be simple and rough, but he
cannot be vulgar. The man of refinement, therefore, finds nothing
revolting in an intercourse with the lower orders in rural life, as he
does when he casually mingles with the lower orders of cities. He lays
aside his distance and reserve, and is glad to waive the distinctions of
rank, and to enter into the honest, heartfelt enjoyments of common life.
Indeed, the very amusements of the country bring, men more and more
together; and the sound hound and horn blend all feelings into harmony.
I believe this is one great reason why the nobility and gentry are more
popular among the inferior orders in England than they are in any other
country; and why the latter have endured so many excessive pressures and
extremities, without repining more generally at the unequal distribution
of fortune and privilege.

To this mingling of cultivated and rustic society may also be attributed
the rural feeling that runs through British literature; the frequent
use of illustrations from rural life; those incomparable descriptions of
Nature, that abound in the British poets--that have continued down from
“The Flower and the Leaf,” of Chaucer, and have brought into our closets
all the freshness and fragrance of the dewy landscape. The pastoral
writers of other countries appear as if they had paid Nature an
occasional visit, and become acquainted with her general charms; but the
British poets have lived and revelled with her--they have wooed her in
her most secret haunts--they have watched her minutest caprices. A
spray could not tremble in the breeze--a leaf could not rustle to the
ground--a diamond drop could not patter in the stream--a fragrance could
not exhale from the humble violet, nor a daisy unfold its crimson
tints to the morning, but it has been noticed by these impassioned and
delicate observers, and wrought up into some beautiful morality.

The effect of this devotion of elegant minds to rural occupations has
been wonderful on the face of the country. A great part of the island
is rather level, and would be monotonous, were it not for the charms
of culture; but it is studded and gemmed, as it were, with castles and
palaces, and embroidered with parks and gardens. It does not abound in
grand and sublime prospects, but rather in little home scenes of rural
repose and sheltered quiet. Every antique farm-house and moss-grown
cottage is a picture; and as the roads are continually winding, and
the view is shut in by groves and hedges, the eye is delighted by a
continual succession of small landscapes of captivating loveliness.

The great charm, however, of English scenery, is the moral feeling that
seems to pervade it. It is associated in the mind with ideas of order,
of quiet, of sober well-established principles, of hoary usage and
reverend custom. Every thing seems to be the growth of ages of regular
and peaceful existence. The old church of remote architecture, with its
low, massive portal; its Gothic tower; its windows rich with tracery
and painted glass, in scrupulous preservation; its stately monuments of
warriors and worthies of the olden time, ancestors of the present lords
of the soil; its tombstones, recording successive generations of sturdy
yeomanry, whose progeny still plough the same fields, and kneel at the
same altar;--the parsonage, a quaint irregular pile, partly
antiquated, but repaired and altered in the tastes of various ages and
occupants;--the stile and foot-path leading from the churchyard, across
pleasant fields, and along shady hedgerows, according to an immemorial
right of way;--the neighboring village, with its venerable cottages,
its public green sheltered by trees, under which the forefathers of the
present race have sported;--the antique family mansion, standing apart
in some little rural domain, but looking down with a protecting air on
the surrounding scene; all these common features of English landscape
evince a calm and settled security, a hereditary transmission of
homebred virtues and local attachments, that speak deeply and touchingly
for the moral character of the nation.

It is a pleasing sight, of a Sunday morning, when the bell is sending
its sober melody across the quiet fields, to behold the peasantry in
their best finery, with ruddy faces, and modest cheerfulness, thronging
tranquilly along the green lanes to church; but it is still more
pleasing to see them in the evenings, gathering about their cottage
doors, and appearing to exult in the humble comforts and embellishments
which their own hands have spread around them.

It is this sweet home-feeling, this settled repose of affection in the
domestic scene, that is, after all, the parent of the steadiest virtues
and purest enjoyments; and I cannot close these desultory remarks
better, than by quoting the words of a modern English poet, who has
depicted it with remarkable felicity:

    Through each gradation, from the castled hall,
    The city dome, the villa crowned with shade,
    But chief from modest mansions numberless,
    In town or hamlet, shelt’ring middle life,
    Down to the cottaged vale, and straw-roof’d shed;
    This western isle has long been famed for scenes
    Where bliss domestic finds a dwelling-place;
    Domestic bliss, that, like a harmless dove,
    (Honor and sweet endearment keeping guard,)
    Can centre in a little quiet nest
    All that desire would fly for through the earth;
    That can, the world eluding, be itself
    A world enjoyed; that wants no witnesses
    But its own sharers, and approving Heaven;
    That, like a flower deep hid in rock cleft,
    Smiles, though ‘t is looking only at the sky.*


     * From a poem on the death of the Princess Charlotte, by the
     Reverend Rann Kennedy, A.M.



THE BROKEN HEART.

                                  I never heard
    Of any true affection, but ‘t was nipt
    With care, that, like the caterpillar, eats
    The leaves of the spring’s sweetest book, the rose.
                                            MIDDLETON.

IT is a common practice with those who have outlived the susceptibility
of early feeling, or have been brought up in the gay heartlessness of
dissipated life, to laugh at all love stories, and to treat the tales
of romantic passion as mere fictions of novelists and poets. My
observations on human nature have induced me to think otherwise. They
have convinced me that, however the surface of the character may be
chilled and frozen by the cares of the world, or cultivated into mere
smiles by the arts of society, still there are dormant fires lurking
in the depths of the coldest bosom, which, when once enkindled, become
impetuous, and are sometimes desolating in their effects. Indeed, I am
a true believer in the blind deity, and go to the full extent of his
doctrines. Shall I confess it?--I believe in broken hearts, and the
possibility of dying of disappointed love! I do not, however, consider
it a malady often fatal to my own sex; but I firmly believe that it
withers down many a lovely woman into an early grave.

Man is the creature of interest and ambition. His nature leads him forth
into the struggle and bustle of the world. Love is but the embellishment
of his early life, or a song piped in the intervals of the acts. He
seeks for fame, for fortune for space in the world’s thought, and
dominion over his fellow-men. But a woman’s whole life is a history of
the affections. The heart is her world; it is there her ambition strives
for empire--it is there her avarice seeks for hidden treasures. She
sends forth her sympathies on adventure; she embarks her whole soul in
the traffic of affection; and if shipwrecked, her case is hopeless--for
it is a bankruptcy of the heart.

To a man, the disappointment of love may occasion some bitter pangs;
it wounds some feelings of tenderness--it blasts some prospects of
felicity; but he is an active being--he may dissipate his thoughts in
the whirl of varied occupation, or may plunge into the tide of pleasure;
or, if the scene of disappointment be too full of painful associations,
he can shift his abode at will, and taking, as it were, the wings of the
morning, can “fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, and be at rest.”

But woman’s is comparatively a fixed, a secluded, and meditative life.
She is more the companion of her own thoughts and feelings; and if they
are turned to ministers of sorrow, where shall she look for consolation?
Her lot is to be wooed and won; and if unhappy in her love, her heart
is like some fortress that has been captured, and sacked, and abandoned,
and left desolate.

How many bright eyes grow dim--how many soft cheeks grow pale--how many
lovely forms fade away into the tomb, and none can tell the cause that
blighted their loveliness! As the dove will clasp its wings to its side,
and cover and conceal the arrow that is preying on its vitals--so is
it the nature of woman, to hide from the world the pangs of wounded
affection. The love of a delicate female is always shy and silent. Even
when fortunate, she scarcely breathes it to herself; but when otherwise,
she buries it in the recesses of her bosom, and there lets it cower and
brood among the ruins of her peace. With her, the desire of her heart
has failed--the great charm of existence is at an end. She neglects all
the cheerful exercises which gladden the spirits, quicken the pulses,
and send the tide of life in healthful currents through the veins. Her
rest is broken--the sweet refreshment of sleep is poisoned by melancholy
dreams--“dry sorrow drinks her blood,” until her enfeebled frame sinks
under the slightest external injury. Look for her, after a little while,
and you find friendship weeping over her untimely grave, and wondering
that one, who but lately glowed with all the radiance of health and
beauty, should so speedily be brought down to “darkness and the worm.”
 You will be told of some wintry chill, some casual indisposition, that
laid her low;--but no one knows of the mental malady which previously
sapped her strength, and made her so easy a prey to the spoiler.

She is like some tender tree, the pride and beauty of the grove;
graceful in its form, bright in its foliage, but with the worm preying
at its heart. We find it suddenly withering, when it should be most
fresh and luxuriant. We see it drooping its branches to the earth, and
shedding leaf by leaf, until, wasted and perished away, it falls even in
the stillness of the forest; and as we muse over the beautiful ruin,
we strive in vain to recollect the blast or thunderbolt that could have
smitten it with decay.

I have seen many instances of women running to waste and self-neglect,
and disappearing gradually from the earth, almost as if they had been
exhaled to heaven; and have repeatedly fancied that I could trace their
deaths through the various declensions of consumption, cold, debility,
languor, melancholy, until I reached the first symptom of disappointed
love. But an instance of the kind was lately told to me; the
circumstances are well known in the country where they happened, and I
shall but give them in the manner in which they were related.

Every one must recollect the tragical story of young E----, the Irish
patriot; it was too touching to be soon forgotten. During the troubles
in Ireland, he was tried, condemned, and executed, on a charge of
treason. His fate made a deep impression on public sympathy. He was so
young--so intelligent--so generous--so brave--so every thing that we are
apt to like in a young man. His conduct under trial, too, was so lofty
and intrepid. The noble indignation with which he repelled the charge of
treason against his country--the eloquent vindication of his
name--and his pathetic appeal to posterity, in the hopeless hour of
condemnation,--all these entered deeply into every generous bosom, and
even his enemies lamented the stern policy that dictated his execution.

But there was one heart whose anguish it would be impossible to
describe. In happier days and fairer fortunes, he had won the affections
of a beautiful and interesting girl, the daughter of a late celebrated
Irish barrister. She loved him with the disinterested fervor of a
woman’s first and early love. When every worldly maxim arrayed itself
against him; when blasted in fortune, and disgrace and danger
darkened around his name, she loved him the more ardently for his very
sufferings. If, then, his fate could awaken the sympathy even of
his foes, what must have been the agony of her, whose whole soul was
occupied by his image? Let those tell who have had the portals of the
tomb suddenly closed between them and the being they most loved on
earth--who have sat at its threshold, as one shut out in a cold and
lonely world, whence all that was most lovely and loving had departed.

But then the horrors of such a grave!--so frightful, so dishonored!
There was nothing for memory to dwell on that could soothe the pang of
separation--none of those tender, though melancholy circumstances which
endear the parting scene--nothing to melt sorrow into those blessed
tears, sent like the dews of heaven, to revive the heart in the parting
hour of anguish.

To render her widowed situation more desolate, she had incurred her
father’s displeasure by her unfortunate attachment, and was an exile
from the parental roof. But could the sympathy and kind offices of
friends have reached a spirit so shocked and driven in by horror, she
would have experienced no want of consolation, for the Irish are a
people of quick and generous sensibilities. The most delicate
and cherishing attentions were paid her by families of wealth and
distinction. She was led into society, and they tried by all kinds of
occupation and amusement to dissipate her grief, and wean her from the
tragical story of her loves. But it was all in vain. There are some
strokes of calamity that scathe and scorch the soul--which penetrate to
the vital seat of happiness--and blast it, never again to put forth bud
or blossom. She never objected to frequent the haunts of pleasure, but
was as much alone there as in the depths of solitude; walking about in a
sad revery, apparently unconscious of the world around her. She
carried with her an inward woe that mocked at all the blandishments of
friendship, and “heeded not the song of the charmer, charm he never so
wisely.”

The person who told me her story had seen her at a masquerade. There can
be no exhibition of far-gone wretchedness more striking and painful than
to meet it in such a scene. To find it wandering like a spectre, lonely
and joyless, where all around is gay--to see it dressed out in the
trappings of mirth, and looking so wan and woe-begone, as if it had
tried in vain to cheat the poor heart into momentary forgetfulness of
sorrow. After strolling through the splendid rooms and giddy crowd with
an air of utter abstraction, she sat herself down on the steps of an
orchestra, and, looking about for some time with a vacant air, that
showed her insensibility to the garish scene, she began, with the
capriciousness of a sickly heart, to warble a little plaintive air.
She had an exquisite, voice; but on this occasion it was so simple, so
touching, it breathed forth such a soul of wretchedness--that she drew a
crowd, mute and silent, around her and melted every one into tears.

The story of one so true and tender could not but excite great interest
in a country remarkable for enthusiasm. It completely won the heart of
a brave officer, who paid his addresses to her, and thought that one so
true to the dead, could not but prove affectionate to the living. She
declined his attentions, for her thoughts were irrevocably engrossed by
the memory of her former lover. He, however, persisted in his suit. He
solicited not her tenderness, but her esteem. He was assisted by
her conviction of his worth, and her sense of her own destitute and
dependent situation, for she was existing on the kindness of friends.
In a word, he at length succeeded in gaining her hand, though with the
solemn assurance, that her heart was unalterably another’s.

He took her with him to Sicily, hoping that a change of scene might
wear out the remembrance of early woes. She was an amiable and exemplary
wife, and made an effort to be a happy one; but nothing could cure the
silent and devouring melancholy that had entered into her very soul. She
wasted away in a slow, but hopeless decline, and at length sunk into the
grave, the victim of a broken heart.

It was on her that Moore, the distinguished Irish poet, composed the
following lines:

    She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps,
        And lovers around her are sighing:
    But coldly she turns from their gaze, and weeps,
        For her heart in his grave is lying.

    She sings the wild song of her dear native plains,
        Every note which he loved awaking--
    Ah! little they think, who delight in her strains,
        How the heart of the minstrel is breaking!

    He had lived for his love--for his country he died,
        They were all that to life had entwined him--
    Nor soon shall the tears of his country be dried,
        Nor long will his love stay behind him!

    Oh! make her a grave where the sunbeams rest,
        When they promise a glorious morrow;
    They’ll shine o’er her sleep, like a smile from the west,
        From her own loved island of sorrow!



THE ART OF BOOK-MAKING.

If that severe doom of Synesius be true,--“It is a greater offence to
steal dead men’s labor, than their clothes,”--what shall become of most
writers?                        BURTON’S ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY.

I HAVE often wondered at the extreme fecundity of the press, and how
it comes to pass that so many heads, on which Nature seems to have
inflicted the curse of barrenness, should teem with voluminous
productions. As a man travels on, however, in the journey of life, his
objects of wonder daily diminish, and he is continually finding out some
very simple cause for some great matter of marvel. Thus have I chanced,
in my peregrinations about this great metropolis, to blunder upon a
scene which unfolded to me some of the mysteries of the book-making
craft, and at once put an end to my astonishment.

I was one summer’s day loitering through the great saloons of the
British Museum, with that listlessness with which one is apt to saunter
about a museum in warm weather; sometimes lolling over the glass cases
of minerals, sometimes studying the hieroglyphics on an Egyptian mummy,
and some times trying, with nearly equal success, to comprehend the
allegorical paintings on the lofty ceilings. Whilst I was gazing about
in this idle way, my attention was attracted to a distant door, at the
end of a suite of apartments. It was closed, but every now and then it
would open, and some strange-favored being, generally clothed in black,
would steal forth, and glide through the rooms, without noticing any
of the surrounding objects. There was an air of mystery about this that
piqued my languid curiosity, and I determined to attempt the passage of
that strait, and to explore the unknown regions beyond. The door yielded
to my hand, with all that facility with which the portals of enchanted
castles yield to the adventurous knight-errant. I found myself in a
spacious chamber, surrounded with great cases of venerable books. Above
the cases, and just under the cornice, were arranged a great number of
black-looking portraits of ancient authors. About the room were placed
long tables, with stands for reading and writing, at which sat many
pale, studious personages, poring intently over dusty volumes, rummaging
among mouldy manuscripts, and taking copious notes of their contents.
A hushed stillness reigned through this mysterious apartment, excepting
that you might hear the racing of pens over sheets of paper, and
occasionally the deep sigh of one of these sages, as he shifted his
position to turn over the page of an old folio; doubtless arising from
that hollowness and flatulency incident to learned research.

Now and then one of these personages would write something on a small
slip of paper, and ring a bell, whereupon a familiar would appear, take
the paper in profound silence, glide out of the room, and return shortly
loaded with ponderous tomes, upon which the other would fall, tooth
and nail, with famished voracity. I had no longer a doubt that I had
happened upon a body of magi, deeply engaged in the study of occult
sciences. The scene reminded me of an old Arabian tale, of a philosopher
shut up in an enchanted library, in the bosom of a mountain, which
opened only once a year; where he made the spirits of the place bring
him books of all kinds of dark knowledge, so that at the end of the
year, when the magic portal once more swung open on its hinges, he
issued forth so versed in forbidden lore, as to be able to soar above
the heads of the multitude, and to control the powers of Nature.

My curiosity being now fully aroused, I whispered to one of
the familiars, as he was about to leave the room, and begged an
interpretation of the strange scene before me. A few words were
sufficient for the purpose. I found that these mysterious personages,
whom I had mistaken for magi, were principally authors, and were in the
very act of manufacturing books. I was, in fact, in the reading-room of
the great British Library, an immense collection of volumes of all ages
and languages, many of which are now forgotten, and most of which are
seldom read: one of these sequestered pools of obsolete literature to
which modern authors repair, and draw buckets full of classic lore, or
“pure English, undefiled,” wherewith to swell their own scanty rills of
thought.

Being now in possession of the secret, I sat down in a corner, and
watched the process of this book manufactory. I noticed one lean,
bilious-looking wight, who sought none but the most worm-eaten volumes,
printed in black letter. He was evidently constructing some work of
profound erudition, that would be purchased by every man who wished to
be thought learned, placed upon a conspicuous shelf of his library, or
laid open upon his table--but never read. I observed him, now and then,
draw a large fragment of biscuit out of his pocket, and gnaw; whether
it was his dinner, or whether he was endeavoring to keep off that
exhaustion of the stomach, produced by much pondering over dry works, I
leave to harder students than myself to determine.

There was one dapper little gentleman in bright-colored clothes, with a
chirping gossiping expression of countenance, who had all the appearance
of an author on good terms with his bookseller. After considering him
attentively, I recognized in him a diligent getter-up of miscellaneous
works, which bustled off well with the trade. I was curious to see how
he manufactured his wares. He made more stir and show of business than
any of the others; dipping into various books, fluttering over the
leaves of manuscripts, taking a morsel out of one, a morsel out of
another, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there
a little.” The contents of his book seemed to be as heterogeneous as
those of the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth. It was here a finger and
there a thumb, toe of frog and blind worm’s sting, with his own gossip
poured in like “baboon’s blood,” to make the medley “slab and good.”

After all, thought I, may not this pilfering disposition be implanted in
authors for wise purposes? may it not be the way in which Providence
has taken care that the seeds of knowledge and wisdom shall be preserved
from age to age, in spite of the inevitable decay of the works in
which they were first produced? We see that Nature has wisely, though
whimsically provided for the conveyance of seeds from clime to clime,
in the maws of certain birds; so that animals, which, in themselves, are
little better than carrion, and apparently the lawless plunderers of the
orchard and the corn-field, are, in fact, Nature’s carriers to disperse
and perpetuate her blessings. In like manner, the beauties and fine
thoughts of ancient and obsolete authors are caught up by these flights
of predatory writers, and cast forth, again to flourish and bear fruit
in a remote and distant tract of time. Many of their works, also,
undergo a kind of metempsychosis, and spring up under new forms. What
was formerly a ponderous history, revives in the shape of a romance--an
old legend changes into a modern play--and a sober philosophical
treatise furnishes the body for a whole series of bouncing and sparkling
essays. Thus it is in the clearing of our American woodlands; where we
burn down a forest of stately pines, a progeny of dwarf oaks start up in
their place; and we never see the prostrate trunk of a tree mouldering
into soil, but it gives birth to a whole tribe of fungi.

Let us not then, lament over the decay and oblivion into which ancient
writers descend; they do but submit to the great law of Nature, which
declares that all sublunary shapes of matter shall be limited in their
duration, but which decrees, also, that their element shall never
perish. Generation after generation, both in animal and vegetable life,
passes away, but the vital principle is transmitted to posterity, and
the species continue to flourish. Thus, also, do authors beget authors,
and having produced a numerous progeny, in a good old age they sleep
with their fathers, that is to say, with the authors who preceded
them--and from whom they had stolen.

Whilst I was indulging in these rambling fancies I had leaned my head
against a pile of reverend folios. Whether it was owing to the soporific
emanations for these works; or to the profound quiet of the room; or
to the lassitude arising from much wandering; or to an unlucky habit
of napping at improper times and places, with which I am grievously
afflicted, so it was, that I fell into a doze. Still, however, my
imagination continued busy, and indeed the same scene continued before
my mind’s eye, only a little changed in some of the details. I dreamt
that the chamber was still decorated with the portraits of ancient
authors, but that the number was increased. The long tables had
disappeared, and, in place of the sage magi, I beheld a ragged,
threadbare throng, such as may be seen plying about the great repository
of cast-off clothes, Monmouth Street. Whenever they seized upon a book,
by one of those incongruities common to dreams, methought it turned into
a garment of foreign or antique fashion, with which they proceeded to
equip themselves. I noticed, however, that no one pretended to clothe
himself from any particular suit, but took a sleeve from one, a cape
from another, a skirt from a third, thus decking himself out piecemeal,
while some of his original rags would peep out from among his borrowed
finery.

There was a portly, rosy, well-fed parson, whom I observed ogling
several mouldy polemical writers through an eyeglass. He soon contrived
to slip on the voluminous mantle of one of the old fathers, and having
purloined the gray beard of another, endeavored to look exceedingly
wise; but the smirking commonplace of his countenance set at naught
all the trappings of wisdom. One sickly-looking gentleman was busied
embroidering a very flimsy garment with gold thread drawn out of several
old court-dresses of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Another had trimmed
himself magnificently from an illuminated manuscript, had stuck a
nosegay in his bosom, culled from “The Paradise of Dainty Devices,” and
having put Sir Philip Sidney’s hat on one side of his head, strutted off
with an exquisite air of vulgar elegance. A third, who was but of puny
dimensions, had bolstered himself out bravely with the spoils from
several obscure tracts of philosophy, so that he had a very imposing
front, but he was lamentably tattered in rear, and I perceived that
he had patched his small-clothes with scraps of parchment from a Latin
author.

There were some well-dressed gentlemen, it is true, who only helped
themselves to a gem or so, which sparkled among their own ornaments,
without eclipsing them. Some, too, seemed to contemplate the costumes
of the old writers, merely to imbibe their principles of taste, and to
catch their air and spirit; but I grieve to say, that too many were apt
to array themselves, from top to toe, in the patchwork manner I have
mentioned. I shall not omit to speak of one genius, in drab breeches
and gaiters, and an Arcadian hat, who had a violent propensity to the
pastoral, but whose rural wanderings had been confined to the classic
haunts of Primrose Hill, and the solitudes of the Regent’s Park. He had
decked himself in wreaths and ribbons from all the old pastoral poets,
and, hanging his head on one side, went about with a fantastical,
lackadaisical air, “babbling about green field.” But the personage that
most struck my attention was a pragmatical old gentleman in clerical
robes, with a remarkably large and square but bald head. He entered the
room wheezing and puffing, elbowed his way through the throng with a
look of sturdy self-confidence, and, having laid hands upon a thick
Greek quarto, clapped it upon his head, and swept majestically away in a
formidable frizzled wig.

In the height of this literary masquerade, a cry suddenly resounded from
every side, of “Thieves! thieves!” I looked, and lo! the portraits about
the walls became animated! The old authors thrust out, first a head,
then a shoulder, from the canvas, looked down curiously for an instant
upon the motley throng, and then descended, with fury in their eyes,
to claim their rifled property. The scene of scampering and hubbub that
ensued baffles all description. The unhappy culprits endeavored in vain
to escape with their plunder. On one side might be seen half a dozen
old monks, stripping a modern professor; on another, there was sad
devastation carried into the ranks of modern dramatic writers. Beaumont
and Fletcher, side by side, raged round the field like Castor and
Pollux, and sturdy Ben Jonson enacted more wonders than when a volunteer
with the army in Flanders. As to the dapper little compiler of farragos
mentioned some time since, he had arrayed himself in as many patches and
colors as harlequin, and there was as fierce a contention of claimants
about him, as about the dead body of Patroclus. I was grieved to
see many men, to whom I had been accustomed to look up with awe and
reverence, fain to steal off with scarce a rag to cover their nakedness.
Just then my eye was caught by the pragmatical old gentleman in the
Greek grizzled wig, who was scrambling away in sore affright with half
a score of authors in full cry after him. They were close upon his
haunches; in a twinkling off went his wig; at every turn some strip of
raiment was peeled away, until in a few moments, from his domineering
pomp, he shrunk into a little, pursy, “chopp’d bald shot,” and made his
exit with only a few tags and rags fluttering at his back.

There was something so ludicrous in the catastrophe of this learned
Theban that I burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, which broke the
whole illusion. The tumult and the scuffle were at an end. The chamber
resumed its usual appearance. The old authors shrunk back into their
picture-frames, and hung in shadowy solemnity along the walls. In short,
I found myself wide awake in my corner, with the whole assemblage of
hookworms gazing at me with astonishment. Nothing of the dream had been
real but my burst of laughter, a sound never before heard in that grave
sanctuary, and so abhorrent to the ears of wisdom, as to electrify the
fraternity.

The librarian now stepped up to me, and demanded whether I had a card of
admission. At first I did not comprehend him, but I soon found that the
library was a kind of literary “preserve,” subject to game-laws, and
that no one must presume to hunt there without special license and
permission. In a word, I stood convicted of being an arrant poacher, and
was glad to make a precipitate retreat, lest I should have a whole pack
of authors let loose upon me.



A ROYAL POET.

    Though your body be confined
        And soft love a prisoner bound,
    Yet the beauty of your mind
        Neither check nor chain hath found.
            Look out nobly, then, and dare
            Even the fetters that you wear.
                                               FLETCHER.

ON a soft sunny morning in the genial month of May I made an excursion
to Windsor Castle. It is a place full of storied and poetical
associations. The very external aspect of the proud old pile is enough
to inspire high thought. It rears its irregular walls and massive
towers, like a mural crown around the brow of a lofty ridge, waves its
royal banner in the clouds, and looks down with a lordly air upon the
surrounding world.

On this morning, the weather was of that voluptuous vernal kind which
calls forth all the latent romance of a man’s temperament, filling his
mind with music, and disposing him to quote poetry and dream of beauty.
In wandering through the magnificent saloons and long echoing galleries
of the castle I passed with indifference by whole rows of portraits
of warriors and statesmen, but lingered in the chamber where hang the
likenesses of the beauties which graced the gay court of Charles
the Second; and as I gazed upon them, depicted with amorous,
half-dishevelled tresses, and the sleepy eye of love, I blessed the
pencil of Sir Peter Lely, which had thus enabled me to bask in the
reflected rays of beauty. In traversing also the “large green courts,”
 with sunshine beaming on the gray walls and glancing along the velvet
turf, my mind was engrossed with the image of the tender, the gallant,
but hapless Surrey, and his account of his loiterings about them in his
stripling days, when enamoured of the Lady Geraldine--

    “With eyes cast up unto the maiden’s tower,
      With easie sighs, such as men draw in love.”

In this mood of mere poetical susceptibility, I visited the ancient keep
of the castle, where James the First of Scotland, the pride and theme of
Scottish poets and historians, was for many years of his youth detained
a prisoner of state. It is a large gray tower, that has stood the brunt
of ages, and is still in good preservation. It stands on a mound which
elevates it above the other parts of the castle, and a great flight of
steps leads to the interior. In the armory, a Gothic hall furnished with
weapons of various kinds and ages, I was shown a coat of armor hanging
against the wall, which had once belonged to James. Hence I
was conducted up a staircase to a suite of apartments, of faded
magnificence, hung with storied tapestry, which formed his prison, and
the scene of that passionate and fanciful amour, which has woven into
the web of his story the magical hues of poetry and fiction.

The whole history of this amiable but unfortunate prince is highly
romantic. At the tender age of eleven, he was sent from home by his
father, Robert III., and destined for the French court, to be reared
under the eye of the French monarch, secure from the treachery and
danger that surrounded the royal house of Scotland. It was his mishap,
in the course of his voyage, to fall into the hands of the English,
and he was detained prisoner by Henry IV., notwithstanding that a truce
existed between the two countries.

The intelligence of his capture, coming in the train of many sorrows and
disasters, proved fatal to his unhappy father. “The news,” we are told,
“was brought to him while at supper, and did so overwhelm him with grief
that he was almost ready to give up the ghost into the hands of the
servants that attended him. But being carried to his bedchamber, he
abstained from all food, and in three days died of hunger and grief at
Rothesay.” *


     * Buchanan.


James was detained in captivity above eighteen years; but, though
deprived of personal liberty, he was treated with the respect due to
his rank. Care was taken to instruct him in all the branches of useful
knowledge cultivated at that period, and to give him those mental and
personal accomplishments deemed proper for a prince. Perhaps in this
respect his imprisonment was an advantage, as it enabled him to apply
himself the more exclusively to his improvement, and quietly to imbibe
that rich fund of knowledge and to cherish those elegant tastes which
have given such a lustre to his memory. The picture drawn of him in
early life by the Scottish historians is highly captivating, and seems
rather the description of a hero of romance than of a character in real
history. He was well learnt, we are told, “to fight with the sword,
to joust, to tourney, to wrestle, to sing and dance; he was an expert
mediciner, right crafty in playing both of lute and harp, and sundry
other instruments of music, and was expert in grammar, oratory, and
poetry.” *


     * Ballenden’s translation of Hector Boyce.


With this combination of manly and delicate accomplishments, fitting him
to shine both in active and elegant life, and calculated to give him an
intense relish for joyous existence, it must have been a severe trial,
in an age of bustle and chivalry, to pass the spring-time of his years
in monotonous captivity. It was the good fortune of James, however, to
be gifted with a powerful poetic fancy, and to be visited in his prison
by the choicest inspirations of the muse. Some minds corrode, and grow
inactive, under the loss of personal liberty; others grow morbid
and irritable; but it is the nature of the poet to become tender and
imaginative in the loneliness of confinement. He banquets upon the honey
of his own thoughts, and, like the captive bird, pours forth his soul in
melody.

    Have you not seen the nightingale,
        A pilgrim coop’d into a cage,
    How doth she chant her wonted tale,
        In that her lonely hermitage!
    Even there her charming melody doth prove
    That all her boughs are trees, her cage a grove.+

    + Roger L’Estrange.

Indeed, it is the divine attribute of the imagination, that it is
irrepressible, unconfinable--that when the real world is shut out,
it can create a world for itself, and, with a necromantic power, can
conjure up glorious shapes and forms and brilliant visions, to make
solitude populous, and irradiate the gloom of the dungeon. Such was the
world of pomp and pageant that lived round Tasso in his dismal cell at
Ferrara, when he conceived the splendid scenes of his Jerusalem; and we
may consider The King’s Quair,* composed by James during his captivity
at Windsor, as another of those beautiful breakings forth of the soul
from the restraint and gloom of the prison-house.

The subject of the poem is his love for the lady Jane Beaufort, daughter
of the Earl of Somerset, and a princess of the blood-royal of England,
of whom he became enamoured in the course of his captivity. What gives
it a peculiar value, is, that it may be considered a transcript of
the royal bard’s true feelings, and the story of his real loves and
fortunes. It is not often that sovereigns write poetry or that poets
deal in fact. It is gratifying to the pride of a common man, to find
a monarch thus suing, as it were, for admission into his closet, and
seeking to win his favor by administering to his pleasures. It is a
proof of the honest equality of intellectual competition, which strips
off all the trappings of factitious dignity, brings the candidate down
to a level with his fellow-men, and obliges him to depend on his own
native powers for distinction. It is curious, too, to get at the history
of a monarch’s heart, and to find the simple affections of human nature
throbbing under the ermine. But James had learnt to be a poet before he
was a king; he was schooled in adversity, and reared in the company of
his own thoughts. Monarchs have seldom time to parley with their hearts
or to meditate their minds into poetry; and had James been brought up
amidst the adulation and gayety of a court, we should never, in all
probability, have had such a poem as the Quair.


     * Quair, an old term for book.


I have been particularly interested by those parts of the poem which
breathe his immediate thoughts concerning his situation, or which are
connected with the apartment in the Tower. They have thus a personal and
local charm, and are given with such circumstantial truth as to make the
reader present with the captive in his prison and the companion of his
meditations.

Such is the account which he gives of his weariness of spirit, and of
the incident which first suggested the idea of writing the poem. It was
the still mid-watch of a clear moonlight night; the stars, he says, were
twinkling as fire in the high vault of heaven, and “Cynthia rinsing her
golden locks in Aquarius.” He lay in bed wakeful and restless, and took
a book to beguile the tedious hours. The book he chose was Boetius’
Consolations of Philosophy, a work popular among the writers of that
day, and which had been translated by his great prototype, Chaucer. From
the high eulogium in which he indulges, it is evident this was one of
his favorite volumes while in prison; and indeed it is an admirable
text-book for meditation under adversity. It is the legacy of a noble
and enduring spirit, purified by sorrow and suffering, bequeathing to
its successors in calamity the maxims of sweet morality, and the trains
of eloquent but simple reasoning, by which it was enabled to bear
up against the various ills of life. It is a talisman, which the
unfortunate may treasure up in his bosom, or, like the good King James,
lay upon his nightly pillow.

After closing the volume he turns its contents over in his mind, and
gradually falls into a fit of musing on the fickleness of fortune, the
vicissitudes of his own life, and the evils that had overtaken him even
in his tender youth. Suddenly he hears the bell ringing to matins, but
its sound, chiming in with his melancholy fancies, seems to him like a
voice exhorting him to write his story. In the spirit of poetic errantry
he determines to comply with this intimation; he therefore takes pen in
hand, makes with it a sign of the cross to implore a benediction,
and sallies forth into the fairy-land of poetry. There is something
extremely fanciful in all this, and it is interesting as furnishing
a striking and beautiful instance of the simple manner in which
whole trains of poetical thought are sometimes awakened and literary
enterprises suggested to the mind.

In the course of his poem, he more than once bewails the peculiar
hardness of his fate, thus doomed to lonely and inactive life, and
shut up from the freedom and pleasure of the world in which the meanest
animal indulges unrestrained. There is a sweetness, however, in his very
complaints; they are the lamentations of an amiable and social spirit at
being denied the indulgence of its kind and generous propensities; there
is nothing in them harsh nor exaggerated; they flow with a natural and
touching pathos, and are perhaps rendered more touching by their
simple brevity. They contrast finely with those elaborate and iterated
repinings which we sometimes meet with in poetry, the effusions of
morbid minds sickening under miseries of their own creating, and
venting their bitterness upon an unoffending world. James speaks of his
privations with acute sensibility, but having mentioned them passes on,
as if his manly mind disdained to brood over unavoidable calamities.
When such a spirit breaks forth into complaint, however brief, we
are aware how great must be the suffering that extorts the murmur. We
sympathize with James, a romantic, active, and accomplished prince, cut
off in the lustihood of youth from all the enterprise, the noble uses,
and vigorous delights of life, as we do with Milton, alive to all the
beauties of nature and glories of art, when he breathes forth brief but
deep-toned lamentations over his perpetual blindness.

Had not James evinced a deficiency of poetic artifice, we might almost
have suspected that these lowerings of gloomy reflection were meant as
preparative to the brightest scene of his story, and to contrast with
that refulgence of light and loveliness, that exhilarating accompaniment
of bird and song, and foliage and flower, and all the revel of, the
year, with which he ushers in the lady of his heart. It is this scene,
in particular, which throws all the magic of romance about the old
castle keep. He had risen, he says, at daybreak, according to custom, to
escape from the dreary meditations of a sleepless pillow. “Bewailing in
his chamber thus alone,” despairing of all joy and remedy, “for, tired
of thought, and woe-begone,” he had wandered to the window to indulge
the captive’s miserable solace, of gazing wistfully upon the world from
which he is excluded. The window looked forth upon a small garden which
lay at the foot of the tower. It was a quiet, sheltered spot, adorned
with arbors and green alleys, and protected from the passing gaze by
trees and hawthorn hedges.

    Now was there made fast by the tower’s wall,
        A garden faire, and in the corners set
    An arbour green with wandis long and small
        Railed about, and so with leaves beset
    Was all the place and hawthorn hedges knet,
        That lyf* was none, walkyng there forbye,
    That might within scarce any wight espye.

    So thick the branches and the leves grene,
        Beshaded all the alleys that there were,
    And midst of every arbour might be seen,
        The sharpe, grene, swete juniper,
    Growing so fair with branches here and there,
        That as it seemed to a lyf without,
    The boughs did spread the arbour all about.

    And on the small grene twistis+ set
        The lytel swete nightingales, and sung
    So loud and clear, the hymnis consecrate
        Of lovis use, now soft, now loud among,
    That all the garden and the wallis rung
    Right of their song----


     * Lyf, Person.

     + Twistis, small boughs or twigs. NOTE--The language of the
     quotations is generally modernized.


It was the month of May, when every thing was in bloom, and he
interprets the song of the nightingale into the language of his
enamoured feeling:

    Worship, all ye that lovers be, this May;
        For of your bliss the kalends are begun,
    And sing with us, Away, winter, away.
        Come, summer, come, the sweet season and sun.

As he gazes on the scene, and listens to the notes of the birds, he
gradually relapses into one of those tender and undefinable reveries,
which fill the youthful bosom in this delicious season. He wonders what
this love may be of which he has so often read, and which thus seems
breathed forth in the quickening breath of May, and melting all nature
into ecstasy and song. If it really be so great a felicity, and if it be
a boon thus generally dispensed to the most insignificant beings, why is
he alone cut off from its enjoyments?

    Oft would I think, O Lord, what may this be,
        That love is of such noble myght and kynde?
    Loving his folke, and such prosperitee,
        Is it of him, as we in books do find;
        May he oure hertes setten* and unbynd:
    Hath he upon oure hertes such maistrye?
    Or is all this but feynit fantasye?

    For giff he be of so grete excellence
        That he of every wight hath care and charge,
    What have I gilt+ to him, or done offense,
        That I am thral’d, and birdis go at large?


     * Setten, incline.

     + Gilt, what injury have I done, etc.


In the midst of his musing, as he casts his eye downward, he beholds
“the fairest and the freshest young floure” that ever he had seen. It is
the lovely Lady Jane, walking in the garden to enjoy the beauty of that
“fresh May morrowe.” Breaking thus suddenly upon his sight in a moment
of loneliness and excited susceptibility, she at once captivates the
fancy of the romantic prince, and becomes the object of his wandering
wishes, the sovereign of his ideal world.

There is, in this charming scene, an evident resemblance to the early
part of Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, where Palamon and Arcite fall in
love with Emilia, whom they see walking in the garden of their prison.
Perhaps the similarity of the actual fact to the incident which he had
read in Chaucer may have induced James to dwell on it in his poem. His
description of the Lady Jane is given in the picturesque and minute
manner of his master, and, being doubtless taken from the life, is a
perfect portrait of a beauty of that day. He dwells with the fondness
of a lover on every article of her apparel, from the net of pearl,
splendent with emeralds and sapphires, that confined her golden hair,
even to the “goodly chaine of small orfeverye” * about her neck, whereby
there hung a ruby in shape of a heart, that seemed, he says, like a
spark of fire burning upon her white bosom. Her dress of white
tissue was looped up to enable her to walk with more freedom. She was
accompanied by two female attendants, and about her sported a little
hound decorated with bells, probably the small Italian hound of
exquisite symmetry which was a parlor favorite and pet among the
fashionable dames of ancient times. James closes his description by a
burst of general eulogium:

    In her was youth, beauty, with humble port,
        Bounty, richesse, and womanly feature:
    God better knows than my pen can report,
        Wisdom, largesse,+ estate,++ and cunning& sure.
    In every point so guided her measure,
        In word, in deed, in shape, in countenance,
        That nature might no more her child advance.


     * Wrought gold.

     + Largesse, bounty.

     ++ Estate, dignity.

     & Cunning, discretion.


The departure of the Lady Jane from the garden puts an end to this
transient riot of the heart. With her departs the amorous illusion
that had shed a temporary charm over the scene of his captivity, and he
relapses into loneliness, now rendered tenfold more intolerable by this
passing beam of unattainable beauty. Through the long and weary day he
repines at his unhappy lot, and when evening approaches, and Phoebus,
as he beautifully expresses it, had “bade farewell to every leaf and
flower,” he still lingers at the window, and, laying his head upon the
cold stone, gives vent to a mingled flow of love and sorrow, until,
gradually lulled by the mute melancholy of the twilight hour, he lapses,
“half-sleeping, half swoon,” into a vision, which occupies the remainder
of the poem, and in which is allegorically shadowed out the history of
his passion.

When he wakes from his trance, he rises from his stony pillow, and,
pacing his apartment, full of dreary reflections, questions his spirit,
whither it has been wandering; whether, indeed, all that has
passed before his dreaming fancy has been conjured up by preceding
circumstances, or whether it is a vision intended to comfort and assure
him in his despondency. If the latter, he prays that some token may be
sent to confirm the promise of happier days, given him in his slumbers.
Suddenly, a turtledove of the purest whiteness comes flying in at the
window, and alights upon his hand, bearing in her bill a branch of red
gilliflower, on the leaves of which is written, in letters of gold, the
following sentence:

    Awake! Awake! I bring, lover, I bring
        The newis glad, that blissful is and sure
    Of thy comfort; now laugh, and play, and sing,
        For in the heaven decretit is thy cure.

He receives the branch with mingled hope and dread; reads it with
rapture; and this he says was the first token of his succeeding
happiness. Whether this is a mere poetic fiction, or whether the Lady
Jane did actually send him a token of her favor in this romantic way,
remains to be determined according to the fate or fancy of the reader.
He concludes his poem by intimating that the promise conveyed in the
vision and by the flower, is fulfilled by his being restored to liberty,
and made happy in the possession of the sovereign of his heart.

Such is the poetical account given by James of his love adventures
in Windsor Castle. How much of it is absolute fact, and how much the
embellishment of fancy, it is fruitless to conjecture; let us not,
however, reject every romantic incident as incompatible with real life,
but let us sometimes take a poet at his word. I have noticed merely
those parts of the poem immediately connected with the tower, and have
passed over a large part which was in the allegorical vein, so
much cultivated at that day. The language, of course, is quaint and
antiquated, so that the beauty of many of its golden phrases will
scarcely be perceived at the present day, but it is impossible not to
be charmed with the genuine sentiment, the delightful artlessness and
urbanity, which prevail throughout it. The descriptions of Nature too,
with which it is embellished, are given with a truth, a discrimination,
and a freshness, worthy of the most cultivated periods of the art.

As an amatory poem, it is edifying, in these days of coarser thinking,
to notice the nature, refinement, and exquisite delicacy which
pervade it; banishing every gross thought, or immodest expression, and
presenting female loveliness, clothed in all its chivalrous attributes
of almost supernatural purity and grace.

James flourished nearly about the time of Chaucer and Gower, and was
evidently an admirer and studier of their writings. Indeed, in one of
his stanzas he acknowledges them as his masters; and in some parts
of his poem we find traces of similarity to their productions, more
especially to those of Chaucer. There are always, however, general
features of resemblance in the works of contemporary authors, which are
not so much borrowed from each other as from the times. Writers, like
bees, toll their sweets in the wide world; they incorporate with their
own conceptions, the anecdotes and thoughts current in society; and thus
each generation has some features in common, characteristic of the age
in which it lives.

James belongs to one of the most brilliant eras of our literary history,
and establishes the claims of his country to a participation in
its primitive honors. Whilst a small cluster of English writers are
constantly cited as the fathers of our verse, the name of their
great Scottish compeer is apt to be passed over in silence; but he
is evidently worthy of being enrolled in that little constellation of
remote but never-failing luminaries who shine in the highest firmament
of literature, and who, like morning stars, sang together at the bright
dawning of British poesy.

Such of my readers as may not be familiar with Scottish history (though
the manner in which it has of late been woven with captivating fiction
has made it a universal study) may be curious to learn something of the
subsequent history of James and the fortunes of his love. His passion
for the Lady Jane, as it was the solace of his captivity, so it
facilitated his release, it being imagined by the Court that a
connection with the blood-royal of England would attach him to its own
interests. He was ultimately restored to his liberty and crown, having
previously espoused the Lady Jane, who accompanied him to Scotland, and
made him a most tender and devoted wife.

He found his kingdom in great confusion, the feudal chieftains
having taken advantage of the troubles and irregularities of a long
interregnum, to strengthen themselves in their possessions, and place
themselves above the power of the laws. James sought to found the basis
of his power in the affections of his people. He attached the lower
orders to him by the reformation of abuses, the temperate and equable
administration of justice, the encouragement of the arts of peace, and
the promotion of every thing that could diffuse comfort, competency,
and innocent enjoyment through the humblest ranks of society. He
mingled occasionally among the common people in disguise; visited
their firesides; entered into their cares, their pursuits, and their
amusements; informed himself of the mechanical arts, and how they could
best be patronized and improved; and was thus an all-pervading spirit,
watching with a benevolent eye over the meanest of his subjects. Having
in this generous manner made himself strong in the hearts of the common
people, he turned himself to curb the power of the factious nobility;
to strip them of those dangerous immunities which they had usurped; to
punish such as had been guilty of flagrant offences; and to bring the
whole into proper obedience to the Crown. For some time they bore
this with outward submission, but with secret impatience and brooding
resentment. A conspiracy was at length formed against his life, at the
head of which was his own uncle, Robert Stewart, Earl of Athol, who,
being too old himself for the perpetration of the deed of blood,
instigated his grandson, Sir Robert Stewart, together with Sir Robert
Graham, and others of less note, to commit the deed. They broke into his
bedchamber at the Dominican convent near Perth, where he was residing,
and barbarously murdered him by oft-repeated wounds. His faithful queen,
rushing to throw her tender body between him and the sword, was twice
wounded in the ineffectual attempt to shield him from the assassin; and
it was not until she had been forcibly torn from his person, that the
murder was accomplished.

It was the recollection of this romantic tale of former times, and of
the golden little poem, which had its birthplace in this tower, that
made me visit the old pile with more than common interest. The suit
of armor hanging up in the hall, richly gilt and embellished, as if to
figure in the tourney, brought the image of the gallant and romantic
prince vividly before my imagination. I paced the deserted chambers
where he had composed his poem; I leaned upon the window, and endeavored
to persuade myself it was the very one where he had been visited by
his vision; I looked out upon the spot where he had first seen the Lady
Jane. It was the same genial and joyous month; the birds were again
vying with each other in strains of liquid melody; every thing was
bursting into vegetation, and budding forth the tender promise of the
year. Time, which delights to obliterate the sterner memorials of human
pride, seems to have passed lightly over this little scene of poetry and
love, and to have withheld his desolating hand. Several centuries have
gone by, yet the garden still flourishes at the foot of the tower. It
occupies what was once the moat of the keep; and, though some parts have
been separated by dividing walls, yet others have still their arbors
and shaded walks, as in the days of James, and the whole is sheltered,
blooming, and retired. There is a charm about the spot that has been
printed by the footsteps of departed beauty, and consecrated by the
inspirations of the poet, which is heightened, rather than impaired, by
the lapse of ages. It is, indeed, the gift of poetry, to hallow every
place in which it moves; to breathe around nature an odor more exquisite
than the perfume of the rose, and to shed over it a tint more magical
than the blush of morning.

Others may dwell on the illustrious deeds of James as a warrior and a
legislator; but I have delighted to view him merely as the companion
of his fellow-men, the benefactor of the human heart, stooping from his
high estate to sow the sweet flowers of poetry and song in the paths of
common life. He was the first to cultivate the vigorous and hardy plant
of Scottish genius, which has since become so prolific of the most
wholesome and highly flavored fruit. He carried with him into the
sterner regions of the north, all the fertilizing arts of southern
refinement. He did every thing in his power to win his countrymen to the
gay, the elegant, and gentle arts, which soften and refine the character
of a people, and wreathe a grace round the loftiness of a proud and
warlike spirit. He wrote many poems, which, unfortunately for the
fulness of his fame, are now lost to the world; one, which is still
preserved, called “Christ’s Kirk of the Green,” shows how diligently he
had made himself acquainted with the rustic sports and pastimes, which
constitute such a source of kind and social feeling among the Scottish
peasantry; and with what simple and happy humor he could enter into
their enjoyments. He contributed greatly to improve the national music;
and traces of his tender sentiment and elegant taste are said to exist
in those witching airs, still piped among the wild mountains and lonely
glens of Scotland. He has thus connected his image with whatever is most
gracious and endearing in the national character; he has embalmed his
memory in song, and floated his name to after-ages in the rich streams
of Scottish melody. The recollection of these things was kindling at my
heart, as I paced the silent scene of his imprisonment. I have visited
Vaucluse with as much enthusiasm as a pilgrim would visit the shrine
at Loretto; but I have never felt more poetical devotion than when
contemplating the old tower and the little garden at Windsor, and
musing over the romantic loves of the Lady Jane, and the Royal Poet of
Scotland.



THE COUNTRY CHURCH.

                                A gentleman!
    What o’ the woolpack? or the sugar-chest?
    Or lists of velvet? which is ‘t, pound, or yard,
    You vend your gentry by?
                                        BEGGAR’S BUSH.

THERE are few places more favorable to the study of character than an
English country church. I was once passing a few weeks at the seat of
a friend who resided in, the vicinity of one the appearance of which
particularly struck my fancy. It was one of those rich morsels of quaint
antiquity, which gives such a peculiar charm to English landscape.
It stood in the midst of a country filled with ancient families, and
contained within its cold and silent aisles the congregated dust of many
noble generations. The interior walls were encrusted with monuments
of every age and style. The light streamed through windows dimmed with
armorial bearings, richly emblazoned in stained glass. In various parts
of the church were tombs of knights, and highborn dames, of gorgeous
workmanship, with their effigies in colored marble. On every side, the
eye was struck with some instance of aspiring mortality, some haughty
memorial which human pride had erected over its kindred dust in this
temple of the most humble of all religions.

The congregation was composed of the neighboring people of rank, who sat
in pews sumptuously lined and cushioned, furnished with richly-gilded
prayer-books, and decorated with their arms upon the pew doors; of the
villagers and peasantry, who filled the back seats and a small gallery
beside the organ; and of the poor of the parish, who were ranged on
benches in the aisles.

The service was performed by a snuffling, well-fed vicar, who had a snug
dwelling near the church. He was a privileged guest at all the tables
of the neighborhood, and had been the keenest fox-hunter in the country,
until age and good living had disabled him from doing anything more than
ride to see the hounds throw off, and make one at the hunting dinner.

Under the ministry of such a pastor, I found it impossible to get into
the train of thought suitable to the time and place; so, having, like
many other feeble Christians, compromised with my conscience, by laying
the sin of my own delinquency at another person’s threshold, I occupied
myself by making observations on my neighbors.

I was as yet a stranger in England, and curious to notice the manners
of its fashionable classes. I found, as usual, that there was the least
pretension where there was the most acknowledged title to respect. I was
particularly struck, for instance, with the family of a nobleman of high
rank, consisting of several sons and daughters. Nothing could be more
simple and unassuming than their appearance. They generally came to
church in the plainest equipage, and often on foot. The young ladies
would stop and converse in the kindest manner with the peasantry, caress
the children, and listen to the stories of the humble cottagers. Their
countenances were open and beautifully fair, with an expression of
high refinement, but at the same time a frank cheerfulness and engaging
affability. Their brothers were tall, and elegantly formed. They were
dressed fashionably, but simply--with strict neatness and propriety, but
without any mannerism or foppishness. Their whole demeanor was easy
and natural, with that lofty grace and noble frankness which bespeak
free-born souls that have never been checked in their growth by feelings
of inferiority. There is a healthful hardiness about real dignity, that
never dreads contact and communion with others, however humble. It is
only spurious pride that is morbid and sensitive, and shrinks from every
touch. I was pleased to see the manner in which they would converse with
the peasantry about those rural concerns and field-sports in which the
gentlemen of the country so much delight. In these conversations there
was neither haughtiness on the one part, nor servility on the other, and
you were only reminded of the difference of rank by the habitual respect
of the peasant.

In contrast to these was the family of a wealthy citizen, who had
amassed a vast fortune, and, having purchased the estate and mansion of
a ruined nobleman in the neighborhood, was endeavoring to assume all the
style and dignity of an hereditary lord of the soil. The family always
came to church en prince. They were rolled majestically along in a
carriage emblazoned with arms. The crest glittered in silver radiance
from every part of the harness where a crest could possibly be placed.
A fat coachman, in a three-cornered hat richly laced and a flaxen wig,
curling close round his rosy face, was seated on the box, with a sleek
Danish dog beside him. Two footmen in gorgeous liveries, with huge
bouquets, and gold-headed canes, lolled behind. The carriage rose and
sunk on its long springs with a peculiar stateliness of motion. The very
horses champed their bits, arched their necks, and glanced their eyes
more proudly than common horses; either because they had caught a little
of the family feeling, or were reined up more tightly than ordinary.

I could not but admire the style with which this splendid pageant
was brought up to the gate of the churchyard. There was a vast effect
produced at the turning of an angle of the wall--a great smacking of the
whip, straining and scrambling of the horses, glistening of harness, and
flashing of wheels through gravel. This was the moment of triumph and
vainglory to the coachman. The horses were urged and checked, until they
were fretted into a foam. They threw out their feet in a prancing trot,
dashing about pebbles at every step. The crowd of villagers sauntering
quietly to church opened precipitately to the right and left, gaping in
vacant admiration. On reaching the gate, the horses were pulled up with
a suddenness that produced an immediate stop, and almost threw them on
their haunches.

There was an extraordinary hurry of the footmen to alight, pull down the
steps, and prepare everything for the descent on earth of this august
family. The old citizen first emerged his round red face from out the
door, looking about him with the pompous air of a man accustomed to rule
on ‘Change, and shake the Stock Market with a nod. His consort, a fine,
fleshy, comfortable dame, followed him. There seemed, I must confess,
but little pride in her composition. She was the picture of broad,
honest, vulgar enjoyment. The world went well with her; and she liked
the world. She had fine clothes, a fine house, a fine carriage, fine
children--everything was fine about her: it was nothing but driving
about and visiting and feasting. Life was to her a perpetual revel; it
was one long Lord Mayor’s Day.

Two daughters succeeded to this goodly couple. They certainly were
handsome, but had a supercilious air that chilled admiration and
disposed the spectator to be critical. They were ultrafashionable in
dress, and, though no one could deny the richness of their decorations,
yet their appropriateness might be questioned amidst the simplicity of
a country church. They descended loftily from the carriage, and moved up
the line of peasantry with a step that seemed dainty of the soil it trod
on. They cast an excursive glance around, that passed coldly over the
burly faces of the peasantry, until they met the eyes of the nobleman’s
family, when their countenances immediately brightened into smiles, and
they made the most profound and elegant courtesies, which were returned
in a manner that showed they were but slight acquaintances.

I must not forget the two sons of this inspiring citizen, who came to
church in a dashing curricle with outriders. They were arrayed in the
extremity of the mode, with all that pedantry of dress which marks
the man of questionable pretensions to style. They kept entirely by
themselves, eying every one askance that came near them, as if measuring
his claims to respectability; yet they were without conversation, except
the exchange of an occasional cant phrase. They even moved artificially,
for their bodies, in compliance with the caprice of the day, had been
disciplined into the absence of all ease and freedom. Art had done
everything to accomplish them as men of fashion, but Nature had denied
them the nameless grace. They were vulgarly shaped, like men formed for
the common purposes of life, and had that air of supercilious assumption
which is never seen in the true gentleman.

I have been rather minute in drawing the pictures of these two families,
because I considered them specimens of what is often to be met with in
this country--the unpretending great, and the arrogant little. I have no
respect for titled rank, unless it be accompanied with true nobility
of soul; but I have remarked, in all countries where artificial
distinctions exist, that the very highest classes are always the most
courteous and unassuming. Those who are well assured of their own
standing are least apt to trespass on that of others; whereas, nothing
is so offensive as the aspirings of vulgarity, which thinks to elevate
itself by humiliating its neighbor.

As I have brought these families into contrast, I must notice their
behavior in church. That of the nobleman’s family was quiet, serious,
and attentive. Not that they appeared to have any fervor of devotion,
but rather a respect for sacred things, and sacred places, inseparable
from good-breeding. The others, on the contrary, were in a perpetual
flutter and whisper; they betrayed a continual consciousness of finery,
and the sorry ambition of being the wonders of a rural congregation.

The old gentleman was the only one really attentive to the service. He
took the whole burden of family devotion upon himself; standing bolt
upright, and uttering the responses with a loud voice that might be
heard all over the church. It was evident that he was one of these
thorough Church-and-king men, who connect the idea of devotion and
loyalty; who consider the Deity, somehow or other, of the government
party, and religion “a very excellent sort of thing, that ought to be
countenanced and kept up.”

When he joined so loudly in the service, it seemed more by way of
example to the lower orders, to show them that, though so great and
wealthy, he was not above being religious; as I have seen a turtle-fed
alderman swallow publicly a basin of charity soup, smacking his lips at
every mouthful and pronouncing it “excellent food for the poor.”

When the service was at an end, I was curious to witness the several
exits of my groups. The young noblemen and their sisters, as the day
was fine, preferred strolling home across the fields, chatting with the
country people as they went. The others departed as they came, in grand
parade. Again were the equipages wheeled up to the gate. There was again
the smacking of whips, the clattering of hoofs, and the glittering of
harness. The horses started off almost at a bound; the villagers again
hurried to right and left; the wheels threw up a cloud of dust, and the
aspirin family was rapt out of sight in a whirlwind.



THE WIDOW AND HER SON.

    Pittie olde age, within whose silver haires
    Honour and reverence evermore have rain’d.
                           MARLOWE’S TAMBURLAINE.

THOSE who are in the habit of remarking such matters must have noticed
the passive quiet of an English landscape on Sunday. The clacking of
the mill, the regularly recurring stroke of the flail, the din of the
blacksmith’s hammer, the whistling of the ploughman, the rattling of
the cart, and all other sounds of rural labor are suspended. The
very farm-dogs bark less frequently, being less disturbed by passing
travellers. At such times I have almost fancied the wind sunk into
quiet, and that the sunny landscape, with its fresh green tints melting
into blue haze, enjoyed the hallowed calm.

    Sweet day, so pure, so calm, so brigh’
    The bridal of the earth and sky.

Well was it ordained that the day of devotion should be a day of rest.
The holy repose which reigns over the face of nature has its moral
influence; every restless passion is charmed down, and we feel the
natural religion of the soul gently springing up within us. For my
part, there are feelings that visit me, in a country church, amid the
beautiful serenity of nature, which I experience nowhere else; and if
not a more religious, I think I am a better man on Sunday than on any
other day of the seven.

During my recent residence in the country, I used frequently to attend
at the old village church. Its shadowy aisles, its mouldering monuments,
its dark oaken panelling, all reverend with the gloom of departed years,
seemed to fit it for the haunt of solemn meditation; but, being in a
wealthy, aristocratic neighborhood, the glitter of fashion penetrated
even into the sanctuary; and I felt myself continually thrown back upon
the world, by the frigidity and pomp of the poor worms around me. The
only being in the whole congregation who appeared thoroughly to feel the
humble and prostrate piety of a true Christian was a poor decrepit old
woman, bending under the weight of years and infirmities. She bore the
traces of something better than abject poverty. The lingerings of decent
pride were visible in her appearance. Her dress, though humble in the
extreme, was scrupulously clean. Some trivial respect, too, had been
awarded her, for she did not take her seat among the village poor, but
sat alone on the steps of the altar. She seemed to have survived all
love, all friendship, all society, and to have nothing left her but the
hopes of heaven. When I saw her feebly rising and bending her aged form
in prayer; habitually conning her prayer-book, which her palsied hand
and failing eyes could not permit her to read, but which she evidently
knew by heart, I felt persuaded that the faltering voice of that poor
woman arose to heaven far before the responses of the clerk, the swell
of the organ, or the chanting of the choir.

I am fond of loitering about country churches, and this was so
delightfully situated, that it frequently attracted me. It stood on a
knoll, round which a small stream made a beautiful bend and then wound
its way through a long reach of soft meadow scenery. The church was
surrounded by yew trees, which seemed almost coeval with itself. Its
tall Gothic spire shot up lightly from among them, with rooks and crows
generally wheeling about it. I was seated there one still sunny morning
watching two laborers who were digging a grave. They had chosen one of
the most remote and neglected corners of the churchyard, where, from the
number of nameless graves around, it would appear that the indigent and
friendless were huddled into the earth. I was told that the new-made
grave was for the only son of a poor widow. While I was meditating on
the distinctions of worldly rank, which extend thus down into the very
dust, the toll of the bell announced the approach of the funeral. They
were the obsequies of poverty, with which pride had nothing to do. A
coffin of the plainest materials, without pall or other covering, was
borne by some of the villagers. The sexton walked before with an air
of cold indifference. There were no mock mourners in the trappings of
affected woe, but there was one real mourner who feebly tottered after
the corpse. It was the aged mother of the deceased, the poor old woman
whom I had seen seated on the steps of the altar. She was supported by
a humble friend, who was endeavoring to comfort her. A few of the
neighboring poor had joined the train, and some children of the village
were running hand in hand, now shouting with unthinking mirth, and now
pausing to gaze, with childish curiosity on the grief of the mourner.

As the funeral train approached the grave, the parson issued from the
church-porch, arrayed in the surplice, with prayer-book in hand, and
attended by the clerk. The service, however, was a mere act of charity.
The deceased had been destitute, and the survivor was penniless. It
was shuffled through, therefore, in form, but coldly and unfeeling. The
well-fed priest moved but a few steps from the church door; his voice
could scarcely be heard at the grave; and never did I hear the funeral
service, that sublime and touching ceremony, turned into such a frigid
mummery of words.

I approached the grave. The coffin was placed on the ground. On it were
inscribed the name and age of the deceased--“George Somers, aged 26
years.” The poor mother had been assisted to kneel down at the head
of it. Her withered hands were clasped, as if in prayer; but I could
perceive, by a feeble rocking of the body, and a convulsive motion of
the lips, that she was gazing on the last relics of her son with the
yearnings of a mother’s heart.

Preparations were made to deposit the coffin in the earth. There was
that bustling stir, which breaks so harshly on the feelings of grief and
affection; directions given in the cold tones of business; the striking
of spades into sand and gravel; which, at the grave of those we love,
is, of all sounds, the most withering. The bustle around seemed to
waken the mother from a wretched revery. She raised her glazed eyes, and
looked about with a faint wildness. As the men approached with cords to
lower the coffin into the grave, she wrung her hands, and broke into
an agony of grief. The poor woman who attended her took her by the arm
endeavoring to raise her from the earth, and to whisper something like
consolation: “Nay, now--nay, now--don’t take it so sorely to heart.”
 She could only shake her head, and wring her hands, as one not to be
comforted.

As they lowered the body into the earth, the creaking of the cords
seemed to agonize her; but when, on some accidental obstruction, there
was a jostling of the coffin, all the tenderness of the mother burst
forth, as if any harm could come to him who was far beyond the reach of
worldly suffering.

I could see no more--my heart swelled into my throat--my eyes filled
with tears; I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part in standing by
and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I wandered to another
part of the churchyard, where I remained until the funeral train had
dispersed.

When I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave, leaving
behind her the remains of all that was dear to her on earth, and
returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached for her. What,
thought I, are the distresses of the rich? They have friends to
soothe--pleasures to beguile--a world to divert and dissipate their
griefs. What are the sorrows of the young? Their growing minds soon
close above the wound--their elastic spirits soon rise beneath the
pressure--their green and ductile affections soon twine round new
objects. But the sorrows of the poor, who have no outward appliances to
soothe--the sorrows of the aged, with whom life at best is but a wintry
day, and who can look for no after-growth of joy--the sorrows of a
widow, aged, solitary, destitute, mourning over an only son, the last
solace of her years,--these are indeed sorrows which make us feel the
impotency of consolation.

It was some time before I left the churchyard. On my way homeward, I met
with the woman who had acted as comforter: she was just returning from
accompanying the mother to her lonely habitation, and I drew from her
some particulars connected with the affecting scene I had witnessed.

The parents of the deceased had resided in the village from childhood.
They had inhabited one of the neatest cottages, and by various rural
occupations, and the assistance of a small garden, had supported
themselves creditably and comfortably, and led a happy and a blameless
life. They had one son, who had grown up to be the staff and pride of
their age. “Oh, sir!” said the good woman, “he was such a comely lad,
so sweet-tempered, so kind to every one around him, so dutiful to his
parents! It did one’s heart good to see him of a Sunday, drest out in
his best, so tall, so straight, so cheery, supporting his old mother to
church; for she was always fonder of leaning on George’s arm than on her
good man’s; and, poor soul, she might well be proud of him, for a finer
lad there was not in the country round.”

Unfortunately, the son was tempted, during a year of scarcity and
agricultural hardship, to enter into the service of one of the small
craft that plied on a neighboring river. He had not been long in this
employ, when he was entrapped by a press-gang, and carried off to sea.
His parents received tidings of his seizure, but beyond that they could
learn nothing. It was the loss of their main prop. The father, who was
already infirm, grew heartless and melancholy and sunk into his grave.
The widow, left lonely in her age and feebleness, could no longer
support herself, and came upon the parish. Still there was a kind
feeling towards her throughout the village, and a certain respect as
being one of the oldest inhabitants. As no one applied for the cottage
in which she had passed so many happy days, she was permitted to remain
in it, where she lived solitary and almost helpless. The few wants of
nature were chiefly supplied from the scanty productions of her little
garden, which the neighbors would now and then cultivate for her. It was
but a few days before the time at which these circumstances were told
me, that she was gathering some vegetables for her repast, when she
heard the cottage-door which faced the garden, suddenly opened. A
stranger came out, and seemed to be looking eagerly and wildly around.
He was dressed in seamen’s clothes, was emaciated and ghastly pale, and
bore the air of one broken by sickness and hardships. He saw her and
hastened towards her, but his steps were faint and faltering; he sank on
his knees before her and sobbed like a child. The poor woman gazed upon
him with a vacant and wandering eye. “Oh, my dear, dear mother! don’t
you know your son? your poor boy, George?” It was, indeed, the wreck
of her once noble lad; who shattered by wounds, by sickness and foreign
imprisonment, had, at length, dragged his wasted limbs homeward, to
repose among the scenes of his childhood.

I will not attempt to detail the particulars of such a meeting, where
sorrow and joy were so completely blended: still, he was alive! he was
come home! he might yet live to comfort and cherish her old age! Nature,
however, was exhausted in him; and if any thing had been wanting to
finish the work of fate, the desolation of his native cottage would have
been sufficient. He stretched himself on the pallet on which his widowed
mother had passed many a sleepless night, and he never rose from it
again.

The villagers, when they heard that George Somers had returned, crowded
to see him, offering every comfort and assistance that their humble
means afforded. He was too weak, however, to talk--he could only
look his thanks. His mother was his constant attendant; and he seemed
unwilling to be helped by any other hand.

There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of manhood,
that softens the heart, and brings it back to the feelings of infancy.
Who that has languished, even in advanced life, in sickness and
despondency, who that has pined on a weary bed in the neglect and
loneliness of a foreign land, but has thought on the mother “that looked
on his childhood,” that smoothed his pillow, and administered to his
helplessness? Oh, there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a
mother to a son, that transcends all other affections of the heart.
It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger,
nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will
sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every
pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame and exult in his
prosperity; and, if misfortune overtake him, he will be the dearer to
her from misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will
still love and cherish him in spite of his disgrace; and if all the
world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.

Poor George Somers had known what it was to be in sickness, and none to
soothe--lonely and in prison, and none to visit him. He could not endure
his mother from his sight; if she moved away, his eye would follow her.
She would sit for hours by his bed watching him as he slept. Sometimes
he would start from a feverish dream, and look anxiously up until he saw
her bending over him; when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom,
and fall asleep with the tranquillity of a child. In this way he died.

My first impulse on hearing this humble tale of affliction was to visit
the cottage of the mourner, and administer pecuniary assistance, and, if
possible, comfort. I found, however, on inquiry, that the good feelings
of the villagers had prompted them to do everything that the case
admitted; and as the poor know best how to console each other’s sorrows,
I did not venture to intrude.

The next Sunday I was at the village church, when, to my surprise, I saw
the poor old woman tottering down the aisle to her accustomed seat on
the steps of the altar.

She had made an effort to put on something like mourning for her son;
and nothing could be more touching than this struggle between pious
affection and utter poverty--a black ribbon or so, a faded black
handkerchief, and one or two more such humble attempts to express by
outward signs that grief which passes show. When I looked round upon
the storied monuments, the stately hatchments, the cold marble pomp with
which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride, and turned to
this poor widow, bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God,
and offering up the prayers and praises of a pious though a broken
heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth them
all.

I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the congregation,
and they were moved by it. They exerted themselves to render her
situation more comfortable, and to lighten her afflictions. It was,
however, but smoothing a few steps to the grave. In the course of a
Sunday or two after, she was missed from her usual seat at church, and
before I left the neighborhood I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction,
that she had quietly breathed her last, and had gone to rejoin those she
loved, in that world where sorrow is never known and friends are never
parted.



A SUNDAY IN LONDON.*

     * Part of a sketch omitted in the preceding editions.


IN a preceding paper I have spoken of an English Sunday in the country
and its tranquillizing effect upon the landscape; but where is its
sacred influence more strikingly apparent than in the very heart of that
great Babel, London? On this sacred day the gigantic monster is charmed
into repose. The intolerable din and struggle of the week are at an
end. The shops are shut. The fires of forges and manufactories are
extinguished, and the sun, no longer obscured by murky clouds of smoke,
pours down a sober yellow radiance into the quiet streets. The
few pedestrians we meet, instead of hurrying forward with anxious
countenances, move leisurely along; their brows are smoothed from the
wrinkles of business and care; they have put on their Sunday looks and
Sunday manners with their Sunday clothes, and are cleansed in mind as
well as in person.

And now the melodious clangor of bells from church towers summons their
several flocks to the fold. Forth issues from his mansion the family
of the decent tradesman, the small children in the advance; then the
citizen and his comely spouse, followed by the grown-up daughters,
with small morocco-bound prayer-books laid in the folds of their
pocket-handkerchiefs. The housemaid looks after them from the window,
admiring the finery of the family, and receiving, perhaps, a nod and
smile from her young mistresses, at whose toilet she has assisted.

Now rumbles along the carriage of some magnate of the city, peradventure
an alderman or a sheriff, and now the patter of many feet announces it
procession of charity scholars in uniforms of antique cut, and each with
a prayer-book under his arm.

The ringing of bells is at an end; the rumbling of the carriage has
ceased; the pattering of feet is heard no more; the flocks are folded
in ancient churches, cramped up in by-lanes and corners of the crowded
city, where the vigilant beadle keeps watch, like the shepherd’s dog,
round the threshold of the sanctuary. For a time everything is hushed,
but soon is heard the deep, pervading sound of the organ, rolling and
vibrating through the empty lanes and courts, and the sweet chanting of
the choir making them resound with melody and praise. Never have I been
more sensible of the sanctifying effect of church music than when I
have heard it thus poured forth, like a river of joy, through the inmost
recesses of this great metropolis, elevating it, as it were, from all
the sordid pollutions of the week, and bearing the poor world-worn soul
on a tide of triumphant harmony to heaven.

The morning service is at an end. The streets are again alive with the
congregations returning to their homes, but soon again relapse into
silence. Now comes on the Sunday dinner, which, to the city tradesman,
is a meal of some importance. There is more leisure for social enjoyment
at the board. Members of the family can now gather together, who are
separated by the laborious occupations of the week. A school-boy may be
permitted on that day to come to the paternal home; an old friend of
the family takes his accustomed Sunday seat at the board, tells over
his well-known stories, and rejoices young and old with his well-known
jokes.

On Sunday afternoon the city pours forth its lesions to breathe the
fresh air and enjoy the sunshine of the parks and rural environs.
Satirists may say what they please about the rural enjoyments of a
London citizen on Sunday, but to me there is something delightful in
beholding the poor prisoner of the crowded and dusty city enabled thus
to come forth once a week and throw himself upon the green bosom of
nature. He is like a child restored to the mother’s breast; and they
who first spread out these noble parks and magnificent pleasure-grounds
which surround this huge metropolis have done at least as much for
its health and morality as if they had expended the amount of cost in
hospitals, prisons, and penitentiaries.



THE BOAR’S HEAD TAVERN, EASTCHEAP.

A SHAKESPEARIAN RESEARCH.

“A tavern is the rendezvous, the exchange, the staple of good fellows.
I have heard my great-grandfather tell, how his great-great-grandfather
should say, that it was an old proverb when his great-grandfather was a
child, that ‘it was a good wind that blew a man to the wine.’”

MOTHER BOMBIE.

IT is a pious custom in some Catholic countries to honor the memory of
saints by votive lights burnt before their pictures. The popularity of
a saint, therefore, may be known by the number of these offerings.
One, perhaps, is left to moulder in the darkness of his little chapel;
another may have a solitary lamp to throw its blinking rays athwart his
effigy; while the whole blaze of adoration is lavished at the shrine
of some beatified father of renown. The wealthy devotee brings his huge
luminary of wax, the eager zealot, his seven-branched candlestick; and
even the mendicant pilgrim is by no means satisfied that sufficient
light is thrown upon the deceased unless he hangs up his little lamp
of smoking oil. The consequence is, that in the eagerness to enlighten,
they are often apt to obscure; and I have occasionally seen an unlucky
saint almost smoked out of countenance by the officiousness of his
followers.

In like manner has it fared with the immortal Shakespeare. Every writer
considers it his bounden duty to light up some portion of his character
or works, and to rescue some merit from oblivion. The commentator,
opulent in words, produces vast tomes of dissertations; the common herd
of editors send up mists of obscurity from their notes at the bottom of
each page; and every casual scribbler brings his farthing rushlight of
eulogy or research to swell the cloud of incense and of smoke.

As I honor all established usages of my brethren of the quill, I thought
it but proper to contribute my mite of homage to the memory of the
illustrious bard. I was for some time, however, sorely puzzled in what
way I should discharge this duty. I found myself anticipated in every
attempt at a new reading; every doubtful line had been explained a dozen
different ways, and perplexed beyond the reach of elucidation; and as
to fine passages, they had all been amply praised by previous admirers;
nay, so completely had the bard, of late, been overlarded with panegyric
by a great German critic that it was difficult now to find even a fault
that had not been argued into a beauty.

In this perplexity I was one morning turning over his pages when I
casually opened upon the comic scenes of Henry IV., and was, in a
moment, completely lost in the madcap revelry of the Boar’s Head Tavern.
So vividly and naturally are these scenes of humor depicted, and with
such force and consistency are the characters sustained, that they
become mingled up in the mind with the facts and personages of real
life. To few readers does it occur that these are all ideal creations
of a poet’s brain, and that, in sober truth, no such knot of merry
roisterers ever enlivened the dull neighborhood of Eastcheap.

For my part, I love to give myself up to the illusions of poetry. A hero
of fiction that never existed is just as valuable to me as a hero of
history that existed a thousand years since and, if I may be excused
such an insensibility to the common ties of human nature, I would not
give up fat Jack for half the great men of ancient chronicle. What
have the heroes of yore done for me or men like me? They have conquered
countries of which I do not enjoy an acre, or they have gained laurels
of which I do not inherit a leaf, or they have furnished examples of
hair-brained prowess, which I have neither the opportunity nor the
inclination to follow. But, old Jack Falstaff! kind Jack Falstaff! sweet
Jack Falstaff! has enlarged the boundaries of human enjoyment; he has
added vast regions of wit and good-humor, in which the poorest man may
revel, and has bequeathed a never-failing inheritance of jolly laughter,
to make mankind merrier and better to the latest posterity.

A thought suddenly struck me. “I will make a pilgrimage to Eastcheap,”
 said I, closing the book, “and see if the old Boar’s Head Tavern still
exists. Who knows but I may light upon some legendary traces of Dame
Quickly and her guests? At any rate, there will be a kindred pleasure in
treading the halls once vocal with their mirth to that the toper enjoys
in smelling to the empty cask, once filled with generous wine.”

The resolution was no sooner formed than put in execution. I forbear to
treat of the various adventures and wonders I encountered in my travels;
of the haunted regions of Cock Lane; of the faded glories of Little
Britain and the parts adjacent; what perils I ran in Cateaton Street
and Old Jewry; of the renowned Guildhall and its two stunted giants, the
pride and wonder of the city and the terror of all unlucky urchins; and
how I visited London Stone, and struck my staff upon it in imitation of
that arch-rebel Jack Cade.

Let it suffice to say, that I at length arrived in merry Eastcheap, that
ancient region of wit and wassail, where the very names of the streets
relished of good cheer, as Pudding Lane bears testimony even at the
present day. For Eastcheap, says old Stow, “was always famous for its
convivial doings. The cookes cried hot ribbes of beef roasted, pies well
baked, and other victuals: there was clattering of pewter pots, harpe,
pipe, and sawtrie.” Alas! how sadly is the scene changed since the
roaring days of Falstaff and old Stow! The madcap roisterer has given
place to the plodding tradesman; the clattering of pots and the sound of
“harpe and sawtrie,” to the din of carts and the accurst dinging of the
dustman’s bell; and no song is heard, save, haply, the strain of some
syren from Billingsgate, chanting the eulogy of deceased mackerel.

I sought, in vain, for the ancient abode of Dame Quickly. The only
relict of it is a boar’s head, carved in relief in stone, which formerly
served as the sign, but at present is built into the parting line of two
houses which stand on the site of the renowned old tavern.

For the history of this little abode of good fellowship I was referred
to a tallow-chandler’s widow opposite, who had been born and brought up
on the spot, and was looked up to as the indisputable chronicler of the
neighborhood. I found her seated in a little back parlor, the window
of which looked out upon a yard about eight feet square laid out as a
flower-garden, while a glass door opposite afforded a distant view of
the street, through a vista of soap and tallow candles--the two views,
which comprised, in all probability, her prospects in life and the
little world in which she had lived and moved and had her being for the
better part of a century.

To be versed in the history of Eastcheap, great and little, from London
Stone even unto the Monument, was doubtless, in her opinion, to be
acquainted with the history of the universe. Yet, with all this, she
possessed the simplicity of true wisdom, and that liberal communicative
disposition which I have generally remarked in intelligent old ladies
knowing in the concerns of their neighborhood.

Her information, however, did not extend far back into antiquity. She
could throw no light upon the history of the Boar’s Head from the time
that Dame Quickly espoused the valiant Pistol until the great fire of
London when it was unfortunately burnt down. It was soon rebuilt,
and continued to flourish under the old name and sign, until a dying
landlord, struck with remorse for double scores, bad measures, and
other iniquities which are incident to the sinful race of publicans,
endeavored to make his peace with Heaven by bequeathing the tavern to
St. Michael’s Church, Crooked Lane, toward the supporting of a chaplain.
For some time the vestry meetings were regularly held there, but it
was observed that the old Boar never held up his head under church
government. He gradually declined, and finally gave his last gasp about
thirty years since. The tavern was then turned into shops; but she
informed me that a picture of it was still preserved in St. Michael’s
Church, which stood just in the rear. To get a sight of this picture
was now my determination; so, having informed myself of the abode of
the sexton, I took my leave of the venerable chronicler of Eastcheap, my
visit having doubtless raised greatly her opinion of her legendary lore
and furnished an important incident in the history of her life.

It cost me some difficulty and much curious inquiry to ferret out the
humble hanger-on to the church. I had to explore Crooked Lane and divers
little alleys and elbows and dark passages with which this old city is
perforated like an ancient cheese, or a worm-eaten chest of drawers.
At length I traced him to a corner of a small court surrounded by lofty
houses, where the inhabitants enjoy about as much of the face of heaven
as a community of frogs at the bottom of a well.

The sexton was a meek, acquiescing little man, of a bowing, lowly habit,
yet he had a pleasant twinkling in his eye, and if encouraged, would
now and then hazard a small pleasantry, such as a man of his low estate
might venture to make in the company of high churchwardens and other
mighty men of the earth. I found him in company with the deputy
organist, seated apart, like Milton’s angels, discoursing, no doubt,
on high doctrinal points, and settling the affairs of the church over a
friendly pot of ale; for the lower classes of English seldom deliberate
on any weighty matter without the assistance of a cool tankard to clear
their understandings. I arrived at the moment when they had finished
their ale and their argument, and were about to repair to the church
to put it in order; so, having made known my wishes, I received their
gracious permission to accompany them.

The church of St. Michael’s, Crooked Lane, standing a short distance
from Billingsgate, is enriched with the tombs of many fishmongers
of renown; and as every profession has its galaxy of glory and
its constellation of great men, I presume the monument of a mighty
fishmonger of the olden time is regarded with as much reverence by
succeeding generations of the craft, as poets feel on contemplating the
tomb of Virgil or soldiers the monument of a Marlborough or Turenne.

I cannot but turn aside, while thus speaking of illustrious men, to
observe that St. Michael’s, Crooked Lane, contains also the ashes of
that doughty champion, William Walworth, Knight, who so manfully clove
down the sturdy wight, Wat Tyler, in Smithfield--a hero worthy of
honorable blazon, as almost the only Lord Mayor on record famous for
deeds of arms, the sovereigns of Cockney being generally renowned as the
most pacific of all potentates.*


     * The following was the ancient inscription on the monument
     of this worthy, which, unhappily, was destroyed in the great
     conflagration.

    Hereunder lyth a man of Fame,
    William Walworth callyd by name:
    Fishmonger he was in lyfftime here,
    And twise Lord Maior, as in books appere;
    Who, with courage stout and manly myght,
    Slew Jack Straw in Kyng Richard’s sight.
    For which act done, and trew entent,
    The Kyng made him knyght incontinent
    And gave him armes, as here you see,
    To declare his fact and chivaldrie.
    He left this lyff the yere of our God
    Thirteen hundred fourscore and three odd.

An error in the foregoing inscription has been corrected by the
venerable Stow. “Whereas,” saith he, “it hath been far spread abroad by
vulgar opinion, that the rebel smitten down so manfully by Sir William
Walworth, the then worthy Lord Maior, was named Jack Straw, and not Wat
Tyler, I thought good to reconcile this rash-conceived doubt by such
testimony as I find in ancient and good records. The principal leaders,
or captains, of the commons, were Wat Tyler, as the first man; the
second was John, or Jack, Straw, etc., etc.”--STOW’S London.


Adjoining the church, in a small cemetery, immediately under the back
window of what was once the Boar’s Head, stands the tombstone of Robert
Preston, whilom drawer at the tavern. It is now nearly a century since
this trusty drawer of good liquor closed his bustling career and was
thus quietly deposited within call of his customers. As I was clearing
away the weeds from his epitaph the little sexton drew me on one side
with a mysterious air, and informed me in a low voice that once upon
a time, on a dark wintry night, when the wind was unruly, howling, and
whistling, banging about doors and windows, and twirling weathercocks,
so that the living were frightened out of their beds, and even the dead
could not sleep quietly in their graves, the ghost of honest Preston,
which happened to be airing itself in the churchyard, was attracted
by the well-known call of “Waiter!” from the Boar’s Head, and made its
sudden appearance in the midst of a roaring club, just as the parish
clerk was singing a stave from the “mirre garland of Captain Death;” to
the discomfiture of sundry train-band captains and the conversion of an
infidel attorney, who became a zealous Christian on the spot, and
was never known to twist the truth afterwards, except in the way of
business.

I beg it may be remembered, that I do not pledge myself for the
authenticity of this anecdote, though it is well known that the
churchyards and by-corners of this old metropolis are very much infested
with perturbed spirits; and every one must have heard of the Cock Lane
ghost, and the apparition that guards the regalia in the Tower which has
frightened so many bold sentinels almost out of their wits.

Be all this as it may, this Robert Preston seems to have been a worthy
successor to the nimbletongued Francis, who attended upon the revels of
Prince Hal; to have been equally prompt with his “Anon, anon, sir;”
 and to have transcended his predecessor in honesty; for Falstaff, the
veracity of whose taste no man will venture to impeach, flatly accuses
Francis of putting lime in his sack, whereas honest Preston’s epitaph
lands him for the sobriety of his conduct, the soundness of his wine,
and the fairness of his measure.* The worthy dignitaries of the church,
however, did not appear much captivated by the sober virtues of the
tapster; the deputy organist, who had a moist look out of the eye, made
some shrewd remark on the abstemiousness of a man brought up among
full hogsheads, and the little sexton corroborated his opinion by a
significant wink and a dubious shake of the head.


     * As this inscription is rife with excellent morality, I
     transcribe it for the admonition of delinquent tapsters. It
     is no doubt, the production of some choice spirit who once
     frequented the Boar’s Head.

    Bacchus, to give the toping world surprise,
    Produced one sober son, and here he lies.
    Though rear’d among full hogsheads, he defy’d
    The charms of wine, and every one beside.
    O reader, if to justice thou ‘rt inclined,
    Keep honest Preston daily in thy mind.
    He drew good wine, took care to fill his pots,
    Had sundry virtues that excused his faults.
    You that on Bacchus have the like dependence,
    Pray copy Bob in measure and attendance.


Thus far my researches, though they threw much light on the history of
tapsters, fishmongers, and Lord Mayors, yet disappointed me in the
great object of my quest, the picture of the Boar’s Head Tavern. No
such painting was to be found in the church of St. Michael’s. “Marry and
amen,” said I, “here endeth my research!” So I was giving the matter
up, with the air of a baffled antiquary, when my friend the sexton,
perceiving me to be curious in everything relative to the old tavern,
offered to show me the choice vessels of the vestry, which had been
handed down from remote times when the parish meetings were held at the
Boar’s Head. These were deposited in the parish club-room, which had
been transferred, on the decline of the ancient establishment, to a
tavern in the neighborhood.

A few steps brought us to the house, which stands No. 12 Miles Lane,
bearing the title of The Mason’s Arms, and is kept by Master Edward
Honeyball, the “bully-rock” of the establishment. It is one of those
little taverns which abound in the heart of the city and form the centre
of gossip and intelligence of the neighborhood. We entered the barroom,
which was narrow and darkling, for in these close lanes but few rays of
reflected light are enabled to struggle down to the inhabitants, whose
broad day is at best but a tolerable twilight. The room was partitioned
into boxes, each containing a table spread with a clean white cloth,
ready for dinner. This showed that the guests were of the good old
stamp, and divided their day equally, for it was but just one o’clock.
At the lower end of the room was a clear coal fire, before which a
breast of lamb was roasting. A row of bright brass candlesticks and
pewter mugs glistened along the mantelpiece, and an old fashioned clock
ticked in one corner. There was something primitive in this medley of
kitchen, parlor, and hall that carried me back to earlier times, and
pleased me. The place, indeed, was humble, but everything had that look
of order and neatness which bespeaks the superintendence of a notable
English housewife. A group of amphibious-looking beings, who might be
either fishermen or sailors, were regaling themselves in one of the
boxes. As I was a visitor of rather higher pretensions, I was ushered
into a little misshapen back room, having at least nine corners. It was
lighted by a sky-light, furnished with antiquated leathern chairs, and
ornamented with the portrait of a fat pig. It was evidently appropriated
to particular customers, and I found a shabby gentleman in a red nose
and oil-cloth hat seated in one corner meditating on a half empty pot of
porter.

The old sexton had taken the landlady aside, and with an air of profound
importance imparted to her my errand. Dame Honeyball was a likely,
plump, bustling little woman, and no bad substitute for that paragon
of hostesses, Dame Quickly. She seemed delighted with an opportunity to
oblige, and, hurrying upstairs to the archives of her house, where
the precious vessels of the parish club were deposited, she returned,
smiling and courtesying, with them in her hands.

The first she presented me was a japanned iron tobacco-box of gigantic
size, out of which, I was told, the vestry had smoked at their stated
meetings since time immemorial, and which was never suffered to be
profaned by vulgar hands, or used on common occasions, I received it
with becoming reverence, but what was my delight at beholding on
its cover the identical painting of which I was in quest! There was
displayed the outside of the Boar’s Head Tavern, and before the door was
to be seen the whole convivial group at table, in full revel, pictured
with that wonderful fidelity and force with which the portraits of
renowned generals and commodores are illustrated on tobacco-boxes, for
the benefit of posterity. Lest, however, there should be any mistake,
the cunning limner had warily inscribed the names of Prince Hal and
Falstaff on the bottoms of their chairs.

On the inside of the cover was an inscription, nearly obliterated,
recording that this box was the gift of Sir Richard Gore, for the use of
the vestry meetings at the Boar’s Head Tavern, and that it was “repaired
and beautified by his successor, Mr. John Packard, 1767.” Such is a
faithful description of this august and venerable relic, and I question
whether the learned Scriblerius contemplated his Roman shield, or
the Knights of the Round Table the long-sought San-greal, with more
exultation.

While I was meditating on it with enraptured gaze, Dame Honeyball,
who was highly gratified by the interest it excited, put in my hands
a drinking-cup or goblet which also belonged to the vestry, and was
descended from the old Boar’s Head. It bore the inscription of having
been the gift of Francis Wythers, Knight, and was held, she told me, in
exceeding great value, being considered very “antyke.” This last opinion
was strengthened by the shabby gentleman with the red nose and oilcloth
hat, and whom I strongly suspected of being a lineal descendant from the
variant Bardolph. He suddenly aroused from his meditation on the pot of
porter, and casting a knowing look at the goblet, exclaimed, “Ay, ay!
the head don’t ache now that made that there article.”

The great importance attached to this memento of ancient revelry by
modern churchwardens, at first puzzled me; but there is nothing sharpens
the apprehension so much as antiquarian research; for I immediately
perceived that this could be no other than the identical “parcel-gilt
goblet,” on which Falstaff made his loving but faithless vow to Dame
Quickly, and which would, of course, be treasured up with care among the
regalia of her domains, as a testimony of that solemn contract.*


     * “Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting
     in my Dolphin chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal
     fire, on Wednesday, in Whitsun-week, when the prince broke
     thy head for likening his father to a singing man at
     Windsor; thou didst swear to me then, as I was washing thy
     wound, to marry me, and make me my lady, thy wife. Canst
     thou deny it?”--Henry IV., Part 2.


Mine hostess, indeed, gave me a long history how the goblet had been
handed down from generation to generation. She also entertained me
with many particulars concerning the worthy vestrymen who have seated
themselves thus quietly on the stools of the ancient roisterers of
Eastcheap, and, like so many commentators, utter clouds of smoke in
honor of Shakespeare. These I forbear to relate, lest my readers should
not be as curious in these matters as myself. Suffice it to say, the
neighbors, one and all, about Eastcheap, believe that Falstaff and his
merry crew actually lived and revelled there. Nay, there are several
legendary anecdotes concerning him still extant among the oldest
frequenters of the Mason’s Arms, which they give as transmitted down
from their forefathers; and Mr. M’Kash, an Irish hair-dresser, whose
shop stands on the site of the old Boar’s Head, has several dry jokes
of Fat Jack’s, not laid down in the books, with which he makes his
customers ready to die of laughter.

I now turned to my friend the sexton to make some further inquiries, but
I found him sunk in pensive meditation. His head had declined a little
on one side; a deep sigh heaved from the very bottom of his stomach,
and, though I could not see a tear trembling in his eye, yet a moisture
was evidently stealing from a corner of his mouth. I followed the
direction of his eye through the door which stood open, and found it
fixed wistfully on the savory breast of lamb, roasting in dripping
richness before the fire.

I now called to mind that in the eagerness of my recondite
investigation, I was keeping the poor man from his dinner. My bowels
yearned with sympathy, and putting in his hand a small token of my
gratitude and goodness, I departed with a hearty benediction on him,
Dame Honeyball, and the parish club of Crooked Lane--not forgetting my
shabby, but sententious friend, in the oil-cloth hat and copper nose.

Thus have I given a “tedious brief” account of this interesting
research, for which, if it prove too short and unsatisfactory, I can
only plead my inexperience in this branch of literature, so deservedly
popular at the present day. I am aware that a more skilful illustrator
of the immortal bard would have swelled the materials I have touched
upon to a good merchantable bulk, comprising the biographies of William
Walworth, Jack Straw, and Robert Preston; some notice of the eminent
fishmongers of St. Michael’s; the history of Eastcheap, great and
little; private anecdotes of Dame Honeyball and her pretty daughter,
whom I have not even mentioned; to say nothing of a damsel tending the
breast of lamb (and whom, by the way, I remarked to be a comely lass
with a neat foot and ankle);--the whole enlivened by the riots of Wat
Tyler, and illuminated by the great fire of London.

All this I leave, as a rich mine, to be worked by future commentators,
nor do I despair of seeing the tobacco-box, and the “parcel-gilt goblet”
 which I have thus brought to light the subject of future engravings,
and almost as fruitful of voluminous dissertations and disputes as the
shield of Achilles or the far-famed Portland Vase.



THE MUTABILITY OF LITERATURE.

A COLLOQUY IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

        I know that all beneath the moon decays,
    And what by mortals in this world is brought,
    In time’s great periods shall return to nought.
        I know that all the muses’ heavenly rays,
    With toil of sprite which are so dearly bought,
    As idle sounds, of few or none are sought--
        That there is nothing lighter than mere praise.
                         DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN.

THERE are certain half-dreaming moods of mind in which we naturally
steal away from noise and glare, and seek some quiet haunt where we may
indulge our reveries and build our air castles undisturbed. In such a
mood I was loitering about the old gray cloisters of Westminster Abbey,
enjoying that luxury of wandering thought which one is apt to dignify
with the name of reflection, when suddenly an irruption of madcap boys
from Westminster school, playing at football, broke in upon the monastic
stillness of the place, making the vaulted passages and mouldering tombs
echo with their merriment. I sought to take refuge from their noise by
penetrating still deeper into the solitudes of the pile, and applied to
one of the vergers for admission to the library. He conducted me through
a portal rich with the crumbling sculpture of former ages, which opened
upon a gloomy passage leading to the chapter-house and the chamber in
which Doomsday Book is deposited. Just within the passage is a small
door on the left. To this the verger applied a key; it was double
locked, and opened with some difficulty, as if seldom used. We now
ascended a dark narrow staircase, and, passing through a second door,
entered the library.

I found myself in a lofty antique hall, the roof supported by massive
joists of old English oak. It was soberly lighted by a row of Gothic
windows at a considerable height from the floor, and which apparently
opened upon the roofs of the cloisters. An ancient picture of some
reverend dignitary of the Church in his robes hung over the fireplace.
Around the hall and in a small gallery were the books, arranged in
carved oaken cases. They consisted principally of old polemical writers,
and were much more worn by time than use. In the centre of the library
was a solitary table with two or three books on it, an inkstand without
ink, and a few pens parched by long disuse. The place seemed fitted
for quiet study and profound meditation. It was buried deep among the
massive walls of the abbey and shut up from the tumult of the world.
I could only hear now and then the shouts of the school-boys faintly
swelling from the cloisters, and the sound of a bell tolling for prayers
echoing soberly along the roofs of the abbey. By degrees the shouts of
merriment grew fainter and fainter, and at length died away; the bell
ceased to toll, and a profound silence reigned through the dusky hall.

I had taken down a little thick quarto, curiously bound in parchment,
with brass clasps, and seated myself at the table in a venerable
elbow-chair. Instead of reading, however, I was beguiled by the solemn
monastic air and lifeless quiet of the place, into a train of musing.
As I looked around upon the old volumes in their mouldering covers, thus
ranged on the shelves and apparently never disturbed in their repose,
I could not but consider the library a kind of literary catacomb, where
authors, like mummies, are piously entombed and left to blacken and
moulder in dusty oblivion.

How much, thought I, has each of these volumes, now thrust aside with
such indifference, cost some aching head! how many weary days! how
many sleepless nights! How have their authors buried themselves in the
solitude of cells and cloisters, shut themselves up from the face of
man, and the still more blessed face of Nature; and devoted themselves
to painful research and intense reflection! And all for what? To occupy
an inch of dusty shelf--to have the titles of their works read now and
then in a future age by some drowsy churchman or casual straggler like
myself, and in another age to be lost even to remembrance. Such is the
amount of this boasted immortality. A mere temporary rumor, a local
sound; like the tone of that bell which has tolled among these towers,
filling the ear for a moment, lingering transiently in echo, and then
passing away, like a thing that was not!

While I sat half-murmuring, half-meditating, these unprofitable
speculations with my head resting on my hand, I was thrumming with the
other hand upon the quarto, until I accidentally loosened the clasps;
when, to my utter astonishment, the little book gave two or three yawns,
like one awaking from a deep sleep, then a husky hem, and at length
began to talk. At first its voice was very hoarse and broken, being much
troubled by a cobweb which some studious spider had woven across it, and
having probably contracted a cold from long exposure to the chills and
damps of the abbey. In a short time, however, it became more distinct,
and I soon found it an exceedingly fluent, conversable little tome.
Its language, to be sure, was rather quaint and obsolete, and its
pronunciation what, in the present day, would be deemed barbarous; but I
shall endeavor, as far as I am able, to render it in modern parlance.

It began with railings about the neglect of the world, about merit being
suffered to languish in obscurity, and other such commonplace topics of
literary repining, and complained bitterly that it had not been opened
for more than two centuries--that the dean only looked now and then into
the library, sometimes took down a volume or two, trifled with them for
a few moments, and then returned them to their shelves. “What a plague
do they mean?” said the little quarto, which I began to perceive was
somewhat choleric--“what a plague do they mean by keeping several
thousand volumes of us shut up here, and watched by a set of old
vergers, like so many beauties in a harem, merely to be looked at now
and then by the dean? Books were written to give pleasure and to be
enjoyed; and I would have a rule passed that the dean should pay each of
us a visit at least once a year; or, if he is not equal to the task, let
them once in a while turn loose the whole school of Westminster among
us, that at any rate we may now and then have an airing.”

“Softly, my worthy friend,” replied I; “you are not aware how much
better you are off than most books of your generation. By being stored
away in this ancient library you are like the treasured remains of those
saints and monarchs which lie enshrined in the adjoining chapels, while
the remains of their contemporary mortals, left to the ordinary course
of Nature, have long since returned to dust.”

“Sir,” said the little tome, ruffling his leaves and looking big, “I
was written for all the world, not for the bookworms of an abbey. I was
intended to circulate from hand to hand, like other great contemporary
works; but here have I been clasped up for more than two centuries, and
might have silently fallen a prey to these worms that are playing the
very vengeance with my intestines if you had not by chance given me an
opportunity of uttering a few last words before I go to pieces.”

“My good friend,” rejoined I, “had you been left to the circulation of
which you speak, you would long ere this have been no more. To judge
from your physiognomy, you are now well stricken in years: very few of
your contemporaries can be at present in existence, and those few owe
their longevity to being immured like yourself in old libraries; which,
suffer me to add, instead of likening to harems, you might more properly
and gratefully have compared to those infirmaries attached to religious
establishments for the benefit of the old and decrepit, and where, by
quiet fostering and no employment, they often endure to an amazingly
good-for-nothing old age. You talk of your contemporaries as if in
circulation. Where do we meet with their works? What do we hear of
Robert Grosteste of Lincoln? No one could have toiled harder than he for
immortality. He is said to have written nearly two hundred volumes. He
built, as it were, a pyramid of books to perpetuate his name: but,
alas! the pyramid has long since fallen, and only a few fragments are
scattered in various libraries, where they are scarcely disturbed
even by the antiquarian. What do we hear of Giraldus Cambrensis, the
historian, antiquary, philosopher, theologian, and poet? He declined two
bishoprics that he might shut himself up and write for posterity; but
posterity never inquires after his labors. What of Henry of Huntingdon,
who, besides a learned history of England, wrote a treatise on the
contempt of the world, which the world has revenged by forgetting him?
What is quoted of Joseph of Exeter, styled the miracle of his age in
classical composition? Of his three great heroic poems, one is lost
forever, excepting a mere fragment; the others are known only to a few
of the curious in literature; and as to his love verses and epigrams,
they have entirely disappeared. What is in current use of John Wallis
the Franciscan, who acquired the name of the tree of life? Of William
of Malmsbury--of Simeon of Durham--of Benedict of Peterborough--of John
Hanvill of St. Albans--of----”

“Prithee, friend,” cried the quarto in a testy tone, “how old do you
think me? You are talking of authors that lived long before my time, and
wrote either in Latin or French, so that they in a manner expatriated
themselves, and deserved to be forgotten;* but I, sir, was ushered into
the world from the press of the renowned Wynkyn de Worde. I was written
in my own native tongue, at a time when the language had become fixed;
and indeed I was considered a model of pure and elegant English.”

(I should observe that these remarks were couched in such intolerably
antiquated terms, that I have had infinite difficulty in rendering them
into modern phraseology.)

“I cry you mercy,” said I, “for mistaking your age; but it matters
little. Almost all the writers of your time have likewise passed into
forgetfulness, and De Worde’s publications are mere literary rarities
among book-collectors. The purity and stability of language, too, on
which you found your claims to perpetuity, have been the fallacious
dependence of authors of every age, even back to the times of the worthy
Robert of Gloucester, who wrote his history in rhymes of mongrel Saxon.+
Even now many talk of Spenser’s ‘well of pure English undefiled,’ as
if the language ever sprang from a well or fountain-head, and was not
rather a mere confluence of various tongues perpetually subject to
changes and intermixtures. It is this which has made English literature
so extremely mutable, and the reputation built upon it so fleeting.
Unless thought can be committed to something more permanent and
unchangeable than such a medium, even thought must share the fate of
everything else, and fall into decay. This should serve as a check
upon the vanity and exultation of the most popular writer. He finds
the language in which he has embarked his fame gradually altering and
subject to the dilapidations of time and the caprice of fashion. He
looks back and beholds the early authors of his country, once the
favorites of their day, supplanted by modern writers. A few short ages
have covered them with obscurity, and their merits can only be relished
by the quaint taste of the bookworm. And such, he anticipates, will be
the fate of his own work, which, however it may be admired in its day
and held up as a model of purity, will in the course of years grow
antiquated and obsolete, until it shall become almost as unintelligible
in its native land as an Egyptian obelisk or one of those Runic
inscriptions said to exist in the deserts of Tartary.” “I declare,” added
I, with some emotion, “when I contemplate a modern library, filled
with new works in all the bravery of rich gilding and binding, I feel
disposed to sit down and weep, like the good Xerxes, when he surveyed
his army, pranked out in all the splendor of military array, and
reflected that in one hundred years not one of them would be in
existence.”


     * “In Latin and French hath many soueraine wittes had great
     delyte to endite, and have many noble thinges fulfilde, but
     certes there ben some that speaken their poisye in French,
     of which speche the Frenchmen have as good a fantasye as w
     ave in hearying of Frenchmen’s Englishe.”--CHAUCER’S
     Testament of Love.

     + Holinshed in his Chronicle, observes, “Afterwards, also,
     by diligent vell f Geffry Chaucer and John Gowre, in the
     time of Richard the Second, and after them of John Scogan
     and John Lydgate, monke of Berrie, our said toong was
     brought to an excellent passe, notwithstanding that it never
     came unto the type of perfection until the time of Queen
     Elizabeth, wherein John Jewell, Bishop of Sarum, John Fox,
     and sundrie learned and excellent writers, have fully
     accomplished the ornature of the same to their great praise
     and mortal commendation.”


“Ah,” said the little quarto, with a heavy sigh, “I see how it is: these
in modern scribblers have superseded all the good old authors. I suppose
nothing is read nowadays but Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, Sackville’s
stately plays and Mirror for Magistrates, or the fine-spun euphuisms of
the ‘unparalleled John Lyly.’”

“There you are again mistaken,” said I; “the writers whom you suppose in
vogue, because they happened to be so when you were last in circulation,
have long since had their day. Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, the
immortality of which was so fondly predicted by his admirers,* and
which, in truth, was full of noble thoughts, delicate images, and
graceful turns of language, is now scarcely ever mentioned. Sackville
has strutted into obscurity; and even Lyly, though his writings were
once the delight of a court, and apparently perpetuated by a proverb, is
now scarcely known even by name. A whole crowd of authors who wrote and
wrangled at the time, have likewise gone down with all their writings
and their controversies. Wave after wave of succeeding literature has
rolled over them, until they are buried so deep, that it is only now and
then that some industrious diver after fragments of antiquity brings up
a specimen for the gratification of the curious.


     * “Live ever sweete booke; the simple image of his gentle
     witt, and the golden pillar of his noble courage; and ever
     notify unto the world that thy writer was the secretary of
     eloquence, the breath of the muses, the honey bee of the
     daintyest flowers of witt and arte, the pith of morale and
     intellectual virtues, the arme of Bellona in the field, the
     tongue of Suada in the chamber, the spirits of Practise in
     esse, and the paragon of excellence in print.”--Harvey
     Pierce’s Supererogation.


“For my part,” I continued, “I consider this mutability of language a
wise precaution of Providence for the benefit of the world at large, and
of authors in particular. To reason from analogy, we daily behold the
varied and beautiful tribes of vegetables springing up, flourishing,
adorning the fields for a short time, and then fading into dust, to
make way for their successors. Were not this the case, the fecundity of
nature would be a grievance instead of a blessing. The earth would groan
with rank and excessive vegetation, and its surface become a tangled
wilderness. In like manner, the works of genius and learning decline and
make way for subsequent productions. Language gradually varies, and with
it fade away the writings of authors who have flourished their allotted
time; otherwise the creative powers of genius would overstock the world,
and the mind would be completely bewildered in the endless mazes of
literature. Formerly there were some restraints on this excessive
multiplication. Works had to be transcribed by hand, which was a slow
and laborious operation; they were written either on parchment, which
was expensive, so that one work was often erased to make way for
another; or on papyrus, which was fragile and extremely perishable.
Authorship was a limited and unprofitable craft, pursued chiefly by
monks in the leisure and solitude of their cloisters. The accumulation
of manuscripts was slow and costly, and confined almost entirely to
monasteries. To these circumstances it may, in some measure, be owing
that we have not been inundated by the intellect of antiquity--that the
fountains of thought have not been broken up, and modern genius drowned
in the deluge. But the inventions of paper and the press have put an end
to all these restraints. They have made every one a writer, and enabled
every mind to pour itself into print, and diffuse itself over the
whole intellectual world. The consequences are alarming. The stream of
literature has swollen into a torrent--augmented into a river-expanded
into a sea. A few centuries since five or six hundred manuscripts
constituted a great library; but what would you say to libraries, such
as actually exist, containing three or four hundred thousand volumes;
legions of authors at the same time busy; and the press going on with
fearfully increasing activity, to double and quadruple the number?
Unless some unforeseen mortality should break out among the progeny of
the Muse, now that she has become so prolific, I tremble for posterity.
I fear the mere fluctuation of language will not be sufficient.
Criticism may do much; it increases with the increase of literature,
and resembles one of those salutary checks on population spoken of by
economists. All possible encouragement, therefore, should be given to
the growth of critics, good or bad. But I fear all will be in vain; let
criticism do what it may, writers will write, printers will print, and
the world will inevitably be overstocked with good books. It will soon
be the employment of a lifetime merely to learn their names. Many a man
of passable information at the present day reads scarcely anything but
reviews, and before long a man of erudition will be little better than a
mere walking catalogue.”

“My very good sir,” said the little quarto, yawning most drearily in my
face, “excuse my interrupting you, but I perceive you are rather given
to prose. I would ask the fate of an author who was making some noise
just as I left the world. His reputation, however, was considered quite
temporary. The learned shook their heads at him, for he was a poor,
half-educated varlet, that knew little of Latin, and nothing of Greek,
and had been obliged to run the country for deer-stealing. I think his
name was Shakespeare. I presume he soon sunk into oblivion.”

“On the contrary,” said I, “it is owing to that very man that the
literature of his period has experienced a duration beyond the ordinary
term of English literature. There rise authors now and then who seem
proof against the mutability of language because they have rooted
themselves in the unchanging principles of human nature. They are like
gigantic trees that we sometimes see on the banks of a stream, which
by their vast and deep roots, penetrating through the mere surface and
laying hold on the very foundations of the earth, preserve the soil
around them from being swept away by the ever-flowing current, and hold
up many a neighboring plant, and perhaps worthless weed, to perpetuity.
Such is the case with Shakespeare, whom we behold defying the
encroachments of time, retaining in modern use the language and
literature of his day, and giving duration to many an indifferent
author, merely from having flourished in his vicinity. But even he, I
grieve to say, is gradually assuming the tint of age, and his whole form
is overrun by a profusion of commentators, who, like clambering vines
and creepers, almost bury the noble plant that upholds them.”

Here the little quarto began to heave his sides and chuckle, until at
length he broke out into a plethoric fit of laughter that had wellnigh
choked him by reason of his excessive corpulency. “Mighty well!” cried
he, as soon as he could recover breath, “mighty well! and so you would
persuade me that the literature of an age is to be perpetuated by a
vagabond deer-stealer! by a man without learning! by a poet! forsooth--a
poet!” And here he wheezed forth another fit of laughter.

I confess that I felt somewhat nettled at this rudeness, which, however,
I pardoned on account of his having flourished in a less polished age. I
determined, nevertheless, not to give up my point.

“Yes,” resumed I positively, “a poet; for of all writers he has the best
chance for immortality. Others may write from the head, but he writes
from the heart, and the heart will always understand him. He is the
faithful portrayer of Nature, whose features are always the same and
always interesting. Prose writers are voluminous and unwieldy; their
pages crowded with commonplaces, and their thoughts expanded into
tediousness. But with the true poet every thing is terse, touching, or
brilliant. He gives the choicest thoughts in the choicest language. He
illustrates them by everything that he sees most striking in nature and
art. He enriches them by pictures of human life, such as it is passing
before him. His writings, therefore, contain the spirit, the aroma, if I
may use the phrase, of the age in which he lives. They are caskets which
inclose within a small compass the wealth of the language--its family
jewels, which are thus transmitted in a portable form to posterity. The
setting may occasionally be antiquated, and require now and then to be
renewed, as in the case of Chaucer; but the brilliancy and intrinsic
value of the gems continue unaltered. Cast a look back over the long
reach of literary history. What vast valleys of dulness, filled with
monkish legends and academical controversies! What bogs of theological
speculations! What dreary wastes of metaphysics! Here and there only
do we behold the heaven-illumined bards, elevated like beacons on
their widely-separated heights, to transmit the pure light of poetical
intelligence from age to age.” *

I was just about to launch forth into eulogiums upon the poets of the
day when the sudden opening of the door caused me to turn my head. It
was the verger, who came to inform me that it was time to close the
library. I sought to have a parting word with the quarto, but the worthy
little tome was silent; the clasps were closed: and it looked perfectly
unconscious of all that had passed. I have been to the library two
or three times since, and have endeavored to draw it into further
conversation, but in vain; and whether all this rambling colloquy
actually took place, or whether it was another of those old day-dreams
to which I am subject, I have never, to this moment, been able to
discover.


  * Thorow earth and waters deepe,
        The pen by skill doth passe:
    And featly nyps the worldes abuse,
        And shoes us in a glasse,
    The vertu and the vice
        Of every wight alyve;
    The honey comb that bee doth make
        Is not so sweet in hyve,
    As are the golden leves
        That drops from poet’s head!
    Which doth surmount our common talke
        As farre as dross doth lead.
                                 Churchyard.



RURAL FUNERALS.

    Here’s a few flowers! but about midnight more:

    The herbs that have oil them cold dew o’ the night
    Are strewings fitt’st for graves----
    You were as flowers now withered; even so
    These herblets shall, which we upon you strow.
                                            CYMBELINE.

AMONG the beautiful and simple-hearted customs of rural life which still
linger in some parts of England are those of strewing flowers before the
funerals and planting them at the graves of departed friends. These, it
is said, are the remains of some of the rites of the primitive Church;
but they are of still higher antiquity, having been observed among the
Greeks and Romans, and frequently mentioned by their writers, and were
no doubt the spontaneous tributes of unlettered affection, originating
long before art had tasked itself to modulate sorrow into song or story
it on the monument. They are now only to be met with in the most distant
and retired places of the kingdom, where fashion and innovation have not
been able to throng in and trample out all the curious and interesting
traces of the olden time.

In Glamorganshire, we are told, the bed whereon the corpse lies is
covered with flowers, a custom alluded to in one of the wild and
plaintive ditties of Ophelia:

    White his shroud as the mountain snow,

        Larded all with sweet flowers;
    Which be-wept to the grave did go,
        With true love showers.

There is also a most delicate and beautiful rite observed in some of
the remote villages of the south at the funeral of a female who has
died young and unmarried. A chaplet of white flowers is borne before
the corpse by a young girl nearest in age, size, and resemblance, and
is afterwards hung up in the church over the accustomed seat of the
deceased. These chaplets are sometimes made of white paper, in imitation
of flowers, and inside of them is generally a pair of white gloves. They
are intended as emblems of the purity of the deceased, and the crown of
glory which she has received in heaven.

In some parts of the country, also, the dead are carried to the grave
with the singing of psalms and hymns--a kind of triumph, “to show,” says
Bourne, “that they have finished their course with joy, and are become
conquerors.” This, I am informed, is observed in some of the northern
counties, particularly in Northumberland, and it has a pleasing, though
melancholy effect to hear of a still evening in some lonely country
scene the mournful melody of a funeral dirge swelling from a distance,
and to see the train slowly moving along the landscape.

    Thus, thus, and thus, we compass round
    Thy harmless and unhaunted ground,
    And as we sing thy dirge, we will,
                          The daffodill
    And other flowers lay upon
    The altar of our love, thy stone.
                                      HERRICK.

There is also a solemn respect paid by the traveller to the passing
funeral in these sequestered places; for such spectacles, occurring
among the quiet abodes of Nature, sink deep into the soul. As the
mourning train approaches he pauses, uncovered, to let it go by; he then
follows silently in the rear; sometimes quite to the grave, at other
times for a few hundred yards, and, having paid this tribute of respect
to the deceased, turns and resumes his journey.

The rich vein of melancholy which runs through the English character,
and gives it some of its most touching and ennobling graces, is finely
evidenced in these pathetic customs, and in the solicitude shown by the
common people for an honored and a peaceful grave. The humblest peasant,
whatever may be his lowly lot while living, is anxious that some little
respect may be paid to his remains. Sir Thomas Overbury, describing the
“faire and happy milkmaid,” observes, “thus lives she, and all her care
is, that she may die in the spring-time, to have store of flowers stucke
upon her winding-sheet.” The poets, too, who always breathe the feeling
of a nation, continually advert to this fond solicitude about the grave.
In The Maid’s Tragedy, by Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a beautiful
instance of the kind describing the capricious melancholy of a
broken-hearted girl:

                        When she sees a bank
    Stuck full of flowers, she, with a sigh, will tell
    Her servants, what a pretty place it were
    To bury lovers in; and made her maids
    Bluck ‘em, and strew her over like a corse.

The custom of decorating graves was once universally prevalent: osiers
were carefully bent over them to keep the turf uninjured, and about
them were planted evergreens and flowers. “We adorn their graves,” says
Evelyn, in his Sylva, “with flowers and redolent plants, just emblems
of the life of man, which has been compared in Holy Scriptures to those
fading beauties whose roots, being buried in dishonor, rise, again in
glory.” This usage has now become extremely rare in England; but it
may still be met with in the churchyards of retired villages, among the
Welsh mountains; and I recollect an instance of it at the small town of
Ruthven, which lies at the head of the beautiful vale of Clewyd. I have
been told also by a friend, who was present at the funeral of a young
girl in Glamorganshire, that the female attendants had their aprons full
of flowers, which, as soon as the body was interred, they stuck about
the grave.

He noticed several graves which had been decorated in the same manner.
As the flowers had been merely stuck in the ground, and not planted,
they had soon withered, and might be seen in various states of decay;
some drooping, others quite perished. They were afterwards to be
supplanted by holly, rosemary, and other evergreens, which on some
graves had grown to great luxuriance, and overshadowed the tombstones.

There was formerly a melancholy fancifulness in the arrangement of these
rustic offerings, that had something in it truly poetical. The rose
was sometimes blended with the lily, to form a general emblem of frail
mortality. “This sweet flower,” said Evelyn, “borne on a branch set with
thorns and accompanied with the lily, are natural hieroglyphics of our
fugitive, umbratile, anxious, and transitory life, which, making so
fair a show for a time, is not yet without its thorns and crosses.” The
nature and color of the flowers, and of the ribbons with which they were
tied, had often a particular reference to the qualities or story of the
deceased, or were expressive of the feelings of the mourner. In an
old poem, entitled “Corydon’s Doleful Knell,” a lover specifies the
decorations he intends to use:

    A garland shall be framed
        By art and nature’s skill,
    Of sundry-colored flowers,
        In token of good-will.

    And sundry-colored ribbons
        On it I will bestow;
    But chiefly blacke and yellowe
        With her to grave shall go.

    I’ll deck her tomb with flowers
        The rarest ever seen;
    And with my tears as showers
        I’ll keep them fresh and green.

The white rose, we are told, was planted at the grave of a virgin; her
chaplet was tied with white ribbons, in token of her spotless innocence,
though sometimes black ribbons were intermingled, to bespeak the grief
of the survivors. The red rose was occasionally used, in remembrance of
such as had been remarkable for benevolence; but roses in general were
appropriated to the graves of lovers. Evelyn tells us that the custom
was not altogether extinct in his time, near his dwelling in the county
of Surrey, “where the maidens yearly planted and decked the graves
of their defunct sweethearts with rose-bushes.” And Camden likewise
remarks, in his Britannia: “Here is also a certain custom, observed time
out of mind, of planting rose-trees upon the graves, especially by the
young men and maids who have lost their loves; so that this churchyard
is now full of them.”

When the deceased had been unhappy in their loves, emblems of a more
gloomy character were used, such as the yew and cypress, and if flowers
were strewn, they were of the most melancholy colors. Thus, in poems by
Thomas Stanley, Esq. (published in 1651), is the following stanza:

                  Yet strew
    Upon my dismall grave
    Such offerings as you have,
        Forsaken cypresse and yewe;
    For kinder flowers can take no birth
    Or growth from such unhappy earth.

In The Maid’s Tragedy, a pathetic little air, is introduced,
illustrative of this mode of decorating the funerals of females who had
been disappointed in love:

    Lay a garland on my hearse
        Of the dismall yew,
    Maidens, willow branches wear,
        Say I died true.

    My love was false, but I was firm,
        From my hour of birth;
    Upon my buried body lie
        Lightly, gentle earth.

The natural effect of sorrow over the dead is to refine and elevate
the mind; and we have a proof of it in the purity of sentiment and the
unaffected elegance of thought which pervaded the whole of these
funeral observances. Thus it was an especial precaution that none but
sweet-scented evergreens and flowers should be employed. The intention
seems to have been to soften the horrors of the tomb, to beguile the
mind from brooding over the disgraces of perishing mortality, and
to associate the memory of the deceased with the most delicate and
beautiful objects in nature. There is a dismal process going on in the
grave, ere dust can return to its kindred dust, which the imagination
shrinks from contemplating; and we seek still to think of the form
we have loved, with those refined associations which it awakened when
blooming before us in youth and beauty. “Lay her i’ the earth,” says
Laertes, of his virgin sister,

    And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
    May violets spring.

Herrick, also, in his “Dirge of Jephtha,” pours forth a fragrant flow
of poetical thought and image, which in a manner embalms the dead in the
recollections of the living.

    Sleep in thy peace, thy bed of spice,
    And make this place all Paradise:
    May sweets grow here! and smoke from hence
                          Fat frankincense.

    Let balme and cassia send their scent
    From out thy maiden monument.
        *    *    *    *    *
    May all shie maids at wonted hours
    Come forth to strew thy tombe with flowers!
    May virgins, when they come to mourn
                         Male incense burn
    Upon thine altar! then return
    And leave thee sleeping in thy urn.

I might crowd my pages with extracts from the older British poets, who
wrote when these rites were more prevalent, and delighted frequently
to allude to them; but I have already quoted more than is necessary. I
cannot, however, refrain from giving a passage from Shakespeare, even
though it should appear trite, which illustrates the emblematical
meaning often conveyed in these floral tributes, and at the same time
possesses that magic of language and appositeness of imagery for which
he stands pre-eminent.

                           With fairest flowers,
    Whilst summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
    I’ll sweeten thy sad grave; thou shalt not lack
    The flower that’s like thy face, pale primrose; nor
    The azured harebell like thy veins; no, nor
    The leaf of eglantine; whom not to slander,
    Outsweetened not thy breath.

There is certainly something more affecting in these prompt and
spontaneous offerings of Nature than in the most costly monuments of
art; the hand strews the flower while the heart is warm, and the tear
falls on the grave as affection is binding the osier round the sod; but
pathos expires under the slow labor of the chisel, and is chilled among
the cold conceits of sculptured marble.

It is greatly to be regretted that a custom so truly elegant and
touching has disappeared from general use, and exists only in the most
remote and insignificant villages. But it seems as if poetical custom
always shuns the walks of cultivated society. In proportion as people
grow polite they cease to be poetical. They talk of poetry, but they
have learnt to check its free impulses, to distrust its sallying
emotions, and to supply its most affecting and picturesque usages by
studied form and pompous ceremonial. Few pageants can be more stately
and frigid than an English funeral in town. It is made up of show and
gloomy parade: mourning carriages, mourning horses, mourning plumes,
and hireling mourners, who make a mockery of grief. “There is a grave
digged,” says Jeremy Taylor, “and a solemn mourning, and a great talk
in the neighborhood, and when the daies are finished, they shall be, and
they shall be remembered no more.” The associate in the gay and crowded
city is soon forgotten; the hurrying succession of new intimates and new
pleasures effaces him from our minds, and the very scenes and circles in
which he moved are incessantly fluctuating. But funerals in the country
are solemnly impressive. The stroke of death makes a wider space in
the village circle, and is an awful event in the tranquil uniformity
of rural life. The passing bell tolls its knell in every ear; it steals
with its pervading melancholy over hill and vale, and saddens all the
landscape.

The fixed and unchanging features of the country also perpetuate
the memory of the friend with whom we once enjoyed them, who was the
companion of our most retired walks, and gave animation to every lonely
scene. His idea is associated with every charm of Nature; we hear his
voice in the echo which he once delighted to awaken; his spirit haunts
the grove which he once frequented; we think of him in the wild upland
solitude or amidst the pensive beauty of the valley. In the freshness of
joyous morning we remember his beaming smiles and bounding gayety;
and when sober evening returns with its gathering shadows and subduing
quiet, we call to mind many a twilight hour of gentle talk and
sweet-souled melancholy.

    Each lonely place shall him restore,
        For him the tear be duly shed;
    Beloved till life can charm no more,
        And mourn’d till pity’s self be dead.

Another cause that perpetuates the memory of the deceased in the country
is that the grave is more immediately in sight of the survivors. They
pass it on their way to prayer; it meets their eyes when their hearts
are softened by the exercises of devotion; they linger about it on
the Sabbath, when the mind is disengaged from worldly cares and most
disposed to turn aside from present pleasures and present loves and
to sit down among the solemn mementos of the past. In North Wales the
peasantry kneel and pray over the graves of their deceased friends
for several Sundays after the interment; and where the tender rite of
strewing and planting flowers is still practised, it is always renewed
on Easter, Whitsuntide, and other festivals, when the season brings
the companion of former festivity more vividly to mind. It is also
invariably performed by the nearest relatives and friends; no menials
nor hirelings are employed, and if a neighbor yields assistance, it
would be deemed an insult to offer compensation.

I have dwelt upon this beautiful rural custom, because as it is one of
the last, so is it one of the holiest, offices of love. The grave is
the ordeal of true affection. It is there that the divine passion of the
soul manifests its superiority to the instinctive impulse of mere animal
attachment. The latter must be continually refreshed and kept alive by
the presence of its object, but the love that is seated in the soul can
live on long remembrance. The mere inclinations of sense languish and
decline with the charms which excited them, and turn with shuddering
disgust from the dismal precincts of the tomb; but it is thence that
truly spiritual affection rises, purified from every sensual desire, and
returns, like a holy flame, to illumine and sanctify the heart of the
survivor.

The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be
divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal, every other affliction
to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open, this
affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude. Where is the mother
who would willingly forget the infant that perished like a blossom from
her arms though every recollection is a pang? Where is the child that
would willingly forget the most tender of parents, though to remember be
but to lament? Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend
over whom he mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains
of her he most loved, when he feels his heart, as it were, crushed in
the closing of its portal, would accept of consolation that must be
bought by forgetfulness? No, the love which survives the tomb is one of
the noblest attributes of the soul. If it has its woes, it has likewise
its delights; and when the overwhelming burst of grief is calmed
into the gentle tear of recollection, when the sudden anguish and the
convulsive agony over the present ruins of all that we most loved is
softened away into pensive meditation on all that it was in the days of
its loveliness, who would root out such a sorrow from the heart? Though
it may sometimes throw a passing cloud over the bright hour of gayety,
or spread a deeper sadness over the hour of gloom, yet who would
exchange it even for the song of pleasure or the burst of revelry? No,
there is a voice from the tomb sweeter than song. There is a remembrance
of the dead to which we turn even from the charms of the living. Oh,
the grave! the grave! It buries every error, covers every defect,
extinguishes every resentment! From its peaceful bosom spring none but
fond regrets and tender recollections. Who can look down upon the grave
even of an enemy, and not feel a compunctious throb that he should ever
have warred with the poor handful of earth that lies mouldering before
him?

But the grave of those we loved--what a place for meditation! There
it is that we call up in long review the whole history of virtue
and gentleness, and the thousand endearments lavished upon us almost
unheeded in the daily intercourse of intimacy; there it is that we dwell
upon the tenderness, the solemn, awful tenderness, of the parting
scene. The bed of death, with all its stifled griefs--its noiseless
attendance--its mute, watchful assiduities. The last testimonies
of expiring love! The feeble, fluttering, thrilling--oh, how
thrilling!--pressure of the hand! The faint, faltering accents,
struggling in death to give one more assurance of affection! The last
fond look of the glazing eye, turning upon us even from the threshold of
existence!

Ay, go to the grave of buried love and meditate! There settle the
account with thy conscience for every past benefit unrequited--every
past endearment unregarded, of that departed being who can
never-never--never return to be soothed by thy contrition!

If thou art a child, and hast ever added a sorrow to the soul or a
furrow to the silvered brow of an affectionate parent; if thou art a
husband, and hast ever caused the fond bosom that ventured its whole
happiness in thy arms to doubt one moment of thy kindness or thy truth;
if thou art a friend, and hast ever wronged, in thought or word or deed,
the spirit that generously confided in thee; if thou art a lover, and
hast ever given one unmerited pang to that true heart which now lies
cold and still beneath thy feet,--then be sure that every unkind look,
every ungracious word, every ungentle action will come thronging back
upon thy memory and knocking dolefully at thy soul: then be sure that
thou wilt lie down sorrowing and repentant on the grave, and utter
the unheard groan and pour the unavailing tear, more deep, more bitter
because unheard and unavailing.

Then weave thy chaplet of flowers and strew the beauties of Nature about
the grave; console thy broken spirit, if thou canst, with these tender
yet futile tributes of regret; but take warning by the bitterness of
this thy contrite affliction over the dead, and henceforth be more
faithful and affectionate in the discharge of thy duties to the living.

      *      *      *      *      *

In writing the preceding article it was not intended to give a full
detail of the funeral customs of the English peasantry, but merely to
furnish a few hints and quotations illustrative of particular rites, to
be appended, by way of note, to another paper, which has been withheld.
The article swelled insensibly into its present form, and this is
mentioned as an apology for so brief and casual a notice of these usages
after they have been amply and learnedly investigated in other works.

I must observe, also, that I am well aware that this custom of adorning
graves with flowers prevails in other countries besides England. Indeed,
in some it is much more general, and is observed even by the rich and
fashionable; but it is then apt to lose its simplicity and to degenerate
into affectation. Bright, in his travels in Lower Hungary, tells of
monuments of marble and recesses formed for retirement, with seats
placed among bowers of greenhouse plants, and that the graves generally
are covered with the gayest flowers of the season. He gives a casual
picture of filial piety which I cannot but transcribe; for I trust it is
as useful as it is delightful to illustrate the amiable virtues of the
sex. “When I was at Berlin,” says he, “I followed the celebrated Iffland
to the grave. Mingled with some pomp you might trace much real feeling.
In the midst of the ceremony my attention was attracted by a young
woman who stood on a mound of earth newly covered with turf, which she
anxiously protected from the feet of the passing crowd. It was the tomb
of her parent; and the figure of this affectionate daughter presented a
monument more striking than the most costly work of art.”

I will barely add an instance of sepulchral decoration that I once
met with among the mountains of Switzerland. It was at the village of
Gersau, which stands on the borders of the Lake of Lucerne, at the foot
of Mount Rigi. It was once the capital of a miniature republic shut up
between the Alps and the lake, and accessible on the land side only by
footpaths. The whole force of the republic did not exceed six hundred
fighting men, and a few miles of circumference, scooped out as it were
from the bosom of the mountains, comprised its territory. The village
of Gersau seemed separated from the rest of the world, and retained
the golden simplicity of a purer age. It had a small church, with a
burying-ground adjoining. At the heads of the graves were placed crosses
of wood or iron. On some were affixed miniatures, rudely executed, but
evidently attempts at likenesses of the deceased. On the crosses
were hung chaplets of flowers, some withering others fresh, as if
occasionally renewed. I paused with interest at this scene: I felt
that I was at the source of poetical description, for these were the
beautiful but unaffected offerings of the heart which poets are fain to
record. In a gayer and more populous place I should have suspected them
to have been suggested by factitious sentiment derived from books; but
the good people of Gersau knew little of books; there was not a novel
nor a love-poem in the village, and I question whether any peasant of
the place dreamt, while he was twining a fresh chaplet for the grave of
his mistress, that he was fulfilling one of the most fanciful rites of
poetical devotion, and that he was practically a poet.



THE INN KITCHEN.

     Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?
                                FALSTAFF.

DURING a journey that I once made through the Netherlands, I had arrived
one evening at the Pomme d’Or, the principal inn of a small Flemish
village. It was after the hour of the table d’hote, so that I was
obliged to make a solitary supper from the relics of its ampler board.
The weather was chilly; I was seated alone in one end of a great gloomy
dining-room, and, my repast being over, I had the prospect before me
of a long dull evening, without any visible means of enlivening it. I
summoned mine host and requested something to read; he brought me the
whole literary stock of his household, a Dutch family Bible, an almanac
in the same language, and a number of old Paris newspapers. As I sat
dozing over one of the latter, reading old news and stale criticisms,
my ear was now and then struck with bursts of laughter which seemed to
proceed from the kitchen. Every one that has travelled on the Continent
must know how favorite a resort the kitchen of a country inn is to the
middle and inferior order of travellers, particularly in that equivocal
kind of weather when a fire becomes agreeable toward evening. I threw
aside the newspaper and explored my way to the kitchen, to take a peep
at the group that appeared to be so merry. It was composed partly of
travellers who had arrived some hours before in a diligence, and partly
of the usual attendants and hangers-on of inns. They were seated round
a great burnished stove, that might have been mistaken for an altar at
which they were worshipping. It was covered with various kitchen vessels
of resplendent brightness, among which steamed and hissed a huge copper
tea-kettle. A large lamp threw a strong mass of light upon the group,
bringing out many odd features in strong relief. Its yellow rays
partially illumined the spacious kitchen, dying duskily away into remote
corners, except where they settled in mellow radiance on the broad side
of a flitch of bacon or were reflected back from well-scoured utensils
that gleamed from the midst of obscurity. A strapping Flemish lass,
with long golden pendants in her ears and a necklace with a golden heart
suspended to it, was the presiding priestess of the temple.

Many of the company were furnished with pipes, and most of them with
some kind of evening potation. I found their mirth was occasioned by
anecdotes which a little swarthy Frenchman, with a dry weazen face and
large whiskers, was giving of his love-adventures; at the end of each of
which there was one of those bursts of honest unceremonious laughter in
which a man indulges in that temple of true liberty, an inn.

As I had no better mode of getting through a tedious blustering evening,
I took my seat near the stove, and listened to a variety of travellers’
tales, some very extravagant and most very dull. All of them, however,
have faded from my treacherous memory except one, which I will endeavor
to relate. I fear, however, it derived its chief zest from the manner in
which it was told, and the peculiar air and appearance of the narrator.
He was a corpulent old Swiss, who had the look of a veteran traveller.
He was dressed in a tarnished green travelling-jacket, with a broad belt
round his waist, and a pair of overalls with buttons from the hips to
the ankles. He was of a full rubicund countenance, with a double chin,
aquiline nose, and a pleasant twinkling eye. His hair was light, and
curled from under an old green velvet travelling-cap stuck on one side
of his head. He was interrupted more than once by the arrival of guests
or the remarks of his auditors, and paused now and then to replenish his
pipe; at which times he had generally a roguish leer and a sly joke for
the buxom kitchen-maid.

I wish my readers could imagine the old fellow lolling in a huge
arm-chair, one arm a-kimbo, the other holding a curiously twisted
tobacco-pipe formed of genuine ecume de mer, decorated with silver chain
and silken tassel, his head cocked on one side, and a whimsical cut of
the eye occasionally as he related the following story.



THE SPECTRE BRIDEGROOM.

A TRAVELLER’S TALE.*

    He that supper for is dight,
    He lyes full cold, I trow, this night!
    Yestreen to chamber I him led,
    This night Gray-steel has made his bed!
   SIR EGER, SIR GRAHAME, and SIR GRAY-STEEL.

ON the summit of one of the heights of the Odenwald, a wild and romantic
tract of Upper Germany that lies not far from the confluence of the
Main and the Rhine, there stood many, many years since the castle of the
Baron Von Landshort. It is now quite fallen to decay, and almost
buried among beech trees and dark firs; above which, however, its old
watch-tower may still be seen struggling, like the former possessor I
have mentioned, to carry a high head and look down upon the neighboring
country.

The baron was a dry branch of the great family of Katzenellenbogen,+
and inherited the relics of the property and all the pride, of his
ancestors. Though the warlike disposition of his predecessors had much
impaired the family possessions, yet the baron still endeavored to keep
up some show of former state. The times were peaceable, and the German
nobles in general had abandoned their inconvenient old castles, perched
like eagles’ nests among the mountains, and had built more convenient
residences in the valleys; still, the baron remained proudly drawn up in
his little fortress, cherishing with hereditary inveteracy all the
old family feuds, so that he was on ill terms with some of his nearest
neighbors, on account of disputes that had happened between their
great-great-grandfathers.


     * The erudite reader, well versed in good-for-nothing lore,
     will perceive that the above Tale must have been suggested
     to the old Swiss by a little French anecdote, a circumstance
     said to have taken place in Paris.

     + I.e., CAT’S ELBOW--the name of a family of those parts,
     and very powerful in former times. The appellation, we are
     told, was given in compliment to a peerless dame of the
     family, celebrated for a fine arm.


The baron had but one child, a daughter, but Nature, when she grants but
one child, always compensates by making it a prodigy; and so it was with
the daughter of the baron. All the nurses, gossips, and country cousins
assured her father that she had not her equal for beauty in all Germany;
and who should know better than they? She had, moreover, been brought up
with great care under the superintendence of two maiden aunts, who had
spent some years of their early life at one of the little German courts,
and were skilled in all branches of knowledge necessary to the education
of a fine lady. Under their instructions she became a miracle of
accomplishments. By the time she was eighteen she could embroider to
admiration, and had worked whole histories of the saints in tapestry
with such strength of expression in their countenances that they
looked like so many souls in purgatory. She could read without great
difficulty, and had spelled her way through several Church legends and
almost all the chivalric wonders of the Heldenbuch. She had even made
considerable proficiency in writing; could sign her own name without
missing a letter, and so legibly that her aunts could read it without
spectacles. She excelled in making little elegant good-for-nothing,
lady-like knicknacks of all kinds, was versed in the most abstruse
dancing of the day, played a number of airs on the harp and guitar, and
knew all the tender ballads of the Minnelieders by heart.

Her aunts, too, having been great flirts and coquettes in their younger
days, were admirably calculated to be vigilant guardians and strict
censors of the conduct of their niece; for there is no duenna so rigidly
prudent and inexorably decorous as a superannuated coquette. She was
rarely suffered out of their sight; never went beyond the domains of
the castle unless well attended, or rather well watched; had continual
lectures read to her about strict decorum and implicit obedience; and,
as to the men--pah!--she was taught to hold them at such a distance and
in such absolute distrust that, unless properly authorized, she would
not have cast a glance upon the handsomest cavalier in the world--no,
not if he were even dying at her feet.

The good effects of this system were wonderfully apparent. The young
lady was a pattern of docility and correctness. While others were
wasting their sweetness in the glare of the world, and liable to be
plucked and thrown aside by every hand, she was coyly blooming into
fresh and lovely womanhood under the protection of those immaculate
spinsters, like a rosebud blushing forth among guardian thorns. Her
aunts looked upon her with pride and exultation, and vaunted that,
though all the other young ladies in the world might go astray, yet
thank Heaven, nothing of the kind could happen to the heiress of
Katzenellenbogen.

But, however scantily the Baron Von Landshort might be provided with
children, his household was by no means a small one; for Providence
had enriched him with abundance of poor relations. They, one and all,
possessed the affectionate disposition common to humble relatives--were
wonderfully attached to the baron, and took every possible occasion
to come in swarms and enliven the castle. All family festivals were
commemorated by these good people at the baron’s expense; and when they
were filled with good cheer they would declare that there was nothing
on earth so delightful as these family meetings, these jubilees of the
heart.

The baron, though a small man, had a large soul, and it swelled with
satisfaction at the consciousness of being the greatest man in the
little world about him. He loved to tell long stories about the stark
old warriors whose portraits looked grimly down from the walls around,
and he found no listeners equal to those who fed at his expense. He
was much given to the marvellous and a firm believer in all those
supernatural tales with which every mountain and valley in Germany
abounds. The faith of his guests exceeded even his own: they listened
to every tale of wonder with open eyes and mouth, and never failed to be
astonished, even though repeated for the hundredth time. Thus lived the
Baron Von Landshort, the oracle of his table, the absolute monarch of
his little territory, and happy, above all things, in the persuasion
that he was the wisest man of the age.

At the time of which my story treats there was a great family gathering
at the castle on an affair of the utmost importance: it was to receive
the destined bridegroom of the baron’s daughter. A negotiation had been
carried on between the father and an old nobleman of Bavaria to unite
the dignity of their houses by the marriage of their children. The
preliminaries had been conducted with proper punctilio. The young people
were betrothed without seeing each other, and the time was appointed for
the marriage ceremony. The young Count Von Altenburg had been recalled
from the army for the purpose, and was actually on his way to the
baron’s to receive his bride. Missives had even been received from him
from Wurtzburg, where he was accidentally detained, mentioning the day
and hour when he might be expected to arrive.

The castle was in a tumult of preparation to give him a suitable
welcome. The fair bride had been decked out with uncommon care. The two
aunts had superintended her toilet, and quarrelled the whole morning
about every article of her dress. The young lady had taken advantage of
their contest to follow the bent of her own taste; and fortunately
it was a good one. She looked as lovely as youthful bridegroom could
desire, and the flutter of expectation heightened the lustre of her
charms.

The suffusions that mantled her face and neck, the gentle heaving of
the bosom, the eye now and then lost in reverie, all betrayed the soft
tumult that was going on in her little heart. The aunts were continually
hovering around her, for maiden aunts are apt to take great interest in
affairs of this nature. They were giving her a world of staid counsel
how to deport herself, what to say, and in what manner to receive the
expected lover.

The baron was no less busied in preparations. He had, in truth, nothing
exactly to do; but he was naturally a fuming, bustling little man, and
could not remain passive when all the world was in a hurry. He worried
from top to bottom of the castle with an air of infinite anxiety; he
continually called the servants from their work to exhort them to be
diligent; and buzzed about every hall and chamber, as idly restless and
importunate as a blue-bottle fly on a warm summer’s day.

In the mean time the fatted calf had been killed; the forests had rung
with the clamor of the huntsmen; the kitchen was crowded with good
cheer; the cellars had yielded up whole oceans of Rhein-wein and
Ferre-wein; and even the great Heidelberg tun had been laid under
contribution. Everything was ready to receive the distinguished guest
with Saus und Braus in the true spirit of German hospitality; but the
guest delayed to make his appearance. Hour rolled after hour. The sun,
that had poured his downward rays upon the rich forest of the Odenwald,
now just gleamed along the summits of the mountains. The baron mounted
the highest tower and strained his eyes in hopes of catching a distant
sight of the count and his attendants. Once he thought he beheld them;
the sound of horns came floating from the valley, prolonged by the
mountain-echoes. A number of horsemen were seen far below slowly
advancing along the road; but when they had nearly reached the foot of
the mountain they suddenly struck off in a different direction. The last
ray of sunshine departed, the bats began to flit by in the twilight, the
road grew dimmer and dimmer to the view, and nothing appeared stirring
in it but now and then a peasant lagging homeward from his labor.

While the old castle of Landshort was in this state of perplexity a very
interesting scene was transacting in a different part of the Odenwald.

The young Count Von Altenburg was tranquilly pursuing his route in that
sober jog-trot way in which a man travels toward matrimony when his
friends have taken all the trouble and uncertainty of courtship off his
hands and a bride is waiting for him as certainly as a dinner at the
end of his journey. He had encountered at Wurtzburg a youthful
companion-in-arms with whom he had seen some service on the
frontiers--Herman Von Starkenfaust, one of the stoutest hands and
worthiest hearts of German chivalry--who was now returning from the
army. His father’s castle was not far distant from the old fortress of
Landshort, although an hereditary feud rendered the families hostile and
strangers to each other.

In the warm-hearted moment of recognition the young friends related all
their past adventures and fortunes, and the count gave the whole history
of his intended nuptials with a young lady whom he had never seen, but
of whose charms he had received the most enrapturing descriptions.

As the route of the friends lay in the same direction, they agreed to
perform the rest of their journey together, and that they might do it
the more leisurely, set off from Wurtzburg at an early hour, the count
having given directions for his retinue to follow and overtake him.

They beguiled their wayfaring with recollections of their military
scenes and adventures; but the count was apt to be a little tedious now
and then about the reputed charms of his bride and the felicity that
awaited him.

In this way they had entered among the mountains of the Odenwald, and
were traversing one of its most lonely and thickly wooded passes. It is
well known that the forests of Germany have always been as much infested
by robbers as its castles by spectres; and at this time the former were
particularly numerous, from the hordes of disbanded soldiers wandering
about the country. It will not appear extraordinary, therefore, that the
cavaliers were attacked by a gang of these stragglers, in the midst
of the forest. They defended themselves with bravery, but were nearly
overpowered when the count’s retinue arrived to their assistance. At
sight of them the robbers fled, but not until the count had received a
mortal wound. He was slowly and carefully conveyed back to the city
of Wurtzburg, and a friar summoned from a neighboring convent who was
famous for his skill in administering to both soul and body; but half
of his skill was superfluous; the moments of the unfortunate count were
numbered.

With his dying breath he entreated his friend to repair instantly to the
castle of Landshort and explain the fatal cause of his not keeping his
appointment with his bride. Though not the most ardent of lovers, he was
one of the most punctilious of men, and appeared earnestly solicitous
that his mission should be speedily and courteously executed. “Unless
this is done,” said he, “I shall not sleep quietly in my grave.” He
repeated these last words with peculiar solemnity. A request at a moment
so impressive admitted no hesitation. Starkenfaust endeavored to soothe
him to calmness, promised faithfully to execute his wish, and gave him
his hand in solemn pledge. The dying man pressed it in acknowledgment,
but soon lapsed into delirium--raved about his bride, his engagements,
his plighted word--ordered his horse, that he might ride to the castle
of Landshort, and expired in the fancied act of vaulting into the
saddle.

Starkenfaust bestowed a sigh and a soldier’s tear on the untimely
fate of his comrade and then pondered on the awkward mission he had
undertaken. His heart was heavy and his head perplexed; for he was to
present himself an unbidden guest among hostile people, and to damp
their festivity with tidings fatal to their hopes. Still, there were
certain whisperings of curiosity in his bosom to see this far-famed
beauty of Katzenellenbogen, so cautiously shut up from the world; for
he was a passionate admirer of the sex, and there was a dash of
eccentricity and enterprise in his character that made him fond of all
singular adventure.

Previous to his departure he made all due arrangements with the holy
fraternity of the convent for the funeral solemnities of his friend,
who was to be buried in the cathedral of Wurtzburg near some of his
illustrious relatives, and the mourning retinue of the count took charge
of his remains.

It is now high time that we should return to the ancient family of
Katzenellenbogen, who were impatient for their guest, and still more
for their dinner, and to the worthy little baron, whom we left airing
himself on the watch-tower.

Night closed in, but still no guest arrived. The baron descended from
the tower in despair. The banquet, which had been delayed from hour to
hour, could no longer be postponed. The meats were already overdone, the
cook in an agony, and the whole household had the look of a garrison,
that had been reduced by famine. The baron was obliged reluctantly to
give orders for the feast without the presence of the guest. All were
seated at table, and just on the point of commencing, when the sound of
a horn from without the gate gave notice of the approach of a stranger.
Another long blast filled the old courts of the castle with its echoes,
and was answered by the warder from the walls. The baron hastened to
receive his future son-in-law.

The drawbridge had been let down, and the stranger was before the
gate. He was a tall gallant cavalier, mounted on a black steed. His
countenance was pale, but he had a beaming, romantic eye and an air of
stately melancholy. The baron was a little mortified that he should
have come in this simple, solitary style. His dignity for a moment was
ruffled, and he felt disposed to consider it a want of proper respect
for the important occasion and the important family with which he was to
be connected. He pacified himself, however, with the conclusion that it
must have been youthful impatience which had induced him thus to spur on
sooner than his attendants.

“I am sorry,” said the stranger, “to break in upon you thus
unseasonably----”

Here the baron interrupted him with a world of compliments and
greetings, for, to tell the truth, he prided himself upon his courtesy
and eloquence. The stranger attempted once or twice to stem the torrent
of words, but in vain, so he bowed his head and suffered it to flow on.
By the time the baron had come to a pause they had reached the inner
court of the castle, and the stranger was again about to speak, when he
was once more interrupted by the appearance of the female part of the
family, leading forth the shrinking and blushing bride. He gazed on her
for a moment as one entranced; it seemed as if his whole soul beamed
forth in the gaze and rested upon that lovely form. One of the maiden
aunts whispered something in her ear; she made an effort to speak; her
moist blue eye was timidly raised, gave a shy glance of inquiry on the
stranger, and was cast again to the ground. The words died away, but
there was a sweet smile playing about her lips, and a soft dimpling of
the cheek that showed her glance had not been unsatisfactory. It was
impossible for a girl of the fond age of eighteen, highly predisposed
for love and matrimony, not to be pleased with so gallant a cavalier.

The late hour at which the guest had arrived left no time for parley.
The baron was peremptory, and deferred all particular conversation until
the morning, and led the way to the untasted banquet.

It was served up in the great hall of the castle. Around the walls
hung the hard-favored portraits of the heroes of the house of
Katzenellenbogen, and the trophies which they had gained in the field,
and in the chase. Hacked corselets, splintered jousting-spears, and
tattered banners were mingled with the spoils of sylvan warfare: the
jaws of the wolf and the tusks of the boar grinned horribly among
crossbows and battle-axes, and a huge pair of antlers branched
immediately over the head of the youthful bridegroom.

The cavalier took but little notice of the company or the entertainment.
He scarcely tasted the banquet, but seemed absorbed in admiration of his
bride. He conversed in a low tone that could not be overheard, for the
language of love is never loud; but where is the female ear so dull that
it cannot catch the softest whisper of the lover? There was a mingled
tenderness and gravity in his manner that appeared to have a powerful
effect upon the young lady. Her color came and went as she listened with
deep attention. Now and then she made some blushing reply, and when his
eye was turned away she would steal a sidelong glance at his romantic
countenance, and heave a gentle sigh of tender happiness. It was evident
that the young couple were completely enamored. The aunts, who were
deeply versed in the mysteries of the heart, declared that they had
fallen in love with each other at first sight.

The feast went on merrily, or at least noisily, for the guests were
all blessed with those keen appetites that attend upon light purses and
mountain air. The baron told his best and longest stories, and never had
he told them so well or with such great effect. If there was anything
marvellous, his auditors were lost in astonishment; and if anything
facetious, they were sure to laugh exactly in the right place. The
baron, it is true, like most great men, was too dignified to utter any
joke but a dull one; it was always enforced, however, by a bumper of
excellent Hockheimer, and even a dull joke at one’s own table, served
up with jolly old wine, is irresistible. Many good things were said by
poorer and keener wits that would not bear repeating, except on similar
occasions; many sly speeches whispered in ladies’ ears that almost
convulsed them with suppressed laughter; and a song or two roared out
by a poor but merry and broad-faced cousin of the baron that absolutely
made the maiden aunts hold up their fans.

Amidst all this revelry the stranger guest maintained a most singular
and unseasonable gravity. His countenance assumed a deeper cast of
dejection as the evening advanced, and, strange as it may appear, even
the baron’s jokes seemed only to render him the more melancholy. At
times he was lost in thought, and at times there was a perturbed and
restless wandering of the eye that bespoke a mind but ill at ease.
His conversations with the bride became more and more earnest and
mysterious. Lowering clouds began to steal over the fair serenity of her
brow, and tremors to run through her tender frame.

All this could not escape the notice of the company. Their gayety was
chilled by the unaccountable gloom of the bridegroom; their spirits were
infected; whispers and glances were interchanged, accompanied by shrugs
and dubious shakes of the head. The song and the laugh grew less and
less frequent: there were dreary pauses in the conversation, which were
at length succeeded by wild tales and supernatural legends. One
dismal story produced another still more dismal, and the baron nearly
frightened some of the ladies into hysterics with the history of the
goblin horseman that carried away the fair Leonora--a dreadful story
which has since been put into excellent verse, and is read and believed
by all the world.

The bridegroom listened to this tale with profound attention. He kept
his eyes steadily fixed on the baron, and, as the story drew to a close,
began gradually to rise from his seat, growing taller and taller, until
in the baron’s entranced eye he seemed almost to tower into a giant.
The moment the tale was finished he heaved a deep sigh and took a
solemn farewell of the company. They were all amazement. The baron was
perfectly thunderstruck.

“What! going to leave the castle at midnight? Why, everything was
prepared for his reception; a chamber was ready for him if he wished to
retire.”

The stranger shook his head mournfully and mysteriously: “I must lay my
head in a different chamber to-night.”

There was something in this reply and the tone in which it was uttered
that made the baron’s heart misgive him; but he rallied his forces and
repeated his hospitable entreaties.

The stranger shook his head silently, but positively, at every offer,
and, waving his farewell to the company, stalked slowly out of the hall.
The maiden aunts were absolutely petrified; the bride hung her head and
a tear stole to her eye.

The baron followed the stranger to the great court of the castle, where
the black charger stood pawing the earth and snorting with impatience.
When they had reached the portal, whose deep archway was dimly lighted
by a cresset, the stranger paused, and addressed the baron in a hollow
tone of voice, which the vaulted roof rendered still more sepulchral.

“Now that we are a lone,” said he, “I will impart to you the reason of
my going. I have a solemn, an indispensable engagement----”

“Why,” said the baron, “cannot you send some one in your place?”

“It admits of no substitute--I must attend it in person; I must away to
Wurtzburg cathedral----”

“Ay,” said the baron, plucking up spirit, “but not until
to-morrow--to-morrow you shall take your bride there.”

“No! no!” replied the stranger, with tenfold solemnity, “my engagement
is with no bride--the worms! the worms expect me! I am a dead man--I
have been slain by robbers--my body lies at Wurtzburg--at midnight I am
to be buried--the grave is waiting for me--I must keep my appointment!”

He sprang on his black charger, dashed over the drawbridge, and the
clattering of his horse’s hoofs was lost in the whistling of the night
blast.

The baron returned to the hall in the utmost consternation, and related
what had passed. Two ladies fainted outright, others sickened at the
idea of having banqueted with a spectre. It was the opinion of some that
this might be the wild huntsman, famous in German legend. Some talked of
mountain-sprites, of wood-demons, and of other supernatural beings with
which the good people of Germany have been so grievously harassed since
time immemorial. One of the poor relations ventured to suggest that it
might be some sportive evasion of the young cavalier, and that the
very gloominess of the caprice seemed to accord with so melancholy a
personage. This, however, drew on him, the indignation of the whole
company, and especially of the baron, who looked upon him as little
better than an infidel; so that he was fain to abjure his heresy as
speedily as possible and come into the faith of the true believers.

But, whatever may have been the doubts entertained, they were completely
put to an end by the arrival next day of regular missives confirming the
intelligence of the young count’s murder and his interment in Wurtzburg
cathedral.

The dismay at the castle may well be imagined. The baron shut himself up
in his chamber. The guests, who had come to rejoice with him, could not
think of abandoning him in his distress. They wandered about the courts
or collected in groups in the hall, shaking their heads and shrugging
their shoulders at the troubles of so good a man, and sat longer than
ever at table, and ate and drank more stoutly than ever, by way of
keeping up their spirits. But the situation of the widowed bride was
the most pitiable. To have lost a husband before she had even embraced
him--and such a husband! If the very spectre could be so gracious and
noble, what must have been the living man? She filled the house with
lamentations.

On the night of the second day of her widowhood she had retired to her
chamber, accompanied by one of her aunts, who insisted on sleeping with
her. The aunt, who was one of the best tellers of ghost-stories in all
Germany, had just been recounting one of her longest, and had fallen
asleep in the very midst of it. The chamber was remote and overlooked a
small garden. The niece lay pensively gazing at the beams of the rising
moon as they trembled on the leaves of an aspen tree before the lattice.
The castle clock had just tolled midnight when a soft strain of music
stole up from the garden. She rose hastily from her bed and stepped
lightly to the window. A tall figure stood among the shadows of
the trees. As it raised its head a beam of moonlight fell upon the
countenance. Heaven and earth! she beheld the Spectre Bridegroom! A loud
shriek at that moment burst upon her ear, and her aunt, who had been
awakened by the music and had followed her silently to the window, fell
into her arms. When she looked again the spectre had disappeared.

Of the two females, the aunt now required the most soothing, for she was
perfectly beside herself with terror. As to the young lady, there was
something even in the spectre of her lover that seemed endearing. There
was still the semblance of manly beauty, and, though the shadow of a man
is but little calculated to satisfy the affections of a lovesick girl,
yet where the substance is not to be had even that is consoling. The
aunt declared she would never sleep in that chamber again; the niece,
for once, was refractory, and declared as strongly that she would sleep
in no other in the castle: the consequence was, that she had to sleep in
it alone; but she drew a promise from her aunt not to relate the story
of the spectre, lest she should be denied the only melancholy pleasure
left her on earth--that of inhabiting the chamber over which the
guardian shade of her lover kept its nightly vigils.

How long the good old lady would have observed this promise is
uncertain, for she dearly loved to talk of the marvellous, and there is
a triumph in being the first to tell a frightful story; it is, however,
still quoted in the neighborhood as a memorable instance of female
secrecy that she kept it to herself for a whole week, when she was
suddenly absolved from all further restraint by intelligence brought to
the breakfast-table one morning that the young lady was not to be found.
Her room was empty--the bed had not been slept in--the window was open
and the bird had flown!

The astonishment and concern with which the intelligence was received
can only be imagined by those who have witnessed the agitation which the
mishaps of a great man cause among his friends. Even the poor relations
paused for a moment from the indefatigable labors of the trencher, when
the aunt, who had at first been struck speechless, wrung her hands
and shrieked out, “The goblin! the goblin! she’s carried away by the
goblin!”

In a few words she related the fearful scene of the garden, and
concluded that the spectre must have carried off his bride. Two of the
domestics corroborated the opinion, for they had heard the clattering of
a horse’s hoofs down the mountain about midnight, and had no doubt that
it was the spectre on his black charger bearing her away to the tomb.
All present were struck with the direful probability for events of
the kind are extremely common in Germany, as many well-authenticated
histories bear witness.

What a lamentable situation was that of the poor baron! What a
heartrending dilemma for a fond father and a member of the great family
of Katzenellenbogen! His only daughter had either been rapt away to the
grave, or he was to have some wood-demon for a son-in-law, and perchance
a troop of goblin grandchildren. As usual, he was completely bewildered,
and all the castle in an uproar. The men were ordered to take horse and
scour every road and path and glen of the Odenwald. The baron himself
had just drawn on his jack-boots, girded on his sword, and was about
to mount his steed to sally forth on the doubtful quest, when he was
brought to a pause by a new apparition. A lady was seen approaching the
castle mounted on a palfrey, attended by a cavalier on horseback. She
galloped up to the gate, sprang from her horse, and, falling at the
baron’s feet, embraced his knees. It was his lost daughter, and her
companion--the Spectre Bridegroom! The baron was astounded. He looked
at his daughter, then at the spectre, and almost doubted the evidence of
his senses. The latter, too, was wonderfully improved in his appearance
since his visit to the world of spirits. His dress was splendid, and
set off a noble figure of manly symmetry. He was no longer pale and
melancholy. His fine countenance was flushed with the glow of youth, and
joy rioted in his large dark eye.

The mystery was soon cleared up. The cavalier (for, in truth, as you
must have known all the while, he was no goblin) announced himself as
Sir Herman Von Starkenfaust. He related his adventure with the young
count. He told how he had hastened to the castle to deliver the
unwelcome tidings, but that the eloquence of the baron had interrupted
him in every attempt to tell his tale. How the sight of the bride had
completely captivated him and that to pass a few hours near her he
had tacitly suffered the mistake to continue. How he had been sorely
perplexed in what way to make a decent retreat, until the baron’s
goblin stories had suggested his eccentric exit. How, fearing the feudal
hostility of the family, he had repeated his visits by stealth--had
haunted the garden beneath the young lady’s window--had wooed--had
won--had borne away in triumph--and, in a word, had wedded the fair.

Under any other circumstances the baron would have been inflexible, for
he was tenacious of paternal authority and devoutly obstinate in all
family feuds; but he loved his daughter; he had lamented her as lost;
he rejoiced to find her still alive; and, though her husband was of
a hostile house, yet, thank Heaven! he was not a goblin. There was
something, it must be acknowledged, that did not exactly accord with his
notions of strict veracity in the joke the knight had passed upon him of
his being a dead man; but several old friends present, who had served
in the wars, assured him that every stratagem was excusable in love,
and that the cavalier was entitled to especial privilege, having lately
served as a trooper.

Matters, therefore, were happily arranged. The baron pardoned the young
couple on the spot. The revels at the castle were resumed. The
poor relations overwhelmed this new member of the family with
loving-kindness; he was so gallant, so generous--and so rich. The
aunts, it is true, were somewhat scandalized that their system of strict
seclusion and passive obedience should be so badly exemplified, but
attributed it all to their negligence in not having the windows grated.
One of them was particularly mortified at having her marvellous story
marred, and that the only spectre she had ever seen should turn out a
counterfeit; but the niece seemed perfectly happy at having found him
substantial flesh and blood. And so the story ends.



WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

    When I behold, with deep astonishment,
    To famous Westminster how there resorte,
    Living in brasse or stoney monument,
    The princes and the worthies of all sorte;
    Doe not I see reformde nobilitie,
    Without contempt, or pride, or ostentation,
    And looke upon offenselesse majesty,
    Naked of pomp or earthly domination?
    And how a play-game of a painted stone
    Contents the quiet now and silent sprites,
    Whome all the world which late they stood upon
    Could not content nor quench their appetites.
        Life is a frost of cold felicitie,
        And death the thaw of all our vanitie.
            CHRISTOLERO’S EPIGRAMS, BY T. B. 1598.

ON one of those sober and rather melancholy days in the latter part of
autumn when the shadows of morning and evening almost mingle together,
and throw a gloom over the decline of the year, I passed several hours
in rambling about Westminster Abbey. There was something congenial to
the season in the mournful magnificence of the old pile, and as I passed
its threshold it seemed like stepping back into the regions of antiquity
and losing myself among the shades of former ages.

I entered from the inner court of Westminster School, through a long,
low, vaulted passage that had an almost subterranean look, being dimly
lighted in one part by circular perforations in the massive walls.
Through this dark avenue I had a distant view of the cloisters, with
the figure of an old verger in his black gown moving along their shadowy
vaults, and seeming like a spectre from one of the neighboring tombs.
The approach to the abbey through these gloomy monastic remains prepares
the mind for its solemn contemplation. The cloisters still retain
something of the quiet and seclusion of former days. The gray walls are
discolored by damps and crumbling with age; a coat of hoary moss has
gathered over the inscriptions of the mural monuments, and obscured the
death’s heads and other funeral emblems. The sharp touches of the chisel
are gone from the rich tracery of the arches; the roses which adorned
the keystones have lost their leafy beauty; everything bears marks of
the gradual dilapidations of time, which yet has something touching and
pleasing in its very decay.

The sun was pouring down a yellow autumnal ray into the square of
the cloisters, beaming upon a scanty plot of grass in the centre,
and lighting up an angle of the vaulted passage with a kind of dusky
splendor. From between the arcades the eye glanced up to a bit of blue
sky or a passing cloud, and beheld the sun-gilt pinnacles of the abbey
towering into the azure heaven.

As I paced the cloisters, sometimes contemplating this mingled
picture of glory and decay, and sometimes endeavoring to decipher the
inscriptions on the tombstones which formed the pavement beneath my
feet, my eye was attracted to three figures rudely carved in relief,
but nearly worn away by the footsteps of many generations. They were
the effigies of three of the early abbots; the epitaphs were entirely
effaced; the names alone remained, having no doubt been renewed in later
times (Vitalis. Abbas. 1082, and Gislebertus Crispinus. Abbas. 1114,
and Laurentius. Abbas. 1176). I remained some little while, musing over
these casual relics of antiquity thus left like wrecks upon this distant
shore of time, telling no tale but that such beings had been and had
perished, teaching no moral but the futility of that pride which hopes
still to exact homage in its ashes and to live in an inscription. A
little longer, and even these faint records will be obliterated and the
monument will cease to be a memorial. Whilst I was yet looking down
upon the gravestones I was roused by the sound of the abbey clock,
reverberating from buttress to buttress and echoing among the cloisters.
It is almost startling to hear this warning of departed time sounding
among the tombs and telling the lapse of the hour, which, like a billow,
has rolled us onward towards the grave. I pursued my walk to an
arched door opening to the interior of the abbey. On entering here the
magnitude of the building breaks fully upon the mind, contrasted with
the vaults of the cloisters. The eyes gaze with wonder at clustered
columns of gigantic dimensions, with arches springing from them to such
an amazing height, and man wandering about their bases, shrunk into
insignificance in comparison with his own handiwork. The spaciousness
and gloom of this vast edifice produce a profound and mysterious awe.
We step cautiously and softly about, as if fearful of disturbing the
hallowed silence of the tomb, while every footfall whispers along the
walls and chatters among the sepulchres, making us more sensible of the
quiet we have interrupted.

It seems as if the awful nature of the place presses down upon the soul
and hushes the beholder into noiseless reverence. We feel that we are
surrounded by the congregated bones of the great men of past times, who
have filled history with their deeds and the earth with their renown.

And yet it almost provokes a smile at the vanity of human ambition
to see how they are crowded together and jostled in the dust; what
parsimony is observed in doling out a scanty nook, a gloomy corner, a
little portion of earth, to those whom, when alive, kingdoms could not
satisfy, and how many shapes and forms and artifices are devised to
catch the casual notice of the passenger, and save from forgetfulness
for a few short years a name which once aspired to occupy ages of the
world’s thought and admiration.

I passed some time in Poet’s Corner, which occupies an end of one of
the transepts or cross aisles of the abbey. The monuments are generally
simple, for the lives of literary men afford no striking themes for
the sculptor. Shakespeare and Addison have statues erected to their
memories, but the greater part have busts, medallions, and sometimes
mere inscriptions. Notwithstanding the simplicity of these memorials,
I have always observed that the visitors to the abbey remained longest
about them. A kinder and fonder feeling takes place of that cold
curiosity or vague admiration with which they gaze on the splendid
monuments of the great and the heroic. They linger about these as about
the tombs of friends and companions, for indeed there is something of
companionship between the author and the reader. Other men are known
to posterity only through the medium of history, which is continually
growing faint and obscure; but the intercourse between the author and
his fellowmen is ever new, active, and immediate. He has lived for them
more than for himself; he has sacrificed surrounding enjoyments, and
shut himself up from the delights of social life, that he might the more
intimately commune with distant minds and distant ages. Well may the
world cherish his renown, for it has been purchased not by deeds of
violence and blood, but by the diligent dispensation of pleasure.
Well may posterity be grateful to his memory, for he has left it an
inheritance not of empty names and sounding actions, but whole treasures
of wisdom, bright gems of thought, and golden veins of language.

From Poet’s Corner I continued my stroll towards that part of the abbey
which contains the sepulchres of the kings. I wandered among what once
were chapels, but which are now occupied by the tombs and monuments
of the great. At every turn I met with some illustrious name or the
cognizance of some powerful house renowned in history. As the eye
darts into these dusky chambers of death it catches glimpses of quaint
effigies--some kneeling in niches, as if in devotion; others stretched
upon the tombs, with hands piously pressed together; warriors in armor,
as if reposing after battle; prelates, with crosiers and mitres; and
nobles in robes and coronets, lying as it were in state. In glancing
over this scene, so strangely populous, yet where every form is so still
and silent, it seems almost as if we were treading a mansion of that
fabled city where every being had been suddenly transmuted into stone.

I paused to contemplate a tomb on which lay the effigy of a knight in
complete armor. A large buckler was on one arm; the hands were pressed
together in supplication upon the breast; the face was almost covered by
the morion; the legs were crossed, in token of the warrior’s having been
engaged in the holy war. It was the tomb of a crusader, of one of those
military enthusiasts who so strangely mingled religion and romance,
and whose exploits form the connecting link between fact and fiction,
between the history and the fairytale. There is something extremely
picturesque in the tombs of these adventurers, decorated as they are
with rude armorial bearings and Gothic sculpture. They comport with the
antiquated chapels in which they are generally found; and in considering
them the imagination is apt to kindle with the legendary associations,
the romantic fiction, the chivalrous pomp and pageantry which poetry has
spread over the wars for the sepulchre of Christ. They are the relics
of times utterly gone by, of beings passed from recollection, of customs
and manners with which ours have no affinity. They are like objects from
some strange and distant land of which we have no certain knowledge,
and about which all our conceptions are vague and visionary. There is
something extremely solemn and awful in those effigies on Gothic tombs,
extended as if in the sleep of death or in the supplication of the dying
hour. They have an effect infinitely more impressive on my feelings
than the fanciful attitudes, the over wrought conceits, the allegorical
groups which abound on modern monuments. I have been struck, also, with
the superiority of many of the old sepulchral inscriptions. There was a
noble way in former times of saying things simply, and yet saying
them proudly; and I do not know an epitaph that breathes a loftier
consciousness of family worth and honorable lineage than one which
affirms of a noble house that “all the brothers were brave and all the
sisters virtuous.”

In the opposite transept to Poet’s Corner stands a monument which is
among the most renowned achievements of modern art, but which to
me appears horrible rather than sublime. It is the tomb of Mrs.
Nightingale, by Roubillac. The bottom of the monument is represented
as throwing open its marble doors, and a sheeted skeleton is starting
forth. The shroud is falling from his fleshless frame as he launches his
dart at his victim. She is sinking into her affrighted husband’s arms,
who strives with vain and frantic effort to avert the blow. The whole
is executed with terrible truth and spirit; we almost fancy we hear
the gibbering yell of triumph bursting from the distended jaws of the
spectre. But why should we thus seek to clothe death with unnecessary
terrors, and to spread horrors round the tomb of those we love? The
grave should be surrounded by everything that might inspire tenderness
and veneration for the dead, or that might win the living to virtue. It
is the place not of disgust and dismay, but of sorrow and meditation.

While wandering about these gloomy vaults and silent aisles, studying
the records of the dead, the sound of busy existence from without
occasionally reaches the ear--the rumbling of the passing equipage, the
murmur of the multitude, or perhaps the light laugh of pleasure. The
contrast is striking with the deathlike repose around; and it has a
strange effect upon the feelings thus to hear the surges of active life
hurrying along and beating against the very walls of the sepulchre.

I continued in this way to move from tomb to tomb and from chapel
to chapel. The day was gradually wearing away; the distant tread of
loiterers about the abbey grew less and less frequent; the sweet-tongued
bell was summoning to evening prayers; and I saw at a distance the
choristers in their white surplices crossing the aisle and entering
the choir. I stood before the entrance to Henry the Seventh’s chapel. A
flight of steps leads up to it through a deep and gloomy but magnificent
arch. Great gates of brass, richly and delicately wrought, turn heavily
upon their hinges, as if proudly reluctant to admit the feet of common
mortals into this most gorgeous of sepulchres.

On entering the eye is astonished by the pomp of architecture and the
elaborate beauty of sculptured detail. The very walls are wrought into
universal ornament encrusted with tracery, and scooped into niches
crowded with the statues of saints and martyrs. Stone seems, by the
cunning labor of the chisel, to have been robbed of its weight and
density, suspended aloft as if by magic, and the fretted roof achieved
with the wonderful minuteness and airy security of a cobweb.

Along the sides of the chapel are the lofty stalls of the Knights of
the Bath, richly carved of oak, though with the grotesque decorations
of Gothic architecture. On the pinnacles of the stalls are affixed the
helmets and crests of the knights, with their scarfs and swords,
and above them are suspended their banners, emblazoned with armorial
bearings, and contrasting the splendor of gold and purple and crimson
with the cold gray fretwork of the roof. In the midst of this grand
mausoleum stands the sepulchre of its founder--his effigy, with that of
his queen, extended on a sumptuous tomb--and the whole surrounded by a
superbly-wrought brazen railing.

There is a sad dreariness in this magnificence, this strange mixture of
tombs and trophies, these emblems of living and aspiring ambition,
close beside mementos which show the dust and oblivion in which all
must sooner or later terminate. Nothing impresses the mind with a deeper
feeling of loneliness than to tread the silent and deserted scene of
former throng and pageant. On looking round on the vacant stalls of
the knights and their esquires, and on the rows of dusty but gorgeous
banners that were once borne before them, my imagination conjured up the
scene when this hall was bright with the valor and beauty of the land,
glittering with the splendor of jewelled rank and military array, alive
with the tread of many feet and the hum of an admiring multitude. All
had passed away; the silence of death had settled again upon the place,
interrupted only by the casual chirping of birds, which had found
their way into the chapel and built their nests among its friezes and
pendants--sure signs of solitariness and desertion.

When I read the names inscribed on the banners, they were those of men
scattered far and wide about the world--some tossing upon distant seas:
some under arms in distant lands; some mingling in the busy intrigues
of courts and cabinets,--all seeking to deserve one more distinction in
this mansion of shadowy honors--the melancholy reward of a monument.

Two small aisles on each side of this chapel present a touching instance
of the equality of the grave, which brings down the oppressor to a
level with the oppressed and mingles the dust of the bitterest enemies
together. In one is the sepulchre of the haughty Elizabeth; in the other
is that of her victim, the lovely and unfortunate Mary. Not an hour in
the day but some ejaculation of pity is uttered over the fate of
the latter, mingled with indignation at her oppressor. The walls of
Elizabeth’s sepulchre continually echo with the sighs of sympathy heaved
at the grave of her rival.

A peculiar melancholy reigns over the aisle where Mary lies buried. The
light struggles dimly through windows darkened by dust. The greater part
of the place is in deep shadow, and the walls are stained and tinted by
time and weather. A marble figure of Mary is stretched upon the tomb,
round which is an iron railing, much corroded, bearing her national
emblem--the thistle. I was weary with wandering, and sat down to
rest myself by the monument, revolving in my mind the chequered and
disastrous story of poor Mary.

The sound of casual footsteps had ceased from the abbey. I could only
hear, now and then, the distant voice of the priest repeating the
evening service and the faint responses of the choir; these paused for
a time, and all was hushed. The stillness, the desertion, and obscurity
that were gradually prevailing around gave a deeper and more solemn
interest to the place;

    For in the silent grave no conversation,
    No joyful tread of friends, no voice of lovers,
    No careful father’s counsel--nothing’s heard,
    For nothing is, but all oblivion,
    Dust, and an endless darkness.

Suddenly the notes of the deep-laboring organ burst upon the ear,
falling with doubled and redoubled intensity, and rolling, as it were,
huge billows of sound. How well do their volume and grandeur accord
with this mighty building! With what pomp do they swell through its vast
vaults, and breathe their awful harmony through these caves of death,
and make the silent sepulchre vocal! And now they rise in triumphant
acclamation, heaving higher and higher their accordant notes and piling
sound on sound. And now they pause, and the soft voices of the choir
break out into sweet gushes of melody; they soar aloft and warble along
the roof, and seem to play about these lofty vaults like the pure
airs of heaven. Again the pealing organ heaves its thrilling thunders,
compressing air into music, and rolling it forth upon the soul. What
long-drawn cadences! What solemn sweeping concords! It grows more and
more dense and powerful; it fills the vast pile and seems to jar the
very walls--the ear is stunned--the senses are overwhelmed. And now it
is winding up in full jubilee--it is rising from the earth to heaven;
the very soul seems rapt away and floated upwards on this swelling tide
of harmony!

I sat for some time lost in that kind of reverie which a strain of
music is apt sometimes to inspire: the shadows of evening were gradually
thickening round me; the monuments began to cast deeper and deeper
gloom; and the distant clock again gave token of the slowly waning day.

I rose and prepared to leave the abbey. As I descended the flight of
steps which lead into the body of the building, my eye was caught by the
shrine of Edward the Confessor, and I ascended the small staircase that
conducts to it, to take from thence a general survey of this wilderness
of tombs. The shrine is elevated upon a kind of platform, and close
around it are the sepulchres of various kings and queens. From this
eminence the eye looks down between pillars and funeral trophies to
the chapels and chambers below, crowded with tombs, where warriors,
prelates, courtiers, and statesmen lie mouldering in their “beds of
darkness.” Close by me stood the great chair of coronation, rudely
carved of oak in the barbarous taste of a remote and Gothic age. The
scene seemed almost as if contrived with theatrical artifice to produce
an effect upon the beholder. Here was a type of the beginning and the
end of human pomp and power; here it was literally but a step from the
throne to the sepulchre. Would not one think that these incongruous
mementos had been gathered together as a lesson to living greatness?--to
show it, even in the moment of its proudest exaltation, the neglect
and dishonor to which it must soon arrive--how soon that crown which
encircles its brow must pass away, and it must lie down in the dust and
disgraces of the tomb, and be trampled upon by the feet of the meanest
of the multitude. For, strange to tell, even the grave is here no longer
a sanctuary. There is a shocking levity in some natures which leads them
to sport with awful and hallowed things, and there are base minds
which delight to revenge on the illustrious dead the abject homage and
grovelling servility which they pay to the living. The coffin of Edward
the Confessor has been broken open, and his remains despoiled of their
funereal ornaments; the sceptre has been stolen from the hand of the
imperious Elizabeth; and the effigy of Henry the Fifth lies headless.
Not a royal monument but bears some proof how false and fugitive is the
homage of mankind. Some are plundered, some mutilated, some covered with
ribaldry and insult,--all more or less outraged and dishonored.

The last beams of day were now faintly streaming through the painted
windows in the high vaults above me; the lower parts of the abbey were
already wrapped in the obscurity of twilight. The chapels and aisles
grew darker and darker. The effigies of the kings faded into shadows;
the marble figures of the monuments assumed strange shapes in the
uncertain light; the evening breeze crept through the aisles like the
cold breath of the grave; and even the distant footfall of a verger,
traversing the Poet’s Corner, had something strange and dreary in its
sound. I slowly retraced my morning’s walk, and as I passed out at the
portal of the cloisters, the door, closing with a jarring noise behind
me, filled the whole building with echoes.

I endeavored to form some arrangement in my mind of the objects I
had been contemplating, but found they were already falling into
indistinctness and confusion. Names, inscriptions, trophies, had all
become confounded in my recollection, though I had scarcely taken my
foot from off the threshold. What, thought I, is this vast assemblage
of sepulchres but a treasury of humiliation--a huge pile of reiterated
homilies on the emptiness of renown and the certainty of oblivion? It
is, indeed, the empire of death; his great shadowy palace where he sits
in state mocking at the relics of human glory and spreading dust and
forgetfulness on the monuments of princes. How idle a boast, after all,
is the immortality of a name! Time is ever silently turning over his
pages; we are too much engrossed by the story of the present to think
of the characters and anecdotes that gave interest to the past; and
each age is a volume thrown aside to be speedily forgotten. The idol of
to-day pushes the hero of yesterday out of our recollection, and will in
turn be supplanted by his successor of tomorrow. “Our fathers,” says Sir
Thomas Browne, “find their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell
us how we may be buried in our survivors.” History fades into fable;
fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription
moulders from the tablet; the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns,
arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand, and their epitaphs
but characters written in the dust? What is the security of a tomb or
the perpetuity of an embalmment? The remains of Alexander the Great have
been scattered to the wind, and his empty sarcophagus is now the mere
curiosity of a museum. “The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses or time
hath spared, avarice now consumeth; Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is
sold for balsams.” *

What then is to ensure this pile which now towers above me from sharing
the fate of mightier mausoleums? The time must come when its gilded
vaults which now spring so loftily, shall lie in rubbish beneath the
feet; when instead of the sound of melody and praise the wind shall
whistle through the broken arches and the owl hoot from the shattered
tower; when the garish sunbeam shall break into these gloomy mansions of
death, and the ivy twine round the fallen column; and the fox-glove hang
its blossoms about the nameless urn, as if in mockery of the dead.
Thus man passes away; his name passes from record and recollection; his
history is as a tale that is told, and his very monument becomes a ruin.


     * Sir T. Browne.



CHRISTMAS.

But is old, old, good old Christmas gone? Nothing but the hair of his
good, gray old head and beard left? Well, I will have that, seeing I
cannot have more of him. HUE AND CRY AFTER CHRISTMAS.

    A man might then behold
        At Christmas, in each hall
    Good fires to curb the cold,
        And meat for great and small.
    The neighbors were friendly bidden,
        And all had welcome true,
    The poor from the gates were not chidden
        When this old cap was new.
                                        OLD SONG.

NOTHING in England exercises a more delightful spell over my imagination
than the lingerings of the holiday customs and rural games of former
times. They recall the pictures my fancy used to draw in the May morning
of life, when as yet I only knew the world through books, and believed
it to be all that poets had painted it; and they bring with them the
flavor of those honest days of yore, in which, perhaps with equal
fallacy, I am apt to think the world was more homebred, social, and
joyous than at present. I regret to say that they are daily growing
more and more faint, being gradually worn away by time, but still more
obliterated by modern fashion. They resemble those picturesque morsels
of Gothic architecture which we see crumbling in various parts of the
country, partly dilapidated by the waste of ages and partly lost in the
additions and alterations of latter days. Poetry, however, clings with
cherishing fondness about the rural game and holiday revel from which
it has derived so many of its themes, as the ivy winds its rich foliage
about the Gothic arch and mouldering tower, gratefully repaying their
support by clasping together their tottering remains, and, as it were,
embalming them in verdure.

Of all the old festivals, however, that of Christmas awakens the
strongest and most heartfelt associations. There is a tone of solemn and
sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality and lifts the spirit to
a state of hallowed and elevated enjoyment. The services of the Church
about this season are extremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the
beautiful story of the origin of our faith and the pastoral scenes that
accompanied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervor and
pathos during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full
jubilee on the morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not
know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the
full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a
cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant
harmony.

It is a beautiful arrangement, also, derived from days of yore, that
this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion
of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together of
family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of kindred
hearts which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world are
continually operating to cast loose; of calling back the children of a
family who have launched forth in life and wandered widely asunder, once
more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying-place of the
affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing
mementos of childhood.

There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to
the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of
our pleasures from the mere beauties of Nature. Our feelings sally forth
and dissipate themselves over the sunny landscape, and we “live abroad
and everywhere.” The song of the bird, the murmur of the stream, the
breathing fragrance of spring, the soft voluptuousness of summer, the
golden pomp of autumn, earth with its mantle of refreshing green, and
heaven with it deep delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence,--all
fill us with mute but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of
mere sensation. But in the depth of winter, when Nature lies despoiled
of every charm and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for
our gratifications to moral sources. The dreariness and desolation of
the landscape, the short gloomy days and darksome nights, while they
circumscribe our wanderings, shut in our feelings also from rambling
abroad, and make us more keenly disposed for the pleasure of the social
circle. Our thoughts are more concentrated; our friendly sympathies more
aroused. We feel more sensibly the charm of each other’s society,
and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for
enjoyment. Heart calleth unto heart, and we draw our pleasures from the
deep wells of loving-kindness which lie in the quiet recesses of our
bosoms, and which, when resorted to, furnish forth the pure element of
domestic felicity.

The pitchy gloom without makes the heart dilate on entering the room
filled with the glow and warmth of the evening fire. The ruddy blaze
diffuses an artificial summer and sunshine through the room, and lights
up each countenance in a kindlier welcome. Where does the honest face of
hospitality expand into a broader and more cordial smile, where is the
shy glance of love more sweetly eloquent, than by the winter fireside?
and as the hollow blast of wintry wind rushes through the hall, claps
the distant door, whistles about the casement, and rumbles down the
chimney, what can be more grateful than that feeling of sober and
sheltered security with which we look round upon the comfortable chamber
and the scene of domestic hilarity?

The English, from the great prevalence of rural habit throughout
every class of society, have always been found of those festivals and
holidays, which agreeably interrupt the stillness of country life, and
they were, in former days, particularly observant of the religious and
social rites of Christmas. It is inspiring to read even the dry details
which some antiquaries have given of the quaint humors, the burlesque
pageants, the complete abandonment to mirth and good-fellowship with
which this festival was celebrated. It seemed to throw open every door
and unlock every heart. It brought the peasant and the peer together,
and blended all ranks in one warm, generous flow of joy and kindness.
The old halls of castles and manor-houses resounded with the harp and
the Christmas carol, and their ample boards groaned under the weight of
hospitality. Even the poorest cottage welcomed the festive season with
green decorations of bay and holly--the cheerful fire glanced its rays
through the lattice, inviting the passengers to raise the latch and join
the gossip knot huddled round the hearth beguiling the long evening with
legendary jokes and oft-told Christmas tales.

One of the least pleasing effects of modern refinement is the havoc it
has made among the hearty old holiday customs. It has completely taken
off the sharp touchings and spirited reliefs of these embellishments
of life, and has worn down society into a more smooth and polished,
but certainly a less characteristic, surface. Many of the games and
ceremonials of Christmas have entirely disappeared, and, like the
sherris sack of old Falstaff, are become matters of speculation and
dispute among commentators. They flourished in times full of spirit
and lustihood, when men enjoyed life roughly, but heartily and
vigorously--times wild and picturesque, which have furnished poetry with
its richest materials and the drama with its most attractive variety of
characters and manners. The world has become more worldly. There is
more of dissipation, and less of enjoyment. Pleasure has expanded into a
broader, but a shallower stream, and has forsaken many of those deep
and quiet channels where it flowed sweetly through the calm bosom of
domestic life. Society has acquired a more enlightened and elegant tone,
but it has lost many of its strong local peculiarities, its homebred
feelings, its honest fireside delights. The traditionary customs
of golden-hearted antiquity, its feudal hospitalities, and lordly
wassailings, have passed away with the baronial castles and stately
manor-houses in which they were celebrated. They comported with the
shadowy hall, the great oaken gallery, and the tapestried parlor, but
are unfitted to the light showy saloons and gay drawing-rooms of the
modern villa.

Shorn, however, as it is, of its ancient and festive honors, Christmas
is still a period of delightful excitement in England. It is gratifying
to see that home-feeling completely aroused which holds so powerful a
place in every English bosom. The preparations making on every side
for the social board that is again to unite friends and kindred; the
presents of good cheer passing and repassing, those tokens of regard and
quickeners of kind feelings; the evergreens distributed about houses
and churches, emblems of peace and gladness,--all these have the most
pleasing effect in producing fond associations and kindling benevolent
sympathies. Even the sound of the Waits, rude as may be their
minstrelsy, breaks upon the mid-watches of a winter night with the
effect of perfect harmony. As I have been awakened by them in that still
and solemn hour “when deep sleep falleth upon man,” I have listened
with a hushed delight, and, connecting them with the sacred and
joyous occasion, have almost fancied them into another celestial choir
announcing peace and good-will to mankind.

How delightfully the imagination, when wrought upon by these moral
influences, turns everything to melody and beauty! The very crowing
of the cock, heard sometimes in the profound repose of the country,
“telling the night-watches to his feathery dames,” was thought by the
common people to announce the approach of this sacred festival.

    “Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
    Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
    This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
    And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad,
    The nights are wholesome--then no planets strike,
    No fairy takes, no witch hath power to charm,
    So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.”

Amidst the general call to happiness, the bustle of the spirits, and
stir of the affections which prevail at this period what bosom can
remain insensible? It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling--the
season for kindling not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but
the genial flame of charity in the heart.

The scene of early love again rises green to memory beyond the sterile
waste of years; and the idea of home, fraught with the fragrance of
home-dwelling joys, reanimates the drooping spirit, as the Arabian
breeze will sometimes waft the freshness of the distant fields to the
weary pilgrim of the desert.

Stranger and sojourner as I am in the land, though for me no social
hearth may blaze, no hospitable roof throw open its doors, nor the
warm grasp of friendship welcome me at the threshold, yet I feel the
influence of the season beaming into my soul from the happy looks of
those around me. Surely happiness is reflective, like the light of
heaven, and every countenance, bright with smiles and glowing with
innocent enjoyment, is a mirror transmitting to others the rays of a
supreme and ever-shining benevolence. He who can turn churlishly away
from contemplating the felicity of his fellow-beings, and can sit down
darkling and repining in his loneliness when all around is joyful, may
have his moments of strong excitement and selfish gratification, but he
wants the genial and social sympathies which constitute the charm of a
merry Christmas.



THE STAGE-COACH.

        Omne bene
        Sine poena
    Tempua est ludendi.
        Venit hora
        Absque mora
    Libros deponendi.
           OLD HOLIDAY SCHOOL-SONG.

IN the preceding paper I have made some general observations on the
Christmas festivities of England, and am tempted to illustrate them by
some anecdotes of a Christmas passed in the country; in perusing which
I would most courteously invite my reader to lay aside the austerity of
wisdom, and to put on that genuine holiday spirit which is tolerant of
folly and anxious only for amusement.

In the course of a December tour in Yorkshire, I rode for a long
distance in one of the public coaches on the day preceding Christmas.
The coach was crowded, both inside and out, with passengers who, by
their talk, seemed principally bound to the mansions of relations or
friends to eat the Christmas dinner. It was loaded also with hampers of
game and baskets and boxes of delicacies, and hares hung dangling their
long ears about the coachman’s box, presents from distant friends for
the impending feast. I had three fine rosy-cheeked school boys for my
fellow-passengers inside, full of the buxom health and manly spirit
which I have observed in the children of this country. They were
returning home for the holidays in high glee, and promising themselves a
world of enjoyment. It was delightful to hear the gigantic plans of the
little rogues, and the impracticable feats they were to perform during
their six weeks’ emancipation from the abhorred thraldom of book, birch,
and pedagogue. They were full of anticipations of the meeting with the
family and household, down to the very cat and dog, and of the joy
they were to give their little sisters by the presents with which their
pockets were crammed; but the meeting to which they seemed to look
forward with the greatest impatience was with Bantam, which I found to
be a pony, and, according to their talk, possessed of more virtues than
any steed since the days of Bucephalus. How he could trot! how he could
run! and then such leaps as he would take!--there was not a hedge in the
whole country that he could not clear.

They were under the particular guardianship of the coachman, to whom,
whenever an opportunity presented, they addressed a host of questions,
and pronounced him one of the best fellows in the world. Indeed, I could
not but notice the more than ordinary air of bustle and importance of
the coachman, who wore his hat a little on one side and had a large
bunch of Christmas greens stuck in the buttonhole of his coat. He
is always a personage full of mighty care and business, but he is
particularly so during this season, having so many commissions to
execute in consequence of the great interchange of presents. And here,
perhaps, it may not be unacceptable to my untravelled readers to have a
sketch that may serve as a general representation of this very numerous
and important class of functionaries, who have a dress, a manner, a
language, an air peculiar to themselves and prevalent throughout the
fraternity; so that wherever an English stage-coachman may be seen he
cannot be mistaken for one of any other craft or mystery.

He has commonly a broad, full face, curiously mottled with red, as if
the blood had been forced by hard feeding into every vessel of the
skin; he is swelled into jolly dimensions by frequent potations of malt
liquors, and his bulk is still further increased by a multiplicity of
coats, in which he is buried like a cauliflower, the upper one reaching
to his heels. He wears a broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat; a huge roll of
colored handkerchief about his neck, knowingly knotted and tucked in
at the bosom; and has in summer-time a large bouquet of flowers in his
buttonhole, the present, most probably, of some enamored country
lass. His waistcoat is commonly of some bright color, striped, and his
small-clothes extend far below the knees, to meet a pair of jockey boots
which reach about halfway up his legs.

All this costume is maintained with much precision; he has a pride in
having his clothes of excellent materials, and, notwithstanding the
seeming grossness of his appearance, there is still discernible
that neatness and propriety of person which is almost inherent in an
Englishman. He enjoys great consequence and consideration along the
road; has frequent conferences with the village housewives, who look
upon him as a man of great trust and dependence; and he seems to have
a good understanding with every bright-eyed country lass. The moment
he arrives where the horses are to be changed, he throws down the reins
with something of an air and abandons the cattle to the care of the
ostler, his duty being merely to drive from one stage to another. When
off the box his hands are thrust into the pockets of his great coat, and
he rolls about the inn-yard with an air of the most absolute lordliness.
Here he is generally surrounded by an admiring throng of ostlers,
stableboys, shoeblacks, and those nameless hangers-on that infest
inns and taverns, and run errands and do all kind of odd jobs for the
privilege of battening on the drippings of the kitchen and the leakage
of the tap-room. These all look up to him as to an oracle, treasure up
his cant phrases, echo his opinions about horses and other topics of
jockey lore, and, above all, endeavor to imitate his air and carriage.
Every ragamuffin that has a coat to his back thrusts his hands in the
pockets, rolls in his gait, talks slang, and is an embryo Coachey.

Perhaps it might be owing to the pleasing serenity that reigned in
my own mind that I fancied I saw cheerfulness in every countenance
throughout the journey. A stage-coach, however, carries animation always
with it, and puts the world in motion as it whirls along. The horn,
sounded at the entrance of the village, produces a general bustle. Some
hasten forth to meet friends; some with bundles and bandboxes to secure
places, and in the hurry of the moment can hardly take leave of the
group that accompanies them. In the meantime the coachman has a world of
small commissions to execute. Sometimes he delivers a hare or pheasant;
sometimes jerks a small parcel or newspaper to the door of a public
house; and sometimes, with knowing leer and words of sly import,
hands to some half-blushing, half-laughing house-maid an odd-shaped
billet-doux from some rustic admirer. As the coach rattles through the
village every one runs to the window, and you have glances on every side
of fresh country faces and blooming giggling girls. At the corners are
assembled juntos of village idlers and wise men, who take their stations
there for the important purpose of seeing company pass; but the sagest
knot is generally at the blacksmith’s, to whom the passing of the coach
is an event fruitful of much speculation. The smith, with the horse’s
heel in his lap, pauses as the vehicle whirls by; the cyclops round the
anvil suspend their ringing hammers and suffer the iron to grow cool;
and the sooty spectre in brown paper cap laboring at the bellows leans
on the handle for a moment, and permits the asthmatic engine to heave a
long-drawn sigh, while he glares through the murky smoke and sulphurous
gleams of the smithy.

Perhaps the impending holiday might have given a more than usual
animation to the country, for it seemed to me as if everybody was in
good looks and good spirits. Game, poultry, and other luxuries of
the table were in brisk circulation in the villages; the grocers’,
butchers’, and fruiterers’ shops were thronged with customers. The
housewives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in
order, and the glossy branches of holly with their bright-red berries
began to appear at the windows. The scene brought to mind an old
writer’s account of Christmas preparation: “Now capons and hens, besides
turkeys, geese, and ducks, with beef and mutton, must all die, for in
twelve days a multitude of people will not be fed with a little. Now
plums and spice, sugar and honey, square it among pies and broth. Now
or never must music be in tune, for the youth must dance and sing to
get them a heat, while the aged sit by the fire. The country maid leaves
half her market, and must be sent again if she forgets a pack of cards
on Christmas Eve. Great is the contention of holly and ivy whether
master or dame wears the breeches. Dice and cards benefit the butler;
and if the cook do not lack wit, he will sweetly lick his fingers.”

I was roused from this fit of luxurious meditation by a shout from
my little travelling companions. They had been looking out of the
coach-windows for the last few miles, recognizing every tree and cottage
as they approached home, and now there was a general burst of joy.
“There’s John! and there’s old Carlo! and there’s Bantam!” cried the
happy little rogues, clapping their hands.

At the end of a lane there was an old sober-looking servant in livery
waiting for them; he was accompanied by a superannuated pointer and by
the redoubtable Bantam, a little old rat of a pony with a shaggy mane
and long rusty tail, who stood dozing quietly by the roadside, little
dreaming of the bustling times that awaited him.

I was pleased to see the fondness with which the little fellows leaped
about the steady old footman and hugged the pointer, who wriggled his
whole body for joy. But Bantam was the great object of interest; all
wanted to mount at once, and it was with some difficulty that John
arranged that they should ride by turns and the eldest should ride
first.

Off they set at last, one on the pony, with the dog bounding and barking
before him, and the others holding John’s hands, both talking at
once and overpowering him with questions about home and with school
anecdotes. I looked after them with a feeling in which I do not know
whether pleasure or melancholy predominated; for I was reminded of those
days when, like them, I had known neither care nor sorrow and a holiday
was the summit of earthly felicity. We stopped a few moments afterwards
to water the horses, and on resuming our route a turn of the road
brought us in sight of a neat country-seat. I could just distinguish the
forms of a lady and two young girls in the portico, and I saw my
little comrades, with Bantam, Carlo, and old John, trooping along the
carriage-road. I leaned out of the coach-window, in hopes of witnessing
the happy meeting, but a grove of trees shut it from my sight.

In the evening we reached a village where I had determined to pass the
night. As we drove into the great gateway of the inn, I saw on one side
the light of a rousing kitchen-fire beaming through a window. I entered,
and admired, for the hundredth time, that picture of convenience,
neatness, and broad honest enjoyment, the kitchen of an English inn.
It was of spacious dimensions, hung round with copper and tin vessels
highly polished, and decorated here and there with a Christmas green.
Hams, tongues, and flitches of bacon were suspended from the ceiling; a
smoke-jack made its ceaseless clanking beside the fireplace, and a clock
ticked in one corner. A well-scoured deal table extended along one side
of the kitchen, with a cold round of beef and other hearty viands
upon it, over which two foaming tankards of ale seemed mounting guard.
Travellers of inferior order were preparing to attack this stout repast,
while others sat smoking and gossiping over their ale on two high-backed
oaken settles beside the fire. Trim housemaids were hurrying backwards
and forwards under the directions of a fresh bustling landlady, but
still seizing an occasional moment to exchange a flippant word and have
a rallying laugh with the group round the fire. The scene completely
realized Poor Robin’s humble idea of the comforts of midwinter:

    Now trees their leafy hats do bare
    To reverence Winter’s silver hair;
    A handsome hostess, merry host,
    A pot of ale now and a toast,
    Tobacco and a good coal fire,
    Are things this season doth require.*


     * Poor Robin’s Almanack, 1684.


I had not been long at the inn when a post-chaise drove up to the door.
A young gentleman stept out, and by the light of the lamps I caught a
glimpse of a countenance which I thought I knew. I moved forward to
get a nearer view, when his eye caught mine. I was not mistaken; it was
Frank Bracebridge, a sprightly, good-humored young fellow with whom I
had once travelled on the Continent. Our meeting was extremely cordial,
for the countenance of an old fellow-traveller always brings up
the recollection of a thousand pleasant scenes, odd adventures, and
excellent jokes. To discuss all these in a transient interview at an
inn was impossible; and, finding that I was not pressed for time and was
merely making a tour of observation, he insisted that I should give him
a day or two at his father’s country-seat, to which he was going to pass
the holidays and which lay at a few miles’ distance. “It is better
than eating a solitary Christmas dinner at an inn,” said he, “and I can
assure you of a hearty welcome in something of the old-fashioned style.”
 His reasoning was cogent, and I must confess the preparation I had seen
for universal festivity and social enjoyment had made me feel a little
impatient of my loneliness. I closed, therefore, at once with his
invitation; the chaise drove up to the door, and in a few moments I was
on my way to the family mansion of the Bracebridges.



CHRISTMAS EVE.

    Saint Francis and Saint Benedight
    Blesse this house from wicked wight;
    From the night-mare and the goblin,
    That is hight good fellow Robin;
    Keep it from all evil spirits,
    Fairies, weezels, rats, and ferrets:
        From curfew time
        To the next prime.
                       CARTWRIGHT.

IT was a brilliant moonlight night, but extremely cold; our chaise
whirled rapidly over the frozen ground; the postboy smacked his whip
incessantly, and a part of the time his horses were on a gallop. “He
knows where he is going,” said my companion, laughing, “and is eager to
arrive in time for some of the merriment and good cheer of the servants’
hall. My father, you must know, is a bigoted devotee of the old school,
and prides himself upon keeping up something of old English hospitality.
He is a tolerable specimen of what you will rarely meet with nowadays
in its purity, the old English country gentleman; for our men of fortune
spend so much of their time in town, and fashion is carried so much into
the country, that the strong rich peculiarities of ancient rural life
are almost polished away. My father, however, from early years, took
honest Peacham* for his textbook, instead of Chesterfield; he determined
in his own mind that there was no condition more truly honorable and
enviable than that of a country gentleman on his paternal lands, and
therefore passes the whole of his time on his estate. He is a strenuous
advocate for the revival of the old rural games and holiday observances,
and is deeply read in the writers, ancient and modern, who have treated
on the subject. Indeed, his favorite range of reading is among the
authors who flourished at least two centuries since, who, he insists,
wrote and thought more like true Englishmen than any of their
successors. He even regrets sometimes that he had not been born a few
centuries earlier, when England was itself and had its peculiar manners
and customs. As he lives at some distance from the main road, in rather
a lonely part of the country, without any rival gentry near him, he has
that most enviable of all blessings to an Englishman--an opportunity
of indulging the bent of his own humor without molestation. Being
representative of the oldest family in the neighborhood, and a great
part of the peasantry being his tenants, he is much looked up to, and
in general is known simply by the appellation of ‘The Squire’--a title
which has been accorded to the head of the family since time immemorial.
I think it best to give you these hints about my worthy old father, to
prepare you for any eccentricities that might otherwise appear absurd.”


     * Peacham’s Complete Gentleman, 1622.


We had passed for some time along the wall of a park, and at length the
chaise stopped at the gate. It was in a heavy, magnificent old style,
of iron bars fancifully wrought at top into flourishes and flowers.
The huge square columns that supported the gate were surmounted by the
family crest. Close adjoining was the porter’s lodge, sheltered under
dark fir trees and almost buried in shrubbery.

The postboy rang a large porter’s bell, which resounded though the still
frosty air, and was answered by the distant barking of dogs, with which
the mansion-house seemed garrisoned. An old woman immediately appeared
at the gate. As the moonlight fell strongly upon her, I had a full view
of a little primitive dame, dressed very much in the antique taste, with
a neat kerchief and stomacher, and her silver hair peeping from under a
cap of snowy whiteness. She came curtseying forth, with many expressions
of simple joy at seeing her young master. Her husband, it seemed, was up
at the house keeping Christmas Eve in the servants’ hall; they could
not do without him, as he was the best hand at a song and story in the
household.

My friend proposed that we should alight and walk through the park to
the hall, which was at no great distance, while the chaise should follow
on. Our road wound through a noble avenue of trees, among the naked
branches of which the moon glittered as she rolled through the deep
vault of a cloudless sky. The lawn beyond was sheeted with a slight
covering of snow, which here and there sparkled as the moonbeams caught
a frosty crystal, and at a distance might be seen a thin transparent
vapor stealing up from the low grounds and threatening gradually to
shroud the landscape.

My companion looked around him with transport. “How often,” said he,
“have I scampered up this avenue on returning home on school vacations!
How often have I played under these trees when a boy! I feel a degree of
filial reverence for them, as we look up to those who have cherished us
in childhood. My father was always scrupulous in exacting our holidays
and having us around him on family festivals. He used to direct and
superintend our games with the strictness that some parents do the
studies of their children. He was very particular that we should play
the old English games according to their original form, and consulted
old books for precedent and authority for every ‘merrie disport;’ yet I
assure you there never was pedantry so delightful. It was the policy
of the good old gentleman to make his children feel that home was the
happiest place in the world; and I value this delicious home-feeling as
one of the choicest gifts a parent could bestow.”

We were interrupted by the clamor of a troop of dogs of all sorts and
sizes, “mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound, and curs of lower degree,”
 that disturbed by the ring of the porter’s bell and the rattling of the
chaise, came bounding, open-mouthed, across the lawn.

     “‘----The little dogs and all,  Tray, Blanch,
     and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me!’”

cried Bracebridge, laughing. At the sound of his voice the bark was
changed into a yelp of delight, and in a moment he was surrounded and
almost overpowered by the caresses of the faithful animals.

We had now come in full view of the old family mansion, partly thrown in
deep shadow and partly lit up by the cold moonshine. It was an irregular
building of some magnitude, and seemed to be of the architecture of
different periods. One wing was evidently very ancient, with heavy
stone-shafted bow windows jutting out and overrun with ivy, from among
the foliage of which the small diamond-shaped panes of glass glittered
with the moonbeams. The rest of the house was in the French taste of
Charles the Second’s time, having been repaired and altered, as my
friend told me, by one of his ancestors who returned with that monarch
at the Restoration. The grounds about the house were laid out in the
old formal manner of artificial flower-beds, clipped shrubberies, raised
terraces, and heavy stone balustrades, ornamented with urns, a leaden
statue or two, and a jet of water. The old gentleman, I was told, was
extremely careful to preserve this obsolete finery in all its
original state. He admired this fashion in gardening; it had an air
of magnificence, was courtly and noble, and befitting good old family
style. The boasted imitation of Nature in modern gardening had sprung
up with modern republican notions, but did not suit a monarchical
government; it smacked of the leveling system. I could not help smiling
at this introduction of politics into gardening, though I expressed some
apprehension that I should find the old gentleman rather intolerant
in his creed. Frank assured me, however, that it was almost the only
instance in which he had ever heard his father meddle with politics; and
he believed that he had got this notion from a member of Parliament who
once passed a few weeks with him. The squire was glad of any argument
to defend his clipped yew trees and formal terraces, which had been
occasionally attacked by modern landscape gardeners.

As we approached the house we heard the sound of music, and now and
then a burst of laughter from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge
said, must proceed from the servants’ hall, where a great deal of
revelry was permitted, and even encouraged, by the squire throughout the
twelve days of Christmas, provided everything was done conformably to
ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe
the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap
dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the
mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all
the pretty housemaids.*


     * The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens
     at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of
     kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from
     the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege
     ceases.


So intent were the servants upon their sports that we had to ring
repeatedly before we could make ourselves heard. On our arrival being
announced the squire came out to receive us, accompanied by his two
other sons--one a young officer in the army, home on a leave of absence;
the other an Oxonian, just from the university. The squire was a fine
healthy-looking old gentleman, with silver hair curling lightly round an
open florid countenance, in which the physiognomist, with the advantage,
like myself, of a previous hint or two, might discover a singular
mixture of whim and benevolence.

The family meeting was warm and affectionate; as the evening was far
advanced, the squire would not permit us to change our travelling
dresses, but ushered us at once to the company, which was assembled in
a large old-fashioned hall. It was composed of different branches of a
numerous family connection, where there were the usual proportion of old
uncles and aunts, comfortable married dames, superannuated spinsters,
blooming country cousins, half-fledged striplings, and bright-eyed
boarding-school hoydens. They were variously occupied--some at a round
game of cards; others conversing around the fireplace; at one end of the
hall was a group of the young folks, some nearly grown up, others of
a more tender and budding age, fully engrossed by a merry game; and a
profusion of wooden horses, penny trumpets, and tattered dolls about
the floor showed traces of a troop of little fairy beings who, having
frolicked through a happy day, had been carried off to slumber through a
peaceful night.

While the mutual greetings were going on between young Bracebridge and
his relatives I had time to scan the apartment. I have called it a hall,
for so it had certainly been in old times, and the squire had evidently
endeavored to restore it to something of its primitive state. Over
the heavy projecting fireplace was suspended a picture of a warrior
in armor, standing by a white horse, and on the opposite wall hung a
helmet, buckler, and lance. At one end an enormous pair of antlers were
inserted in the wall, the branches serving as hooks on which to suspend
hats, whips, and spurs, and in the corners of the apartment were
fowling-pieces, fishing-rods, and other sporting implements. The
furniture was of the cumbrous workmanship of former days, though some
articles of modern convenience had been added and the oaken floor had
been carpeted, so that the whole presented an odd mixture of parlor and
hall.

The grate had been removed from the wide overwhelming fireplace to
make way for a fire of wood, in the midst of which was an enormous log
glowing and blazing, and sending forth a vast volume of light and heat:
this, I understood, was the Yule-clog, which the squire was particular
in having brought in and illumined on a Christmas Eve, according to
ancient custom.*


     * The Yule-clog is a great log of wood, sometimes the root
     of a tree, brought into the house with great ceremony on
     Christmas Eve, laid in the fireplace, and lighted with the
     brand of last year’s clog. While it lasted there was great
     drinking, singing, and telling of tales. Sometimes it was
     accompanied by Christmas candles; but in the cottages the
     only light was from the ruddy blaze of the great wood fire.
     The Yule-clog was to burn all night; if it went out, it was
     considered a sign of ill luck.

Herrick mentions it in one of his songs:

        Come, bring with a noise,
        My metric, merrie boys,
    The Christmas Log to the firing;
        While my good dame, she
        Bids ye all be free,
    And drink to your hearts’ desiring.

The Yule-clog is still burnt in many farm-houses and kitchens in
England, particularly in the north, and there are several superstitions
connected with it among the peasantry. If a squinting person come to the
house while it is burning, or a person barefooted, it is considered an
ill omen. The brand remaining from the Yule-clog is carefully put away
to light the next year’s Christmas fire.


It was really delightful to see the old squire seated in his hereditary
elbow-chair by the hospitable fireside of his ancestors, and looking
around him like the sun of a system, beaming warmth and gladness to
every heart. Even the very dog that lay stretched at his feet, as he
lazily shifted his position and yawned would look fondly up in his
master’s face, wag his tail against the floor, and stretch himself again
to sleep, confident of kindness and protection. There is an emanation
from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is
immediately felt and puts the stranger at once at his ease. I had not
been seated many minutes by the comfortable hearth of the worthy old
cavalier before I found myself as much at home as if I had been one of
the family.

Supper was announced shortly after our arrival. It was served up in a
spacious oaken chamber, the panels of which shone with wax, and around
which were several family portraits decorated with holly and ivy.
Besides the accustomed lights, two great wax tapers, called Christmas
candles, wreathed with greens, were placed on a highly polished beaufet
among the family plate. The table was abundantly spread with substantial
fare; but the squire made his supper of frumenty, a dish made of wheat
cakes boiled in milk with rich spices, being a standing dish in old
times for Christmas Eve. I was happy to find my old friend, minced pie,
in the retinue of the feast and, finding him to be perfectly orthodox,
and that I need not be ashamed of my predilection, I greeted him with
all the warmth wherewith we usually greet an old and very genteel
acquaintance.

The mirth of the company was greatly promoted by the humors of an
eccentric personage whom Mr. Bracebridge always addressed with the
quaint appellation of Master Simon. He was a tight brisk little man,
with the air of an arrant old bachelor. His nose was shaped like the
bill of a parrot; his face slightly pitted with the small-pox, with a
dry perpetual bloom on it, like a frostbitten leaf in autumn. He had an
eye of great quickness and vivacity, with a drollery and lurking waggery
of expression that was irresistible. He was evidently the wit of the
family, dealing very much in sly jokes and innuendoes with the ladies,
and making infinite merriment by harping upon old themes, which,
unfortunately, my ignorance of the family chronicles did not permit
me to enjoy. It seemed to be his great delight during supper to keep
a young girl next to him in a continual agony of stifled laughter, in
spite of her awe of the reproving looks of her mother, who sat opposite.
Indeed, he was the idol of the younger part of the company, who laughed
at everything he said or did and at every turn of his countenance.
I could not wonder at it; for he must have been a miracle of
accomplishments in their eyes. He could imitate Punch and Judy; make
an old woman of his hand, with the assistance of a burnt cork and
pocket-handkerchief; and cut an orange into such a ludicrous caricature
that the young folks were ready to die with laughing.

I was let briefly into his history by Frank Bracebridge. He was an old
bachelor, of a small independent income, which by careful management was
sufficient for all his wants. He revolved through the family system
like a vagrant comet in its orbit, sometimes visiting one branch, and
sometimes another quite remote, as is often the case with gentlemen of
extensive connections and small fortunes in England. He had a chirping,
buoyant disposition, always enjoying the present moment; and his
frequent change of scene and company prevented his acquiring those
rusty, unaccommodating habits with which old bachelors are so
uncharitably charged. He was a complete family chronicle, being versed
in the genealogy, history, and intermarriages of the whole house of
Bracebridge, which made him a great favorite with the old folks; he was
a beau of all the elder ladies and superannuated spinsters, among whom
he was habitually considered rather a young fellow; and he was master
of the revels among the children, so that there was not a more popular
being in the sphere in which he moved than Mr. Simon Bracebridge. Of
late years he had resided almost entirely with the squire, to whom he
had become a factotum, and whom he particularly delighted by jumping
with his humor in respect to old times and by having a scrap of an
old song to suit every occasion. We had presently a specimen of his
last-mentioned talent, for no sooner was supper removed and spiced wines
and other beverages peculiar to the season introduced, than Master Simon
was called on for a good old Christmas song. He bethought himself for a
moment, and then, with a sparkle of the eye and a voice that was by no
means bad, excepting that it ran occasionally into a falsetto like the
notes of a split reed, he quavered forth a quaint old ditty:

        Now Christmas is come,
        Let us beat up the drum,
    And call all our neighbors together;
        And when they appear,
        Let us make them such cheer,
    As will keep out the wind and the weather, &c.

The supper had disposed every one to gayety, and an old harper was
summoned from the servants’ hall, where he had been strumming all the
evening, and to all appearance comforting himself with some of the
squire’s home-brewed. He was a kind of hanger-on, I was told, of the
establishment, and, though ostensibly a resident of the village, was
oftener to be found in the squire’s kitchen than his own home, the old
gentleman being fond of the sound of “harp in hall.”

The dance, like most dances after supper, was a merry one: some of the
older folks joined in it, and the squire himself figured down several
couple with a partner with whom he affirmed he had danced at every
Christmas for nearly half a century. Master Simon, who seemed to be a
kind of connecting link between the old times and the new, and to
be withal a little antiquated in the taste of his accomplishments,
evidently piqued himself on his dancing, and was endeavoring to gain
credit by the heel and toe, rigadoon, and other graces of the ancient
school; but he had unluckily assorted himself with a little romping girl
from boarding-school, who by her wild vivacity kept him continually on
the stretch and defeated all his sober attempts at elegance: such are
the ill-sorted matches to which antique gentlemen are unfortunately
prone.

The young Oxonian, on the contrary, had led out one of his maiden aunts,
on whom the rogue played a thousand little knaveries with impunity: he
was full of practical jokes, and his delight was to tease his aunts and
cousins, yet, like all madcap youngsters, he was a universal favorite
among the women. The most interesting couple in the dance was the
young officer and a ward of the squire’s, a beautiful blushing girl of
seventeen. From several shy glances which I had noticed in the course of
the evening I suspected there was a little kindness growing up between
them; and indeed the young soldier was just the hero to captivate a
romantic girl. He was tall, slender, and handsome, and, like most
young British officers of late years, had picked up various small
accomplishments on the Continent: he could talk French and Italian, draw
landscapes, sing very tolerably, dance divinely, but, above all, he had
been wounded at Waterloo. What girl of seventeen, well read in poetry
and romance, could resist such a mirror of chivalry and perfection?

The moment the dance was over he caught up a guitar, and, lolling
against the old marble fireplace in an attitude which I am half inclined
to suspect was studied, began the little French air of the Troubadour.
The squire, however, exclaimed against having anything on Christmas Eve
but good old English; upon which the young minstrel, casting up his eye
for a moment as if in an effort of memory, struck into another strain,
and with a charming air of gallantry gave Herrick’s “Night-Piece to
Julia:”

        Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,
        The shooting stars attend thee,
        And the elves also,
        Whose little eyes glow
    Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.

    No Will-o’-the-Wisp mislight thee;
    Nor snake nor slow-worm bite thee;
        But on thy way,
        Not making a stay,
    Since ghost there is none to affright thee,

    Then let not the dark thee cumber;
    What though the moon does slumber,
        The stars of the night
        Will lend thee their light,
    Like tapers clear without number.

    Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
    Thus, thus to come unto me,
        And when I shall meet
        Thy silvery feet,
    My soul I’ll pour into thee.

The song might or might not have been intended in compliment to the
fair Julia, for so I found his partner was called; she, however, was
certainly unconscious of any such application, for she never looked
at the singer, but kept her eyes cast upon the floor. Her face was
suffused, it is true, with a beautiful blush, and there was a gentle
heaving of the bosom, but all that was doubtless caused by the exercise
of the dance; indeed, so great was her indifference that she amused
herself with plucking to pieces a choice bouquet of hot-house flowers,
and by the time the song was concluded the nosegay lay in ruins on the
floor.

The party now broke up for the night with the kind-hearted old custom of
shaking hands. As I passed through the hall on my way to my chamber, the
dying embers of the Yule-clog still sent forth a dusky glow, and had it
not been the season when “no spirit dares stir abroad,” I should have
been half tempted to steal from my room at midnight and peep whether the
fairies might not be at their revels about the hearth.

My chamber was in the old part of the mansion, the ponderous furniture
of which might have been fabricated in the days of the giants. The room
was panelled, with cornices of heavy carved work, in which flowers and
grotesque faces were strangely intermingled, and a row of black-looking
portraits stared mournfully at me from the walls. The bed was of rich
though faded damask, with a lofty tester, and stood in a niche opposite
a bow window. I had scarcely got into bed when a strain of music seemed
to break forth in the air just below the window. I listened, and found
it proceeded from a band which I concluded to be the Waits from some
neighboring village. They went round the house, playing under the
windows. I drew aside the curtains to hear them more distinctly.
The moonbeams fell through the upper part of the casement; partially
lighting up the antiquated apartment. The sounds, as they receded,
became more soft and aerial, and seemed to accord with the quiet and
moonlight. I listened and listened--they became more and more tender and
remote, and, as they gradually died away, my head sunk upon the pillow
and I fell asleep.



CHRISTMAS DAY.

    Dark and dull night, flie hence away,
    And give the honor to this day
    That sees December turn’d to May.
   .  .  .  .  .  .  .
    Why does the chilling winter’s morne
    Smile like a field beset with corn?
    Or smell like to a meade new-shorne,
    Thus on the sudden?--come and see
    The cause why things thus fragrant be.
                                     HERRICK.

WHEN I woke the next morning it seemed as if all the events of the
preceding evening had been a dream, and nothing but the identity of the
ancient chamber convinced me of their reality. While I lay musing on my
pillow I heard the sound of little feet pattering outside of the door,
and a whispering consultation. Presently a choir of small voices chanted
forth an old Christmas carol, the burden of which was--

    Rejoice, our Saviour he was born
    On Christmas Day in the morning.

I rose softly, slipt on my clothes, opened the door suddenly, and beheld
one of the most beautiful little fairy groups that a painter could
imagine. It consisted of a boy and two girls, the eldest not more than
six, and lovely as seraphs. They were going the rounds of the house and
singing at every chamber door, but my sudden appearance frightened them
into mute bashfulness. They remained for a moment playing on their lips
with their fingers, and now and then stealing a shy glance from under
their eyebrows, until, as if by one impulse, they scampered away, and as
they turned an angle of the gallery I heard them laughing in triumph at
their escape.

Everything conspired to produce kind and happy feelings in this
stronghold of old-fashioned hospitality. The window of my chamber looked
out upon what in summer would have been a beautiful landscape. There was
a sloping lawn, a fine stream winding at the foot of it, and a tract of
park beyond, with noble clumps of trees and herds of deer. At a distance
was a neat hamlet, with the smoke from the cottage chimneys hanging over
it, and a church with its dark spire in strong relief against the clear
cold sky. The house was surrounded with evergreens, according to the
English custom, which would have given almost an appearance of summer;
but the morning was extremely frosty; the light vapor of the preceding
evening had been precipitated by the cold, and covered all the trees and
every blade of grass with its fine crystalizations. The rays of a bright
morning sun had a dazzling effect among the glittering foliage. A robin,
perched upon the top of a mountain-ash that hung its clusters of red
berries just before my window, was basking himself in the sunshine
and piping a few querulous notes, and a peacock was displaying all
the glories of his train and strutting with the pride and gravity of a
Spanish grandee on the terrace walk below.

I had scarcely dressed myself when a servant appeared to invite me to
family prayers. He showed me the way to a small chapel in the old wing
of the house, where I found the principal part of the family already
assembled in a kind of gallery furnished with cushions, hassocks, and
large prayer-books; the servants were seated on benches below. The old
gentleman read prayers from a desk in front of the gallery, and Master
Simon acted as clerk and made the responses; and I must do him the
justice to say that he acquitted himself with great gravity and decorum.

The service was followed by a Christmas carol, which Mr. Bracebridge
himself had constructed from a poem of his favorite author, Herrick, and
it had been adapted to an old church melody by Master Simon. As there
were several good voices among the household, the effect was extremely
pleasing, but I was particularly gratified by the exaltation of heart
and sudden sally of grateful feeling with which the worthy squire
delivered one stanza, his eye glistening and his voice rambling out of
all the bounds of time and tune:

    “‘Tis Thou that crown’st my glittering hearth
          With guiltless mirth,
      And givest me Wassaile bowles to drink
          Spiced to the brink;
      Lord, ‘tis Thy plenty-dropping hand
          That soiles my land:
      And giv’st me for my bushell sowne,
          Twice ten for one.”

I afterwards understood that early morning service was read on every
Sunday and saint’s day throughout the year, either by Mr. Bracebridge or
by some member of the family. It was once almost universally the case
at the seats of the nobility and gentry of England, and it is much to
be regretted that the custom is falling into neglect; for the dullest
observer must be sensible of the order and serenity prevalent in those
households where the occasional exercise of a beautiful form of worship
in the morning gives, as it were, the keynote to every temper for the
day and attunes every spirit to harmony.

Our breakfast consisted of what the squire denominated true old English
fare. He indulged in some bitter lamentations over modern breakfasts
of tea and toast, which he censured as among the causes of modern
effeminacy and weak nerves and the decline of old English heartiness;
and, though he admitted them to his table to suit the palates of his
guests, yet there was a brave display of cold meats, wine, and ale on
the sideboard.

After breakfast I walked about the grounds with Frank Bracebridge
and Master Simon, or Mr. Simon, as he was called by everybody but the
squire. We were escorted by a number of gentlemanlike dogs, that seemed
loungers about the establishment, from the frisking spaniel to the
steady old stag-hound, the last of which was of a race that had been
in the family time out of mind; they were all obedient to a dog-whistle
which hung to Master Simon’s buttonhole, and in the midst of their
gambols would glance an eye occasionally upon a small switch he carried
in his hand.

The old mansion had a still more venerable look in the yellow sunshine
than by pale moonlight; and I could not but feel the force of the
squire’s idea that the formal terraces, heavily moulded balustrades, and
clipped yew trees carried with them an air of proud aristocracy. There
appeared to be an unusual number of peacocks about the place, and I was
making some remarks upon what I termed a flock of them that were basking
under a sunny wall, when I was gently corrected in my phraseology
by Master Simon, who told me that according to the most ancient and
approved treatise on hunting I must say a muster of peacocks. “In the
same way,” added he, with a slight air of pedantry, “we say a flight
of doves or swallows, a bevy of quails, a herd of deer, of wrens, or
cranes, a skulk of foxes, or a building of rooks.” He went on to inform
me that, according to Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, we ought to ascribe to
this bird “both understanding and glory; for, being praised, he will
presently set up his tail, chiefly against the sun, to the intent you
may the better behold the beauty thereof. But at the fall of the leaf,
when his tail falleth, he will mourn and hide himself in corners till
his tail come again as it was.”

I could not help smiling at this display of small erudition on so
whimsical a subject; but I found that the peacocks were birds of some
consequence at the hall, for Frank Bracebridge informed me that they
were great favorites with his father, who was extremely careful to keep
up the breed; partly because they belonged to chivalry, and were in
great request at the stately banquets of the olden time, and partly
because they had a pomp and magnificence about them highly becoming an
old family mansion. Nothing, he was accustomed to say, had an air of
greater state and dignity than a peacock perched upon an antique stone
balustrade.

Master Simon had now to hurry off, having an appointment at the parish
church with the village choristers, who were to perform some music of
his selection. There was something extremely agreeable in the cheerful
flow of animal spirits of the little man; and I confess I had been
somewhat surprised at his apt quotations from authors who certainly
were not in the range of every-day reading. I mentioned this last
circumstance to Frank Bracebridge, who told me with a smile that Master
Simon’s whole stock of erudition was confined to some half a dozen old
authors, which the squire had put into his hands, and which he read over
and over whenever he had a studious fit, as he sometimes had on a
rainy day or a long winter evening. Sir Anthony Fitzherbert’s Book of
Husbandry, Markham’s Country Contentments, the Tretyse of Hunting, by
Sir Thomas Cockayne, Knight, Isaac Walton’s Angler, and two or three
more such ancient worthies of the pen were his standard authorities;
and, like all men who know but a few books, he looked up to them with a
kind of idolatry and quoted them on all occasions. As to his songs,
they were chiefly picked out of old books in the squire’s library, and
adapted to tunes that were popular among the choice spirits of the last
century. His practical application of scraps of literature, however, had
caused him to be looked upon as a prodigy of book-knowledge by all the
grooms, huntsmen, and small sportsmen of the neighborhood.

While we were talking we heard the distant toll of the village bell,
and I was told that the squire was a little particular in having his
household at church on a Christmas morning, considering it a day of
pouring out of thanks and rejoicing; for, as old Tusser observed,--

     “At Christmas be merry, and thankful withal,
     And feast thy poor neighbors, the great with the small.”

“If you are disposed to go to church,” said Frank Bracebridge, “I can
promise you a specimen of my cousin Simon’s musical achievements. As the
church is destitute of an organ, he has formed a band from the village
amateurs, and established a musical club for their improvement; he has
also sorted a choir, as he sorted my father’s pack of hounds, according
to the directions of Jervaise Markham in his Country Contentments: for
the bass he has sought out all the ‘deep, solemn mouths,’ and for the
tenor the ‘loud-ringing mouths,’ among the country bumpkins, and for
‘sweet-mouths,’ he has culled-with curious taste among the prettiest
lasses in the neighborhood; though these last, he affirms, are the most
difficult to keep in tune, your pretty female singer being exceedingly
wayward and capricious, and very liable to accident.”

As the morning, though frosty, was remarkably fine and clear, the most
of the family walked to the church, which was a very old building of
gray stone, and stood near a village about half a mile from the park
gate. Adjoining it was a low snug parsonage which seemed coeval with the
church. The front of it was perfectly matted with a yew tree that had
been trained against its walls, through the dense foliage of which
apertures had been formed to admit light into the small antique
lattices. As we passed this sheltered nest the parson issued forth and
preceded us.

I had expected to see a sleek well-conditioned pastor, such as is often
found in a snug living in the vicinity of a rich patron’s table, but I
was disappointed. The parson was a little, meagre, black-looking man,
with a grizzled wig that was too wide and stood off from each ear; so
that his head seemed to have shrunk away within it, like a dried filbert
in its shell. He wore a rusty coat, with great skirts and pockets that
would have held the church Bible and prayer-book: and his small legs
seemed still smaller from being planted in large shoes decorated with
enormous buckles.

I was informed by Frank Bracebridge that the parson had been a chum of
his father’s at Oxford, and had received this living shortly after the
latter had come to his estate. He was a complete black-letter hunter,
and would scarcely read a work printed in the Roman character. The
editions of Caxton and Wynkyn de Worde were his delight, and he was
indefatigable in his researches after such old English writers as have
fallen into oblivion from their worthlessness. In deference, perhaps, to
the notions of Mr. Bracebridge he had made diligent investigations into
the festive rites and holiday customs of former times, and had been as
zealous in the inquiry as if he had been a boon companion; but it was
merely with that plodding spirit with which men of adust temperament
follow up any track of study, merely because it is denominated learning;
indifferent to its intrinsic nature, whether it be the illustration of
the wisdom or of the ribaldry and obscenity of antiquity. He had pored
over these old volumes so intensely that they seemed to have been
reflected into his countenance; which, if the face be indeed an index of
the mind, might be compared to a title-page of black-letter.

On reaching the church-porch we found the parson rebuking the
gray-headed sexton for having used mistletoe among the greens with which
the church was decorated. It was, he observed, an unholy plant, profaned
by having been used by the Druids in their mystic ceremonies; and,
though it might be innocently employed in the festive ornamenting of
halls and kitchens, yet it had been deemed by the Fathers of the Church
as unhallowed and totally unfit for sacred purposes. So tenacious was
he on this point that the poor sexton was obliged to strip down a great
part of the humble trophies of his taste before the parson would consent
to enter upon the service of the day.

The interior of the church was venerable, but simple; on the walls were
several mural monuments of the Bracebridges, and just beside the altar
was a tomb of ancient workmanship, on which lay the effigy of a warrior
in armor with his legs crossed, a sign of his having been a crusader. I
was told it was one of the family who had signalized himself in the Holy
Land, and the same whose picture hung over the fireplace in the hall.

During service Master Simon stood up in the pew and repeated the
responses very audibly, evincing that kind of ceremonious devotion
punctually observed by a gentleman of the old school and a man of old
family connections. I observed too that he turned over the leaves of a
folio prayer-book with something of a flourish; possibly to show off an
enormous seal-ring which enriched one of his fingers and which had the
look of a family relic. But he was evidently most solicitous about
the musical part of the service, keeping his eye fixed intently on the
choir, and beating time with much gesticulation and emphasis.

The orchestra was in a small gallery, and presented a most whimsical
grouping of heads piled one above the other, among which I particularly
noticed that of the village tailor, a pale fellow with a retreating
forehead and chin, who played on the clarinet, and seemed to have blown
his face to a point; and there was another, a short pursy man, stooping
and laboring at a bass-viol, so as to show nothing but the top of a
round bald head, like the egg of an ostrich. There were two or three
pretty faces among the female singers, to which the keen air of a frosty
morning had given a bright rosy tint; but the gentlemen choristers had
evidently been chosen, like old Cremona fiddles, more for tone than
looks; and as several had to sing from the same book, there were
clusterings of odd physiognomies not unlike those groups of cherubs we
sometimes see on country tombstones.

The usual services of the choir were managed tolerably well, the vocal
parts generally lagging a little behind the instrumental, and some
loitering fiddler now and then making up for lost time by travelling
over a passage with prodigious celerity and clearing more bars than the
keenest fox-hunter to be in at the death. But the great trial was an
anthem that had been prepared and arranged by Master Simon, and on which
he had founded great expectation. Unluckily, there was a blunder at the
very outset: the musicians became flurried; Master Simon was in a fever;
everything went on lamely and irregularly until they came to a chorus
beginning, “Now let us sing with one accord,” which seemed to be a
signal for parting company: all became discord and confusion: each
shifted for himself, and got to the end as well--or, rather, as soon--as
he could, excepting one old chorister in a pair of horn spectacles
bestriding and pinching a long sonorous nose, who happened to stand
a little apart, and, being wrapped up in his own melody, kept on a
quavering course, wriggling his head, ogling his book, and winding all
up by a nasal solo of at least three bars’ duration.

The parson gave us a most erudite sermon on the rites and ceremonies
of Christmas, and the propriety of observing it not merely as a day
of thanksgiving but of rejoicing, supporting the correctness of his
opinions by the earliest usages of the Church, and enforcing them by the
authorities of Theophilus of Caesarea, St. Cyprian, St. Chrysostom, St.
Augustine, and a cloud more of saints and fathers, from whom he made
copious quotations. I was a little at a loss to perceive the necessity
of such a mighty array of forces to maintain a point which no one
present seemed inclined to dispute; but I soon found that the good man
had a legion of ideal adversaries to contend with, having in the course
of his researches on the subject of Christmas got completely embroiled
in the sectarian controversies of the Revolution, when the Puritans made
such a fierce assault upon the ceremonies of the Church, and poor old
Christmas was driven out of the land by proclamation of Parliament.*
The worthy parson lived but with times past, and knew but little of the
present.

Shut up among worm-eaten tomes in the retirement of his antiquated
little study, the pages of old times were to him as the gazettes of the
day, while the era of the Revolution was mere modern history. He forgot
that nearly two centuries had elapsed since the fiery persecution of
poor mince-pie throughout the land; when plum porridge was denounced as
“mere popery,” and roast beef as anti-christian, and that Christmas had
been brought in again triumphantly with the merry court of King Charles
at the Restoration. He kindled into warmth with the ardor of his contest
and the host of imaginary foes with whom he had to combat; he had a
stubborn conflict with old Prynne and two or three other forgotten
champions of the Roundheads on the subject of Christmas festivity;
and concluded by urging his hearers, in the most solemn and affecting
manner, to stand to the traditional customs of their fathers and feast
and make merry on this joyful anniversary of the Church.


     * From the “Flying Eagle,” a small gazette, published
     December 24, 1652: “The House spent much time this day about
     the business of the Navy, for settling the affairs at sea,
     and before they rose, were presented with a terrible
     remonstrance against Christmas day, grounded upon divine
     Scriptures, 2 Cor. v. 16; I Cor. xv. 14, 17; and in honor of
     the Lord’s Day, grounded upon these Scriptures, John xx. I;
     Rev. i. 10; Psalms cxviii. 24; Lev. xxiii. 7, 11; Mark xv.
     8; Psalms lxxxiv. 10, in which Christmas is called Anti-
     christ’s masse, and those Masse-mongers and Papists who
     observe it, etc. In consequence of which parliament spent
     some time in consultation about the abolition of Christmas
     day, passed orders to that effect, and resolved to sit on
     the following day, which was commonly called Christmas day.”


I have seldom known a sermon attended apparently with more immediate
effects, for on leaving the church the congregation seemed one and
all possessed with the gayety of spirit so earnestly enjoined by their
pastor. The elder folks gathered in knots in the churchyard, greeting
and shaking hands, and the children ran about crying Ule! Ule! and
repeating some uncouth rhymes,* which the parson, who had joined us,
informed me had been handed down from days of yore. The villagers doffed
their hats to the squire as he passed, giving him the good wishes of the
season with every appearance of heartfelt sincerity, and were invited by
him to the hall to take something to keep out the cold of the weather;
and I heard blessings uttered by several of the poor, which convinced
me that, in the midst of his enjoyments, the worthy old cavalier had not
forgotten the true Christmas virtue of charity.


    * “Ule! Ule!
       Three puddings in a pule;
       Crack nuts and cry ule!”


On our way homeward his heart seemed overflowed with generous and happy
feelings. As we passed over a rising ground which commanded something
of a prospect, the sounds of rustic merriment now and then reached our
ears: the squire paused for a few moments and looked around with an
air of inexpressible benignity. The beauty of the day was of itself
sufficient to inspire philanthropy. Notwithstanding the frostiness of
the morning the sun in his cloudless journey had acquired sufficient
power to melt away the thin covering of snow from every southern
declivity, and to bring out the living green which adorns an English
landscape even in mid-winter. Large tracts of smiling verdure contrasted
with the dazzling whiteness of the shaded slopes and hollows. Every
sheltered bank on which the broad rays rested yielded its silver rill of
cold and limpid water, glittering through the dripping grass, and sent
up slight exhalations to contribute to the thin haze that hung just
above the surface of the earth. There was something truly cheering in
this triumph of warmth and verdure over the frosty thraldom of winter;
it was, as the squire observed, an emblem of Christmas hospitality
breaking through the chills of ceremony and selfishness and thawing
every heart into a flow. He pointed with pleasure to the indications of
good cheer reeking from the chimneys of the comfortable farm-houses and
low thatched cottages. “I love,” said he, “to see this day well kept
by rich and poor; it is a great thing to have one day in the year,
at least, when you are sure of being welcome wherever you go, and of
having, as it were, the world all thrown open to you; and I am almost
disposed to join with Poor Robin in his malediction on every churlish
enemy to this honest festival:

    “‘Those who at Christmas do repine,
       And would fain hence dispatch him,
      May they with old Duke Humphry dine,
       Or else may Squire Ketch catch’em.’”

The squire went on to lament the deplorable decay of the games and
amusements which were once prevalent at this season among the lower
orders and countenanced by the higher, when the old halls of castles and
manor-houses were thrown open at daylight; when the tables were covered
with brawn and beef and humming ale; when the harp and the carol
resounded all day long; and when rich and poor were alike welcome to
enter and make merry.* “Our old games and local customs,” said he, “had
a great effect in making the peasant fond of his home, and the promotion
of them by the gentry made him fond of his lord. They made the times
merrier and kinder and better, and I can truly say, with one of our old
poets,

    “‘I like them well: the curious preciseness
      And all-pretended gravity of those
      That seek to banish hence these harmless sports,
      Have thrust away much ancient honesty.’”

“The nation,” continued he, “is altered; we have almost lost our
simple true-hearted peasantry. They have broken asunder from the higher
classes, and seem to think their interests are separate. They have
become too knowing, and begin to read newspapers, listen to ale-house
politicians, and talk of reform. I think one mode to keep them in
good-humor in these hard times would be for the nobility and gentry to
pass more time on their estates, mingle more among the country-people,
and set the merry old English games going again.”


     * “An English gentleman, at the opening of the great day--
     i.e. on Christmas Day in the morning--had all his tenants
     and neighbors enter his hall by daybreak. The strong beer
     was broached, and the black-jacks went plentifully about,
     with toast, sugar and nutmeg, and good Cheshire cheese. The
     Hackin (the great sausage) must be boiled by daybreak, or
     else two young men must take the maiden (i.e. the cook) by
     the arms and run her round the market-place till she is
     shamed of her laziness.”--Round about our Sea-Coal Fire.


Such was the good squire’s project for mitigating public discontent:
and, indeed, he had once attempted to put his doctrine in practice, and
a few years before had kept open house during the holidays in the old
style. The country-people, however, did not understand how to play their
parts in the scene of hospitality; many uncouth circumstances occurred;
the manor was overrun by all the vagrants of the country, and more
beggars drawn into the neighborhood in one week than the parish officers
could get rid of in a year. Since then he had contented himself with
inviting the decent part of the neighboring peasantry to call at the
hall on Christmas Day, and with distributing beef, and bread, and ale
among the poor, that they might make merry in their own dwellings.

We had not been long home when the sound of music was heard from a
distance. A band of country lads, without coats, their shirt-sleeves
fancifully tied with ribbons, their hats decorated with greens, and
clubs in their hands, was seen advancing up the avenue, followed by a
large number of villagers and peasantry. They stopped before the hall
door, where the music struck up a peculiar air, and the lads performed
a curious and intricate dance, advancing, retreating, and striking their
clubs together, keeping exact time to the music; while one, whimsically
crowned with a fox’s skin, the tail of which flaunted down his back,
kept capering round the skirts of the dance and rattling a Christmas box
with many antic gesticulations.

The squire eyed this fanciful exhibition with great interest and
delight, and gave me a full account of its origin, which he traced to
the times when the Romans held possession of the island, plainly proving
that this was a lineal descendant of the sword dance of the ancients.
“It was now,” he said, “nearly extinct, but he had accidentally met
with traces of it in the neighborhood, and had encouraged its revival;
though, to tell the truth, it was too apt to be followed up by the rough
cudgel play and broken heads in the evening.”

After the dance was concluded the whole party was entertained with brawn
and beef and stout home-brewed. The squire himself mingled among the
rustics, and was received with awkward demonstrations of deference and
regard. It is true I perceived two or three of the younger peasants, as
they were raising their tankards to their mouths, when the squire’s
back was turned making something of a grimace, and giving each other the
wink; but the moment they caught my eye they pulled grave faces and were
exceedingly demure. With Master Simon, however, they all seemed more
at their ease. His varied occupations and amusements had made him well
known throughout the neighborhood. He was a visitor at every farmhouse
and cottage, gossiped with the farmers and their wives, romped with
their daughters, and, like that type of a vagrant bachelor, the
humblebee, tolled the sweets from all the rosy lips of the country
round.

The bashfulness of the guests soon gave way before good cheer and
affability. There is something genuine and affectionate in the gayety
of the lower orders when it is excited by the bounty and familiarity of
those above them; the warm glow of gratitude enters into their mirth,
and a kind word or a small pleasantry frankly uttered by a patron
gladdens the heart of the dependant more than oil and wine. When the
squire had retired the merriment increased, and there was much joking
and laughter, particularly between Master Simon and a hale, ruddy-faced,
white-headed farmer who appeared to be the wit of the village; for I
observed all his companions to wait with open months for his retorts,
and burst into a gratuitous laugh before they could well understand
them.

The whole house indeed seemed abandoned to merriment: as I passed to my
room to dress for dinner, I heard the sound of music in a small court,
and, looking through a window that commanded it, I perceived a band
of wandering musicians with pandean pipes and tambourine; a pretty
coquettish housemaid was dancing a jig with a smart country lad, while
several of the other servants were looking on. In the midst of her sport
the girl caught a glimpse of my face at the window, and, coloring up,
ran off with an air of roguish affected confusion.



THE CHRISTMAS DINNER.

    Lo, now is come our joyful’st feast!
        Let every man be jolly.
    Eache roome with yvie leaves is drest,
        And every post with holly.
    Now all our neighbours’ chimneys smoke,
        And Christmas blocks are burning;
    Their ovens they with bak’t meats choke
        And all their spits are turning.
            Without the door let sorrow lie,
            And if, for cold, it hap to die,
            Wee’l bury ‘t in a Christmas pye,
            And evermore be merry.
                                 WITHERS, Juvenilia.

I HAD finished my toilet, and was loitering with Frank Bracebridge in
the library, when we heard a distant thwacking sound, which he informed
me was a signal for the serving up of the dinner. The squire kept up old
customs in kitchen as well as hall, and the rolling-pin, struck upon the
dresser by the cook, summoned the servants to carry in the meats.

    Just in this nick the cook knock’d thrice,
    And all the waiters in a trice
        His summons did obey;
    Each serving-man, with dish in hand,
    March’d boldly up, like our train-band,
    Presented and away.*


     * Sir John Suckling.


The dinner was served up in the great hall, where the squire always held
his Christmas banquet. A blazing crackling fire of logs had been heaped
on to warm the spacious apartment, and the flame went sparkling and
wreathing up the wide-mouthed chimney. The great picture of the crusader
and his white horse had been profusely decorated with greens for the
occasion, and holly and ivy had like-wise been wreathed round the helmet
and weapons on the opposite wall, which I understood were the arms of
the same warrior. I must own, by the by, I had strong doubts about
the authenticity of the painting and armor as having belonged to the
crusader, they certainly having the stamp of more recent days; but I was
told that the painting had been so considered time out of mind; and that
as to the armor, it had been found in a lumber-room and elevated to its
present situation by the squire, who at once determined it to be the
armor of the family hero; and as he was absolute authority on all
such subjects in his own household, the matter had passed into current
acceptation. A sideboard was set out just under this chivalric trophy,
on which was a display of plate that might have vied (at least in
variety) with Belshazzar’s parade of the vessels of the temple:
“flagons, cans, cups, beakers, goblets, basins, and ewers,” the gorgeous
utensils of good companionship that had gradually accumulated through
many generations of jovial housekeepers. Before these stood the two Yule
candles, beaming like two stars of the first magnitude; other lights
were distributed in branches, and the whole array glittered like a
firmament of silver.

We were ushered into this banqueting scene with the sound of minstrelsy,
the old harper being seated on a stool beside the fireplace and
twanging, his instrument with a vast deal more power than melody. Never
did Christmas board display a more goodly and gracious assemblage of
countenances; those who were not handsome were at least happy, and
happiness is a rare improver of your hard-favored visage. I always
consider an old English family as well worth studying as a collection of
Holbein’s portraits or Albert Durer’s prints. There is much antiquarian
lore to be acquired, much knowledge of the physiognomies of former
times. Perhaps it may be from having continually before their eyes those
rows of old family portraits, with which the mansions of this country
are stocked; certain it is that the quaint features of antiquity are
often most faithfully perpetuated in these ancient lines, and I have
traced an old family nose through a whole picture-gallery, legitimately
handed down from generation to generation almost from the time of the
Conquest. Something of the kind was to be observed in the worthy company
around me. Many of their faces had evidently originated in a Gothic
age, and been merely copied by succeeding generations; and there was one
little girl in particular, of staid demeanor, with a high Roman nose
and an antique vinegar aspect, who was a great favorite of the squire’s,
being, as he said, a Bracebridge all over, and the very counterpart of
one of his ancestors who figured in the court of Henry VIII.

The parson said grace, which was not a short familiar one, such as is
commonly addressed to the Deity in these unceremonious days, but a long,
courtly, well-worded one of the ancient school. There was now a pause,
as if something was expected, when suddenly the butler entered the hall
with some degree of bustle: he was attended by a servant on each side
with a large wax-light, and bore a silver dish on which was an enormous
pig’s head decorated with rosemary, with a lemon in its mouth, which was
placed with great formality at the head of the table. The moment this
pageant made its appearance the harper struck up a flourish; at the
conclusion of which the young Oxonian, on receiving a hint from the
squire, gave, with an air of the most comic gravity, an old carol, the
first verse of which was as follows

        Caput apri defero
        Reddens laudes Domino.
    The boar’s head in hand bring I,
    With garlands gay and rosemary.
    I pray you all synge merily
        Qui estis in convivio.

Though prepared to witness many of these little eccentricities, from
being apprised of the peculiar hobby of mine host, yet I confess the
parade with which so odd a dish was introduced somewhat perplexed me,
until I gathered from the conversation of the squire and the parson that
it was meant to represent the bringing in of the boar’s head, a dish
formerly served up with much ceremony and the sound of minstrelsy and
song at great tables on Christmas Day. “I like the old custom,” said the
squire, “not merely because it is stately and pleasing in itself,
but because it was observed at the college at Oxford at which I was
educated. When I hear the old song chanted it brings to mind the time
when I was young and gamesome, and the noble old college hall, and my
fellow-students loitering about in their black gowns; many of whom, poor
lads! are now in their graves.”

The parson, however, whose mind was not haunted by such associations,
and who was always more taken up with the text than the sentiment,
objected to the Oxonian’s version of the carol, which he affirmed
was different from that sung at college. He went on, with the dry
perseverance of a commentator, to give the college reading, accompanied
by sundry annotations, addressing himself at first to the company at
large; but, finding their attention gradually diverted to other talk and
other objects, he lowered his tone as his number of auditors diminished,
until he concluded his remarks in an under voice to a fat-headed old
gentleman next him who was silently engaged in the discussion of a huge
plateful of turkey.*


     * The old ceremony of serving up the boar’s head on
     Christmas Day is still observed in the hall of Queen’s
     College, Oxford. I was favored by the parson with a copy of
     the carol as now sung, and as it may be acceptable to such
     of my readers as are curious in these grave and learned
     matters, I give it entire:

    The boar’s head in hand bear I,
    Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary
    And I pray you, my masters, be merry
        Quot estis in convivio
        Caput apri defero,
        Reddens laudes domino.

    The boar’s head, as I understand,
    Is the rarest dish in all this land,
    Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland
        Let us servire cantico.
            Caput apri defero, etc.

    Our steward hath provided this
    In honor of the King of Bliss,
    Which on this day to be served is
        In Reginensi Atrio.
            Caput apri defero, etc., etc., etc.


The table was literally loaded with good cheer, and presented an
epitome of country abundance in this season of overflowing larders.
A distinguished post was allotted to “ancient sirloin,” as mine host
termed it, being, as he added, “the standard of old English hospitality,
and a joint of goodly presence, and full of expectation.” There were
several dishes quaintly decorated, and which had evidently something
traditional in their embellishments, but about which, as I did not like
to appear overcurious, I asked no questions.

I could not, however, but notice a pie magnificently decorated with
peacock’s feathers, in imitation of the tail of that bird, which
overshadowed a considerable tract of the table. This, the squire
confessed with some little hesitation, was a pheasant pie, though a
peacock pie was certainly the most authentical; but there had been such
a mortality among the peacocks this season that he could not prevail
upon himself to have one killed.*


     * The peacock was anciently in great demand for stately
     entertainments. Sometimes it was made into a pie, at one end
     of which the head appeared above the crust in all its
     plumage, with the beak richly gilt; at the other end the
     tail was displayed. Such pies were served up at the solemn
     banquets of chivalry, when knights-errant pledged themselves
     to undertake any perilous enterprise, whence came the
     ancient oath, used by Justice Shallow, “by cock and pie.”

The peacock was also an important dish for the Christmas feast; and
Massinger, in his “City Madam,” gives some idea of the extravagance
with which this, as well as other dishes, was prepared for the gorgeous
revels of the olden times:

  Men may talk of Country Christmasses,
  Their thirty pound butter’d eggs, their pies of carps’ tongues;
  Their pheasants drench’d with ambergris: the carcases of three
  fat wethers bruised for gravy to make sauce for a single peacock!


It would be tedious, perhaps, to my wiser readers, who may not have
that foolish fondness for odd and obsolete things to which I am a
little given, were I to mention the other makeshifts or this worthy old
humorist, by which he was endeavoring to follow up, though at humble
distance, the quaint customs of antiquity. I was pleased, however, to
see the respect shown to his whims by his children and relatives; who,
indeed, entered readily into the full spirit of them, and seemed all
well versed in their parts, having doubtless been present at many a
rehearsal. I was amused, too, at the air of profound gravity with which
the butler and other servants executed the duties assigned them, however
eccentric. They had an old-fashioned look, having, for the most part,
been brought up in the household and grown into keeping with the
antiquated mansion and the humors of its lord, and most probably looked
upon all his whimsical regulations as the established laws of honorable
housekeeping.

When the cloth was removed the butler brought in a huge silver vessel
of rare and curious workmanship, which he placed before the squire.
Its appearance was hailed with acclamation, being the Wassail Bowl, so
renowned in Christmas festivity. The contents had been prepared by the
squire himself; for it was a beverage in the skilful mixture of which
he particularly prided himself, alleging that it was too abstruse and
complex for the comprehension of an ordinary servant. It was a potation,
indeed, that might well make the heart of a toper leap within him, being
composed of the richest and raciest wines, highly spiced and sweetened,
with roasted apples bobbing about the surface.*


     * The Wassail Bowl was sometimes composed of ale instead of
     wine, with nutmeg, sugar, toast, ginger, and roasted crabs;
     in this way the nut-brown beverage is still prepared in some
     old families and round the hearths of substantial farmers at
     Christmas. It is also called Lamb’s Wool, and is celebrated
     by Herrick in his “Twelfth Night”:

        Next crowne the bowle full
        With gentle Lamb’s Wool;
    Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
        With store of ale too,
        And thus ye must doe
    To make the Wassaile a swinger.


The old gentleman’s whole countenance beamed with a serene look of
indwelling delight as he stirred this mighty bowl. Having raised it to
his lips, with a hearty wish of a merry Christmas to all present, he
sent it brimming round the board, for every one to follow his example,
according to the primitive style, pronouncing it “the ancient fountain
of good feeling, where all hearts met together.” *


     * “The custom of drinking out of the same cup gave place to
     each having his cup. When the steward came to the doore with
     the Wassel, he was to cry three times, Wassel, Wassel,
     Wassel, and then the chappell (chaplain) was to answer with
     a song.”--Archaeologia.


There was much laughing and rallying as the honest emblem of Christmas
joviality circulated and was kissed rather coyly by the ladies. When it
reached Master Simon, he raised it in both hands, and with the air of a
boon companion struck up an old Wassail Chanson:

    The brown bowle,
    The merry brown bowle,
    As it goes round-about-a,
        Fill
        Still,
    Let the world say what it will,
    And drink your fill all out-a.

    The deep canne,
    The merry deep canne,
    As thou dost freely quaff-a,
        Sing
        Fling,
    Be as merry as a king,
    And sound a lusty laugh-a.*


     * From Poor Robin’s Almanack.


Much of the conversation during dinner turned upon family topics, to
which I was a stranger. There was, however, a great deal of rallying of
Master Simon about some gay widow with whom he was accused of having
a flirtation. This attack was commenced by the ladies, but it was
continued throughout the dinner by the fat-headed old gentleman next
the parson with the persevering assiduity of a slow hound, being one of
those long-winded jokers who, though rather dull at starting game, are
unrivalled for their talents in hunting it down. At every pause in the
general conversation he renewed his bantering in pretty much the same
terms, winking hard at me with both eyes whenever he gave Master Simon
what he considered a home thrust. The latter, indeed, seemed fond of
being teased on the subject, as old bachelors are apt to be, and he took
occasion to inform me, in an undertone, that the lady in question was a
prodigiously fine woman and drove her own curricle.

The dinner-time passed away in this flow of innocent hilarity, and,
though the old hall may have resounded in its time with many a scene
of broader rout and revel, yet I doubt whether it ever witnessed more
honest and genuine enjoyment. How easy it is for one benevolent being to
diffuse pleasure around him! and how truly is a kind heart a fountain of
gladness, making everything in its vicinity to freshen into smiles! The
joyous disposition of the worthy squire was perfectly contagious; he was
happy himself, and disposed to make all the world happy, and the little
eccentricities of his humor did but season, in a manner, the sweetness
of his philanthropy.

When the ladies had retired, the conversation, as usual, became still
more animated; many good things were broached which had been thought
of during dinner, but which would not exactly do for a lady’s ear; and,
though I cannot positively affirm that there was much wit uttered, yet
I have certainly heard many contests of rare wit produce much less
laughter. Wit, after all, is a mighty tart, pungent ingredient, and much
too acid for some stomachs; but honest good-humor is the oil and wine
of a merry meeting, and there is no jovial companionship equal to that
where the jokes are rather small and the laughter abundant.

The squire told several long stories of early college pranks and
adventures, in some of which the parson had been a sharer, though in
looking at the latter it required some effort of imagination to figure
such a little dark anatomy of a man into the perpetrator of a madcap
gambol. Indeed, the two college chums presented pictures of what men
may be made by their different lots in life. The squire had left the
university to live lustily on his paternal domains in the vigorous
enjoyment of prosperity and sunshine, and had flourished on to a hearty
and florid old age; whilst the poor parson, on the contrary, had dried
and withered away among dusty tomes in the silence and shadows of his
study. Still, there seemed to be a spark of almost extinguished fire
feebly glimmering in the bottom of his soul; and as the squire hinted
at a sly story of the parson and a pretty milkmaid whom they once met
on the banks of the Isis, the old gentleman made an “alphabet of faces,”
 which, as far as I could decipher his physiognomy, I verily believe was
indicative of laughter; indeed, I have rarely met with an old gentleman
that took absolute offence at the imputed gallantries of his youth.

I found the tide of wine and wassail fast gaining on the dry land of
sober judgment. The company grew merrier and louder as their jokes grew
duller. Master Simon was in as chirping a humor as a grasshopper filled
with dew; his old songs grew of a warmer complexion, and he began to
talk maudlin about the widow. He even gave a long song about the wooing
of a widow which he informed me he had gathered from an excellent
black-letter work entitled Cupid’s Solicitor for Love, containing store
of good advice for bachelors, and which he promised to lend me; the
first verse was to effect.

    He that will woo a widow must not dally
        He must make hay while the sun doth shine;
    He must not stand with her, shall I, shall I,
        But boldly say, Widow, thou must be mine.

This song inspired the fat-headed old gentleman, who made several
attempts to tell a rather broad story out of Joe Miller that was pat to
the purpose; but he always stuck in the middle, everybody recollecting
the latter part excepting himself. The parson, too, began to show the
effects of good cheer, having gradually settled down into a doze and his
wig sitting most suspiciously on one side. Just at this juncture we were
summoned to the drawing room, and I suspect, at the private instigation
of mine host, whose joviality seemed always tempered with a proper love
of decorum.

After the dinner-table was removed the hall was given up to the younger
members of the family, who, prompted to all kind of noisy mirth by the
Oxonian and Master Simon, made its old walls ring with their merriment
as they played at romping games. I delight in witnessing the gambols of
children, and particularly at this happy holiday season, and could not
help stealing out of the drawing-room on hearing one of their peals of
laughter. I found them at the game of blindman’s-buff. Master Simon, who
was the leader of their revels, and seemed on all occasions to fulfill
the office of that ancient potentate, the Lord of Misrule,* was blinded
in the midst of the hall. The little beings were as busy about him as
the mock fairies about Falstaff, pinching him, plucking at the skirts of
his coat, and tickling him with straws. One fine blue-eyed girl of about
thirteen, with her flaxen hair all in beautiful confusion, her frolic
face in a glow, her frock half torn off her shoulders, a complete
picture of a romp, was the chief tormentor; and, from the slyness with
which Master Simon avoided the smaller game and hemmed this wild little
nymph in corners, and obliged her to jump shrieking over chairs,
I suspected the rogue of being not a whit more blinded than was
convenient.


     * At Christmasse there was in the Kinges house, wheresoever
     hee was lodged, a lorde of misrule or mayster of merie
     disportes, and the like had ye in the house of every
     nobleman of honor, or good worshipper were he spirituall or
     temporall.--STOW.


When I returned to the drawing-room I found the company seated round the
fire listening to the parson, who was deeply ensconced in a high-backed
oaken chair, the work of some cunning artificer of yore, which had been
brought from the library for his particular accommodation. From this
venerable piece of furniture, with which his shadowy figure and dark
weazen face so admirably accorded, he was dealing out strange accounts
of the popular superstitions and legends of the surrounding country,
with which he had become acquainted in the course of his antiquarian
researches. I am half inclined to think that the old gentleman was
himself somewhat tinctured with superstition, as men are very apt to
be who live a recluse and studious life in a sequestered part of the
country and pore over black-letter tracts, so often filled with the
marvelous and supernatural. He gave us several anecdotes of the fancies
of the neighboring peasantry concerning the effigy of the crusader which
lay on the tomb by the church altar. As it was the only monument of
the kind in that part of the country, it had always been regarded with
feelings of superstition by the good wives of the village. It was said
to get up from the tomb and walk the rounds of the churchyard in stormy
nights, particularly when it thundered; and one old woman, whose cottage
bordered on the churchyard, had seen it through the windows of the
church, when the moon shone, slowly pacing up and down the aisles.
It was the belief that some wrong had been left unredressed by the
deceased, or some treasure hidden, which kept the spirit in a state of
trouble and restlessness. Some talked of gold and jewels buried in the
tomb, over which the spectre kept watch; and there was a story current
of a sexton in old times who endeavored to break his way to the coffin
at night, but just as he reached it received a violent blow from
the marble hand of the effigy, which stretched him senseless on the
pavement. These tales were often laughed at by some of the sturdier
among the rustics, yet when night came on there were many of the
stoutest unbelievers that were shy of venturing alone in the footpath
that led across the churchyard.

From these and other anecdotes that followed the crusader appeared to be
the favorite hero of ghost-stories throughout the vicinity. His picture,
which hung up in the hall, was thought by the servants to have something
supernatural about it; for they remarked that in whatever part of the
hall you went the eyes of the warrior were still fixed on you. The old
porter’s wife, too, at the lodge, who had been born and brought up in
the family, and was a great gossip among the maid-servants, affirmed
that in her young days she had often heard say that on Midsummer Eve,
when it was well known all kinds of ghosts, goblins, and fairies become
visible and walk abroad, the crusader used to mount his horse, come down
from his picture, ride about the house, down the avenue, and so to the
church to visit the tomb; on which occasion the church-door most civilly
swung open of itself; not that he needed it, for he rode through closed
gates, and even stone walls, and had been seen by one of the dairymaids
to pass between two bars of the great park gate, making himself as thin
as a sheet of paper.

All these superstitions I found had been very much countenanced by the
squire, who, though not superstitious himself, was very fond of seeing
others so. He listened to every goblin tale of the neighboring gossips
with infinite gravity, and held the porter’s wife in high favor on
account of her talent for the marvellous. He was himself a great reader
of old legends and romances, and often lamented that he could not
believe in them; for a superstitious person, he thought, must live in a
kind of fairy-land.

Whilst we were all attention to the parson’s stories, our ears were
suddenly assailed by a burst of heterogeneous sounds from the hall, in
which were mingled something like the clang of rude minstrelsy with the
uproar of many small voices and girlish laughter. The door suddenly flew
open, and a train came trooping into the room that might almost
have been mistaken for the breaking up of the court of Faery. That
indefatigable spirit, Master Simon, in the faithful discharge of his
duties as lord of misrule, had conceived the idea of a Christmas mummery
or masking; and having called in to his assistance the Oxonian and the
young officer, who were equally ripe for anything that should occasion
romping and merriment, they had carried it into instant effect. The old
housekeeper had been consulted; the antique clothespresses and wardrobes
rummaged and made to yield up the relics of finery that had not seen the
light for several generations; the younger part of the company had been
privately convened from the parlor and hall, and the whole had been
bedizened out into a burlesque imitation of an antique mask.*


     * Maskings or mummeries were favorite sports at Christmas in
     old times, and the wardrobes at halls and manor-houses were
     often laid under contribution to furnish dresses and
     fantastic disguisings. I strongly suspect Master Simon to
     have taken the idea of his from Ben Jonson’s “Masque of
     Christmas.”


Master Simon led the van, as “Ancient Christmas,” quaintly apparelled in
a ruff, a short cloak, which had very much the aspect of one of the old
housekeeper’s petticoats, and a hat that might have served for a
village steeple, and must indubitably have figured in the days of the
Covenanters. From under this his nose curved boldly forth, flushed with
a frost-bitten bloom that seemed the very trophy of a December blast. He
was accompanied by the blue-eyed romp, dished up, as “Dame Mince Pie,”
 in the venerable magnificence of a faded brocade, long stomacher, peaked
hat, and high-heeled shoes. The young officer appeared as Robin Hood, in
a sporting dress of Kendal green and a foraging cap with a gold tassel.

The costume, to be sure, did not bear testimony to deep research, and
there was an evident eye to the picturesque, natural to a young gallant
in the presence of his mistress. The fair Julia hung on his arm in a
pretty rustic dress as “Maid Marian.” The rest of the train had been
metamorphosed in various ways; the girls trussed up in the finery of the
ancient belles of the Bracebridge line, and the striplings bewhiskered
with burnt cork, and gravely clad in broad skirts, hanging sleeves,
and full-bottomed wigs, to represent the character of Roast Beef, Plum
Pudding, and other worthies celebrated in ancient maskings. The whole
was under the control of the Oxonian in the appropriate character of
Misrule; and I observed that he exercised rather a mischievous sway with
his wand over the smaller personages of the pageant.

The irruption of this motley crew with beat of drum, according to
ancient custom, was the consummation of uproar and merriment. Master
Simon covered himself with glory by the stateliness with which, as
Ancient Christmas, he walked a minuet with the peerless though giggling
Dame Mince Pie. It was followed by a dance of all the characters, which
from its medley of costumes seemed as though the old family portraits
had skipped down from their frames to join in the sport. Different
centuries were figuring at cross hands and right and left; the Dark
Ages were cutting pirouettes and rigadoons; and the days of Queen
Bess jigging merrily down the middle through a line of succeeding
generations.

The worthy squire contemplated these fantastic sports and this
resurrection of his old wardrobe with the simple relish of childish
delight. He stood chuckling and rubbing his hands, and scarcely hearing
a word the parson said, notwithstanding that the latter was discoursing
most authentically on the ancient and stately dance of the Pavon, or
peacock, from which he conceived the minuet to be derived.* For my
part, I was in a continual excitement from the varied scenes of whim
and innocent gayety passing before me. It was inspiring to see wild-eyed
frolic and warm-hearted hospitality breaking out from among the chills
and glooms of winter, and old age throwing off his apathy and catching
once more the freshness of youthful enjoyment. I felt also an interest
in the scene from the consideration that these fleeting customs were
posting fast into oblivion, and that this was perhaps the only family
in England in which the whole of them was still punctiliously observed.
There was a quaintness, too, mingled with all this revelry that gave
it a peculiar zest: it was suited to the time and place; and as the old
manor-house almost reeled with mirth and wassail, it seemed echoing back
the joviality of long departed years.+


     * Sir John Hawkins, speaking of the dance called the Pavon,
     from pavo, a peacock, says, “It is a grave and majestic
     dance; the method of dancing it anciently was by gentlemen
     dressed with caps and swords, by those of the long robe in
     their gowns, by the peers in their mantles, and by the
     ladies in gowns with long trains, the motion whereof, in
     dancing, resembled that of a peacock.”--History of Music.

     + At the time of the first publication of this paper the
     picture of an old-fashioned Christmas in the country was
     pronounced by some as out of date. The author had afterwards
     an opportunity of witnessing almost all the customs above
     described, existing in unexpected vigor in the skirts of
     Derbyshire and Yorkshire, where he passed the Christmas
     holidays. The reader will find some notice of them in the
     author’s account of his sojourn at Newstead Abbey.


But enough of Christmas and its gambols; it is time for me to pause
in this garrulity. Methinks I hear the questions asked by my graver
readers, “To what purpose is all this? how is the world to be made
wiser by this talk?” Alas! is there not wisdom enough extant for the
instruction of the world? And if not, are there not thousands of abler
pens laboring for its improvement? It is so much pleasanter to please
than to instruct--to play the companion rather than the preceptor.

What, after all, is the mite of wisdom that I could throw into the mass
of knowledge! or how am I sure that my sagest deductions may be safe
guides for the opinions of others? But in writing to amuse, if I fail
the only evil is in my own disappointment. If, however, I can by any
lucky chance, in these days of evil, rub out one wrinkle from the brow
of care or beguile the heavy heart of one moment of sorrow; if I can now
and then penetrate through the gathering film of misanthropy, prompt a
benevolent view of human nature, and make my reader more in good-humor
with his fellow-beings and himself--surely, surely, I shall not then
have written entirely in vain.



LONDON ANTIQUES.

                                  ----I do walk
    Methinks like Guide Vaux, with my dark lanthorn,
    Stealing to set the town o’ fire; i’ th’ country
    I should be taken for William o’ the Wisp,
    Or Robin Goodfellow.
                                             FLETCHER.

I AM somewhat of an antiquity-hunter, and am fond of exploring London in
quest of the relics of old times. These are principally to be found in
the depths of the city, swallowed up and almost lost in a wilderness of
brick and mortar, but deriving poetical and romantic interest from the
commonplace, prosaic world around them. I was struck with an instance of
the kind in the course of a recent summer ramble into the city; for the
city is only to be explored to advantage in summer-time, when free from
the smoke and fog and rain and mud of winter. I had been buffeting for
some time against the current of population setting through Fleet
Street. The warm weather had unstrung my nerves and made me sensitive to
every jar and jostle and discordant sound. The flesh was weary, the
spirit faint, and I was getting out of humor with the bustling busy
throng through which I had to struggle, when in a fit of desperation I
tore my way through the crowd, plunged into a by-lane, and, after
passing through several obscure nooks and angles, emerged into a quaint
and quiet court with a grassplot in the centre overhung by elms, and
kept perpetually fresh and green by a fountain with its sparkling jet of
water. A student with book in hand was seated on a stone bench, partly
reading, partly meditating on the movements of two or three trim
nursery-maids with their infant charges.

I was like an Arab who had suddenly come upon an oasis amid the panting
sterility of the desert. By degrees the quiet and coolness of the place
soothed my nerves and refreshed my spirit. I pursued my walk, and came,
hard by, to a very ancient chapel with a low-browed Saxon portal of
massive and rich architecture. The interior was circular and lofty and
lighted from above. Around were monumental tombs of ancient date on
which were extended the marble effigies of warriors in armor. Some had
the hands devoutly crossed upon the breast; others grasped the pommel of
the sword, menacing hostility even in the tomb, while the crossed legs
of several indicated soldiers of the Faith who had been on crusades to
the Holy Land.

I was, in fact, in the chapel of the Knights Templars, strangely
situated in the very centre of sordid traffic; and I do not know a more
impressive lesson for the many of the world than thus suddenly to turn
aside from the highway of busy money-seeking life, and sit down
among these shadowy sepulchres, where all is twilight, dust, and
forget-fullness.

In a subsequent tour of observation I encountered another of these
relics of a “foregone world” locked up in the heart of the city. I had
been wandering for some time through dull monotonous streets, destitute
of anything to strike the eye or excite the imagination, when I beheld
before me a Gothic gateway of mouldering antiquity. It opened into a
spacious quadrangle forming the courtyard of a stately Gothic pile, the
portal of which stood invitingly open.

It was apparently a public edifice, and, as I was antiquity-hunting, I
ventured in, though with dubious steps. Meeting no one either to oppose
or rebuke my intrusion, I continued on until I found myself in a
great hall with a lofty arched roof and oaken gallery, all of Gothic
architecture. At one end of the hall was an enormous fireplace, with
wooden settles on each side; at the other end was a raised platform,
or dais, the seat of state, above which was the portrait of a man in
antique garb with a long robe, a ruff, and a venerable gray beard.

The whole establishment had an air of monastic quiet and seclusion, and
what gave it a mysterious charm was, that I had not met with a human
being since I had passed the threshold.

Encouraged by this loneliness, I seated myself in a recess of a large
bow window, which admitted a broad flood of yellow sunshine, checkered
here and there by tints from panes of colored glass, while an open
casement let in the soft summer air. Here, leaning my head on my hand
and my arm on an old oaken table, I indulged in a sort of reverie about
what might have been the ancient uses of this edifice. It had evidently
been of monastic origin; perhaps one of those collegiate establishments
built of yore for the promotion of learning, where the patient monk,
in the ample solitude of the cloister, added page to page and volume to
volume, emulating in the productions of his brain the magnitude of the
pile he inhabited.

As I was seated in this musing mood a small panelled door in an arch at
the upper end of the hall was opened, and a number of gray-headed old
men, clad in long black cloaks, came forth one by one, proceeding in
that manner through the hall, without uttering a word, each turning a
pale face on me as he passed, and disappearing through a door at the
lower end.

I was singularly struck with their appearance; their black cloaks and
antiquated air comported with the style of this most venerable and
mysterious pile. It was as if the ghosts of the departed years, about
which I had been musing, were passing in review before me. Pleasing
myself with such fancies, I set out, in the spirit of romance, to
explore what I pictured to myself a realm of shadows existing in the
very centre of substantial realities.

My ramble led me through a labyrinth of interior courts and corridors
and dilapidated cloisters, for the main edifice had many additions and
dependencies, built at various times and in various styles. In one open
space a number of boys, who evidently belonged to the establishment,
were at their sports, but everywhere I observed those mysterious
old gray men in black mantles, sometimes sauntering alone, sometimes
conversing in groups; they appeared to be the pervading genii of the
place. I now called to mind what I had read of certain colleges in
old times, where judicial astrology, geomancy, necromancy, and other
forbidden and magical sciences were taught. Was this an establishment of
the kind, and were these black-cloaked old men really professors of the
black art?

These surmises were passing through my mind as my eye glanced into
a chamber hung round with all kinds of strange and uncouth
objects--implements of savage warfare, strange idols and stuffed
alligators; bottled serpents and monsters decorated the mantelpiece;
while on the high tester of an old-fashioned bedstead grinned a human
skull, flanked on each side by a dried cat.

I approached to regard more narrowly this mystic chamber, which seemed a
fitting laboratory for a necromancer, when I was startled at beholding
a human countenance staring at me from a dusky corner. It was that of a
small, shrivelled old man with thin cheeks, bright eyes, and gray, wiry,
projecting eyebrows. I at first doubted whether it were not a mummy
curiously preserved, but it moved, and I saw that it was alive. It was
another of these black-cloaked old men, and, as I regarded his quaint
physiognomy, his obsolete garb, and the hideous and sinister objects by
which he was surrounded, I began to persuade myself that I had come upon
the arch-mage who ruled over this magical fraternity.

Seeing me pausing before the door, he rose and invited me to enter. I
obeyed with singular hardihood, for how did I know whether a wave of his
wand might not metamorphose me into some strange monster or conjure me
into one of the bottles on his mantelpiece? He proved, however, to be
anything but a conjurer, and his simple garrulity soon dispelled all the
magic and mystery with which I had enveloped this antiquated pile and
its no less antiquated inhabitants.

It appeared that I had made my way into the centre of an ancient asylum
for superannuated tradesmen and decayed householders, with which was
connected a school for a limited number of boys. It was founded upwards
of two centuries since on an old monastic establishment, and retained
somewhat of the conventual air and character. The shadowy line of old
men in black mantles who had passed before me in the hall, and whom I
had elevated into magi, turned out to be the pensioners returning from
morning, service in the chapel.

John Hallum, the little collector of curiosities whom I had made the
arch magician, had been for six years a resident of the place, and
had decorated this final nestling-place of his old age with relics
and rarities picked up in the course of his life. According to his
own account, he had been somewhat of a traveller, having been once in
France, and very near making a visit to Holland. He regretted not having
visited the latter country, “as then he might have said he had been
there.” He was evidently a traveller of the simple kind.

He was aristocratical too in his notions, keeping aloof, as I found,
from the ordinary run of pensioners. His chief associates were a blind
man who spoke Latin and Greek, of both which languages Hallum was
profoundly ignorant, and a broken-down gentleman who had run through
a fortune of forty thousand pounds left him by his father, and ten
thousand pounds, the marriage portion of his wife. Little Hallum seemed
to consider it an indubitable sign of gentle blood as well as of lofty
spirit to be able to squander such enormous sums.

P.S.--The picturesque remnant of old times into which I have thus
beguiled the reader is what is called the Charter House, originally
the Chartreuse. It was founded in 1611, on the remains of an ancient
convent, by Sir Thomas Sutton, being one of those noble charities set
on foot by individual munificence, and kept up with the quaintness and
sanctity of ancient times amidst the modern changes and innovations
of London. Here eighty broken-down men, who have seen better days,
are provided in their old age with food, clothing, fuel, and a yearly
allowance for private expenses. They dine together, as did the monks of
old, in the hall which had been the refectory of the original convent.
Attached to the establishment is a school for forty-four boys.

Stow, whose work I have consulted on the subject, speaking of the
obligations of the gray-headed pensioners, says, “They are not to
intermeddle with any business touching the affairs of the hospital,
but to attend only to the service of God, and take thankfully what is
provided for them, without muttering, murmuring, or grudging. None to
wear weapon, long hair, colored boots, spurs, or colored shoes, feathers
in their hats, or any ruffian-like or unseemly apparel, but such as
becomes hospital-men to wear.” “And in truth,” adds Stow, “happy are
they that are so taken from the cares and sorrows of the world, and
fixed in so good a place as these old men are; having nothing to care
for but the good of their souls, to serve God, and to live in brotherly
love.”

For the amusement of such as have been interested by the preceding
sketch, taken down from my own observation, and who may wish to know a
little more about the mysteries of London, I subjoin a modicum of local
history put into my hands by an odd-looking old gentleman, in a small
brown wig and a snuff-colored coat, with whom I became acquainted
shortly after my visit to the Charter House. I confess I was a little
dubious at first whether it was not one of those apocryphal tales often
passed off upon inquiring travellers like myself, and which have brought
our general character for veracity into such unmerited reproach. On
making proper inquiries, however, I have received the most satisfactory
assurances of the author’s probity, and indeed have been told that he
is actually engaged in a full and particular account of the very
interesting region in which he resides, of which the following may be
considered merely as a foretaste.



LITTLE BRITAIN.

What I write is most true..... I have a whole booke of cases lying by
me, which if I should sette foorth, some grave auntients (within the
hearing of Bow Bell) would be out of charity with me.                                                   NASH.

IN the centre of the great City of London lies a small neighborhood,
consisting of a cluster of narrow streets and courts, of very venerable
and debilitated houses, which goes by the name of LITTLE BRITAIN. Christ
Church School and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital bound it on the west;
Smithfield and Long Lane on the north; Aldersgate Street, like an arm
of the sea, divides it from the eastern part of the city; whilst the
yawning gulf of Bull-and-Mouth Street separates it from Butcher Lane
and the regions of Newgate. Over this little territory, thus bounded and
designated, the great dome of St. Paul’s, swelling above the intervening
houses of Paternoster Row, Amen Corner, and Ave-Maria Lane, looks down
with an air of motherly protection.

This quarter derives its appellation from having been, in ancient times,
the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. As London increased, however,
rank and fashion rolled off to the west, and trade, creeping on at their
heels, took possession of their deserted abodes. For some time Little
Britain became the great mart of learning, and was peopled by the busy
and prolific race of booksellers: these also gradually deserted it, and,
emigrating beyond the great strait of Newgate Street, settled down
in Paternoster Row and St. Paul’s Churchyard, where they continue to
increase and multiply even at the present day.

But, though thus fallen into decline, Little Britain still bears traces
of its former splendor. There are several houses ready to tumble down,
the fronts of which are magnificently enriched with old oaken carvings
of hideous faces, unknown birds, beasts, and fishes, and fruits and
flowers which it would perplex a naturalist to classify. There are also,
in Aldersgate Street, certain remains of what were once spacious and
lordly family mansions, but which have in latter days been subdivided
into several tenements. Here may often be found the family of a petty
tradesman, with its trumpery furniture, burrowing among the relics of
antiquated finery in great rambling time-stained apartments with fretted
ceilings, gilded cornices, and enormous marble fireplaces. The lanes and
courts also contain many smaller houses, not on so grand a scale, but,
like your small ancient gentry, sturdily maintaining their claims to
equal antiquity. These have their gable ends to the street, great bow
windows with diamond panes set in lead, grotesque carvings, and low
arched doorways.*


     * It is evident that the author of this interesting
     communication has included, in his general title of Little
     Britain, man of those little lanes and courts that belong
     immediately to Cloth Fair.


In this most venerable and sheltered little nest have I passed several
quiet years of existence, comfortably lodged in the second floor of
one of the smallest but oldest edifices. My sitting-room is an old
wainscoted chamber, with small panels and set off with a miscellaneous
array of furniture. I have a particular respect for three or four
high-backed, claw-footed chairs, covered with tarnished brocade, which
bear the marks of having seen better days, and have doubtless figured
in some of the old palaces of Little Britain. They seem to me to
keep together and to look down with sovereign contempt upon their
leathern-bottomed neighbors, as I have seen decayed gentry carry a
high head among the plebeian society with which they were reduced to
associate. The whole front of my sitting-room is taken up with a
bow window, on the panes of which are recorded the names of previous
occupants for many generations, mingled with scraps of very indifferent
gentleman-like poetry, written in characters which I can scarcely
decipher, and which extol the charms of many a beauty of Little Britain
who has long, long since bloomed, faded, and passed away. As I am an
idle personage, with no apparent occupation, and pay my bill regularly
every week, I am looked upon as the only independent gentleman of
the neighborhood, and, being curious to learn the internal state of a
community so apparently shut up within itself, I have managed to work my
way into all the concerns and secrets of the place.

Little Britain may truly be called the heart’s core of the city, the
stronghold of true John Bullism. It is a fragment of London as it was in
its better days, with its antiquated folks and fashions. Here flourish
in great preservation many of the holiday games and customs of yore.
The inhabitants most religiously eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, hot
cross-buns on Good Friday, and roast goose at Michaelmas; they send
love-letters on Valentine’s Day, burn the Pope on the Fifth of November,
and kiss all the girls under the mistletoe at Christmas. Roast beef and
plum-pudding are also held in superstitious veneration, and port and
sherry maintain their grounds as the only true English wines, all others
being considered vile outlandish beverages.

Little Britain has its long catalogue of city wonders, which its
inhabitants consider the wonders of the world, such as the great bell
of St. Paul’s, which sours all the beer when it tolls; the figures that
strike the hours at St. Dunstan’s clock; the Monument; the lions in the
Tower; and the wooden giants in Guildhall. They still believe in dreams
and fortune-telling, and an old woman that lives in Bull-and-Mouth
Street makes a tolerable subsistence by detecting stolen goods
and promising the girls good husbands. They are apt to be rendered
uncomfortable by comets and eclipses, and if a dog howls dolefully at
night it is looked upon as a sure sign of death in the place. There
are even many ghost-stories current, particularly concerning the old
mansion-houses, in several of which it is said strange sights are
sometimes seen. Lords and ladies, the former in full-bottomed wigs,
hanging sleeves, and swords, the latter in lappets, stays, hoops, and
brocade, have been seen walking up and down the great waste chambers
on moonlight nights, and are supposed to be the shades of the ancient
proprietors in their court-dresses.

Little Britain has likewise its sages and great men. One of the most
important of the former is a tall, dry old gentleman of the name
of Skryme, who keeps a small apothecary’s shop. He has a cadaverous
countenance, full of cavities and projections, with a brown circle round
each eye, like a pair of horn spectacles. He is much thought of by the
old women, who consider him as a kind of conjurer because he has two or
three stuffed alligators hanging up in his shop and several snakes in
bottles. He is a great reader of almanacs and newspapers, and is much
given to pore over alarming accounts of plots, conspiracies, fires,
earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions; which last phenomena he considers
as signs of the times. He has always some dismal tale of the kind to
deal out to his customers with their doses, and thus at the same time
puts both soul and body into an uproar. He is a great believer in omens
and predictions; and has the prophecies of Robert Nixon and Mother
Shipton by heart. No man can make so much out of an eclipse, or even
an unusually dark day; and he shook the tail of the last comet over the
heads of his customers and disciples until they were nearly frightened
out of their wits. He has lately got hold of a popular legend or
prophecy, on which he has been unusually eloquent. There has been a
saying current among the ancient sibyls, who treasure up these things,
that when the grasshopper on the top of the Exchange shook hands with
the dragon on the top of Bow Church steeple, fearful events would take
place. This strange conjunction, it seems, has as strangely come to
pass. The same architect has been engaged lately on the repairs of the
cupola of the Exchange and the steeple of Bow Church; and, fearful to
relate, the dragon and the grasshopper actually lie, cheek by jole, in
the yard of his workshop.

“Others,” as Mr. Skryme is accustomed to say, “may go star-gazing, and
look for conjunctions in the heavens, but here is a conjunction on the
earth, near at home and under our own eyes, which surpasses all
the signs and calculations of astrologers.” Since these portentous
weathercocks have thus laid their heads together, wonderful events had
already occurred. The good old king, notwithstanding that he had lived
eighty-two years, had all at once given up the ghost; another king had
mounted the throne; a royal duke had died suddenly; another, in France,
had been murdered; there had been radical meetings in all parts of the
kingdom; the bloody scenes at Manchester; the great plot in Cato Street;
and, above all, the queen had returned to England! All these sinister
events are recounted by Mr. Skyrme with a mysterious look and a dismal
shake of the head; and being taken with his drugs, and associated in the
minds of his auditors with stuffed-sea-monsters, bottled serpents, and
his own visage, which is a title-page of tribulation, they have spread
great gloom through the minds of the people of Little Britain. They
shake their heads whenever they go by Bow Church, and observe that they
never expected any good to come of taking down that steeple, which in
old times told nothing but glad tidings, as the history of Whittington
and his Cat bears witness.

The rival oracle of Little Britain is a substantial cheesemonger,
who lives in a fragment of one of the old family mansions, and is as
magnificently lodged as a round-bellied mite in the midst of one of his
own Cheshires. Indeed, he is a man of no little standing and importance,
and his renown extends through Huggin lane and Lad lane, and even unto
Aldermanbury. His opinion is very much taken in affairs of state, having
read the Sunday papers for the last half century, together with
the Gentleman’s Magazine, Rapin’s History of England, and the Naval
Chronicle. His head is stored with invaluable maxims which have borne
the test of time and use for centuries. It is his firm opinion that
“it is a moral impossible,” so long as England is true to herself, that
anything can shake her: and he has much to say on the subject of the
national debt, which, somehow or other, he proves to be a great national
bulwark and blessing. He passed the greater part of his life in the
purlieus of Little Britain until of late years, when, having become
rich and grown into the dignity of a Sunday cane, he begins to take his
pleasure and see the world. He has therefore made several excursions to
Hampstead, Highgate, and other neighboring towns, where he has passed
whole afternoons in looking back upon the metropolis through a telescope
and endeavoring to descry the steeple of St. Bartholomew’s. Not a
stage-coachman of Bull-and-Mouth Street but touches his hat as he
passes, and he is considered quite a patron at the coach-office of the
Goose and Gridiron, St. Paul’s Churchyard. His family have been very
urgent for him to make an expedition to Margate, but he has great doubts
of those new gimcracks, the steamboats, and indeed thinks himself too
advanced in life to undertake sea-voyages.

Little Britain has occasionally its factions and divisions, and party
spirit ran very high at one time, in consequence of two rival “Burial
Societies” being set up in the place. One held its meeting at the Swan
and Horse-Shoe, and was patronized by the cheesemonger; the other at the
Cock and Crown, under the auspices of the apothecary: it is needless to
say that the latter was the most flourishing. I have passed an evening
or two at each, and have acquired much valuable information as to
the best mode of being buried, the comparative merits of churchyards,
together with divers hints on the subject of patent iron coffins. I have
heard the question discussed in all its bearings as to the legality
of prohibiting the latter on account of their durability. The feuds
occasioned by these societies have happily died of late; but they were
for a long time prevailing themes of controversy, the people of Little
Britain being extremely solicitous of funeral honors and of lying
comfortably in their graves.

Besides these two funeral societies there is a third of quite a
different cast, which tends to throw the sunshine of good-humor over the
whole neighborhood. It meets once a week at a little old-fashioned
house kept by a jolly publican of the name of Wagstaff, and bearing for
insignia a resplendent half-moon, with a most seductive bunch of grapes.
The whole edifice is covered with inscriptions to catch the eye of the
thirsty wayfarer; such as “Truman, Hanbury, and Co’s Entire,” “Wine,
Rum, and Brandy Vaults,” “Old Tom, Rum, and Compounds,” etc. This indeed
has been a temple of Bacchus and Momus from time immemorial. It has
always been in the family of the Wagstaffs, so that its history is
tolerably preserved by the present landlord. It was much frequented by
the gallants and cavalieros of the reign of Elizabeth, and was looked
into now and then by the wits of Charles the Second’s day. But what
Wagstaff principally prides himself upon is that Henry the Eighth, in
one of his nocturnal rambles, broke the head of one of his ancestors
with his famous walking-staff. This, however, is considered as rather a
dubious and vain-glorious boast of the landlord.

The club which now holds its weekly sessions here goes by the name of
“the Roaring Lads of Little Britain.” They abound in old catches, glees,
and choice stories that are traditional in the place and not to be met
with in any other part of the metropolis. There is a madcap undertaker
who is inimitable at a merry song, but the life of the club, and
indeed the prime wit of Little Britain, is bully Wagstaff himself. His
ancestors were all wags before him, and he has inherited with the inn
a large stock of songs and jokes, which go with it from generation to
generation as heirlooms. He is a dapper little fellow, with bandy legs
and pot belly, a red face with a moist merry eye, and a little shock of
gray hair behind. At the opening of every club night he is called in to
sing his “Confession of Faith,” which is the famous old drinking trowl
from “Gammer Gurton’s Needle.” He sings it, to be sure, with many
variations, as he received it from his father’s lips; for it has been a
standing favorite at the Half-Moon and Bunch of Grapes ever since it was
written; nay, he affirms that his predecessors have often had the honor
of singing it before the nobility and gentry at Christmas mummeries,
when Little Britain was in all its glory.*


     * As mine host of the Half-Moon’s Confession of Faith may
     not be familiar to the majority of readers, and as it is a
     specimen of the current songs of Little Britain, I subjoin
     it in its original orthography. I would observe that the
     whole club always join in the chorus with a fearful thumping
     on the table and clattering of pewter pots.

        I cannot eate but lytle meate,
            My stomacke is not good,
        But sure I thinke that I can drinke
            With him that weares a hood.
        Though I go bare, take ye no care,
            I nothing am a colde,
        I stuff my skyn so full within,
            Of joly good ale and olde.

  Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare,
            Both foote and hand go colde,
        But, belly, God send thee good ale ynoughe,
            Whether it be new or olde.

        I have no rost, but a nut brawne toste
            And a crab laid in the fyre;
        A little breade shall do me steade,
            Much breade I not desyre.
        No frost nor snow, nor winde, I trowe,
            Can hurte mee, if I wolde,
        I am so wrapt and throwly lapt
            Of joly good ale and olde.

  Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

        And Tyb my wife, that, as her lyfe,
            Loveth well good ale to seeke,
        Full oft drynkes shee, tyll ye may see,
            The teares run downe her cheeke.
        Then doth shee trowle to me the bowle,
            Even as a mault-worme sholde,
        And sayth, sweete harte, I took my parte
            Of this jolly good ale and olde.

  Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.

        Now let them drynke, tyll they nod and winke,
            Even as goode fellowes sholde doe,
        They shall not mysse to have the blisse,
            Good ale doth bring men to;
        And all poore soules that have scowred bowles,
            Or have them lustily trolde,
        God save the lyves of them and their wives,
            Whether they be yonge or olde.
  Chorus. Backe and syde go bare, go bare, etc.


It would do one’s heart good to hear, on a club night, the shouts of
merriment, the snatches of song, and now and then the choral bursts of
half a dozen discordant voices, which issue from this jovial mansion. At
such times the street is lined with listeners, who enjoy a delight equal
to that of gazing into a confectioner’s window or snuffing up the steams
of a cook-shop.

There are two annual events which produce great stir and sensation in
Little Britain: these are St. Bartholomew’s Fair and the Lord Mayor’s
Day. During the time of the Fair, which is held in the adjoining regions
of Smithfield, there is nothing going on but gossiping and gadding
about. The late quiet streets of Little Britain are overrun with an
irruption of strange figures and faces; every tavern is a scene of rout
and revel. The fiddle and the song are heard from the taproom morning,
noon, and night; and at each window may be seen some group of boon
companions, with half-shut eyes, hats on one side, pipe in mouth and
tankard in hand, fondling and prosing, and singing maudlin songs over
their liquor. Even the sober decorum of private families, which I must
say is rigidly kept up at other times among my neighbors, is no proof
against this saturnalia. There is no such thing as keeping maid-servants
within doors. Their brains are absolutely set madding with Punch and
the Puppet-Show, the Flying Horses, Signior Polito, the Fire-Eater, the
celebrated Mr. Paap, and the Irish Giant. The children too lavish all
their holiday money in toys and gilt gingerbread, and fill the house
with the Lilliputian din of drums, trumpets, and penny whistles.

But the Lord Mayor’s Day is the great anniversary. The Lord Mayor
is looked up to by the inhabitants of Little Britain as the greatest
potentate upon earth, his gilt coach with six horses as the summit of
human splendor, and his procession, with all the sheriffs and aldermen
in his train, as the grandest of earthly pageants. How they exult in
the idea that the king himself dare not enter the city without first
knocking at the gate of Temple Bar and asking permission of the Lord
Mayor; for if he did, heaven and earth! there is no knowing what might
be the consequence. The man in armor who rides before the Lord Mayor,
and is the city champion, has orders to cut down everybody that offends
against the dignity of the city; and then there is the little man with a
velvet porringer on his head, who sits at the window of the state coach
and holds the city sword, as long as a pikestaff. Odd’s blood! if he
once draws that sword, Majesty itself is not safe.

Under the protection of this mighty potentate, therefore, the good
people of Little Britain sleep in peace. Temple Bar is an effectual
barrier against all interior foes; and as to foreign invasion, the Lord
Mayor has but to throw himself into the Tower, call in the train-bands,
and put the standing army of Beef-eaters under arms, and he may bid
defiance to the world!

Thus wrapped up in its own concerns, its own habits, and its own
opinions, Little Britain has long flourished as a sound heart to this
great fungous metropolis. I have pleased myself with considering it as
a chosen spot, where the principles of sturdy John Bullism were garnered
up, like seed corn, to renew the national character when it had run
to waste and degeneracy. I have rejoiced also in the general spirit of
harmony that prevailed throughout it; for though there might now
and then be a few clashes of opinion between the adherents of the
cheesemonger and the apothecary, and an occasional feud between the
burial societies, yet these were but transient clouds and soon passed
away. The neighbors met with good-will, parted with a shake of the hand,
and never abused each other except behind their backs.

I could give rare descriptions of snug junketing parties at which I
have been present, where we played at All-Fours, Pope-Joan,
Tom-come-tickle-me, and other choice old games, and where we sometimes
had a good old English country dance to the tune of Sir Roger de
Coverley. Once a year also the neighbors would gather together and go on
a gypsy party to Epping Forest. It would have done any man’s heart good
to see the merriment that took place here as we banqueted on the grass
under the trees. How we made the woods ring with bursts of laughter at
the songs of little Wagstaff and the merry undertaker! After dinner,
too, the young folks would play at blindman’s-buff and hide-and-seek,
and it was amusing to see them tangled among the briers, and to hear a
fine romping girl now and then squeak from among the bushes. The elder
folks would gather round the cheesemonger and the apothecary to hear
them talk politics, for they generally brought out a newspaper in their
pockets to pass away time in the country. They would now and then, to
be sure, get a little warm in argument; but their disputes were always
adjusted by reference to a worthy old umbrella-maker in a double chin,
who, never exactly comprehending the subject, managed somehow or other
to decide in favor of both parties.

All empires, however, says some philosopher or historian, are doomed to
changes and revolutions. Luxury and innovation creep in, factions arise,
and families now and then spring up whose ambition and intrigues
throw the whole system into confusion. Thus in letter days has the
tranquillity of Little Britain been grievously disturbed and its golden
simplicity of manners threatened with total subversion by the aspiring
family of a retired butcher.

The family of the Lambs had long been among the most thriving and
popular in the neighborhood: the Miss Lambs were the belles of Little
Britain, and everybody was pleased when Old Lamb had made money enough
to shut up shop and put his name on a brass plate on his door. In an
evil hour, however, one of the Miss Lambs had the honor of being a lady
in attendance on the Lady Mayoress at her grand annual ball, on which
occasion she wore three towering ostrich feathers on her head. The
family never got over it; they were immediately smitten with a passion
for high life; set up a one-horse carriage, put a bit of gold lace round
the errand-boy’s hat, and have been the talk and detestation of the
whole neighborhood ever since. They could no longer be induced to
play at Pope-Joan or blindman’s-buff; they could endure no dances but
quadrilles, which nobody had ever heard of in Little Britain; and they
took to reading novels, talking bad French, and playing upon the piano.
Their brother, too, who had been articled to an attorney, set up for a
dandy and a critic, characters hitherto unknown in these parts, and
he confounded the worthy folks exceedingly by talking about Kean, the
Opera, and the “Edinburgh Review.”

What was still worse, the Lambs gave a grand ball, to which they
neglected to invite any of their old neighbors; but they had a great
deal of genteel company from Theobald’s Road, Red Lion Square, and other
parts towards the west. There were several beaux of their brother’s
acquaintance from Gray’s Inn Lane and Hatton Garden, and not less
than three aldermen’s ladies with their daughters. This was not to be
forgotten or forgiven. All Little Britain was in an uproar with the
smacking of whips, the lashing of in miserable horses, and the rattling
and jingling of hackney-coaches. The gossips of the neighborhood might
be seen popping their night-caps out at every window, watching the crazy
vehicles rumble by; and there was a knot of virulent old cronies that
kept a look-out from a house just opposite the retired butcher’s and
scanned and criticised every one that knocked at the door.

This dance was a cause of almost open war, and the whole neighborhood
declared they would have nothing more to say to the Lambs. It is
true that Mrs. Lamb, when she had no engagements with her quality
acquaintance, would give little humdrum tea-junketings to some of her
old cronies, “quite,” as she would say, “in a friendly way;” and it is
equally true that her invitations were always accepted, in spite of all
previous vows to the contrary. Nay, the good ladies would sit and be
delighted with the music of the Miss Lambs, who would condescend to
strum an Irish melody for them on the piano; and they would listen
with wonderful interest to Mrs. Lamb’s anecdotes of Alderman Plunket’s
family, of Portsoken Ward, and the Miss Timberlakes, the rich heiresses
of Crutched Friars but then they relieved their consciences and averted
the reproaches of their confederates by canvassing at the next gossiping
convocation everything that had passed, and pulling the Lambs and their
rout all to pieces.

The only one of the family that could not be made fashionable was the
retired butcher himself. Honest Lamb, in spite of the meekness of his
name, was a rough, hearty old fellow, with the voice of a lion, a head
of black hair like a shoe-brush, and a broad face mottled like his own
beef. It was in vain that the daughters always spoke of him as “the old
gentleman,” addressed him as “papa” in tones of infinite softness,
and endeavored to coax him into a dressing-gown and slippers and other
gentlemanly habits. Do what they might, there was no keeping down the
butcher. His sturdy nature would break through all their glozings. He
had a hearty vulgar good-humor that was irrepressible. His very jokes
made his sensitive daughters shudder, and he persisted in wearing his
blue cotton coat of a morning, dining at two o’clock, and having a “bit
of sausage with his tea.”

He was doomed, however, to share the unpopularity of his family. He
found his old comrades gradually growing cold and civil to him, no
longer laughing at his jokes, and now and then throwing out a fling at
“some people” and a hint about “quality binding.” This both nettled
and perplexed the honest butcher; and his wife and daughters, with
the consummate policy of the shrewder sex, taking advantage of the
circumstance, at length prevailed upon him to give up his afternoon’s
pipe and tankard at Wagstaff’s, to sit after dinner by himself and
take his pint of port--a liquor he detested--and to nod in his chair in
solitary and dismal gentility.

The Miss Lambs might now be seen flaunting along the streets in French
bonnets with unknown beaux, and talking and laughing so loud that it
distressed the nerves of every good lady within hearing. They even went
so far as to attempt patronage, and actually induced a French dancing
master to set up in the neighborhood; but the worthy folks of Little
Britain took fire at it, and did so persecute the poor Gaul that he
was fain to pack up fiddle and dancing-pumps and decamp with such
precipitation that he absolutely forgot to pay for his lodgings.

I had flattered myself, at first, with the idea that all this fiery
indignation on the part of the community was merely the overflowing of
their zeal for good old English manners and their horror of innovation,
and I applauded the silent contempt they were so vociferous in
expressing for upstart pride, French fashions and the Miss Lambs. But
I grieve to say that I soon perceived the infection had taken hold,
and that my neighbors, after condemning, were beginning to follow their
example. I overheard my landlady importuning her husband to let their
daughters have one quarter at French and music, and that they might take
a few lessons in quadrille. I even saw, in the course of a few Sundays,
no less than five French bonnets, precisely like those of the Miss
Lambs, parading about Little Britain.

I still had my hopes that all this folly would gradually die away, that
the Lambs might move out of the neighborhood, might die, or might run
away with attorneys’ apprentices, and that quiet and simplicity might be
again restored to the community. But unluckily a rival power arose. An
opulent oilman died, and left a widow with a large jointure and a family
of buxom daughters. The young ladies had long been repining in secret
at the parsimony of a prudent father, which kept down all their elegant
aspirings. Their ambition, being now no longer restrained, broke out
into a blaze, and they openly took the field against the family of the
butcher. It is true that the Lambs, having had the first start, had
naturally an advantage of them in the fashionable career. They could
speak a little bad French, play the piano, dance quadrilles, and had
formed high acquaintances; but the Trotters were not to be distanced.
When the Lambs appeared with two feathers in their hats, the Miss
Trotters mounted four and of twice as fine colors. If the Lambs gave
a dance, the Trotters were sure not to be behindhand; and, though they
might not boast of as good company, yet they had double the number and
were twice as merry.

The whole community has at length divided itself into fashionable
factions under the banners of these two families. The old games of
Pope-Joan and Tom-come-tickle-me are entirely discarded; there is no
such thing as getting up an honest country dance; and on my attempting
to kiss a young lady under the mistletoe last Christmas, I was
indignantly repulsed, the Miss Lambs having pronounced it “shocking
vulgar.” Bitter rivalry has also broken out as to the most fashionable
part of Little Britain, the Lambs standing up for the dignity
of Cross-Keys Square, and the Trotters for the vicinity of St.
Bartholomew’s.

Thus is this little territory torn by factions and internal dissensions,
like the great empire whose name it bears; and what will be the result
would puzzle the apothecary himself, with all his talent at prognostics,
to determine, though I apprehend that it will terminate in the total
downfall of genuine John Bullism.

The immediate effects are extremely unpleasant to me. Being a single
man, and, as I observed before, rather an idle good-for-nothing
personage, I have been considered the only gentleman by profession in
the place. I stand therefore in high favor with both parties, and have
to hear all their cabinet counsels and mutual backbitings. As I am too
civil not to agree with the ladies on all occasions, I have committed
myself most horribly with both parties by abusing their opponents.
I might manage to reconcile this to my conscience, which is a truly
accommodating one, but I cannot to my apprehension: if the Lambs and
Trotters ever come to a reconciliation and compare notes, I am ruined!

I have determined, therefore, to beat a retreat in time, and am actually
looking out for some other nest in this great city where old English
manners are still kept up, where French is neither eaten, drunk, danced,
nor spoken, and where there are no fashionable families of retired
tradesmen. This found, I will, like a veteran rat, hasten away before I
have an old house about my ears, bid a long, though a sorrowful adieu
to my present abode, and leave the rival factions of the Lambs and the
Trotters to divide the distracted empire of LITTLE BRITAIN.



STRATFORD-ON-AVON.

Thou soft-flowing Avon, by thy silver stream Of things more than mortal
sweet Shakespeare would dream The fairies by moonlight dance round his
green bed, For hallow’d the turf is which pillow’d his head.

GARRICK.

TO a homeless man, who has no spot on this wide world which he can
truly call his own, there is a momentary feeling of something like
independence and territorial consequence when, after a weary day’s
travel, he kicks off his boots, thrusts his feet into slippers, and
stretches himself before an inn-fire. Let the world without go as it
may, let kingdoms rise or fall, so long as he has the wherewithal to pay
his bill he is, for the time being, the very monarch of all he surveys.
The armchair is his throne, the poker his sceptre, and the little
parlor, some twelve feet square, his undisputed empire. It is a morsel
of certainly snatched from the midst of the uncertainties of life; it
is a sunny moment gleaming out kindly on a cloudy day: and he who has
advanced some way on the pilgrimage of existence knows the importance of
husbanding even morsels and moments of enjoyment. “Shall I not take mine
ease in mine inn?” thought I, as I gave the fire a stir, lolled back in
my elbow-chair, and cast a complacent look about the little parlor of
the Red Horse at Stratford-on-Avon.

The words of sweet Shakespeare were just passing through my mind as
the clock struck midnight from the tower of the church in which he lies
buried. There was a gentle tap at the door, and a pretty chambermaid,
putting in her smiling face, inquired, with a hesitating air, whether I
had rung. I understood it as a modest hint that it was time to retire.
My dream of absolute dominion was at an end; so abdicating my throne,
like a prudent potentate, to avoid being deposed, and putting the
Stratford Guide-Book under my arm as a pillow companion, I went to bed,
and dreamt all night of Shakespeare, the jubilee, and David Garrick.

The next morning was one of those quickening mornings which we sometimes
have in early spring, for it was about the middle of March. The chills
of a long winter had suddenly given way; the north wind had spent its
last gasp; and a mild air came stealing from the west, breathing the
breath of life into Nature, and wooing every bud and flower to burst
forth into fragrance and beauty.

I had come to Stratford on a poetical pilgrimage. My first visit was to
the house where Shakespeare was born, and where, according to tradition,
he was brought up to his father’s craft of wool-combing. It is a small
mean-looking edifice of wood and plaster, a true nestling-place of
genius, which seems to delight in hatching its offspring in by-corners.
The walls of its squalid chambers are covered with names and
inscriptions in every language by pilgrims of all nations, ranks, and
conditions, from the prince to the peasant, and present a simple but
striking instance of the spontaneous and universal homage of mankind to
the great poet of Nature.

The house is shown by a garrulous old lady in a frosty red face, lighted
up by a cold blue, anxious eye, and garnished with artificial locks
of flaxen hair curling from under an exceedingly dirty cap. She was
peculiarly assiduous in exhibiting the relics with which this, like all
other celebrated shrines, abounds. There was the shattered stock of
the very matchlock with which Shakespeare shot the deer on his poaching
exploits. There, too, was his tobacco-box, which proves that he was a
rival smoker of Sir Walter Raleigh: the sword also with which he played
Hamlet; and the identical lantern with which Friar Laurence discovered
Romeo and Juliet at the tomb. There was an ample supply also of
Shakespeare’s mulberry tree, which seems to have as extraordinary powers
of self-multiplication as the wood of the true cross, of which there is
enough extant to build a ship of the line.

The most favorite object of curiosity, however, is Shakespeare’s chair.
It stands in a chimney-nook of a small gloomy chamber just behind what
was his father’s shop. Here he may many a time have sat when a boy,
watching the slowly revolving spit with all the longing of an urchin, or
of an evening listening to the cronies and gossips of Stratford dealing
forth churchyard tales and legendary anecdotes of the troublesome times
of England. In this chair it is the custom of every one that visits the
house to sit: whether this be done with the hope of imbibing any of
the inspiration of the bard I am at a loss to say; I merely mention the
fact, and mine hostess privately assured me that, though built of solid
oak, such was the fervent zeal of devotees the chair had to be new
bottomed at least once in three years. It is worthy of notice also, in
the history of this extraordinary chair, that it partakes something of
the volatile nature of the Santa Casa of Loretto, or the flying chair
of the Arabian enchanter; for, though sold some few years since to a
northern princess, yet, strange to tell, it has found its way back again
to the old chimney-corner.

I am always of easy faith in such matters, and am ever willing to be
deceived where the deceit is pleasant and costs nothing. I am therefore
a ready believer in relics, legends, and local anecdotes of goblins
and great men, and would advise all travellers who travel for their
gratification to be the same. What is it to us whether these stories be
true or false, so long as we can persuade ourselves into the belief
of them and enjoy all the charm of the reality? There is nothing like
resolute good-humored credulity in these matters, and on this occasion I
went even so far as willingly to believe the claims of mine hostess to a
lineal descent from the poet, when, unluckily for my faith, she put into
my hands a play of her own composition, which set all belief in her own
consanguinity at defiance.

From the birthplace of Shakespeare a few paces brought me to his
grave. He lies buried in the chancel of the parish church, a large and
venerable pile, mouldering with age, but richly ornamented. It stands on
the banks of the Avon on an embowered point, and separated by adjoining
gardens from the suburbs of the town. Its situation is quiet and
retired; the river runs murmuring at the foot of the churchyard, and
the elms which grow upon its banks droop their branches into its clear
bosom. An avenue of limes, the boughs of which are curiously interlaced,
so as to form in summer an arched way of foliage, leads up from the gate
of the yard to the church-porch. The graves are overgrown with grass;
the gray tombstones, some of them nearly sunk into the earth, are half
covered with moss, which has likewise tinted the reverend old building.
Small birds have built their nests among the cornices and fissures of
the walls, and keep up a continual flutter and chirping; and rooks are
sailing and cawing about its lofty gray spire.

In the course of my rambles I met with the gray-headed sexton, Edmonds,
and accompanied him home to get the key of the church. He had lived in
Stratford, man and boy, for eighty years, and seemed still to consider
himself a vigorous man, with the trivial exception that he had nearly
lost the use of his legs for a few years past. His dwelling was a
cottage looking out upon the Avon and its bordering meadows, and was a
picture of that neatness, order, and comfort which pervade the humblest
dwellings in this country. A low whitewashed room, with a stone floor
carefully scrubbed, served for parlor, kitchen, and hall. Rows of pewter
and earthen dishes glittered along the dresser. On an old oaken table,
well rubbed and polished, lay the family Bible and prayer-book, and the
drawer contained the family library, composed of about half a score
of well-thumbed volumes. An ancient clock, that important article of
cottage furniture, ticked on the opposite side of the room, with
a bright warming-pan hanging on one side of it, and the old man’s
horn-handled Sunday cane on the other. The fireplace, as usual, was wide
and deep enough to admit a gossip knot within its jambs. In one corner
sat the old man’s granddaughter sewing, a pretty blue-eyed girl, and in
the opposite corner was a superannuated crony whom he addressed by
the name of John Ange, and who, I found, had been his companion from
childhood. They had played together in infancy; they had worked together
in manhood; they were now tottering about and gossiping away the evening
of life; and in a short time they will probably be buried together in
the neighboring churchyard. It is not often that we see two streams of
existence running thus evenly and tranquilly side by side; it is only in
such quiet “bosom scenes” of life that they are to be met with.

I had hoped to gather some traditionary anecdotes of the bard from
these ancient chroniclers, but they had nothing new to impart. The long
interval during which Shakespeare’s writings lay in comparative neglect
has spread its shadow over his history, and it is his good or evil lot
that scarcely anything remains to his biographers but a scanty handful
of conjectures.

The sexton and his companion had been employed as carpenters on the
preparations for the celebrated Stratford Jubilee, and they
remembered Garrick, the prime mover of the fete, who superintended the
arrangements, and who, according to the sexton, was “a short punch man,
very lively and bustling.” John Ange had assisted also in cutting down
Shakespeare’s mulberry tree, of which he had a morsel in his pocket for
sale; no doubt a sovereign quickener of literary conception.

I was grieved to hear these two worthy wights speak very dubiously of
the eloquent dame who shows the Shakespeare house. John Ange shook
his head when I mentioned her valuable and inexhaustible collection
of relics, particularly her remains of the mulberry tree; and the old
sexton even expressed a doubt as to Shakespeare having been born in her
house. I soon discovered that he looked upon her mansion with an evil
eye, as a rival to the poet’s tomb, the latter having comparatively but
few visitors. Thus it is that historians differ at the very outset, and
mere pebbles make the stream of truth diverge into different channels
even at the fountain-head.

We approached the church through the avenue of limes, and entered by a
Gothic porch, highly ornamented, with carved doors of massive oak. The
interior is spacious, and the architecture and embellishments superior
to those of most country churches. There are several ancient monuments
of nobility and gentry, over some of which hang funeral escutcheons and
banners dropping piecemeal from the walls. The tomb of Shakespeare is in
the chancel. The place is solemn and sepulchral. Tall elms wave before
the pointed windows, and the Avon, which runs at a short distance from
the walls, keeps up a low perpetual murmur. A flat stone marks the spot
where the bard is buried. There are four lines inscribed on it, said to
have been written by himself, and which have in them something extremely
awful. If they are indeed his own, they show that solicitude about
the quiet of the grave which seems natural to fine sensibilities and
thoughtful minds:

    Good friend, for Jesus’ sake, forbeare
    To dig the dust inclosed here.
    Blessed be he that spares these stones,
    And curst be he that moves my bones.

Just over the grave, in a niche of the wall, is a bust of Shakespeare,
put up shortly after his death and considered as a resemblance. The
aspect is pleasant and serene, with a finely-arched forehead; and I
thought I could read in it clear indications of that cheerful,
social disposition by which he was as much characterized among his
contemporaries as by the vastness of his genius. The inscription
mentions his age at the time of his decease, fifty-three years--an
untimely death for the world, for what fruit might not have been
expected from the golden autumn of such a mind, sheltered as it was
from the stormy vicissitudes of life, and flourishing in the sunshine of
popular and royal favor?

The inscription on the tombstone has not been without its effect. It has
prevented the removal of his remains from the bosom of his native place
to Westminster Abbey, which was at one time contemplated. A few years
since also, as some laborers were digging to make an adjoining vault,
the earth caved in, so as to leave a vacant space almost like an arch,
through which one might have reached into his grave. No one, however,
presumed to meddle with his remains so awfully guarded by a malediction;
and lest any of the idle or the curious or any collector of relics
should be tempted to commit depredations, the old sexton kept watch over
the place for two days, until the vault was finished and the aperture
closed again. He told me that he had made bold to look in at the
hole, but could see neither coffin nor bones--nothing but dust. It was
something, I thought, to have seen the dust of Shakespeare.

Next to this grave are those of his wife, his favorite daughter,
Mrs. Hall, and others of his family. On a tomb close by, also, is a
full-length effigy of his old friend John Combe, of usurious memory,
on whom he is said to have written a ludicrous epitaph. There are other
monuments around, but the mind refuses to dwell on anything that is not
connected with Shakespeare. His idea pervades the place; the whole pile
seems but as his mausoleum. The feelings, no longer checked and thwarted
by doubt, here indulge in perfect confidence: other traces of him may be
false or dubious, but here is palpable evidence and absolute certainty.
As I trod the sounding pavement there was something intense and
thrilling in the idea that in very truth the remains of Shakespeare were
mouldering beneath my feet. It was a long time before I could prevail
upon myself to leave the place; and as I passed through the churchyard
I plucked a branch from one of the yew trees, the only relic that I have
brought from Stratford.

I had now visited the usual objects of a pilgrim’s devotion, but I had
a desire to see the old family seat of the Lucys at Charlecot, and to
ramble through the park where Shakespeare, in company with some of
the roisterers of Stratford, committed his youthful offence of
deer-stealing. In this harebrained exploit we are told that he was taken
prisoner and carried to the keeper’s lodge, where he remained all night
in doleful captivity. When brought into the presence of Sir Thomas Lucy
his treatment must have been galling and humiliating; for it so wrought
upon his spirit as to produce a rough pasquinade which was affixed to
the park gate at Charlecot.*

This flagitious attack upon the dignity of the knight so incensed him
that he applied to a lawyer at Warwick to put the severity of the laws
in force against the rhyming deer-stalker. Shakespeare did not wait
to brave the united puissance of a knight of the shire and a country
attorney. He forthwith abandoned the pleasant banks of the Avon and
his paternal trade; wandered away to London; became a hanger-on to the
theatres; then an actor; and finally wrote for the stage; and
thus, through the persecution of Sir Thomas Lucy, Stratford lost an
indifferent wool-comber and the world gained an immortal poet. He
retained, however, for a long time, a sense of the harsh treatment of
the lord of Charlecot, and revenged himself in his writings, but in
the sportive way of a good-natured mind. Sir Thomas is said to be the
original of Justice Shallow, and the satire is slyly fixed upon him by
the justice’s armorial bearings, which, like those of the knight, had
white luces+ in the quarterings.


     * The following is the only stanza extant of this lampoon:

    A parliament member, a justice of peace,
    At home a poor scarecrow, at London an asse,
    If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it,
    Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befall it.
        He thinks himself great;
        Yet an asse in his state,
    We allow by his ears but with asses to mate,
    If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it,
    Then sing lowsie Lucy whatever befall it.

     + The luce is a pike or jack, and abounds in the Avon about
     Charlecot.


Various attempts have been made by his biographers to soften and explain
away this, early transgression of the poet; but I look upon it as one
of those thoughtless exploits natural to his situation and turn of mind.
Shakespeare, when young, had doubtless all the wildness and irregularity
of an ardent, undisciplined, and undirected genius. The poetic
temperament has naturally something in it of the vagabond. When left to
itself it runs loosely and wildly, and delights in everything eccentric
and licentious. It is often a turn up of a die, in the gambling freaks
of fate, whether a natural genius shall turn out a great rogue or a
great poet; and had not Shakespeare’s mind fortunately taken a literary
bias, he might have as daringly transcended all civil as he has all
dramatic laws.

I have little doubt that, in early life, when running like an unbroken
colt about the neighborbood of Stratford, he was to be found in the
company of all kinds of odd anomalous characters, that he associated
with all the madcaps of the place, and was one of those unlucky urchins
at mention of whom old men shake their heads and predict that they will
one day come to the gallows. To him the poaching in Sir Thomas Lucy’s
park was doubtless like a foray to a Scottish knight, and struck
his eager, and as yet untamed, imagination as something delightfully
adventurous.*


     * A proof of Shakespeare’s random habits and associates in
     his youthful days may be found in a traditionary anecdote,
     picked up at Stratford by the elder Ireland, and mentioned
     in his “Picturesque Views on the Avon.”

About seven miles from Stratford lies the thirsty little market-town of
Bedford, famous for its ale. Two societies of the village yeomanry used
to meet, under the appellation of the Bedford topers, and to challenge
the lovers of good ale of the neighboring villages to a contest of
drinking. Among others, the people of Stratford were called out to prove
the strength of their heads; and in the number of the champions was
Shakespeare, who, in spite of the proverb that “they who drink beer
will think beer,” was as true to his ale as Falstaff to his sack. The
chivalry of Stratford was staggered at the first onset, and sounded a
retreat while they had yet the legs to carry them off the field. They
had scarcely marched a mile when, their legs failing them, they were
forced to lie down under a crab tree, where they passed the night. It
was still standing, and goes by the name of Shakespeare’s tree.

In the morning his companions awaked the bard, and proposed returning to
Bedford, but he declined, saying he had enough, having drank with

    Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
    Haunted Hilbro’, Hungry Grafton,
    Dudging Exhall, Papist Wicksford,
    Beggarly Broom, and Drunken Bedford.

“The villages here alluded to,” says Ireland, “still bear the epithets
thus given them: the people of Pebworth are still famed for their skill
on the pipe and tabor; Hilborough is now called Haunted Hilborough; and
Grafton is famous for the poverty of its soil.”


The old mansion of Charlecot and its surrounding park still remain in
the possession of the Lucy family, and are peculiarly interesting front
being connected with this whimsical but eventful circumstance in the
scanty history of the bard. As the house stood at little more than three
miles’ distance from Stratford, I resolved to pay it a pedestrian visit,
that I might stroll leisurely through some of those scenes from which
Shakespeare must have derived his earliest ideas of rural imagery.

The country was yet naked and leafless, but English scenery is always
verdant, and the sudden change in the temperature of the weather
was surprising in its quickening effects upon the landscape. It was
inspiring and animating to witness this first awakening of spring; to
feel its warm breath stealing over the senses; to see the moist mellow
earth beginning to put forth the green sprout and the tender blade, and
the trees and shrubs, in their reviving tints and bursting buds, giving
the promise of returning foliage and flower. The cold snow-drop, that
little borderer on the skirts of winter, was to be seen with its chaste
white blossoms in the small gardens before the cottages. The bleating
of the new-dropt lambs was faintly heard from the fields. The sparrow
twittered about the thatched eaves and budding hedges; the robin threw
a livelier note into his late querulous wintry strain; and the lark,
springing up from the reeking bosom of the meadow, towered away into the
bright fleecy cloud, pouring forth torrents of melody. As I watched the
little songster mounting up higher and higher, until his body was a mere
speck on the white bosom of the cloud, while the ear was still filled
with his music, it called to mind Shakespeare’s exquisite little song in
Cymbeline:

    Hark! hark! the lark at heav’n’s gate sings,
        And Phoebus ‘gins arise,
    His steeds to water at those springs,
        On chaliced flowers that lies.

    And winking mary-buds begin
        To ope their golden eyes;
    With every thing that pretty bin,
        My lady sweet arise!

Indeed, the whole country about here is poetic ground: everything is
associated with the idea of Shakespeare. Every old cottage that I saw
I fancied into some resort of his boyhood, where he had acquired his
intimate knowledge of rustic life and manners, and heard those legendary
tales and wild superstitions which he has woven like witchcraft into
his dramas. For in his time, we are told, it was a popular amusement in
winter evenings “to sit round the fire, and tell merry tales of errant
knights, queens, lovers, lords, ladies, giants, dwarfs, thieves,
cheaters, witches, fairies, goblins, and friars.” *


     * Scot, in his “Discoverie of Witchcraft,” enumerates a of
     these fireside fancies: “And they have so fraid us with host
     bull-beggars, spirits, witches, urchins, elves, hags,
     fairies, satyrs, pans, faunes, syrens, kit with the can
     sticke, tritons, centaurs, dwarfes, giantes, imps, calcars,
     conjurors, nymphes, changelings, incubus, Robin-goodfellow,
     the spoorne, the mare, the man in the oke, the hell-waine,
     the fier drake, the puckle, Tom Thombe, hobgoblins, Tom
     Tumbler, boneless, and such other bugs, that we were afraid
     of our own shadowes.”


My route for a part of the way lay in sight of the Avon, which made
a variety of the most fancy doublings and windings through a wide and
fertile valley--sometimes glittering from among willows which fringed
its borders; sometimes disappearing among groves or beneath green banks;
and sometimes rambling out into full view and making an azure sweep
round a slope of meadow-land. This beautiful bosom of country is called
the Vale of the Red Horse. A distant line of undulating blue hills seems
to be its boundary, whilst all the soft intervening landscape lies in a
manner enchained in the silver links of the Avon.

After pursuing the road for about three miles, I turned off into a
footpath, which led along the borders of fields and under hedgerows to a
private gate of the park; there was a stile, however, for the benefit of
the pedestrian, there being a public right of way through the grounds.
I delight in these hospitable estates, in which every one has a kind
of property--at least as far as the footpath is concerned. It in some
measure reconciles a poor man to his lot, and, what is more, to the
better lot of his neighbor, thus to have parks and pleasure-grounds
thrown open for his recreation. He breathes the pure air as freely and
lolls as luxuriously under the shade as the lord of the soil; and if he
has not the privilege of calling all that he sees his own, he has not,
at the same time, the trouble of paying for it and keeping it in order.

I now found myself among noble avenues of oaks and elms, whose vast size
bespoke the growth of centuries. The wind sounded solemnly among
their branches, and the rooks cawed from their hereditary nests in the
tree-tops. The eye ranged through a long lessening vista, with nothing
to interrupt the view but a distant statue and a vagrant deer stalking
like a shadow across the opening.

There is something about these stately old avenues that has the effect
of Gothic architecture, not merely from the pretended similarity of
form, but from their bearing the evidence of long duration, and of
having had their origin in a period of time with which we associate
ideas of romantic grandeur. They betoken also the long-settled dignity
and proudly-concentrated independence of an ancient family; and I have
heard a worthy but aristocratic old friend observe, when speaking of the
sumptuous palaces of modern gentry, that “money could do much with
stone and mortar, but thank Heaven! there was no such thing as suddenly
building up an avenue of oaks.”

It was from wandering in early life among this rich scenery, and about
the romantic solitudes of the adjoining park of Fullbroke, which then
formed a part of the Lucy estate, that some of Shakepeare’s commentators
have supposed he derived his noble forest meditations of Jaques and
the enchanting woodland pictures in “As You Like It.” It is in lonely
wanderings through such scenes that the mind drinks deep but quiet
draughts of inspiration, and becomes intensely sensible of the beauty
and majesty of Nature. The imagination kindles into reverie and rapture,
vague but exquisite images and ideas keep breaking upon it, and we revel
in a mute and almost incommunicable luxury of thought. It was in some
such mood, and perhaps under one of those very trees before me, which
threw their broad shades over the grassy banks and quivering waters of
the Avon, that the poet’s fancy may have sallied forth into that little
song which breathes the very soul of a rural voluptuary

    Unto the greenwood tree,
    Who loves to lie with me
    And tune his merry throat
    Unto the sweet bird’s note,
    Come hither, come hither, come hither.
        Here shall he see
        No enemy,
    But winter and rough weather.

I had now come in sight of the house. It is a large building of brick
with stone quoins, and is in the Gothic style of Queen Elizabeth’s day,
having been built in the first year of her reign. The exterior remains
very nearly in its original state, and may be considered a fair specimen
of the residence of a wealthy country gentleman of those days. A great
gateway opens from the park into a kind of courtyard in front of the
house, ornamented with a grassplot, shrubs, and flower-beds. The gateway
is in imitation of the ancient barbacan, being a kind of outpost and
flanked by towers, though evidently for mere ornament, instead of
defence. The front of the house is completely in the old style with
stone-shafted casements, a great bow-window of heavy stone-work, and a
portal with armorial bearings over it carved in stone. At each corner
of the building is an octagon tower surmounted by a gilt ball and
weather-cock.

The Avon, which winds through the park, makes a bend just at the foot
of a gently-sloping bank which sweeps down from the rear of the house.
Large herds of deer were feeding or reposing upon its borders, and
swans were sailing majestically upon its bosom. As I contemplated the
venerable old mansion I called to mind Falstaff’s encomium on Justice
Shallow’s abode, and the affected indifference and real vanity of the
latter:

“Falstaff. You have a goodly dwelling and a rich. Shallow. Barren,
barren, barren; beggars all, beggars all, Sir John:--marry, good air.”

Whatever may have been the joviality of the old mansion in the days of
Shakespeare, it had now an air of stillness and solitude. The great iron
gateway that opened into the courtyard was locked, there was no show
of servants bustling about the place; the deer gazed quietly at me as I
passed, being no longer harried by the moss-troopers of Stratford. The
only sign of domestic life that I met with was a white cat stealing with
wary look and stealthy pace towards the stables, as if on some nefarious
expedition. I must not omit to mention the carcass of a scoundrel crow
which I saw suspended against the barn-wall, as it shows that the Lucys
still inherit that lordly abhorrence of poachers and maintain that
rigorous exercise of territorial power which was so strenuously
manifested in the case of the bard.

After prowling about for some time, I at length found my way to a
lateral portal, which was the every-day entrance to the mansion. I was
courteously received by a worthy old housekeeper, who, with the civility
and communicativeness of her order, showed me the interior of the house.
The greater part has undergone alterations and been adapted to modern
tastes and modes of living: there is a fine old oaken staircase, and the
great hall, that noble feature in an ancient manor-house, still retains
much of the appearance it must have had in the days of Shakespeare. The
ceiling is arched and lofty, and at one end is a gallery in which stands
an organ. The weapons and trophies of the chase, which formerly adorned
the hall of a country gentleman, have made way for family portraits.
There is a wide, hospitable fireplace, calculated for an ample
old-fashioned wood fire, formerly the rallying-place of winter
festivity. On the opposite side of the hall is the huge Gothic
bow-window, with stone shafts, which looks out upon the courtyard. Here
are emblazoned in stained glass the armorial bearings of the Lucy family
for many generations, some being dated in 1558. I was delighted to
observe in the quarterings the three white luces by which the character
of Sir Thomas was first identified with that of Justice Shallow. They
are mentioned in the first scene of the “Merry Wives of Windsor,” where
the justice, is in a rage with Falstaff for having “beaten his men,
killed his deer, and broken into his lodge.” The poet had no doubt the
offences of himself and his comrades in mind at the time, and we may
suppose the family pride and vindictive threats of the puissant Shallow
to be a caricature of the pompous indignation of Sir Thomas.

“Shallow. Sir Hugh, persuade me not: I will make a Star Chamber matter
of it; if he were twenty John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Sir Robert
Shallow, Esq.

Slender. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace and coram.

Shallow. Ay, cousin Slender, and custalorum.

Slender. Ay, and ratolorum too, and a gentleman born, master parson; who
writes himself Armigero in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation,
Armigero.

Shallow. Ay, that I do; and have done any time these three hundred
years.

Slender. All his successors gone before him have done’t, and all his
ancestors that come after him may; they may give the dozen white luces
in their coat....

Shallow. The council shall hear it; it is a riot.

Evans. It is not meet the council hear of a riot; there is no fear of
Got in a riot; the council, hear you, shall desire to hear the fear of
Got, and not to hear a riot; take your vizaments in that.

Shallow. Ha! o’ my life, if I were young again, the sword should end
it!”

Near the window thus emblazoned hung a portrait, by Sir Peter Lely,
of one of the Lucy family, a great beauty of the time of Charles
the Second: the old housekeeper shook her head as she pointed to the
picture, and informed me that this lady had been sadly addicted to
cards, and had gambled away a great portion of the family estate, among
which was that part of the park where Shakespeare and his comrades had
killed the deer. The lands thus lost had not been entirely regained by
the family even at the present day. It is but justice to this recreant
dame to confess that she had a surpassingly fine hand and arm.

The picture which most attracted my attention was a great painting over
the fireplace, containing likenesses of Sir Thomas Lucy and his family
who inhabited the hall in the latter part of Shakespeare’s lifetime.
I at first thought that it was the vindictive knight himself, but the
housekeeper assured me that it was his son; the only likeness extant
of the former being an effigy upon his tomb in the church of the
neighboring hamlet of Charlecot.*


     * This effigy is in white marble, and represents the knight
     in complete armor. Near him lies the effigy of his wife, and
     on her tomb is the following inscription; which, if really
     composed by her husband, places him quite above the
     intellectual level of Master Shallow:

     Here lyeth the Lady Joyce Lucy wife of Sir Thomas Lucy of
     Charlecot in ye county of Warwick, Knight, Daughter and heir
     of Thomas Acton of Sutton in ye county of Worcester Esquire
     who departed out of this wretched world to her heavenly
     kingdom ye 10 day of February in ye yeare of our Lord God
     1595 and of her age 60 and three. All the time of her lyfe a
     true and faythful servant of her good God, never detected of
     any cryme or vice. In religion most sounde, in love to her
     husband most faythful and true. In friendship most constant;
     to what in trust was committed unto her most secret. In
     wisdom excelling. In governing of her house, bringing up of
     youth in ye fear of God that did converse with her moste
     rare and singular. A great maintayner of hospitality.
     Greatly esteemed of her betters; misliked of none unless of
     the envyous. When all is spoken that can be saide a woman so
     garnished with virtue as not to be bettered and hardly to be
     equalled by any. As shee lived most virtuotisly so shee died
     most Godly. Set downe by him yt best did knowe what hath byn
     written to be true.

     Thomas Lucye.


The picture gives a lively idea of the costume and manners of the time.
Sir Thomas is dressed in ruff and doublet, white shoes with roses in
them, and has a peaked yellow, or, as Master Slender would say, “a
cane-colored beard.” His lady is seated on the opposite side of the
picture in wide ruff and long stomacher, and the children have a most
venerable stiffness and formality of dress. Hounds and spaniels are
mingled in the family group; a hawk is seated on his perch in the
foreground, and one of the children holds a bow, all intimating the
knight’s skill in hunting, hawking, and archery, so indispensable to an
accomplished gentleman in those days.*


     * Bishop Earle, speaking of the country gentleman of his
     time, observes, “His housekeeping is seen much in the
     different families of dogs and serving-men attendant on
     their kennels; and the deepness of their throats is the
     depth of his discourse. A hawk he esteems the true burden of
     nobility, and is exceedingly ambitious to seem delighted
     with the sport, and have his fist gloved with his jesses.”
      And Gilpin, in his description of a Mr. Hastings, remarks,
     “He kept all sorts of hounds that run buck, fox, hare,
     otter, and badger; and had hawks of all kinds both long and
     short winged. His great hall was commonly strewed with
     marrow-bones, and full of hawk perches, hounds, spaniels,
     and terriers. On a broad hearth, paved with brick, lay some
     of the choicest terriers, hounds, and spaniels.”


I regretted to find that the ancient furniture of the hall had
disappeared; for I had hoped to meet with the stately elbow-chair of
carved oak in which the country squire of former days was wont to sway
the sceptre of empire over his rural domains, and in which it might be
presumed the redoubled Sir Thomas sat enthroned in awful state when
the recreant Shakespeare was brought before him. As I like to deck out
pictures for my own entertainment, I pleased myself with the idea that
this very hall had been the scene of the unlucky bard’s examination on
the morning after his captivity in the lodge. I fancied to myself the
rural potentate surrounded by his body-guard of butler, pages, and
blue-coated serving-men with their badges, while the luckless culprit
was brought in, forlorn and chopfallen, in the custody of gamekeepers,
huntsmen, and whippers-in, and followed by a rabble rout of country
clowns. I fancied bright faces of curious housemaids peeping from the
half-opened doors, while from the gallery the fair daughters of the
knight leaned gracefully forward, eyeing the youthful prisoner with that
pity “that dwells in womanhood.” Who would have thought that this poor
varlet, thus trembling before the brief authority of a country squire,
and the sport of rustic boors, was soon to become the delight of
princes, the theme of all tongues and ages, the dictator to the human
mind and was to confer immortality on his oppressor by a caricature and
a lampoon?

I was now invited by the butler to walk into the garden, and I felt
inclined to visit the orchard and harbor where the justice treated Sir
John Falstaff and Cousin Silence “to a last year’s pippin of his own
grafting, with a dish of caraways;” but I had already spent so much
of the day in my ramblings that I was obliged to give up any further
investigations. When about to take my leave I was gratified by the
civil entreaties of the housekeeper and butler that I would take some
refreshment--an instance of good old hospitality which, I grieve to say,
we castle-hunters seldom meet with in modern days. I make no doubt it is
a virtue which the present representative of the Lucys inherits from
his ancestors; for Shakespeare, even in his caricature, makes Justice
Shallow importunate in this respect, as witness his pressing instances
to Falstaff:

“By cock and pye, Sir, you shall not away to-night..... I will not
excuse you; you shall not be excused; excuses shall not be admitted;
there is no excuse shall serve; you shall not be excused.... Some
pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legged hens; a joint of mutton; and any
pretty little tiny kickshaws, tell ‘William Cook.’”

I now bade a reluctant farewell to the old hall. My mind had become so
completely possessed by the imaginary scenes and characters connected
with it that I seemed to be actually living among them. Everything
brought them as it were before my eyes, and as the door of the
dining-room opened I almost expected to hear the feeble voice of Master
Silence quavering forth his favorite ditty:

    “‘Tis merry in hall, when beards wag all,
      And welcome merry Shrove-tide!”

On returning to my inn I could not but reflect on the singular gift of
the poet, to be able thus to spread the magic of his mind over the very
face of Nature, to give to things and places a charm and character
not their own, and to turn this “working-day world” into a perfect
fairy-land. He is indeed the true enchanter, whose spell operates,
not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart. Under the
wizard influence of Shakespeare I had been walking all day in a complete
delusion. I had surveyed the landscape through the prism of poetry,
which tinged every object with the hues of the rainbow. I had been
surrounded with fancied beings, with mere airy nothings conjured up
by poetic power, yet which, to me, had all the charm of reality. I had
heard Jaques soliloquize beneath his oak; had beheld the fair Rosalind
and her companion adventuring through the woodlands; and, above all,
had been once more present in spirit with fat Jack Falstaff and his
contemporaries, from the august Justice Shallow down to the gentle
Master Slender and the sweet Anne Page. Ten thousand honors and
blessings on the bard who has thus gilded the dull realities of life
with innocent illusions, who has spread exquisite and unbought pleasures
in my chequered path, and beguiled my spirit in many a lonely hour with
all the cordial and cheerful sympathies of social life!

As I crossed the bridge over the Avon on my return, I paused to
contemplate the distant church in which the poet lies buried, and could
not but exult in the malediction which has kept his ashes undisturbed
in its quiet and hallowed vaults. What honor could his name have
derived from being mingled in dusty companionship with the epitaphs
and escutcheons and venal eulogiums of a titled multitude? What would
a crowded corner in Westminster Abbey have been, compared with this
reverend pile, which seems to stand in beautiful loneliness as his sole
mausoleum! The solitude about the grave may be but the offspring of
an overwrought sensibility; but human nature is made up of foibles and
prejudices, and its best and tenderest affections are mingled with these
factitious feelings. He who has sought renown about the world, and has
reaped a full harvest of worldly favor, will find, after all, that there
is no love, no admiration, no applause, so sweet to the soul as that
which springs up in his native place. It is there that he seeks to be
gathered in peace and honor among his kindred and his early friends. And
when the weary heart and failing head begin to warn him that the evening
of life is drawing on, he turns as fondly as does the infant to
the mother’s arms to sink to sleep in the bosom of the scene of his
childhood.

How would it have cheered the spirit of the youthful bard when,
wandering forth in disgrace upon a doubtful world, he cast back a heavy
look upon his paternal home, could he have foreseen that before many
years he should return to it covered with renown; that his name should
become the boast and glory of his native place; that his ashes should
be religiously guarded as its most precious treasure; and that its
lessening spire, on which his eyes were fixed in tearful contemplation,
should one day become the beacon towering amidst the gentle landscape to
guide the literary pilgrim of every nation to his tomb!



TRAITS OF INDIAN CHARACTER.

“I appeal to any white man if ever he entered Logan’s cabin hungry, and
he gave him not to eat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed
him not.”--Speech of au Indian Chief.

THERE is something in the character and habits of the North American
savage, taken in connection with the scenery over which he is accustomed
to range, its vast lakes, boundless forests, majestic rivers, and
trackless plains, that is, to my mind, wonderfully striking and sublime.
He is formed for the wilderness, as the Arab is for the desert.
His nature is stern, simple, and enduring, fitted to grapple with
difficulties and to support privations. There seems but little soil in
his heart for the support of the kindly virtues; and yet, if we would
but take the trouble to penetrate through that proud stoicism
and habitual taciturnity which lock up his character from casual
observation, we should find him linked to his fellow-man of civilized
life by more of those sympathies and affections than are usually
ascribed to him.

It has been the lot of the unfortunate aborigines of America in the
early periods of colonization to be doubly wronged by the white men.
They have been dispossessed of their hereditary possessions by mercenary
and frequently wanton warfare, and their characters have been traduced
by bigoted and interested writers. The colonists often treated them like
beasts of the forest, and the author has endeavored to justify him
in his outrages. The former found it easier to exterminate than to
civilize; the latter to vilify than to discriminate. The appellations of
savage and pagan were deemed sufficient to sanction the hostilities
of both; and thus the poor wanderers of the forest were persecuted and
defamed, not because they were guilty, but because they were ignorant.

The rights of the savage have seldom been properly appreciated or
respected by the white man. In peace he has too often been the dupe of
artful traffic; in war he has been regarded as a ferocious animal whose
life or death was a question of mere precaution and convenience. Man
is cruelly wasteful of life when his own safety is endangered and he is
sheltered by impunity, and little mercy is to be expected from him
when he feels the sting of the reptile and is conscious of the power to
destroy.

The same prejudices, which were indulged thus early, exist in common
circulation at the present day. Certain learned societies have, it is
true, with laudable diligence, endeavored to investigate and record
the real characters and manners of the Indian tribes; the American
government, too, has wisely and humanely exerted itself to inculcate
a friendly and forbearing spirit towards them and to protect them from
fraud and injustice.* The current opinion of the Indian character,
however, is too apt to be formed from the miserable hordes which infest
the frontiers and hang on the skirts of the settlements. These are too
commonly composed of degenerate beings, corrupted and enfeebled by the
vices of society, without being benefited by its civilization. That
proud independence which formed the main pillar of savage virtue has
been shaken down, and the whole moral fabric lies in ruins. Their
spirits are humiliated and debased by a sense of inferiority, and their
native courage cowed and daunted by the superior knowledge and power of
their enlightened neighbors. Society has advanced upon them like one of
those withering airs that will sometimes breed desolation over a whole
region of fertility. It has enervated their strength, multiplied their
diseases, and superinduced upon their original barbarity the low vices
of artificial life. It has given them a thousand superfluous wants,
whilst it has diminished their means of mere existence. It has driven
before it the animals of the chase, who fly from the sound of the axe
and the smoke of the settlement and seek refuge in the depths of remoter
forests and yet untrodden wilds. Thus do we too often find the Indians
on our frontiers to be the mere wrecks and remnants of once powerful
tribes, who have lingered in the vicinity of the settlements and sunk
into precarious and vagabond existence. Poverty, repining and hopeless
poverty, a canker of the mind unknown in savage life, corrodes their
spirits and blights every free and noble quality of their natures. They
become drunken, indolent, feeble, thievish, and pusillanimous. They
loiter like vagrants about the settlements, among spacious dwellings
replete with elaborate comforts, which only render them sensible of
the comparative wretchedness of their own condition. Luxury spreads its
ample board before their eyes, but they are excluded from the banquet.
Plenty revels over the fields, but they are starving in the midst of its
abundance; the whole wilderness has blossomed into a garden, but they
feel as reptiles that infest it.


     * The American Government has been indefatigable in its
     exertions to ameliorate the situation of the Indians, and to
     introduce among them the arts of civilization and civil and
     religious knowledge. To protect them from the frauds of the
     white traders no purchase of land from them by individuals
     is permitted, nor is any person allowed to receive lands
     from them as a present without the express sanction of
     government. These precautions are strictly enforced.


How different was their state while yet the undisputed lords of the
soil! Their wants were few and the means of gratification within their
reach. They saw every one round them sharing the same lot, enduring the
same hardships, feeding on the same aliments, arrayed in the same rude
garments. No roof then rose but was open to the homeless stranger; no
smoke curled among the trees but he was welcome to sit down by its fire
and join the hunter in his repast. “For,” says an old historian of New
England, “their life is so void of care, and they are so loving also,
that they make use of those things they enjoy as common goods, and are
therein so compassionate that rather than one should starve through
want, they would starve all; thus they pass their time merrily, not
regarding our pomp, but are better content with their own, which some
men esteem so meanly of.” Such were the Indians whilst in the pride
and energy of their primitive natures: they resembled those wild plants
which thrive best in the shades of the forest, but shrink from the hand
of cultivation and perish beneath the influence of the sun.

In discussing the savage character writers have been too prone to
indulge in vulgar prejudice and passionate exaggeration, instead of the
candid temper of true philosophy. They have not sufficiently considered
the peculiar circumstances in which the Indians have been placed, and
the peculiar principles under which they have been educated. No being
acts more rigidly from rule than the Indian. His whole conduct is
regulated according to some general maxims early implanted in his mind.
The moral laws that govern him are, to be sure, but few; but then he
conforms to them all; the white man abounds in laws of religion, morals,
and manners, but how many does he violate!

A frequent ground of accusation against the Indians is their disregard
of treaties, and the treachery and wantonness with which, in time of
apparent peace, they will suddenly fly to hostilities. The intercourse
of the white men with the Indians, however, is too apt to be cold,
distrustful, oppressive, and insulting. They seldom treat them with that
confidence and frankness which are indispensable to real friendship, nor
is sufficient caution observed not to offend against those feelings of
pride or superstition which often prompt the Indian to hostility
quicker than mere considerations of interest. The solitary savage feels
silently, but acutely. His sensibilities are not diffused over so wide
a surface as those of the white man, but they run in steadier and deeper
channels. His pride, his affections, his superstitions, are all
directed towards fewer objects, but the wounds inflicted on them are
proportionably severe, and furnish motives of hostility which we cannot
sufficiently appreciate. Where a community is also limited in number,
and forms one great patriarchal family, as in an Indian tribe, the
injury of an individual is the injury of the whole, and the sentiment
of vengeance is almost instantaneously diffused. One council-fire is
sufficient for the discussion and arrangement of a plan of hostilities.
Here all the fighting-men and sages assemble. Eloquence and superstition
combine to inflame the minds of the warriors. The orator awakens
their martial ardor, and they are wrought up to a kind of religious
desperation by the visions of the prophet and the dreamer.

An instance of one of those sudden exasperations, arising from a motive
peculiar to the Indian character, is extant in an old record of the
early settlement of Massachusetts. The planters of Plymouth had defaced
the monuments of the dead at Passonagessit, and had plundered the grave
of the Sachem’s mother of some skins with which it had been decorated.
The Indians are remarkable for the reverence which they entertain for
the sepulchres of their kindred. Tribes that have passed generations
exiled from the abodes of their ancestors, when by chance they have
been travelling in the vicinity, have been known to turn aside from the
highway, and, guided by wonderfully accurate tradition, have crossed the
country for miles to some tumulus, buried perhaps in woods, where the
bones of their tribe were anciently deposited, and there have passed
hours in silent meditation. Influenced by this sublime and holy feeling,
the Sachem whose mother’s tomb had been violated gathered his men
together, and addressed them in the following beautifully simple
and pathetic harangue--a curious specimen of Indian eloquence and an
affecting instance of filial piety in a savage:

“When last the glorious light of all the sky was underneath this globe
and birds grew silent, I began to settle, as my custom is, to take
repose. Before mine eyes were fast closed methought I saw a vision, at
which my spirit was much troubled; and trembling at that doleful sight,
a spirit cried aloud, ‘Behold, my son, whom I have cherished, see the
breasts that gave thee suck, the hands that lapped thee warm and fed
thee oft. Canst thou forget to take revenge of those wild people
who have defaced my monument in a despiteful manner, disdaining our
antiquities and honorable customs? See, now, the Sachem’s grave lies
like the common people, defaced by an ignoble race. Thy mother doth
complain and implores thy aid against this thievish people who have
newly intruded on our land. If this be suffered, I shall not rest quiet
in my everlasting habitation.’ This said, the spirit vanished, and I,
all in a sweat, not able scarce to speak, began to get some strength
and recollect my spirits that were fled, and determined to demand your
counsel and assistance.”

I have adduced this anecdote at some length, as it tends to show how
these sudden acts of hostility, which have been attributed to caprice
and perfidy, may often arise from deep and generous motives, which
our inattention to Indian character and customs prevents our properly
appreciating.

Another ground of violent outcry against the Indians is their barbarity
to the vanquished. This had its origin partly in policy and partly in
superstition. The tribes, though sometimes called nations, were never
so formidable in their numbers but that the loss of several warriors
was sensibly felt; this was particularly the case when they had been
frequently engaged in warfare; and many an instance occurs in Indian
history where a tribe that had long been formidable to its neighbors
has been broken up and driven away by the capture and massacre of its
principal fighting-men. There was a strong temptation, therefore, to the
victor to be merciless, not so much to gratify any cruel revenge, as
to provide for future security. The Indians had also the superstitious
belief, frequent among barbarous nations and prevalent also among the
ancients, that the manes of their friends who had fallen in battle were
soothed by the blood of the captives. The prisoners, however, who are
not thus sacrificed are adopted into their families in the place of the
slain, and are treated with the confidence and affection of relatives
and friends; nay, so hospitable and tender is their entertainment that
when the alternative is offered them they will often prefer to remain
with their adopted brethren rather than return to the home and the
friends of their youth.

The cruelty of the Indians towards their prisoners has been heightened
since the colonization of the whites. What was formerly a compliance
with policy and superstition has been exasperated into a gratification
of vengeance. They cannot but be sensible that the white men are the
usurpers of their ancient dominion, the cause of their degradation, and
the gradual destroyers of their race. They go forth to battle smarting
with injuries and indignities which they have individually suffered, and
they are driven to madness and despair by the wide-spreading desolation
and the overwhelming ruin of European warfare. The whites have too
frequently set them an example of violence by burning their villages
and laying waste their slender means of subsistence, and yet they wonder
that savages do not show moderation and magnanimity towards those who
have left them nothing but mere existence and wretchedness.

We stigmatize the Indians, also, as cowardly and treacherous, because
they use stratagem in warfare in preference to open force; but in this
they are fully justified by their rude code of honor. They are early
taught that stratagem is praiseworthy; the bravest warrior thinks it
no disgrace to lurk in silence, and take every advantage of his foe: he
triumphs in the superior craft and sagacity by which he has been enabled
to surprise and destroy an enemy. Indeed, man is naturally more prone to
subtilty than open valor, owing to his physical weakness in comparison
with other animals. They are endowed with natural weapons of defence,
with horns, with tusks, with hoofs, and talons; but man has to depend
on his superior sagacity. In all his encounters with these, his proper
enemies, he resorts to stratagem; and when he perversely turns his
hostility against his fellow-man, he at first continues the same subtle
mode of warfare.

The natural principle of war is to do the most harm to our enemy with
the least harm to ourselves; and this of course is to be effected by
stratagem. That chivalrous courage which induces us to despise the
suggestions of prudence and to rush in the face of certain danger is the
offspring of society and produced by education. It is honorable,
because it is in fact the triumph of lofty sentiment over an instinctive
repugnance to pain, and over those yearnings after personal ease and
security which society has condemned as ignoble. It is kept alive by
pride and the fear of shame; and thus the dread of real evil is overcome
by the superior dread of an evil which exists but in the imagination. It
has been cherished and stimulated also by various means. It has been
the theme of spirit-stirring song and chivalrous story. The poet and
minstrel have delighted to shed round it the splendors of fiction, and
even the historian has forgotten the sober gravity of narration and
broken forth into enthusiasm and rhapsody in its praise. Triumphs and
gorgeous pageants have been its reward: monuments, on which art has
exhausted its skill and opulence its treasures, have been erected
to perpetuate a nation’s gratitude and admiration. Thus artificially
excited, courage has risen to an extraordinary and factitious degree
of heroism, and, arrayed in all the glorious “pomp and circumstance of
war,” this turbulent quality has even been able to eclipse many of those
quiet but invaluable virtues which silently ennoble the human character
and swell the tide of human happiness.

But if courage intrinsically consists in the defiance of danger and
pain, the life of the Indian is a continual exhibition of it. He lives
in a state of perpetual hostility and risk. Peril and adventure
are congenial to his nature, or rather seem necessary to arouse his
faculties and to give an interest to his existence. Surrounded by
hostile tribes, whose mode of warfare is by ambush and surprisal, he is
always prepared for fight and lives with his weapons in his hands. As
the ship careers in fearful singleness through the solitudes of ocean,
as the bird mingles among clouds and storms, and wings its way, a
mere speck, across the pathless fields of air, so the Indian holds his
course, silent, solitary, but undaunted, through the boundless bosom of
the wilderness. His expeditions may vie in distance and danger with
the pilgrimage of the devotee or the crusade of the knight-errant. He
traverses vast forests exposed to the hazards of lonely sickness, of
lurking enemies, and pining famine. Stormy lakes, those great inland
seas, are no obstacles to his wanderings: in his light canoe of bark he
sports like a feather on their waves, and darts with the swiftness of
an arrow down the roaring rapids of the rivers. His very subsistence
is snatched from the midst of toil and peril. He gains his food by the
hardships and dangers of the chase: he wraps himself in the spoils of
the bear, the panther, and the buffalo, and sleeps among the thunders of
the cataract.

No hero of ancient or modern days can surpass the Indian in his lofty
contempt of death and the fortitude with which he sustains his cruelest
affliction. Indeed, we here behold him rising superior to the white man
in consequence of his peculiar education. The latter rushes to glorious
death at the cannon’s mouth; the former calmly contemplates its
approach, and triumphantly endures it amidst the varied torments of
surrounding foes and the protracted agonies of fire. He even takes
a pride in taunting his persecutors and provoking their ingenuity of
torture; and as the devouring flames prey on his very vitals and the
flesh shrinks from the sinews, he raises his last song of triumph,
breathing the defiance of an unconquered heart and invoking the spirits
of his fathers to witness that he dies without a groan.

Notwithstanding the obloquy with which the early historians have
overshadowed the characters of the unfortunate natives, some bright
gleams occasionally break through which throw a degree of melancholy
lustre on their memories. Facts are occasionally to be met with in the
rude annals of the eastern provinces which, though recorded with the
coloring of prejudice and bigotry, yet speak for themselves, and will
be dwelt on with applause and sympathy when prejudice shall have passed
away.

In one of the homely narratives of the Indian wars in New England there
is a touching account of the desolation carried into the tribe of
the Pequod Indians. Humanity shrinks from the cold-blooded detail of
indiscriminate butchery. In one place we read of the surprisal of an
Indian fort in the night, when the wigwams were wrapped in flames and
the miserable inhabitants shot down and slain in attempting to escape,
“all being despatched and ended in the course of an hour.” After a
series of similar transactions “our soldiers,” as the historian
piously observes, “being resolved by God’s assistance to make a final
destruction of them,” the unhappy savages being hunted from their homes
and fortresses and pursued with fire and sword, a scanty but gallant
band, the sad remnant of the Pequod warriors, with their wives and
children took refuge in a swamp.

Burning with indignation and rendered sullen by despair, with hearts
bursting with grief at the destruction of their tribe, and spirits
galled and sore at the fancied ignominy of their defeat, they refused to
ask their lives at the hands of an insulting foe, and preferred death to
submission.

As the night drew on they were surrounded in their dismal retreat, so as
to render escape impracticable. Thus situated, their enemy “plied them
with shot all the time, by which means many were killed and buried in
the mire.” In the darkness and fog that preceded the dawn of day some
few broke through the besiegers and escaped into the woods; “the rest
were left to the conquerors, of which many were killed in the swamp,
like sullen dogs who would rather, in their self-willedness and madness,
sit still and be shot through or cut to pieces” than implore for mercy.
When the day broke upon this handful of forlorn but dauntless spirits,
the soldiers, we are told, entering the swamp, “saw several heaps of
them sitting close together, upon whom they discharged their pieces,
laden with ten or twelve pistol bullets at a time, putting the muzzles
of the pieces under the boughs, within a few yards of them; so as,
besides those that were found dead, many more were killed and sunk into
the mire, and never were minded more by friend or foe.”

Can any one read this plain unvarnished tale without admiring the stern
resolution, the unbending pride, the loftiness of spirit that seemed to
nerve the hearts of these self-taught heroes and to raise them above the
instinctive feelings of human nature? When the Gauls laid waste the city
of Rome, they found the senators clothed in their robes and seated with
stern tranquillity in their curule chairs; in this manner they suffered
death without resistance or even supplication. Such conduct was in them
applauded as noble and magnanimous; in the hapless Indian it was
reviled as obstinate and sullen. How truly are we the dupes of show and
circumstance! How different is virtue clothed in purple and enthroned
in state, from virtue naked and destitute and perishing obscurely in a
wilderness!

But I forbear to dwell on these gloomy pictures. The eastern tribes have
long since disappeared; the forests that sheltered them have been laid
low, and scarce any traces remain of them in the thickly-settled States
of New England, excepting here and there the Indian name of a village
or a stream. And such must, sooner or later, be the fate of those other
tribes which skirt the frontiers, and have occasionally been inveigled
from their forests to mingle in the wars of white men. In a little
while, and they will go the way that their brethren have gone before.
The few hordes which still linger about the shores of Huron and Superior
and the tributary streams of the Mississippi will share the fate of
those tribes that once spread over Massachusetts and Connecticut and
lorded it along the proud banks of the Hudson, of that gigantic race
said to have existed on the borders of the Susquehanna, and of those
various nations that flourished about the Potomac and the Rappahannock
and that peopled the forests of the vast valley of Shenandoah. They will
vanish like a vapor from the face of the earth; their very history will
be lost in forgetfulness; and “the places that now know them will know
them no more forever.” Or if, perchance, some dubious memorial of them
should survive, it may be in the romantic dreams of the poet, to people
in imagination his glades and groves, like the fauns and satyrs and
sylvan deities of antiquity. But should he venture upon the dark story
of their wrongs and wretchedness, should he tell how they were invaded,
corrupted, despoiled, driven from their native abodes and the sepulchres
of their fathers, hunted like wild beasts about the earth, and sent down
with violence and butchery to the grave, posterity will either turn with
horror and incredulity from the tale or blush with indignation at the
inhumanity of their forefathers. “We are driven back,” said an old
warrior, “until we can retreat no farther--our hatchets are broken, our
bows are snapped, our fires are nearly extinguished; a little longer and
the white man will cease to persecute us, for we shall cease to exist!”



PHILIP OF POKANOKET.

AN INDIAN MEMOIR.

    As monumental bronze unchanged his look:
    A soul that pity touch’d, but never shook;
    Train’d from his tree-rock’d cradle to his bier,
    The fierce extremes of good and ill to brook
    Impassive--fearing but the shame of fear--
        stoic of the woods--a man without a tear.
                                            CAMPBELL.

IT is to be regretted that those early writers who treated of the
discovery and settlement of America have not given us more particular
and candid accounts of the remarkable characters that flourished in
savage life. The scanty anecdotes which have reached us are full of
peculiarity and interest; they furnish us with nearer glimpses of human
nature, and show what man is in a comparatively primitive state and what
he owes to civilization. There is something of the charm of discovery
in lighting upon these wild and unexplored tracts of human nature--in
witnessing, as it were, the native growth of moral sentiment, and
perceiving those generous and romantic qualities which have been
artificially cultivated by society vegetating in spontaneous hardihood
and rude magnificence.

In civilized life, where the happiness, and indeed almost the existence,
of man depends so much upon the opinion of his fellow-men, he is
constantly acting a studied part. The bold and peculiar traits of native
character are refined away or softened down by the levelling influence
of what is termed good-breeding, and he practises so many petty
deceptions and affects so many generous sentiments for the purposes
of popularity that it is difficult to distinguish his real from his
artificial character. The Indian, on the contrary, free from the
restraints and refinements of polished life, and in a great degree a
solitary and independent being, obeys the impulses of his inclination
or the dictates of his judgment; and thus the attributes of his nature,
being freely indulged, grow singly great and striking. Society is like
a lawn, where every roughness is smoothed, every bramble eradicated, and
where the eye is delighted by the smiling verdure of a velvet surface;
he, however, who would study Nature in its wildness and variety must
plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent,
and dare the precipice.

These reflections arose on casually looking through a volume of early
colonial history wherein are recorded, with great bitterness, the
outrages of the Indians and their wars with the settlers New England.
It is painful to perceive, even from these partial narratives, how the
footsteps of civilization may be traced in the blood of the aborigines;
how easily the colonists were moved to hostility by the lust of
conquest; how merciless and exterminating was their warfare. The
imagination shrinks at the idea of how many intellectual beings were
hunted from the earth, how many brave and noble hearts, of Nature’s
sterling coinage, were broken down and trampled in the dust.

Such was the fate of PHILIP OF POKANOKET, an Indian warrior whose name
was once a terror throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. He was the
most distinguished of a number of contemporary sachems who reigned over
the Pequods, the Narragansetts, the Wampanoags, and the other eastern
tribes at the time of the first settlement of New England--a band of
native untaught heroes who made the most generous struggle of which
human nature is capable, fighting to the last gasp in the cause of their
country, without a hope of victory or a thought of renown. Worthy of
an age of poetry and fit subjects for local story and romantic fiction,
they have left scarcely any authentic traces on the page of history, but
stalk like gigantic shadows in the dim twilight of tradition.*


     * While correcting the proof-sheets of this article the
     author is informed that a celebrated English poet has nearly
     finished an heroic poem on the story of Philip of Pokanoket.


When the Pilgrims, as the Plymouth settlers are called by their
descendants, first took refuge on the shores of the New World from
the religious persecutions of the Old, their situation was to the last
degree gloomy and disheartening. Few in number, and that number rapidly
perishing away through sickness and hardships, surrounded by a howling
wilderness and savage tribes, exposed to the rigors of an almost arctic
winter and the vicissitudes of an ever-shifting climate, their minds
were filled with doleful forebodings, and nothing preserved them
from sinking into despondency but the strong excitement of religious
enthusiasm. In this forlorn situation they were visited by Massasoit,
chief sagamore of the Wampanoags, a powerful chief who reigned over
a great extent of country. Instead of taking advantage of the scanty
number of the strangers and expelling them from his territories, into
which they had intruded, he seemed at once to conceive for them a
generous friendship, and extended towards them the rites of primitive
hospitality. He came early in the spring to their settlement of New
Plymouth, attended by a mere handful of followers, entered into a solemn
league of peace and amity, sold them a portion of the soil, and promised
to secure for them the good-will of his savage allies. Whatever may be
said of Indian perfidy, it is certain that the integrity and good
faith of Massasoit have never been impeached. He continued a firm and
magnanimous friend of the white men, suffering them to extend their
possessions and to strengthen themselves in the land, and betraying no
jealousy of their increasing power and prosperity. Shortly before his
death he came once more to New Plymouth with his son Alexander, for
the purpose of renewing the covenant of peace and of securing it to his
posterity.

At this conference he endeavored to protect the religion of his
forefathers from the encroaching zeal of the missionaries, and
stipulated that no further attempt should be made to draw off his people
from their ancient faith; but, finding the English obstinately opposed
to any such condition, he mildly relinquished the demand. Almost the
last act of his life was to bring his two sons, Alexander and Philip
(as they had been named by the English), to the residence of a principal
settler, recommending mutual kindness and confidence, and entreating
that the same love and amity which had existed between the white men and
himself might be continued afterwards with his children. The good old
sachem died in peace, and was happily gathered to his fathers before
sorrow came upon his tribe; his children remained behind to experience
the ingratitude of white men.

His eldest son, Alexander, succeeded him. He was of a quick and
impetuous temper, and proudly tenacious of his hereditary rights and
dignity. The intrusive policy and dictatorial conduct of the
strangers excited his indignation, and he beheld with uneasiness their
exterminating wars with the neighboring tribes. He was doomed soon to
incur their hostility, being accused of plotting with the Narragansetts
to rise against the English and drive them from the land. It is
impossible to say whether this accusation was warranted by facts or was
grounded on mere suspicions. It is evident, however, by the violent and
overbearing measures of the settlers that they had by this time begun to
feel conscious of the rapid increase of their power, and to grow harsh
and inconsiderate in their treatment of the natives. They despatched
an armed force to seize upon Alexander and to bring him before their
courts. He was traced to his woodland haunts, and surprised at a
hunting-house where he was reposing with a band of his followers,
unarmed, after the toils of the chase. The suddenness of his arrest
and the outrage offered to his sovereign dignity so preyed upon the
irascible feelings of this proud savage as to throw him into a raging
fever. He was permitted to return home on condition of sending his son
as a pledge for his re-appearance; but the blow he had received was
fatal, and before he reached his home he fell a victim to the agonies of
a wounded spirit.

The successor of Alexander was Metamocet, or King Philip, as he was
called by the settlers on account of his lofty spirit and ambitious
temper. These, together with his well-known energy and enterprise, had
rendered him an object of great jealousy and apprehension, and he was
accused of having always cherished a secret and implacable hostility
towards the whites. Such may very probably and very naturally have been
the case. He considered them as originally but mere intruders into
the country, who had presumed upon indulgence and were extending
an influence baneful to savage life. He saw the whole race of his
countrymen melting before them from the face of the earth, their
territories slipping from their hands, and their tribes becoming feeble,
scattered, and dependent. It may be said that the soil was originally
purchased by the settlers; but who does not know the nature of Indian
purchases in the early periods of colonization? The Europeans always
made thrifty bargains through their superior adroitness in traffic, and
they gained vast accessions of territory by easily-provoked hostilities.
An uncultivated savage is never a nice inquirer into the refinements of
law by which an injury may be gradually and legally inflicted. Leading
facts are all by which he judges; and it was enough for Philip to know
that before the intrusion of the Europeans his countrymen were lords of
the soil, and that now they were becoming vagabonds in the land of their
fathers.

But whatever may have been his feelings of general hostility and his
particular indignation at the treatment of his brother, he suppressed
them for the present, renewed the contract with the settlers, and
resided peaceably for many years at Pokanoket, or as, it was called by
the English, Mount Hope,* the ancient seat of dominion of his tribe.
Suspicions, however, which were at first but vague and indefinite,
began to acquire form and substance, and he was at length charged with
attempting to instigate the various eastern tribes to rise at once, and
by a simultaneous effort to throw off the yoke of their oppressors. It
is difficult at this distant period to assign the proper credit due to
these early accusations against the Indians. There was a proneness to
suspicion and an aptness to acts of violence on the part of the whites
that gave weight and importance to every idle tale. Informers abounded
where tale-bearing met with countenance and reward, and the sword
was readily unsheathed when its success was certain and it carved out
empire.


     * Now Bristol, Rhode Island.


The only positive evidence on record against Philip is the accusation
of one Sausaman, a renegado Indian, whose natural cunning had been
quickened by a partial education which he had received among the
settlers. He changed his faith and his allegiance two or three times
with a facility that evinced the looseness of his principles. He had
acted for some time as Philip’s confidential secretary and counsellor,
and had enjoyed his bounty and protection. Finding, however, that the
clouds of adversity were gathering round his patron, he abandoned his
service and went over to the whites, and in order to gain their favor
charged his former benefactor with plotting against their safety. A
rigorous investigation took place. Philip and several of his subjects
submitted to be examined, but nothing was proved against them. The
settlers, however, had now gone too far to retract; they had previously
determined that Philip was a dangerous neighbor; they had publicly
evinced their distrust, and had done enough to insure his hostility;
according, therefore, to the usual mode of reasoning in these cases,
his destruction had become necessary to their security. Sausaman, the
treacherous informer, was shortly afterwards found dead in a pond,
having fallen a victim to the vengeance of his tribe. Three Indians,
one of whom was a friend and counsellor of Philip, were apprehended
and tried, and on the testimony of one very questionable witness were
condemned and executed as murderers.

This treatment of his subjects and ignominious punishment of his friend
outraged the pride and exasperated the passions of Philip. The bolt
which had fallen thus at his very feet awakened him to the gathering
storm, and he determined to trust himself no longer in the power of the
white men. The fate of his insulted and broken-hearted brother still
rankled in his mind; and he had a further warning in the tragical story
of Miantonimo, a great Sachem of the Narragansetts, who, after manfully
facing his accusers before a tribunal of the colonists, exculpating
himself from a charge of conspiracy and receiving assurances of amity,
had been perfidiously despatched at their instigation. Philip therefore
gathered his fighting-men about him, persuaded all strangers that
he could to join his cause, sent the women and children to the
Narragansetts for safety, and wherever he appeared was continually
surrounded by armed warriors.

When the two parties were thus in a state of distrust and irritation,
the least spark was sufficient to set them in a flame. The Indians,
having weapons in their hands, grew mischievous and committed various
petty depredations. In one of their maraudings a warrior was fired on
and killed by a settler. This was the signal for open hostilities; the
Indians pressed to revenge the death of their comrade, and the alarm of
war resounded through the Plymouth colony.

In the early chronicles of these dark and melancholy times we meet with
many indications of the diseased state of the public mind. The gloom
of religious abstraction and the wildness of their situation among
trackless forests and savage tribes had disposed the colonists to
superstitious fancies, and had filled their imaginations with the
frightful chimeras of witchcraft and spectrology. They were much given
also to a belief in omens. The troubles with Philip and his Indians
were preceded, we are told, by a variety of those awful warnings which
forerun great and public calamities. The perfect form of an Indian
bow appeared in the air at New Plymouth, which was looked upon by the
inhabitants as a “prodigious apparition.” At Hadley, Northampton, and
other towns in their neighborhood “was heard the report of a great piece
of ordnance, with a shaking of the earth and a considerable echo.” *
Others were alarmed on a still sunshiny morning by the discharge of guns
and muskets; bullets seemed to whistle past them, and the noise of
drums resounded in the air, seeming to pass away to the westward; others
fancied that they heard the galloping of horses over their heads; and
certain monstrous births which took place about the time filled the
superstitious in some towns with doleful forebodings. Many of these
portentous sights and sounds may be ascribed to natural phenomena--to
the northern lights which occur vividly in those latitudes, the meteors
which explode in the air, the casual rushing of a blast through the top
branches of the forest, the crash of fallen trees or disrupted rocks,
and to those other uncouth sounds and echoes which will sometimes
strike the ear so strangely amidst the profound stillness of woodland
solitudes. These may have startled some melancholy imaginations, may
have been exaggerated by the love for the marvellous, and listened
to with that avidity with which we devour whatever is fearful and
mysterious. The universal currency of these superstitious fancies and
the grave record made of them by one of the learned men of the day are
strongly characteristic of the times.


     * The Rev. Increase Mather’s History.


The nature of the contest that ensued was such as too often
distinguishes the warfare between civilized men and savages. On the part
of the whites it was conducted with superior skill and success, but with
a wastefulness of the blood and a disregard of the natural rights of
their antagonists: on the part of the Indians it was waged with the
desperation of men fearless of death, and who had nothing to expect from
peace but humiliation, dependence, and decay.

The events of the war are transmitted to us by a worthy clergyman of the
time, who dwells with horror and indignation on every hostile act of the
Indians, however justifiable, whilst he mentions with applause the most
sanguinary atrocities of the whites. Philip is reviled as a murderer and
a traitor, without considering that he was a true-born prince gallantly
fighting at the head of his subjects to avenge the wrongs of his family,
to retrieve the tottering power of his line, and to deliver his native
land from the oppression of usurping strangers.

The project of a wide and simultaneous revolt, if such had really been
formed, was worthy of a capacious mind, and had it not been prematurely
discovered might have been overwhelming in its consequences. The war
that actually broke out was but a war of detail, a mere succession of
casual exploits and unconnected enterprises. Still, it sets forth the
military genius and daring prowess of Philip, and wherever, in the
prejudiced and passionate narrations that have been given of it, we
can arrive at simple facts, we find him displaying a vigorous mind, a
fertility of expedients, a contempt of suffering and hardship, and an
unconquerable resolution that command our sympathy and applause.

Driven from his paternal domains at Mount Hope, he threw himself
into the depths of those vast and trackless forests that skirted the
settlements and were almost impervious to anything but a wild beast
or an Indian. Here he gathered together his forces, like the storm
accumulating its stores of mischief in the bosom of the thundercloud,
and would suddenly emerge at a time and place least expected, carrying
havoc and dismay into the villages. There were now and then indications
of these impending ravages that filled the minds of the colonists with
awe and apprehension. The report of a distant gun would perhaps be heard
from the solitary woodland, where there was known to be no white man;
the cattle which had been wandering in the woods would sometimes return
home wounded; or an Indian or two would be seen lurking about the
skirts of the forests and suddenly disappearing, as the lightning will
sometimes be seen playing silently about the edge of the cloud that is
brewing up the tempest.

Though sometimes pursued and even surrounded by the settlers, yet Philip
as often escaped almost miraculously from their toils, and, plunging
into the wilderness, would be lost to all search or inquiry until he
again emerged at some far distant quarter, laying the country desolate.
Among his strongholds were the great swamps or morasses which extend
in some parts of New England, composed of loose bogs of deep black
mud, perplexed with thickets, brambles, rank weeds, the shattered and
mouldering trunks of fallen trees, overshadowed by lugubrious hemlocks.
The uncertain footing and the tangled mazes of these shaggy wilds
rendered them almost impracticable to the white man, though the Indian
could thread their labyrinths with the agility of a deer. Into one of
these, the great swamp of Pocasset Neck, was Philip once driven with a
band of his followers. The English did not dare to pursue him, fearing
to venture into these dark and frightful recesses, where they might
perish in fens and miry pits or be shot down by lurking foes. They
therefore invested the entrance to the Neck, and began to build a fort
with the thought of starving out the foe; but Philip and his warriors
wafted themselves on a raft over an arm of the sea in the dead of night,
leaving the women and children behind, and escaped away to the westward,
kindling the flames of war among the tribes of Massachusetts and the
Nipmuck country and threatening the colony of Connecticut.

In this way Philip became a theme of universal apprehension. The mystery
in which he was enveloped exaggerated his real terrors. He was an evil
that walked in darkness, whose coming none could foresee and against
which none knew when to be on the alert. The whole country abounded with
rumors and alarms. Philip seemed almost possessed of ubiquity, for in
whatever part of the widely-extended frontier an irruption from the
forest took place, Philip was said to be its leader. Many superstitious
notions also were circulated concerning him. He was said to deal in
necromancy, and to be attended by an old Indian witch or prophetess,
whom he consulted and who assisted him by her charms and incantations.
This, indeed, was frequently the case with Indian chiefs, either through
their own credulity or to act upon that of their followers; and the
influence of the prophet and the dreamer over Indian superstition has
been fully evidenced in recent instances of savage warfare.

At the time that Philip effected his escape from Pocasset his fortunes
were in a desperate condition. His forces had been thinned by repeated
fights and he had lost almost the whole of his resources. In this time
of adversity he found a faithful friend in Canonchet, chief Sachem of
all the Narragansetts. He was the son and heir of Miantonimo, the great
sachem who, as already mentioned, after an honorable acquittal of the
charge of conspiracy, had been privately put to death at the perfidious
instigations of the settlers. “He was the heir,” says the old
chronicler, “of all his father’s pride and insolence, as well as of his
malice towards the English;” he certainly was the heir of his insults
and injuries and the legitimate avenger of his murder. Though he had
forborne to take an active part in this hopeless war, yet he received
Philip and his broken forces with open arms and gave them the most
generous countenance and support. This at once drew upon him the
hostility of the English, and it was determined to strike a signal blow
that should involve both the Sachems in one common ruin. A great force
was therefore gathered together from Massachusetts, Plymouth, and
Connecticut, and was sent into the Narragansett country in the depth of
winter, when the swamps, being frozen and leafless, could be traversed
with comparative facility and would no longer afford dark and
impenetrable fastnesses to the Indians.

Apprehensive of attack, Canonchet had conveyed the greater part of his
stores, together with the old, the infirm, the women and children of his
tribe, to a strong fortress, where he and Philip had likewise drawn
up the flower of their forces. This fortress, deemed by the Indians
impregnable, was situated upon a rising mound or kind of island of five
or six acres in the midst of a swamp; it was constructed with a degree
of judgment and skill vastly superior to what is usually displayed in
Indian fortification, and indicative of the martial genius of these two
chieftains.

Guided by a renegado Indian, the English penetrated, through December
snows, to this stronghold and came upon the garrison by surprise. The
fight was fierce and tumultuous. The assailants were repulsed in their
first attack, and several of their bravest officers were shot down in
the act of storming the fortress, sword in hand. The assault was renewed
with greater success. A lodgment was effected. The Indians were driven
from one post to another. They disputed their ground inch by inch,
fighting with the fury of despair. Most of their veterans were cut to
pieces, and after a long and bloody battle, Philip and Canonchet, with
a handful of surviving warriors, retreated from the fort and took refuge
in the thickets of the surrounding forest.

The victors set fire to the wigwams and the fort; the whole was soon in
a blaze; many of the old men, the women, and the children perished in
the flames. This last outrage overcame even the stoicism of the savage.
The neighboring woods resounded with the yells of rage and despair
uttered by the fugitive warriors, as they beheld the destruction
of their dwellings and heard the agonizing cries of their wives and
offspring. “The burning of the wigwams,” says a contemporary writer,
“the shrieks and cries of the women and children, and the yelling of
the warriors, exhibited a most horrible and affecting scene, so that it
greatly moved some of the soldiers.” The same writer cautiously adds,
“They were in much doubt then, and afterwards seriously inquired,
whether burning their enemies alive could be consistent with humanity,
and the benevolent principles of the gospel.” *


     * MS. of the Rev. W. Ruggles.


The fate of the brave and generous Canonchet is worthy of particular
mention: the last scene of his life is one of the noblest instances on
record of Indian magnanimity.

Broken down in his power and resources by this signal defeat, yet
faithful to his ally and to the hapless cause which he had espoused, he
rejected all overtures of peace offered on condition of betraying Philip
and his followers, and declared that “he would fight it out to the
last man, rather than become a servant to the English.” His home being
destroyed, his country harassed and laid waste by the incursions of
the conquerors, he was obliged to wander away to the banks of the
Connecticut, where he formed a rallying-point to the whole body of
western Indians and laid waste several of the English settlements.

Early in the spring he departed on a hazardous expedition, with only
thirty chosen men, to penetrate to Seaconck, in the vicinity of Mount
Hope, and to procure seed corn to plant for the sustenance of his
troops. This little hand of adventurers had passed safely through the
Pequod country, and were in the centre of the Narragansett, resting
at some wigwams near Pautucket River, when an alarm was given of an
approaching enemy. Having but seven men by him at the time, Canonchet
despatched two of them to the top of a neighboring hill to bring
intelligence of the foe.

Panic-struck by the appearance of a troop of English and Indians rapidly
advancing, they fled in breathless terror past their chieftain, without
stopping to inform him of the danger. Canonchet sent another scout,
who did the same. He then sent two more, one of whom, hurrying back
in confusion and affright, told him that the whole British army was
at hand. Canonchet saw there was no choice but immediate flight. He
attempted to escape round the hill, but was perceived and hotly pursued
by the hostile Indians and a few of the fleetest of the English. Finding
the swiftest pursuer close upon his heels, he threw off, first his
blanket, then his silver-laced coat and belt of peag, by which his
enemies knew him to be Canonchet and redoubled the eagerness of pursuit.

At length, in dashing through the river, his foot slipped upon a stone,
and he fell so deep as to wet his gun. This accident so struck him with
despair that, as he afterwards confessed, “his heart and his bowels
turned within him, and he became like a rotten stick, void of strength.”

To such a degree was he unnerved that, being seized by a Pequod Indian
within a short distance of the river, he made no resistance, though
a man of great vigor of body and boldness of heart. But on being made
prisoner the whole pride of his spirit arose within him, and from that
moment we find, in the anecdotes given by his enemies, nothing but
repeated flashes of elevated and prince-like heroism. Being questioned
by one of the English who first came up with him, and who had not
attained his twenty second year, the proud-hearted warrior, looking
with lofty contempt upon his youthful countenance, replied, “You are a
child--you cannot understand matters of war; let your brother or your
chief come: him will I answer.”

Though repeated offers were made to him of his life on condition of
submitting with his nation to the English, yet he rejected them with
disdain, and refused to send any proposals of the kind to the great body
of his subjects, saying that he knew none of them would comply. Being
reproached with his breach of faith towards the whites, his boast that
he would not deliver up a Wampanoag nor the paring of a Wampanoag’s
nail, and his threat that he would burn the English alive in their
houses, he disdained to justify himself, haughtily answering that others
were as forward for the war as himself, and “he desired to hear no more
thereof.”

So noble and unshaken a spirit, so true a fidelity to his cause and his
friend, might have touched the feelings of the generous and the brave;
but Canonchet was an Indian, a being towards whom war had no courtesy,
humanity no law, religion no compassion: he was condemned to die. The
last words of his that are recorded are worthy the greatness of his
soul. When sentence of death was passed upon him, he observed “that he
liked it well, for he should die before his heart was soft or he had
spoken anything unworthy of himself.” His enemies gave him the death of
a soldier, for he was shot at Stoning ham by three young Sachems of his
own rank.

The defeat at the Narraganset fortress and the death of Canonchet were
fatal blows to the fortunes of King Philip. He made an ineffectual
attempt to raise a head of war by stirring up the Mohawks to take arms;
but, though possessed of the native talents of a statesman, his arts
were counteracted by the superior arts of his enlightened enemies, and
the terror of their warlike skill began to subdue the resolution of the
neighboring tribes. The unfortunate chieftain saw himself daily stripped
of power, and his ranks rapidly thinning around him. Some were suborned
by the whites; others fell victims to hunger and fatigue and to the
frequent attacks by which they were harassed. His stores were all
captured; his chosen friends were swept away from before his eyes; his
uncle was shot down by his side; his sister was carried into captivity;
and in one of his narrow escapes he was compelled to leave his beloved
wife and only son to the mercy of the enemy. “His ruin,” says the
historian, “being thus gradually carried on, his misery was not
prevented, but augmented thereby; being himself made acquainted with the
sense and experimental feeling of the captivity of his children, loss of
friends, slaughter of his subjects, bereavement of all family relations,
and being stripped of all outward comforts before his own life should be
taken away.”

To fill up the measure of his misfortunes, his own followers began
to plot against his life, that by sacrificing him they might purchase
dishonorable safety. Through treachery a number of his faithful
adherents, the subjects of Wetamoe, an Indian princess of Pocasset, a
near kinswoman and confederate of Philip, were betrayed into the hands
of the enemy. Wetamoe was among them at the time, and attempted to make
her escape by crossing a neighboring river: either exhausted by swimming
or starved with cold and hunger, she was found dead and naked near the
water-side. But persecution ceased not at the grave. Even death, the
refuge of the wretched, where the wicked commonly cease from troubling,
was no protection to this outcast female, whose great crime was
affectionate fidelity to her kinsman and her friend. Her corpse was the
object of unmanly and dastardly vengeance: the head was severed from the
body and set upon a pole, and was thus exposed at Taunton to the view of
her captive subjects. They immediately recognized the features of their
unfortunate queen, and were so affected at this barbarous spectacle
that we are told they broke forth into the “most horrid and diabolical
lamentations.”

However Philip had borne up against the complicated miseries and
misfortunes that surrounded him, the treachery of his followers seemed
to wring his heart and reduce him to despondency. It is said that “he
never rejoiced afterwards, nor had success in any of his designs.” The
spring of hope was broken--the ardor of enterprise was extinguished; he
looked around, and all was danger and darkness; there was no eye to
pity nor any arm that could bring deliverance. With a scanty band
of followers, who still remained true to his desperate fortunes, the
unhappy Philip wandered back to the vicinity of Mount Hope, the ancient
dwelling of his fathers. Here he lurked about like a spectre among the
scenes of former power and prosperity, now bereft of home, of family,
and of friend. There needs no better picture of his destitute and
piteous situation than that furnished by the homely pen of the
chronicler, who is unwarily enlisting the feelings of the reader in
favor of the hapless warrior whom he reviles. “Philip,” he says, “like a
savage wild beast, having been hunted by the English forces through the
woods above a hundred miles backward and forward, at last was driven to
his own den upon Mount Hope, where he retired, with a few of his best
friends, into a swamp, which proved but a prison to keep him fast till
the messengers of death came by divine permission to execute vengeance
upon him.”

Even in this last refuge of desperation and despair a sullen grandeur
gathers round his memory. We picture him to ourselves seated among his
care-worn followers, brooding in silence over his blasted fortunes, and
acquiring a savage sublimity from the wildness and dreariness of his
lurking-place. Defeated, but not dismayed--crushed to the earth, but
not humiliated--he seemed to grow more haughty beneath disaster, and
to experience a fierce satisfaction in draining the last dregs of
bitterness. Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune, but great
minds rise above it. The very idea of submission awakened the fury
of Philip, and he smote to death one of his followers who proposed an
expedient of peace. The brother of the victim made his escape, and in
revenge betrayed the retreat of his chieftain, A body of white men
and Indians were immediately despatched to the swamp where Philip lay
crouched, glaring with fury and despair. Before he was aware of their
approach they had begun to surround him. In a little while he saw five
of his trustiest followers laid dead at his feet; all resistance was
vain; he rushed forth from his covert, and made a headlong attempt to
escape, but was shot through the heart by a renegado Indian of his own
nation.

Such is the scanty story of the brave but unfortunate King Philip,
persecuted while living, slandered and dishonored when dead. If,
however, we consider even the prejudiced anecdotes furnished us by his
enemies, we may perceive in them traces of amiable and lofty character
sufficient to awaken sympathy for his fate and respect for his memory.
We find that amidst all the harassing cares and ferocious passions of
constant warfare he was alive to the softer feelings of connubial love
and paternal tenderness and to the generous sentiment of friendship.
The captivity of his “beloved wife and only son” are mentioned with
exultation as causing him poignant misery: the death of any near friend
is triumphantly recorded as a new blow on his sensibilities; but the
treachery and desertion of many of his followers, in whose affections he
had confided, is said to have desolated his heart and to have bereaved
him of all further comfort. He was a patriot attached to his native
soil--a prince true to his subjects and indignant of their wrongs--a
soldier daring in battle, firm in adversity, patient of fatigue, of
hunger, of every variety of bodily suffering, and ready to perish in
the cause he had espoused. Proud of heart and with an untamable love
of natural liberty, he preferred to enjoy it among the beasts of the
forests or in the dismal and famished recesses of swamps and morasses,
rather than bow his haughty spirit to submission and live dependent
and despised in the ease and luxury of the settlements. With heroic
qualities and bold achievements that would have graced a civilized
warrior, and have rendered him the theme of the poet and the historian,
he lived a wanderer and a fugitive in his native land, and went down,
like a lonely bark foundering amid darkness and tempest, without a
pitying eye to weep his fall or a friendly hand to record his struggle.



JOHN BULL.

    An old song, made by an aged old pate,
    Of an old worshipful gentleman who had a great estate,
    That kept a brave old house at a bountiful rate,
    And an old porter to relieve the poor at his gate.

    With an old study fill’d full of learned old books,
    With an old reverend chaplain, you might know him by his
looks,    With an old buttery-hatch worn quite off the hooks,
    And an old kitchen that maintained half-a-dozen old cooks.
                       Like an old courtier, etc.--Old Song.

THERE is no species of humor in which the English more excel than that
which consists in caricaturing and giving ludicrous appellations or
nicknames. In this way they have whimsically designated, not merely
individuals, but nations, and in their fondness for pushing a joke they
have not spared even themselves. One would think that in personifying
itself a nation would be apt to picture something grand, heroic, and
imposing; but it is characteristic of the peculiar humor of the English,
and of their love for what is blunt, comic, and familiar, that they have
embodied their national oddities in the figure of a sturdy, corpulent
old fellow with a three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, leather breeches,
and stout oaken cudgel. Thus they have taken a singular delight in
exhibiting their most private foibles in a laughable point of view, and
have been so successful in their delineations that there is scarcely
a being in actual existence more absolutely present to the public mind
than that eccentric personage, John Bull.

Perhaps the continual contemplation of the character thus drawn of them
has contributed to fix it upon the nation, and thus to give reality
to what at first may have been painted in a great measure from the
imagination. Men are apt to acquire peculiarities that are continually
ascribed to them. The common orders of English seem wonderfully
captivated with the beau ideal which they have formed of John Bull, and
endeavor to act up to the broad caricature that is perpetually before
their eyes. Unluckily, they sometimes make their boasted Bullism an
apology for their prejudice or grossness; and this I have especially
noticed among those truly homebred and genuine sons of the soil who have
never migrated beyond the sound of Bow bells. If one of these should
be a little uncouth in speech and apt to utter impertinent truths, he
confesses that he is a real John Bull and always speaks his mind. If he
now and then flies into an unreasonable burst of passion about trifles,
he observes that John Bull is a choleric old blade, but then his passion
is over in a moment and he bears no malice. If he betrays a coarseness
of taste and an insensibility to foreign refinements, he thanks Heaven
for his ignorance--he is a plain John Bull and has no relish for
frippery and knick-knacks. His very proneness to be gulled by strangers
and to pay extravagantly for absurdities is excused under the plea of
munificence, for John is always more generous than wise.

Thus, under the name of John Bull he will contrive to argue every fault
into a merit, and will frankly convict himself of being the honestest
fellow in existence.

However little, therefore, the character may have suited in the first
instance, it has gradually adapted itself to the nation, or rather they
have adapted themselves to each other; and a stranger who wishes to
study English peculiarities may gather much valuable information from
the innumerable portraits of John Bull as exhibited in the windows
of the caricature-shops. Still, however, he is one of those fertile
humorists that are continually throwing out new portraits and presenting
different aspects from different points of view; and, often as he has
been described, I cannot resist the temptation to give a slight sketch
of him such as he has met my eye.

John Bull, to all appearance, is a plain, downright, matter-of-fact
fellow, with much less of poetry about him than rich prose. There is
little of romance in his nature, but a vast deal of strong natural
feeling. He excels in humor more than in wit; is jolly rather than gay;
melancholy rather than morose; can easily be moved to a sudden tear or
surprised into a broad laugh; but he loathes sentiment and has no turn
for light pleasantry. He is a boon companion, if you allow him in to
have his humor and to talk about himself; and he will stand by a friend
in a quarrel with life and purse, however soundly he may be cudgelled.

In this last respect, to tell the truth, he has a propensity to be
somewhat too ready. He is a busy-minded personage, who thinks not merely
for himself and family, but for all the country round, and is most
generously disposed to be everybody’s champion. He is continually
volunteering his services to settle his neighbor’s affairs, and takes
it in great dudgeon if they engage in any matter of consequence without
asking his advice, though he seldom engages in any friendly office of
the kind without finishing by getting into a squabble with all parties,
and then railing bitterly at their ingratitude. He unluckily took
lessons in his youth in the noble science of defence, and having
accomplished himself in the use of his limbs and his weapons and become
a perfect master at boxing and cudgel-play, he has had a troublesome
life of it ever since. He cannot hear of a quarrel between the most
distant of his neighbors but he begins incontinently to fumble with the
head of his cudgel, and consider whether his interest or honor does not
require that he should meddle in the broil. Indeed, he has extended his
relations of pride and policy so completely over the whole country
that no event can take place without infringing some of his finely-spun
rights and dignities. Couched in his little domain, with these
filaments stretching forth in every direction, he is like some choleric,
bottle-bellied old spider who has woven his web over a whole chamber,
so that a fly cannot buzz nor a breeze blow without startling his repose
and causing him to sally forth wrathfully from his den.

Though really a good-hearted, good-tempered old fellow at bottom, yet he
is singularly fond of being in the midst of contention. It is one of
his peculiarities, however, that he only relishes the beginning of an
affray; he always goes into a fight with alacrity, but comes out of
it grumbling even when victorious; and though no one fights with more
obstinacy to carry a contested point, yet when the battle is over and he
comes to the reconciliation he is so much taken up with the mere shaking
of hands that he is apt to let his antagonist pocket all that they have
been quarrelling about. It is not, therefore, fighting that he ought so
much to be on his guard against as making friends. It is difficult to
cudgel him out of a farthing; but put him in a good humor and you may
bargain him out of all the money in his pocket. He is like a stout ship
which will weather the roughest storm uninjured, but roll its masts
overboard in the succeeding calm.

He is a little fond of playing the magnifico abroad, of pulling out
a long purse, flinging his money bravely about at boxing-matches,
horse-races, cock-fights, and carrying a high head among “gentlemen of
the fancy:” but immediately after one of these fits of extravagance he
will be taken with violent qualms of economy; stop short at the most
trivial expenditure; talk desperately of being ruined and brought upon
the parish; and in such moods will not pay the smallest tradesman’s
bill without violent altercation. He is, in fact, the most punctual
and discontented paymaster in the world, drawing his coin out of his
breeches pocket with infinite reluctance, paying to the uttermost
farthing, but accompanying every guinea with a growl.

With all his talk of economy, however, he is a bountiful provider and
a hospitable housekeeper. His economy is of a whimsical kind, its chief
object being to devise how he may afford to be extravagant; for he will
begrudge himself a beefsteak and pint of port one day that he may roast
an ox whole, broach a hogshead of ale, and treat all his neighbors on
the next.

His domestic establishment is enormously expensive, not so much from
any great outward parade as from the great consumption of solid beef
and pudding, the vast number of followers he feeds and clothes, and his
singular disposition to pay hugely for small services. He is a most
kind and indulgent master, and, provided his servants humor his
peculiarities, flatter his vanity a little now and then, and do
not peculate grossly on him before his face they may manage him to
perfection. Everything that lives on him seems to thrive and grow fat.
His house-servants are well paid and pampered and have little to do. His
horses are sleek and lazy and prance slowly before his state carriage;
and his house-dogs sleep quietly about the door and will hardly bark at
a housebreaker.

His family mansion is an old castellated manor-house, gray with age, and
of a most venerable though weather-beaten appearance. It has been built
upon no regular plan, but is a vast accumulation of parts erected
in various tastes and ages. The centre bears evident traces of Saxon
architecture, and is as solid as ponderous stone and old English oak
can make it. Like all the relics of that style, it is full of obscure
passages, intricate mazes, and dusty chambers, and, though these have
been partially lighted up in modern days, yet there are many places
where you must still grope in the dark. Additions have been made to the
original edifice from time to time, and great alterations have taken
place; towers and battlements have been erected during wars and tumults:
wings built in time of peace; and out-houses, lodges, and offices run up
according to the whim or convenience of different generations, until it
has become one of the most spacious, rambling tenements imaginable. An
entire wing is taken up with the family chapel, a reverend pile that
must have been exceedingly sumptuous, and, indeed, in spite of having
been altered and simplified at various periods, has still a look of
solemn religious pomp. Its walls within are storied with the monuments
of John’s ancestors, and it is snugly fitted up with soft cushions and
well-lined chairs, where such of his family as are inclined to church
services may doze comfortably in the discharge of their duties.

To keep up this chapel has cost John much money; but he is staunch in
his religion and piqued in his zeal, from the circumstance that many
dissenting chapels have been erected in his vicinity, and several of his
neighbors, with whom he has had quarrels, are strong papists.

To do the duties of the chapel he maintains, at a large expense, a pious
and portly family chaplain. He is a most learned and decorous personage
and a truly well-bred Christian, who always backs the old gentleman in
his opinions, winks discreetly at his little peccadilloes, rebukes the
children when refractory, and is of great use in exhorting the tenants
to read their Bibles, say their prayers, and, above all, to pay their
rents punctually and without grumbling.

The family apartments are in a very antiquated taste, somewhat heavy and
often inconvenient, but full of the solemn magnificence of former times,
fitted up with rich though faded tapestry, unwieldy furniture, and
loads of massy, gorgeous old plate. The vast fireplaces, ample kitchens,
extensive cellars, and sumptuous banqueting-halls all speak of the
roaring hospitality of days of yore, of which the modern festivity at
the manor-house is but a shadow. There are, however, complete suites of
rooms apparently deserted and time-worn, and towers and turrets that
are tottering to decay, so that in high winds there is danger of their
tumbling about the ears of the household.

John has frequently been advised to have the old edifice thoroughly
overhauled, and to have some of the useless parts pulled down, and the
others strengthened with their materials; but the old gentleman always
grows testy on this subject. He swears the house is an excellent house;
that it is tight and weather-proof, and not to be shaken by tempests;
that it has stood for several hundred years, and therefore is not likely
to tumble down now; that as to its being inconvenient, his family is
accustomed to the inconveniences and would not be comfortable without
them; that as to its unwieldy size and irregular construction, these
result from its being the growth of centuries and being improved by the
wisdom of every generation; that an old family, like his, requires
a large house to dwell in; new, upstart families may live in modern
cottages and snug boxes; but an old English family should inhabit an
old English manor-house. If you point out any part of the building
as superfluous, he insists that it is material to the strength or
decoration of the rest and the harmony of the whole, and swears that the
parts are so built into each other that if you pull down one, you run
the risk of having the whole about your ears.

The secret of the matter is, that John has a great disposition to
protect and patronize. He thinks it indispensable to the dignity of an
ancient and honorable family to be bounteous in its appointments and
to be eaten up by dependents; and so, partly from pride and partly
from kind-heartedness, he makes it a rule always to give shelter and
maintenance to his superannuated servants.

The consequence is, that, like many other venerable family
establishments, his manor is incumbered by old retainers whom he cannot
turn off, and an old style which he cannot lay down. His mansion is like
a great hospital of invalids, and, with all its magnitude, is not a whit
too large for its inhabitants. Not a nook or corner but is of use in
housing some useless personage. Groups of veteran beef-eaters, gouty
pensioners, and retired heroes of the buttery and the larder are seen
lolling about its ways, crawling over its lawns, dozing under its tree,
or sunning themselves upon the benches at its doors. Every office and
out-house is garrisoned by these supernumeraries and their families;
for they are amazingly prolific, and when they die off are sure to leave
John a legacy of hungry mouths to be provided for. A mattock cannot be
struck against the most mouldering tumble-down tower but out pops, from
some cranny or loophole, the gray pate of some superannuated hanger-on,
who has lived at John’s expense all his life, and makes the most
grievous outcry at their pulling down the roof from over the head of
a worn-out servant of the family. This is an appeal that John’s honest
heart never can withstand; so that a man who has faithfully eaten his
beef and pudding all his life is sure to be rewarded with a pipe and
tankard in his old days.

A great part of his park also is turned into paddocks, where his
broken-down chargers are turned loose to graze undisturbed for the
remainder of their existences--a worthy example of grateful recollection
which, if some of his neighbors were to imitate, would not be to their
discredit. Indeed, it is one of his great pleasures to point out these
old steeds to his visitors, to dwell on their good qualities, extol
their past services, and boast, with some little vain-glory, of the
perilous adventures and hardy exploits through which they have carried
him.

He is given, however, to indulge his veneration for family usages and
family encumbrances to a whimsical extent. His manor is infested by
gangs of gypsies; yet he will not suffer them to be driven off, because
they have infested the place time out of mind and been regular poachers
upon every generation of the family. He will scarcely permit a dry
branch to be lopped from the great trees that surround the house, lest
it should molest the rooks that have bred there for centuries. Owls have
taken possession of the dovecote, but they are hereditary owls and must
not be disturbed. Swallows have nearly choked up every chimney with
their nests; martins build in every frieze and cornice; crows flutter
about the towers and perch on every weather-cock; and old gray-headed
rats may be seen in every quarter of the house, running in and out of
their holes undauntedly in broad daylight. In short, John has such a
reverence for everything that has been long in the family that he will
not hear even of abuses being reformed, because they are good old family
abuses.

All these whims and habits have concurred woefully to drain the old
gentleman’s purse; and as he prides himself on punctuality in money
matters and wishes to maintain his credit in the neighborhood, they have
caused him great perplexity in meeting his engagements. This, too,
has been increased by the altercations and heart-burnings which are
continually taking place in his family. His children have been brought
up to different callings and are of different ways of thinking; and as
they have always been allowed to speak their minds freely, they do not
fail to exercise the privilege most clamorously in the present posture
of his affairs. Some stand up for the honor of the race, and are clear
that the old establishment should be kept up in all its state, whatever
may be the cost; others, who are more prudent and considerate, entreat
the old gentleman to retrench his expenses and to put his whole system
of housekeeping on a more moderate footing. He has, indeed, at times,
seemed inclined to listen to their opinions, but their wholesome advice
has been completely defeated by the obstreperous conduct of one of his
sons. This is a noisy, rattle-pated fellow, of rather low habits, who
neglects his business to frequent ale-houses--is the orator of village
clubs and a complete oracle among the poorest of his father’s
tenants. No sooner does he hear any of his brothers mention reform or
retrenchment than up he jumps, takes the words out of their mouths, and
roars out for an overturn. When his tongue is once going nothing
can stop it. He rants about the room; hectors the old man about his
spendthrift practices; ridicules his tastes and pursuits; insists that
he shall turn the old servants out of doors, give the broken-down horses
to the hounds, send the fat chaplain packing, and take a field-preacher
in his place; nay, that the whole family mansion shall be levelled with
the ground, and a plain one of brick and mortar built in its place. He
rails at every social entertainment and family festivity, and skulks
away growling to the ale-house whenever an equipage drives up to the
door. Though constantly complaining of the emptiness of his purse,
yet he scruples not to spend all his pocket-money in these tavern
convocations, and even runs up scores for the liquor over which he
preaches about his father’s extravagance.

It may readily be imagined how little such thwarting agrees with the old
cavalier’s fiery temperament. He has become so irritable from repeated
crossings that the mere mention of retrenchment or reform is a signal
for a brawl between him and the tavern oracle. As the latter is too
sturdy and refractory for paternal discipline, having grown out of all
fear of the cudgel, they have frequent scenes of wordy warfare, which at
times run so high that John is fain to call in the aid of his son Tom,
an officer who has served abroad, but is at present living at home on
half-pay. This last is sure to stand by the old gentleman, right or
wrong, likes nothing so much as a rocketing, roistering life, and is
ready at a wink or nod to out sabre and flourish it over the orator’s
head if he dares to array himself against parental authority.

These family dissensions, as usual, have got abroad, and are rare food
for scandal in John’s neighborhood. People begin to look wise and shake
their heads whenever his affairs are mentioned. They all “hope that
matters are not so bad with him as represented; but when a man’s
own children begin to rail at his extravagance, things must be badly
managed. They understand he is mortgaged over head and ears and is
continually dabbling with money-lenders. He is certainly an open-handed
old gentleman, but they fear he has lived too fast; indeed, they never
knew any good come of this fondness for hunting, racing revelling, and
prize-fighting. In short, Mr. Bull’s estate is a very fine one and has
been in the family a long while, but, for all that, they have known many
finer estates come to the hammer.”

What is worst of all, is the effect which these pecuniary embarrassments
and domestic feuds have had on the poor man himself. Instead of that
jolly round corporation and smug rosy face which he used to present, he
has of late become as shrivelled and shrunk as a frost-bitten apple.
His scarlet gold-laced waistcoat, which bellied out so bravely in those
prosperous days when he sailed before the wind, now hangs loosely about
him like a mainsail in a calm. His leather breeches are all in folds and
wrinkles, and apparently have much ado to hold up the boots that yawn on
both sides of his once sturdy legs.

Instead of strutting about as formerly with his three-cornered hat on
one side, flourishing his cudgel, and bringing it down every moment with
a hearty thump upon the ground, looking every one sturdily in the face,
and trolling out a stave of a catch or a drinking-song, he now goes
about whistling thoughtfully to himself, with his head drooping down,
his cudgel tucked under his arm, and his hands thrust to the bottom of
his breeches pockets, which are evidently empty.

Such is the plight of honest John Bull at present, yet for all this the
old fellow’s spirit is as tall and as gallant as ever. If you drop the
least expression of sympathy or concern, he takes fire in an instant;
swears that he is the richest and stoutest fellow in the country; talks
of laying out large sums to adorn his house or buy another estate; and
with a valiant swagger and grasping of his cudgel longs exceedingly to
have another bout at quarter-staff.

Though there may be something rather whimsical in all this, yet I
confess I cannot look upon John’s situation without strong feelings
of interest. With all his odd humors and obstinate prejudices he is a
sterling-hearted old blade. He may not be so wonderfully fine a fellow
as he thinks himself, but he is at least twice as good as his neighbors
represent him. His virtues are all his own--all plain, homebred, and
unaffected. His very faults smack of the raciness of his good qualities.
His extravagance savors of his generosity, his quarrelsomeness of his
courage, his credulity of his open faith, his vanity of his pride, and
his bluntness of his sincerity. They are all the redundancies of a rich
and liberal character. He is like his own oak, rough without, but sound
and solid within; whose bark abounds with excrescences in proportion to
the growth and grandeur of the timber; and whose branches make a fearful
groaning and murmuring in the least storm from their very magnitude and
luxuriance. There is something, too, in the appearance of his old family
mansion that is extremely poetical and picturesque; and as long as it
can be rendered comfortably habitable I should almost tremble to see it
meddled with during the present conflict of tastes and opinions. Some of
his advisers are no doubt good architects that might be of service; but
many, I fear, are mere levellers, who, when they had once got to work
with their mattocks on this venerable edifice, would never stop until
they had brought it to the ground, and perhaps buried themselves among
the ruins. All that I wish is, that John’s present troubles may teach
him more prudence in future--that he may cease to distress his mind
about other people’s affairs; that he may give up the fruitless attempt
to promote the good of his neighbors and the peace and happiness of
the world, by dint of the cudgel; that he may remain quietly at home;
gradually get his house into repair; cultivate his rich estate according
to his fancy; husband his income--if he thinks proper; bring his unruly
children into order--if he can; renew the jovial scenes of ancient
prosperity; and long enjoy on his paternal lands a green, an honorable,
and a merry old age.



THE PRIDE OF THE VILLAGE.

    May no wolfe howle; no screech owle stir
    A wing about thy sepulchre!
    No boysterous winds or stormes come hither,
        To starve or wither
    Thy soft sweet earth! but, like a spring,
    Love kept it ever flourishing.
                                           HERRICK.

IN the course of an excursion through one of the remote counties of
England, I had struck into one of those cross-roads that lead through
the more secluded parts of the country, and stopped one afternoon at a
village the situation of which was beautifully rural and retired. There
was an air of primitive simplicity about its inhabitants not to be found
in the villages which lie on the great coach-roads. I determined to
pass the night there, and, having taken an early dinner, strolled out to
enjoy the neighboring scenery.

My ramble, as is usually the case with travellers, soon led me to the
church, which stood at a little distance from the village. Indeed, it
was an object of some curiosity, its old tower being completely overrun
with ivy so that only here and there a jutting buttress, an angle of
gray wall, or a fantastically carved ornament peered through the verdant
covering. It was a lovely evening. The early part of the day had been
dark and showery, but in the afternoon it had cleared up, and, though
sullen clouds still hung overhead, yet there was a broad tract of golden
sky in the west, from which the setting sun gleamed through the dripping
leaves and lit up all Nature into a melancholy smile. It seemed like the
parting hour of a good Christian smiling on the sins and sorrows of the
world, and giving, in the serenity of his decline, an assurance that he
will rise again in glory.

I had seated myself on a half-sunken tombstone, and was musing, as one
is apt to do at this sober-thoughted hour, on past scenes and early
friends--on those who were distant and those who were dead--and
indulging in that kind of melancholy fancying which has in it something
sweeter even than pleasure. Every now and then the stroke of a bell from
the neighboring tower fell on my ear; its tones were in unison with the
scene, and, instead of jarring, chimed in with my feelings; and it was
some time before I recollected that it must be tolling the knell of some
new tenant of the tomb.

Presently I saw a funeral train moving across the village green; it
wound slowly along a lane, was lost, and reappeared through the breaks
of the hedges, until it passed the place where I was sitting. The pall
was supported by young girls dressed in white, and another, about the
age of seventeen, walked before, bearing a chaplet of white flowers--a
token that the deceased was a young and unmarried female. The corpse
was followed by the parents. They were a venerable couple of the better
order of peasantry. The father seemed to repress his feelings, but his
fixed eye, contracted brow, and deeply-furrowed face showed the struggle
that was passing within. His wife hung on his arm, and wept aloud with
the convulsive bursts of a mother’s sorrow.

I followed the funeral into the church. The bier was placed in the
centre aisle, and the chaplet of white flowers, with a pair of white
gloves, was hung over the seat which the deceased had occupied.

Every one knows the soul-subduing pathos of the funeral service, for who
is so fortunate as never to have followed some one he has loved to the
tomb? But when performed over the remains of innocence and beauty, thus
laid low in the bloom of existence, what can be more affecting? At that
simple but most solemn consignment of the body to the grave-“Earth
to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust!”--the tears of the youthful
companions of the deceased flowed unrestrained. The father still seemed
to struggle with his feelings, and to comfort himself with the assurance
that the dead are blessed which die in the Lord; but the mother only
thought of her child as a flower of the field cut down and withered
in the midst of its sweetness; she was like Rachel, “mourning over her
children, and would not be comforted.”

On returning to the inn I learnt the whole story of the deceased. It was
a simple one, and such as has often been told. She had been the beauty
and pride of the village. Her father had once been an opulent farmer,
but was reduced in circumstances. This was an only child, and brought up
entirely at home in the simplicity of rural life. She had been the pupil
of the village pastor, the favorite lamb of his little flock. The good
man watched over her education with paternal care; it was limited and
suitable to the sphere in which she was to move, for he only sought to
make her an ornament to her station in life, not to raise her above it.
The tenderness and indulgence of her parents and the exemption from
all ordinary occupations had fostered a natural grace and delicacy of
character that accorded with the fragile loveliness of her form. She
appeared like some tender plant of the garden blooming accidentally amid
the hardier natives of the fields.

The superiority of her charms was felt and acknowledged by her
companions, but without envy, for it was surpassed by the unassuming
gentleness and winning kindness of her manners. It might be truly said
of her:

    “This is the prettiest low-born lass, that ever
     Ran on the green-sward: nothing she does or seems
     But smacks of something greater than herself;
     Too noble for this place.”

The village was one of those sequestered spots which still retain some
vestiges of old English customs. It had its rural festivals and holiday
pastimes, and still kept up some faint observance of the once popular
rites of May. These, indeed, had been promoted by its present pastor,
who was a lover of old customs and one of those simple Christians that
think their mission fulfilled by promoting joy on earth and good-will
among mankind. Under his auspices the May-pole stood from year to year
in the centre of the village green; on Mayday it was decorated with
garlands and streamers, and a queen or lady of the May was appointed, as
in former times, to preside at the sports and distribute the prizes and
rewards. The picturesque situation of the village and the fancifulness
of its rustic fetes would often attract the notice of casual visitors.
Among these, on one May-day, was a young officer whose regiment had been
recently quartered in the neighborhood. He was charmed with the native
taste that pervaded this village pageant, but, above all, with the
dawning loveliness of the queen of May. It was the village favorite who
was crowned with flowers, and blushing and smiling in all the beautiful
confusion of girlish diffidence and delight. The artlessness of rural
habits enabled him readily to make her acquaintance; he gradually won
his way into her intimacy, and paid his court to her in that unthinking
way in which young officers are too apt to trifle with rustic
simplicity.

There was nothing in his advances to startle or alarm. He never even
talked of love, but there are modes of making it more eloquent than
language, and which convey it subtilely and irresistibly to the heart.
The beam of the eye, the tone of voice, the thousand tendernesses
which emanate from every word and look and action,--these form the true
eloquence of love, and can always be felt and understood, but never
described. Can we wonder that they should readily win a heart young,
guileless, and susceptible? As to her, she loved almost unconsciously;
she scarcely inquired what was the growing passion that was absorbing
every thought and feeling, or what were to be its consequences. She,
indeed, looked not to the future. When present, his looks and words
occupied her whole attention; when absent, she thought but of what had
passed at their recent interview. She would wander with him through the
green lanes and rural scenes of the vicinity. He taught her to see new
beauties in Nature; he talked in the language of polite and cultivated
life, and breathed into her ear the witcheries of romance and poetry.

Perhaps there could not have been a passion between the sexes more pure
than this innocent girl’s. The gallant figure of her youthful admirer
and the splendor of his military attire might at first have charmed her
eye, but it was not these that had captivated her heart. Her attachment
had something in it of idolatry. She looked up to him as to a being of
a superior order. She felt in his society the enthusiasm of a mind
naturally delicate and poetical, and now first awakened to a keen
perception of the beautiful and grand. Of the sordid distinctions
of rank and fortune she thought nothing; it was the difference of
intellect, of demeanor, of manners, from those of the rustic society
to which she had been accustomed, that elevated him in her opinion. She
would listen to him with charmed ear and downcast look of mute delight,
and her cheek would mantle with enthusiasm; or if ever she ventured a
shy glance of timid admiration, it was as quickly withdrawn, and she
would sigh and blush at the idea of her comparative unworthiness.

Her lover was equally impassioned, but his passion was mingled with
feelings of a coarser nature. He had begun the connection in levity,
for he had often heard his brother-officers boast of their village
conquests, and thought some triumph of the kind necessary to his
reputation as a man of spirit. But he was too full of youthful fervor.
His heart had not yet been rendered sufficiently cold and selfish by a
wandering and a dissipated life: it caught fire from the very flame it
sought to kindle, and before he was aware of the nature of his situation
he became really in love.

What was he to do? There were the old obstacles which so incessantly
occur in these heedless attachments. His rank in life, the prejudices of
titled connections, his dependence upon a proud and unyielding father,
all forbade him to think of matrimony; but when he looked down upon
this innocent being, so tender and confiding, there was a purity in her
manners, a blamelessness in her life, and a beseeching modesty in her
looks that awed down every licentious feeling. In vain did he try to
fortify himself by a thousand heartless examples of men of fashion, and
to chill the glow of generous sentiment with that cold derisive levity
with which he had heard them talk of female virtue: whenever he came
into her presence she was still surrounded by that mysterious but
impassive charm of virgin purity in whose hallowed sphere no guilty
thought can live.

The sudden arrival of orders for the regiment to repair to the Continent
completed the confusion of his mind. He remained for a short time in a
state of the most painful irresolution; he hesitated to communicate the
tidings until the day for marching was at hand, when he gave her the
intelligence in the course of an evening ramble.

The idea of parting had never before occurred to her. It broke in at
once upon her dream of felicity; she looked upon it as a sudden and
insurmountable evil, and wept with the guileless simplicity of a child.
He drew her to his bosom and kissed the tears from her soft cheek; nor
did he meet with a repulse, for there are moments of mingled sorrow
and tenderness which hallow the caresses of affection. He was naturally
impetuous, and the sight of beauty apparently yielding in his arms, the
confidence of his power over her, and the dread of losing her forever
all conspired to overwhelm his better feelings: he ventured to propose
that she should leave her home and be the companion of his fortunes.

He was quite a novice in seduction, and blushed and faltered at his own
baseness; but so innocent of mind was his intended victim that she was
at first at a loss to comprehend his meaning, and why she should leave
her native village and the humble roof of her parents. When at last
the nature of his proposal flashed upon her pure mind, the effect was
withering. She did not weep; she did not break forth into reproach; she
said not a word, but she shrunk back aghast as from a viper, gave him a
look of anguish that pierced to his very soul, and, clasping her hands
in agony, fled, as if for refuge, to her father’s cottage.

The officer retired confounded, humiliated, and repentant. It is
uncertain what might have been the result of the conflict of his
feelings, had not his thoughts been diverted by the bustle of departure.
New scenes, new pleasures, and new companions soon dissipated his
self-reproach and stifled his tenderness; yet, amidst the stir of camps,
the revelries of garrisons, the array of armies, and even the din of
battles, his thoughts would sometimes steal back to the scenes of rural
quiet and village simplicity--the white cottage, the footpath along
the silver brook and up the hawthorn hedge, and the little village maid
loitering along it, leaning on his arm and listening to him with eyes
beaming with unconscious affection.

The shock which the poor girl had received in the destruction of all her
ideal world had indeed been cruel. Faintings and hysterics had at first
shaken her tender frame, and were succeeded by a settled and pining
melancholy. She had beheld from her window the march of the departing
troops. She had seen her faithless lover borne off, as if in triumph,
amidst the sound of drum and trumpet and the pomp of arms. She strained
a last aching gaze after him as the morning sun glittered about his
figure and his plume waved in the breeze; he passed away like a bright
vision from her sight, and left her all in darkness.

It would be trite to dwell on the particulars of her after story. It
was, like other tales of love, melancholy. She avoided society and
wandered out alone in the walks she had most frequented with her lover.
She sought, like the stricken deer, to weep in silence and loneliness
and brood over the barbed sorrow that rankled in her soul. Sometimes
she would be seen late of an evening sitting in the porch of the village
church, and the milk-maids, returning from the fields, would now and
then overhear her singing some plaintive ditty in the hawthorn walk. She
became fervent in her devotions at church, and as the old people saw her
approach, so wasted away, yet with a hectic gloom and that hallowed air
which melancholy diffuses round the form, they would make way for her as
for something spiritual, and looking after her, would shake their heads
in gloomy foreboding.

She felt a conviction that she was hastening to the tomb, but looked
forward to it as a place of rest. The silver cord that had bound her to
existence was loosed, and there seemed to be no more pleasure under the
sun. If ever her gentle bosom had entertained resentment against her
lover, it was extinguished. She was incapable of angry passions, and in
a moment of saddened tenderness she penned him a farewell letter. It was
couched in the simplest language, but touching from its very simplicity.
She told him that she was dying, and did not conceal from him that his
conduct was the cause. She even depicted the sufferings which she had
experienced, but concluded with saying that she could not die in peace
until she had sent him her forgiveness and her blessing.

By degrees her strength declined that she could no longer leave the
cottage. She could only totter to the window, where, propped up in
her chair, it was her enjoyment to sit all day and look out upon the
landscape. Still she uttered no complaint nor imparted to any one the
malady that was preying on her heart. She never even mentioned her
lover’s name, but would lay her head on her mother’s bosom and weep in
silence. Her poor parents hung in mute anxiety over this fading blossom
of their hopes, still flattering themselves that it might again revive
to freshness and that the bright unearthly bloom which sometimes flushed
her cheek might be the promise of returning health.

In this way she was seated between them one Sunday afternoon; her hands
were clasped in theirs, the lattice was thrown open, and the soft
air that stole in brought with it the fragrance of the clustering
honeysuckle which her own hands had trained round the window.

Her father had just been reading a chapter in the Bible: it spoke of the
vanity of worldly things and of the joys of heaven: it seemed to have
diffused comfort and serenity through her bosom. Her eye was fixed on
the distant village church: the bell had tolled for the evening service;
the last villager was lagging into the porch, and everything had sunk
into that hallowed stillness peculiar to the day of rest. Her parents
were gazing on her with yearning hearts. Sickness and sorrow, which
pass so roughly over some faces, had given to hers the expression of a
seraph’s. A tear trembled in her soft blue eye. Was she thinking of
her faithless lover? or were her thoughts wandering to that distant
churchyard, into whose bosom she might soon be gathered?

Suddenly the clang of hoofs was heard: a horseman galloped to the
cottage; he dismounted before the window; the poor girl gave a faint
exclamation and sunk back in her chair: it was her repentant lover. He
rushed into the house and flew to clasp her to his bosom; but her
wasted form, her deathlike countenance--so wan, yet so lovely in its
desolation--smote him to the soul, and he threw himself in agony at her
feet. She was too faint to rise--she attempted to extend her trembling
hand--her lips moved as if she spoke, but no word was articulated; she
looked down upon him with a smile of unutterable tenderness, and closed
her eyes forever.

Such are the particulars which I gathered of this village story. They
are but scanty, and I am conscious have little novelty to recommend
them. In the present rage also for strange incident and high-seasoned
narrative they may appear trite and insignificant, but they interested
me strongly at the time; and, taken in connection with the affecting
ceremony which I had just witnessed, left a deeper impression on my mind
than many circumstances of a more striking nature. I have passed through
the place since, and visited the church again from a better motive than
mere curiosity. It was a wintry evening: the trees were stripped of
their foliage, the churchyard looked naked and mournful, and the wind
rustled coldly through the dry grass. Evergreens, however, had been
planted about the grave of the village favorite, and osiers were bent
over it to keep the turf uninjured.

The church-door was open and I stepped in. There hung the chaplet of
flowers and the gloves, as on the day of the funeral: the flowers were
withered, it is true, but care seemed to have been taken that no dust
should soil their whiteness. I have seen many monuments where art has
exhausted its powers to awaken the sympathy of the spectator, but I have
met with none that spoke more touchingly to my heart than this simple
but delicate memento of departed innocence.



THE ANGLER.

    This day Dame Nature seem’d in love,
    The lusty sap began to move,
    Fresh juice did stir th’ embracing vines,
    And birds had drawn their valentines.
    The jealous trout that low did lie,
    Rose at a well-dissembled flie.
    There stood my friend, with patient skill,
    Attending of his trembling quill.
                                  SIR H. WOTTON.

IT is said that many an unlucky urchin is induced to run away from his
family and betake himself to a seafaring life from reading the history
of Robinson Crusoe; and I suspect that, in like manner, many of those
worthy gentlemen who are given to haunt the sides of pastoral streams
with angle-rods in hand may trace the origin of their passion to
the seductive pages of honest Izaak Walton. I recollect studying his
Complete Angler several years since in company with a knot of friends
in America, and moreover that we were all completely bitten with the
angling mania. It was early in the year, but as soon as the weather was
auspicious, and that the spring began to melt into the verge of summer,
we took rod in hand and sallied into the country, as stark mad as was
ever Don Quixote from reading books of chivalry.

One of our party had equalled the Don in the fulness of his equipments,
being attired cap-a-pie for the enterprise. He wore a broad-skirted
fustian coat, perplexed with half a hundred pockets; a pair of stout
shoes and leathern gaiters; a basket slung on one side for fish; a
patent rod, a landing net, and a score of other inconveniences only to
be found in the true angler’s armory. Thus harnessed for the field, he
was as great a matter of stare and wonderment among the country folk,
who had never seen a regular angler, as was the steel-clad hero of La
Mancha among the goatherds of the Sierra Morena.

Our first essay was along a mountain brook among the Highlands of the
Hudson--a most unfortunate place for the execution of those piscatory
tactics which had been invented along the velvet margins of quiet
English rivulets. It was one of those wild streams that lavish, among
our romantic solitudes, unheeded beauties enough to fill the sketch-book
of a hunter of the picturesque. Sometimes it would leap down rocky
shelves, making small cascades, over which the trees threw their broad
balancing sprays and long nameless weeds hung in fringes from the
impending banks, dripping with diamond drops. Sometimes it would brawl
and fret along a ravine in the matted shade of a forest, filling it with
murmurs, and after this termagant career would steal forth into open
day with the most placid, demure face imaginable, as I have seen some
pestilent shrew of a housewife, after filling her home with uproar
and ill-humor, come dimpling out of doors, swimming and curtseying and
smiling upon all the world.

How smoothly would this vagrant brook glide at such times through some
bosom of green meadowland among the mountains, where the quiet was only
interrupted by the occasional tinkling of a bell from the lazy cattle
among the clover or the sound of a woodcutter’s axe from the neighboring
forest!

For my part, I was always a bungler at all kinds of sport that required
either patience or adroitness, and had not angled above half an hour
before I had completely “satisfied the sentiment,” and convinced myself
of the truth of Izaak Walton’s opinion, that angling is something like
poetry--a man must be born to it. I hooked myself instead of the fish,
tangled my line in every tree, lost my bait, broke my rod, until I gave
up the attempt in despair, and passed the day under the trees reading
old Izaak, satisfied that it was his fascinating vein of honest
simplicity and rural feeling that had bewitched me, and not the passion
for angling. My companions, however, were more persevering in their
delusion. I have them at this moment before eyes, stealing along the
border of the brook where it lay open to the day or was merely fringed
by shrubs and bushes. I see the bittern rising with hollow scream as
they break in upon his rarely-invaded haunt; the kingfisher watching
them suspiciously from his dry tree that overhangs the deep black
millpond in the gorge of the hills; the tortoise letting himself slip
sideways from off the stone or log on which he is sunning himself;
and the panic-struck frog plumping in headlong as they approach, and
spreading an alarm throughout the watery world around.

I recollect also that, after toiling and watching and creeping about for
the greater part of a day, with scarcely any success in spite of all our
admirable apparatus, a lubberly country urchin came down from the hills
with a rod made from a branch of a tree, a few yards of twine, and, as
Heaven shall help me! I believe a crooked pin for a hook, baited with a
vile earthworm, and in half an hour caught more fish than we had nibbles
throughout the day!

But, above all, I recollect the “good, honest, wholesome, hungry” repast
which we made under a beech tree just by a spring of pure sweet water
that stole out of the side of a hill, and how, when it was over, one of
the party read old Izaak Walton’s scene with the milkmaid, while I lay
on the grass and built castles in a bright pile of clouds until I fell
asleep. All this may appear like mere egotism, yet I cannot refrain from
uttering these recollections, which are passing like a strain of music
over my mind and have been called up by an agreeable scene which I
witnessed not long since.

In the morning’s stroll along the banks of the Alun, a beautiful little
stream which flows down from the Welsh hills and throws itself into
the Dee, my attention was attracted to a group seated on the margin.
On approaching I found it to consist of a veteran angler and two rustic
disciples. The former was an old fellow with a wooden leg, with clothes
very much but very carefully patched, betokening poverty honestly come
by and decently maintained. His face bore the marks of former storms,
but present fair weather, its furrows had been worn into an habitual
smile, his iron-gray locks hung about his ears, and he had altogether
the good-humored air of a constitutional philosopher who was disposed to
take the world as it went. One of his companions was a ragged wight with
the skulking look of an arrant poacher, and I’ll warrant could find
his way to any gentleman’s fish-pond in the neighborhood in the darkest
night. The other was a tall, awkward country lad, with a lounging
gait, and apparently somewhat of a rustic beau. The old man was busy in
examining the maw of a trout which he had just killed, to discover by
its contents what insects were seasonable for bait, and was lecturing
on the subject to his companions, who appeared to listen with infinite
deference. I have a kind feeling towards all “brothers of the angle”
 ever since I read Izaak Walton. They are men, he affirms, of a “mild,
sweet, and peaceable spirit;” and my esteem for them has been increased
since I met with an old Tretyse of fishing with the Angle, in which are
set forth many of the maxims of their inoffensive fraternity. “Take
good hede,” sayeth this honest little tretyse, “that in going about your
disportes ye open no man’s gates but that ye shet them again. Also ye
shall not use this forsayd crafti disport for no covetousness to the
encreasing and sparing of your money only, but principally for your
solace, and to cause the helth of your body and specyally of your
soule.” *

I thought that I could perceive in the veteran angler before me
an exemplification of what I had read; and there was a cheerful
contentedness in his looks that quite drew me towards him. I could not
but remark the gallant manner in which he stumped from one part of
the brook to another, waving his rod in the air to keep the line from
dragging on the ground or catching among the bushes, and the adroitness
with which he would throw his fly to any particular place, sometimes
skimming it lightly along a little rapid, sometimes casting it into one
of those dark holes made by a twisted root or overhanging bank in
which the large trout are apt to lurk. In the meanwhile he was giving
instructions to his two disciples, showing them the manner in which
they should handle their rods, fix their flies, and play them along the
surface of the stream. The scene brought to my mind the instructions
of the sage Piscator to his scholar. The country around was of that
pastoral kind which Walton is fond of describing. It was a part of the
great plain of Cheshire, close by the beautiful vale of Gessford,
and just where the inferior Welsh hills begin to swell up from among
fresh-smelling meadows. The day too, like that recorded in his work, was
mild and sunshiny, with now and then a soft-dropping shower that sowed
the whole earth with diamonds.


     * From this same treatise it would appear that angling is a
     more industrious and devout employment than it is generally
     considered: “For when ye purpose to go on your disportes in
     fishynge ye will not desyre greatlye many persons with you,
     which might let you of your game. And that ye may serve God
     devoutly in saying effectually your customable prayers. And
     thus doying, ye shall eschew and also avoyde many vices, as
     ydelness, which is principall cause to induce man to many
     other vices, as it is right well known.”


I soon fell into conversation with the old angler, and was so much
entertained that, under pretext of receiving instructions in his art, I
kept company with him almost the whole day, wandering along the banks of
the stream and listening to his talk. He was very communicative, having
all the easy garrulity of cheerful old age, and I fancy was a little
flattered by having an opportunity of displaying his piscatory lore, for
who does not like now and then to play the sage?

He had been much of a rambler in his day, and had passed some years of
his youth in America, particularly in Savannah, where he had entered
into trade and had been ruined by the indiscretion of a partner. He had
afterwards experienced many ups and downs in life until he got into the
navy, where his leg was carried away by a cannon-ball at the battle of
Camperdown. This was the only stroke of real good-fortune he had ever
experienced, for it got him a pension, which, together with some small
paternal property, brought him in a revenue of nearly forty pounds.
On this he retired to his native village, where he lived quietly and
independently, and devoted the remainder of his life to the “noble art
of angling.”

I found that he had read Izaak Walton attentively, and he seemed to have
imbibed all his simple frankness and prevalent good-humor. Though he had
been sorely buffeted about the world, he was satisfied that the world,
in itself, was good and beautiful. Though he had been as roughly used in
different countries as a poor sheep that is fleeced by every hedge
and thicket, yet he spoke of every nation with candor and kindness,
appearing to look only on the good side of things; and, above all, he
was almost the only man I had ever met with who had been an unfortunate
adventurer in America and had honesty and magnanimity enough to take the
fault to his own door, and not to curse the country. The lad that was
receiving his instructions, I learnt, was the son and heir-apparent of
a fat old widow who kept the village inn, and of course a youth of some
expectation, and much courted by the idle gentleman-like personages
of the place. In taking him under his care, therefore, the old man had
probably an eye to a privileged corner in the tap-room and an occasional
cup of cheerful ale free of expense.

There is certainly something in angling--if we could forget, which
anglers are apt to do, the cruelties and tortures inflicted on worms
and insects--that tends to produce a gentleness of spirit and a
pure serenity of mind. As the English are methodical even in their
recreations, and are the most scientific of sportsmen, it has been
reduced among them to perfect rule and system. Indeed, it is an
amusement peculiarly adapted to the mild and highly-cultivated scenery
of England, where every roughness has been softened away from the
landscape. It is delightful to saunter along those limpid streams
which wander, like veins of silver, through the bosom of this
beautiful country, leading one through a diversity of small home
scenery--sometimes winding through ornamented grounds; sometimes
brimming along through rich pasturage, where the fresh green is mingled
with sweet-smelling flowers; sometimes venturing in sight of villages
and hamlets, and then running capriciously away into shady retirements.
The sweetness and serenity of Nature and the quiet watchfulness of the
sport gradually bring on pleasant fits of musing, which are now and then
agreeably interrupted by the song of a bird, the distant whistle of the
peasant, or perhaps the vagary of some fish leaping out of the still
water and skimming transiently about its glassy surface. “When I would
beget content,” says Izaak Walton, “and increase confidence in the power
and wisdom and providence of Almighty God, I will walk the meadows by
some gliding stream, and there contemplate the lilies that take no care,
and those very many other little living creatures that are not only
created, but fed (man knows not how) by the goodness of the God of
Nature, and therefore trust in Him.”

I cannot forbear to give another quotation from one of those ancient
champions of angling which breathes the same innocent and happy spirit:

    Let me live harmlessly, and near the brink
        Of Trent or Avon have a dwelling-place:
    Where I may see my quill, or cork, down sink
        With eager bite of Pike, or Bleak, or Dace;
    And on the world and my Creator think:
        Whilst some men strive ill-gotten goods t’ embrace:
    And others spend their time in base excess
    Of wine, or worse, in war or wantonness.

    Let them that will, these pastimes still pursue,
        And on such pleasing fancies feed their fill;
    So I the fields and meadows green may view,
        And daily by fresh rivers walk at will,
    Among the daisies and the violets blue,
        Red hyacinth and yellow daffodil.*

On parting with the old angler I inquired after his place of abode,
and, happening to be in the neighborhood of the village a few evenings
afterwards, I had the curiosity to seek him out. I found him living in
a small cottage containing only one room, but a perfect curiosity in its
method and arrangement. It was on the skirts of the village, on a green
bank a little back from the road, with a small garden in front stocked
with kitchen herbs and adorned with a few flowers. The whole front of
the cottage was overrun with a honeysuckle. On the top was a ship for a
weathercock. The interior was fitted up in a truly nautical style, his
ideas of comfort and convenience having been acquired on the berth-deck
of a man-of-war. A hammock was slung from the ceiling which in the
daytime was lashed up so as to take but little room. From the centre of
the chamber hung a model of a ship, of his own workmanship. Two or three
chairs, a table, and a large sea-chest formed the principal movables.
About the wall were stuck up naval ballads, such as “Admiral Hosier’s
Ghost,” “All in the Downs,” and “Tom Bowling,” intermingled with
pictures of sea-fights, among which the battle of Camperdown held a
distinguished place. The mantelpiece was decorated with sea-shells, over
which hung a quadrant, flanked by two wood-cuts of most bitter-looking
naval commanders. His implements for angling were carefully disposed
on nails and hooks about the room. On a shelf was arranged his library,
containing a work on angling, much worn, a Bible covered with canvas, an
odd volume or two of voyages, a nautical almanac, and a book of songs.


     * J. Davors.


His family consisted of a large black cat with one eye, and a parrot
which he had caught and tamed and educated himself in the course of
one of his voyages, and which uttered a variety of sea-phrases with the
hoarse brattling tone of a veteran boatswain. The establishment reminded
me of that of the renowned Robinson Crusoe; it was kept in neat order,
everything being “stowed away” with the regularity of a ship of war;
and he informed me that he “scoured the deck every morning and swept it
between meals.”

I found him seated on a bench before the door, smoking his pipe in the
soft evening sunshine. His cat was purring soberly on the threshold, and
his parrot describing some strange evolutions in an iron ring that swung
in the centre of his cage. He had been angling all day, and gave me a
history of his sport with as much minuteness as a general would talk
over a campaign, being particularly animated in relating the manner in
which he had taken a large trout, which had completely tasked all his
skill and wariness, and which he had sent as a trophy to mine hostess of
the inn.

How comforting it is to see a cheerful and contented old age, and to
behold a poor fellow like this, after being tempest-tost through life,
safely moored in a snug and quiet harbor in the evening of his days! His
happiness, however, sprung from within himself and was independent of
external circumstances, for he had that inexhaustible good-nature which
is the most precious gift of Heaven, spreading itself like oil over the
troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the
roughest weather.

On inquiring further about him, I learnt that he was a universal
favorite in the village and the oracle of the tap-room, where he
delighted the rustics with his songs, and, like Sindbad, astonished them
with his stories of strange lands and shipwrecks and sea-fights. He was
much noticed too by gentlemen sportsmen of the neighborhood, had taught
several of them the art of angling, and was a privileged visitor to
their kitchens. The whole tenor of his life was quiet and inoffensive,
being principally passed about the neighboring streams when the weather
and season were favorable; and at other times he employed himself
at home, preparing his fishing-tackle for the next campaign or
manufacturing rods, nets, and flies for his patrons and pupils among the
gentry.

He was a regular attendant at church on Sundays, though he generally
fell asleep during the sermon. He had made it his particular request
that when he died he should be buried in a green spot which he could see
from his seat in church, and which he had marked out ever since he was
a boy, and had thought of when far from home on the raging sea in danger
of being food for the fishes: it was the spot where his father and
mother had been buried.

I have done, for I fear that my reader is growing weary, but I could not
refrain from drawing the picture of this worthy “brother of the angle,”
 who has made me more than ever in love with the theory, though I fear I
shall never be adroit in the practice, of his art; and I will conclude
this rambling sketch in the words of honest Izaak Walton, by craving the
blessing of St. Peter’s Master upon my reader, “and upon all that are
true lovers of virtue, and dare trust in His providence, and be quiet,
and go a-angling.”



THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW.

(FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER.)

    A pleasing land of drowsy-head it was,
        Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye,
    And of gay castles in the clouds that pays,
        For ever flushing round a summer sky.
                                       Castle of Indolence

IN the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern
shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated
by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always
prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas
when they crossed, there lies a small market-town or rural port which
by some is called Greensburg, but which is more generally and properly
known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in
former days by the good housewives of the adjacent country from the
inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village
tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact,
but merely advert to it for the sake of being precise and authentic.
Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little
valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the
quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it,
with just murmur enough to lull one to repose, and the occasional
whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound
that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.

I recollect that when a stripling my first exploit in squirrel-shooting
was in a grove of tall walnut trees that shades one side of the valley.
I had wandered into it at noontime, when all Nature is peculiarly quiet,
and was startled by the roar of my own gun as it broke the Sabbath
stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes.
If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world
and its distractions and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled
life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.

From the listless repose of the place and the peculiar character of its
inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this
sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and
its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the
neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the
land and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place
was bewitched by a High German doctor during the early days of the
settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of
his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by
Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under
the sway of some witching power that holds a spell over the minds of the
good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given
to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions,
and frequently see strange sights and hear music and voices in the air.
The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and
twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the
valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with
her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and
seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the
apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some
to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head had been carried away by
a cannonball in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and
who is ever and anon seen by the country-folk hurrying along in the
gloom of night as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not
confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and
especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed,
certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been
careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this
spectre, allege that the body of the trooper, having been buried in
the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly
quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes
passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being
belated and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.

Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition, which has
furnished materials for many a wild story in that region of shadows;
and the spectre is known at all the country firesides by the name of the
Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not
confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously
imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake
they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure
in a little time to inhale the witching influence of the air and begin
to grow imaginative--to dream dreams and see apparitions.

I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud, for it is in such
little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embosomed in the
great State of New York, that population, manners, and customs remain
fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is
making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country,
sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still
water which border a rapid stream where we may see the straw and bubble
riding quietly at anchor or slowly revolving in their mimic harbor,
undisturbed by the rush of the passing current. Though many years have
elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question
whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families
vegetating in its sheltered bosom.

In this by-place of Nature there abode, in a remote period of American
history--that is to say, some thirty years since--a worthy wight of the
name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, “tarried,”
 in Sleepy Hollow for the purpose of instructing the children of the
vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut, a State which supplies the
Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends
forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters.
The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall,
but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands
that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for
shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was
small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a
long snip nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his
spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along
the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and
fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius
of Famine descending upon the earth or some scarecrow eloped from a
cornfield.

His school-house was a low building of one large room, rudely
constructed of logs, the windows partly glazed and partly patched with
leaves of old copybooks. It was most ingeniously secured at vacant hours
by a withe twisted in the handle of the door and stakes set against the
window-shutters, so that, though a thief might get in with perfect ease,
he would find some embarrassment in getting out---an idea most probably
borrowed by the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the mystery of
an eel-pot. The school-house stood in a rather lonely but pleasant
situation, just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close
by and a formidable birch tree growing at one end of it. From hence the
low murmur of his pupils’ voices, conning over their lessons, might be
heard in a drowsy summer’s day like the hum of a bee-hive, interrupted
now and then by the authoritative voice of the master in the tone of
menace or command, or, peradventure, by the appalling sound of the birch
as he urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge.
Truth to say, he was a conscientious man, and ever bore in mind the
golden maxim, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Ichabod Crane’s
scholars certainly were not spoiled.

I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of those cruel
potentates of the school who joy in the smart of their subjects; on
the contrary, he administered justice with discrimination rather than
severity, taking the burden off the backs of the weak and laying it on
those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least
flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of
justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little
tough, wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled
and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called “doing
his duty by their parents;” and he never inflicted a chastisement
without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting
urchin, that “he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day
he had to live.”

When school-hours were over he was even the companion and playmate of
the larger boys, and on holiday afternoons would convoy some of the
smaller ones home who happened to have pretty sisters or good housewives
for mothers noted for the comforts of the cupboard. Indeed it behooved
him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue arising from his
school was small, and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him
with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the
dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance he was,
according to country custom in those parts, boarded and lodged at the
houses of the farmers whose children he instructed. With these he lived
successively a week at a time, thus going the rounds of the neighborhood
with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.

That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic
patrons, who are apt to consider the costs of schooling a grievous
burden and schoolmasters as mere drones, he had various ways of
rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers
occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms, helped to make
hay, mended the fences, took the horses to water, drove the cows from
pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire. He laid aside, too, all the
dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it in his little
empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating.
He found favor in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children,
particularly the youngest; and like the lion bold, which whilom so
magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child on one knee
and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.

In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-master of the
neighborhood and picked up many bright shillings by instructing the
young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no little vanity to him on
Sundays to take his station in front of the church-gallery with a band
of chosen singers, where, in his own mind, he completely carried away
the palm from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above
all the rest of the congregation, and there are peculiar quavers still
to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off,
quite to the opposite side of the mill-pond on a still Sunday morning,
which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod
Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts in that ingenious way which is
commonly denominated “by hook and by crook,” the worthy pedagogue got on
tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of the
labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.

The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female
circle of a rural neighborhood, being considered a kind of idle,
gentleman-like personage of vastly superior taste and accomplishments to
the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning only to the
parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir
at the tea-table of a farmhouse and the addition of a supernumerary
dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver
tea-pot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the
smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the
churchyard between services on Sundays, gathering grapes for them from
the wild vines that overrun the surrounding trees; reciting for their
amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones; or sauntering, with a
whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent mill-pond, while the
more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior
elegance and address.

From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette,
carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that
his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover,
esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read
several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s
History of New England Witchcraft, in which, by the way, he most firmly
and potently believed.

He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple
credulity. His appetite for the marvellous and his powers of digesting
it were equally extraordinary, and both had been increased by his
residence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous
for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school
was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of
clover bordering the little brook that whimpered by his school-house,
and there con over old Mather’s direful tales until the gathering dusk
of the evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then,
as he wended his way by swamp and stream and awful woodland to the
farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound of Nature at
that witching hour fluttered his excited imagination--the moan of the
whip-poor-will* from the hillside; the boding cry of the tree-toad, that
harbinger of storm; the dreary hooting of the screech-owl, or the
sudden rustling in the thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The
fire-flies, too, which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now
and then startled him as one of uncommon brightness would stream across
his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came winging
his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was ready to give up
the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token. His
only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought or drive away
evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes; and the good people of Sleepy
Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening, were often filled with
awe at hearing his nasal melody, “in linked sweetness long drawn out,”
 floating from the distant hill or along the dusky road.


     * The whip-poor-will is a bird which is only heard at night.
     It receives its name from its note, which is thought to
     resemble those words.


Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter
evenings with the old Dutch wives as they sat spinning by the fire, with
a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen
to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields,
and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and
particularly of the headless horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the
Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally
by his anecdotes of witchcraft and of the direful omens and portentous
sights and sounds in the air which prevailed in the earlier times of
Connecticut, and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon
comets and shooting stars, and with the alarming fact that the world did
absolutely turn round and that they were half the time topsy-turvy.

But if there was a pleasure in all this while snugly cuddling in the
chimney-corner of a chamber that was all of a ruddy glow from the
crackling wood-fire, and where, of course, no spectre dared to show
its face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk
homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path amidst the dim
and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did be eye
every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some
distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with
snow, which, like a sheeted spectre, beset his very path! How often did
he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty
crust beneath his feet, and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he
should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him! And how
often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast howling
among the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of
his nightly scourings!

All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind
that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many spectres in his time,
and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes in his lonely
perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would
have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the devil and all his
works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more
perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of
witches put together, and that was--a woman.

Among the musical disciples who assembled one evening in each week
to receive his instructions in psalmody was Katrina Van Tassel, the
daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer. She was a
blooming lass of fresh eighteen, plump as a partridge, ripe and melting
and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches, and universally famed,
not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a
little of a coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was
a mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set off
her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold which her
great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam, the tempting
stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly short petticoat to
display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.

Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart towards the sex, and it is
not to be wondered at that so tempting a morsel soon found favor in his
eyes, more especially after he had visited her in her paternal mansion.
Old Baltus Van Tassel was a perfect picture of a thriving, contented,
liberal-hearted farmer. He seldom, it is true, sent either his eyes or
his thoughts beyond the boundaries of his own farm, but within those
everything was snug, happy, and well-conditioned. He was satisfied
with his wealth but not proud of it, and piqued himself upon the hearty
abundance, rather than the style, in which he lived. His stronghold was
situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one of those green, sheltered,
fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are so fond of nestling. A
great elm tree spread its broad branches over it, at the foot of which
bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest water in a little well
formed of a barrel, and then stole sparkling away through the grass to
a neighboring brook that bubbled along among alders and dwarf willows.
Hard by the farmhouse was a vast barn, that might have served for a
church, every window and crevice of which seemed bursting forth with the
treasures of the farm; the flail was busily resounding within it from
morning to night; swallows and martins skimmed twittering about the
eaves; and rows of pigeons, some with one eye turned up, as if watching
the weather, some with their heads under their wings or buried in their
bosoms, and others, swelling, and cooing, and bowing about their dames,
were enjoying the sunshine on the roof. Sleek, unwieldy porkers were
grunting in the repose and abundance of their pens, whence sallied
forth, now and then, troops of sucking pigs as if to snuff the air.
A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an adjoining pond,
convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of turkeys were gobbling
through the farmyard, and guinea-fowls fretting about it, like
ill-tempered housewives, with their peevish, discontented cry. Before
the barn-door strutted the gallant cock, that pattern of a husband, a
warrior, and a fine gentleman, clapping his burnished wings and crowing
in the pride and gladness of his heart--sometimes tearing up the earth
with his feet, and then generously calling his ever-hungry family of
wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel which he had discovered.

The pedagogue’s mouth watered as he looked upon this sumptuous promise
of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind’s eye he pictured to
himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly
and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a
comfortable pie and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were
swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes,
like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In
the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon and juicy
relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with
its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savory
sausages; and even bright Chanticleer himself lay sprawling on his back
in a side-dish, with uplifted claws, as if craving that quarter which
his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while living.

As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great
green eyes over the fat meadow-lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye,
of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burdened with ruddy
fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement of Van Tassel, his heart
yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his
imagination expanded with the idea how they might be readily turned into
cash and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land and shingle
palaces in the wilderness. Nay, his busy fancy already realized his
hopes, and presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole family of
children, mounted on the top of a wagon loaded with household trumpery,
with pots and kettles dangling beneath, and he beheld himself bestriding
a pacing mare, with a colt at her heels, setting out for Kentucky,
Tennessee, or the Lord knows where.

When he entered the house the conquest of his heart was complete. It
was one of those spacious farmhouses with high-ridged but lowly-sloping
roofs, built in the style handed down from the first Dutch settlers, the
low projecting eaves forming a piazza along the front capable of being
closed up in bad weather. Under this were hung flails, harness, various
utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the neighboring
river. Benches were built along the sides for summer use, and a great
spinning-wheel at one end and a churn at the other showed the various
uses to which this important porch might be devoted. From this piazza
the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the centre of
the mansion and the place of usual residence. Here rows of resplendent
pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled his eyes. In one corner
stood a huge bag of wool ready to be spun; in another a quantity of
linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of Indian corn and strings of
dried apples and peaches hung in gay festoons along the walls, mingled
with the gaud of red peppers; and a door left ajar gave him a peep into
the best parlor, where the claw-footed chairs and dark mahogany tables
shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying shovel and
tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus tops; mock-oranges
and conch-shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings of various-colored
birds’ eggs were suspended above it; a great ostrich egg was hung from
the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard, knowingly left open,
displayed immense treasures of old silver and well-mended china.

From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight the
peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the
affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel. In this enterprise,
however, he had more real difficulties than generally fell to the lot of
a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had anything but giants, enchanters,
fiery dragons, and such-like easily-conquered adversaries to contend
with, and had to make his way merely through gates of iron and brass
and walls of adamant to the castle keep, where the lady of his heart was
confined; all which he achieved as easily as a man would carve his way
to the centre of a Christmas pie, and then the lady gave him her hand as
a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win his way to
the heart of a country coquette beset with a labyrinth of whims
and caprices, which were forever presenting new difficulties and
impediments, and he had to encounter a host of fearful adversaries
of real flesh and blood, the numerous rustic admirers who beset every
portal to her heart, keeping a watchful and angry eye upon each other,
but ready to fly out in the common cause against any new competitor.

Among these the most formidable was a burly, roaring, roistering
blade of the name of Abraham--or, according to the Dutch abbreviation,
Brom--Van Brunt, the hero of the country round, which rang with
his feats of strength and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered and
double-jointed, with short curly black hair and a bluff but not
unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance.
From his Herculean frame and great powers of limb, he had received the
nickname of BROM BONES, by which he was universally known. He was famed
for great knowledge and skill in horsemanship, being as dexterous on
horseback as a Tartar. He was foremost at all races and cockfights, and,
with the ascendancy which bodily strength acquires in rustic life, was
the umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one side and giving his
decisions with an air and tone admitting of no gainsay or appeal. He was
always ready for either a fight or a frolic, but had more mischief than
ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness
there was a strong dash of waggish good-humor at bottom. He had three or
four boon companions who regarded him as their model, and at the head of
whom he scoured the country, attending every scene of feud or merriment
for miles around. In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur cap
surmounted with a flaunting fox’s tail; and when the folks at a country
gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking
about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall.
Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing along past the farm-houses at
midnight with whoop and halloo, like a troop of Don Cossacks, and the
old dames, startled out of their sleep, would listen for a moment till
the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then exclaim, “Ay, there goes
Brom Bones and his gang!” The neighbors looked upon him with a mixture
of awe, admiration, and good-will, and when any madcap prank or rustic
brawl occurred in the vicinity always shook their heads and warranted
Brom Bones was at the bottom of it.

This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina
for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and, though his amorous
toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a
bear, yet it was whispered that she did not altogether discourage his
hopes. Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival candidates to
retire who felt no inclination to cross a line in his amours; insomuch,
that when his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel’s paling on a Sunday
night, a sure sign that his master was courting--or, as it is termed,
“sparking”--within, all other suitors passed by in despair and carried
the war into other quarters.

Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to contend,
and, considering all things, a stouter man than he would have shrunk
from the competition and a wiser (*)man would have despaired. He had,
however, a happy mixture of pliability and perseverance in his nature;
he was in form and spirit like a supple jack--yielding, but although;
though he bent, he never broke and though he bowed beneath the slightest
pressure, yet the moment it was away, jerk! he was as erect and carried
his head as high as ever.

To have taken the field openly against his rival would have been madness
for he was not man to be thwarted in his amours, any more than that
stormy lover, Achilles. Ichabod, therefore, made his advances in a
quiet and gently-insinuating manner. Under cover of his character of
singing-master, he made frequent visits at the farm-house; not that he
had anything to apprehend from the meddlesome interference of parents,
which is so often a stumbling-block in the path of lovers. Balt Van
Tassel was an easy, indulgent soul; he loved his daughter better even
than his pipe, and, like a reasonable man and an excellent father, let
her have her way in everything. His notable little wife, too, had enough
to do to attend to her housekeeping and manage her poultry for, as she
sagely observed, ducks and geese are foolish things and must be looked
after, but girls can take care of themselves. Thus while the busy dame
bustled about the house or plied her spinning-wheel at one end of the
piazza, honest Balt would sit smoking his evening pipe at the other,
watching the achievements of a little wooden warrior who, armed with a
sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle
of the barn. In the meantime, Ichabod would carry on his suit with the
daughter by the side of the spring under the great elm, or sauntering
along in the twilight, that hour so favorable to the lover’s eloquence.

I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they
have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but
one vulnerable point, or door of access, while otheres have a thousand
avenues and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a
great triumph of skill to gain the former, but still greater proof
of generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for the man must
battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand
common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown, but he who keeps
undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero. Certain
it is, this was not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones; and from
the moment Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests of the former
evidently declined; his horse was no longer seen tied at the palings
on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose between him and the
preceptor of Sleepy Hollow.

Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have
carried matters to open warfare, and have settled their pretensions
to the lady according to the mode of those most concise and simple
reasoners, the knights-errant of yore--by single combat; but Ichabod was
too conscious of the superior might of his adversary to enter the lists
against him: he had overheard a boast of Bones, that he would “double
the schoolmaster up and lay him on a shelf of his own school-house;”
 and he was too wary to give him an opportunity. There was something
extremely provoking in this obstinately pacific system; it left Brom
no alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his
disposition and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival.
Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang
of rough riders. They harried his hitherto peaceful domains; smoked
out his singing school by stopping up the chimney; broke into the
schoolhouse at night in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe
and window stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy; so that the poor
schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their
meetings there. But, what was still more annoying, Brom took all
opportunities of turning him into ridicule in presence of his mistress,
and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to whine in the most ludicrous
manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod’s, to instruct her in
psalmody.

In this way, matters went on for some time without producing any
material effect on the relative situation of the contending powers. On
a fine autumnal afternoon Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on
the lofty stool whence he usually watched all the concerns of his little
literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferule, that sceptre of despotic
power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails behind the throne, a
constant terror to evildoers; while on the desk before him might be
seen sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons detected upon
the persons of idle urchins, such as half-munched apples, popguns,
whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant little paper
gamecocks. Apparently there had been some appalling act of justice
recently inflicted, for his scholars were all busily intent upon their
books or slyly whispering behind them with one eye kept upon the master,
and a kind of buzzing stillness reigned throughout the school-room.
It was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a negro in tow-cloth
jacket and trowsers, a round-crowned fragment of a hat like the cap of
Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild, half-broken colt,
which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came clattering up to
the school door with an invitation to Ichabod to attend a merry-making
or “quilting frolic” to be held that evening at Mynheer Van Tassel’s;
and, having delivered his message with that air of importance and effort
at fine language which a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of
the kind, he dashed over the brook, and was seen scampering away up the
hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his mission.

All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet school-room. The
scholars were hurried through their lessons without stopping at trifles;
those who were nimble skipped over half with impunity, and those who
were tardy had a smart application now and then in the rear to quicken
their speed or help them over a tall word. Books were flung aside
without being put away on the shelves, inkstands were overturned,
benches thrown down, and the whole school was turned loose an hour
before the usual time, bursting forth like a legion of young
imps, yelping and racketing about the green in joy at their early
emancipation.

The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at his toilet,
brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only, suit of rusty
black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken looking-glass that
hung up in the school-house. That he might make his appearance before
his mistress in the true style of a cavalier, he borrowed a horse from
the farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the
name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like
a knight-errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in
the true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks
and equipments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a
broken-down plough-horse that had outlived almost everything but his
viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck and a head like a
hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burrs; one
eye had lost its pupil and was glaring and spectral, but the other had
the gleam of a genuine devil in it. Still, he must have had fire and
mettle in his day, if we may judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder.
He had, in fact, been a favorite steed of his master’s, the choleric Van
Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of
his own spirit into the animal; for, old and broken down as he looked,
there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young filly in
the country.

Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed. He rode with short
stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle;
his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers’; he carried his whip
perpendicularly in his hand like a sceptre; and as his horse jogged on
the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A
small wool hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of
forehead might be called, and the skirts of his black coat fluttered out
almost to his horse’s tail. Such was the appearance of Ichabod and his
steed as they shambled out of the gate of Hans Van Ripper, and it was
altogether such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad
daylight.

It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day, the sky was clear and
serene, and Nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always
associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober
brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped
by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.
Streaming files of wild-ducks began to make their appearance high in the
air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech
and hickory nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from
the neighboring stubble-field.

The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the fulness of
their revelry they fluttered, chirping and frolicking, from bush to bush
and tree to tree, capricious from the very profusion and variety around
them. There was the honest cock robin, the favorite game of stripling
sportsmen, with its loud querulous note; and the twittering blackbirds,
flying in sable clouds; and the golden-winged woodpecker, with his
crimson crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage; and the
cedar-bird, with its red-tipt wings and yellow-tipt tail and its little
monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his
gay light-blue coat and white under-clothes, screaming and chattering,
bobbing and nodding and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with
every songster of the grove.

As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way his eye, ever open to every symptom
of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly
Autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples--some hanging in
oppressive opulence on the trees, some gathered into baskets and barrels
for the market, others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press.
Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears
peeping from their leafy coverts and holding out the promise of cakes
and hasty pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning
up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects
of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant
buckwheat-fields, breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he beheld
them soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well
buttered and garnished with honey or treacle by the delicate little
dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.

Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and “sugared
suppositions,” he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills which
look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty Hudson. The sun
gradually wheeled his broad disk down into the west. The wide bosom of
the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that here and there
a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shadow of the distant
mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air
to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually
into a pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the
mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the
precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth
to the dark-gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop was loitering
in the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging
uselessly against the mast, and as the reflection of the sky gleamed
along the still water it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the
air.

It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer
Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the
adjacent country--old farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun
coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter
buckles; their brisk withered little dames, in close crimped caps,
long-waisted shortgowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and
pincushions and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside; buxom lasses,
almost as antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a
fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation;
the sons, in short square-skirted coats with rows of stupendous brass
buttons, and their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times,
especially if they could procure an eel-skin for the purpose, it being
esteemed throughout the country as a potent nourisher and strengthener
of the hair.

Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the
gathering on his favorite steed Daredevil--a creature, like himself full
of metal and mischief, and which no one but himself could manage. He
was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious animals, given to all kinds
of tricks, which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck, for he
held a tractable, well-broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.

Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon
the enraptured gaze of my hero as he entered the state parlor of Van
Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses with their
luxurious display of red and white, but the ample charms of a genuine
Dutch country tea-table in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped-up
platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only
to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the
tenderer oily koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes
and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of
cakes. And then there were apple pies and peach pies and pumpkin pies;
besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes
of preserved plums and peaches and pears and quinces; not to mention
broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and
cream,--all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated
them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the
midst. Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this
banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story.
Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but
did ample justice to every dainty.

He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion
as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose spirits rose with
eating as some men’s do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his
large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that
he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury
and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he’d turn his back upon the old
school-house, snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper and every
other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of doors
that should dare to call him comrade!

Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated
with content and good-humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His
hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a
shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing
invitation to “fall to and help themselves.”

And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned
to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro who had been the
itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood for more than half a century.
His instrument was as old and battered as himself. The greater part of
the time he scraped on two or three strings, accompanying every movement
of the bow with a motion of the head, bowing almost to the ground and
stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to start.

Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his vocal
powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have seen
his loosely hung frame in full motion and clattering about the room
you would have thought Saint Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the
dance, was figuring before you in person. He was the admiration of all
the negroes, who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the farm
and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at
every door and window, gazing with delight at the scene, rolling their
white eyeballs, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How
could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and joyous? The
lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and smiling graciously
in reply to all his amorous oglings, while Brom Bones, sorely smitten
with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself in one corner.

When the dance was at an end Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the
sager folks, who, with old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the
piazza gossiping over former times and drawing out long stories about
the war.

This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those
highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men.
The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had
therefore been the scene of marauding and infested with refugees,
cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just sufficient time had
elapsed to enable each storyteller to dress up his tale with a little
becoming fiction, and in the indistinctness of his recollection to make
himself the hero of every exploit.

There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded Dutchman,
who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder
from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge.
And there was an old gentleman who shall be nameless, being too rich
a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the battle of Whiteplains,
being an excellent master of defence, parried a musket-ball with a small
sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade and
glance off at the hilt: in proof of which he was ready at any time to
show the sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more
that had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was
persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to a happy
termination.

But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that
succeeded. The neighborhood is rich in legendary treasures of the
kind. Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered,
long-settled retreats but are trampled under foot by the shifting throng
that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there
is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have
scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in
their graves before their surviving friends have travelled away from the
neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds
they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason
why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long-established Dutch
communities.

The immediate causes however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories
in these parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow.
There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted
region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting
all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow people were present at
Van Tassel’s, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful
legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains and mourning
cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the
unfortunate Major Andre was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood.
Some mention was made also of the woman in white that haunted the dark
glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights
before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the
stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the
headless horseman, who had been heard several times of late patrolling
the country, and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the
graves in the churchyard.

The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a
favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll surrounded by
locust trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent whitewashed
walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the
shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet
of water bordered by high trees, between which peeps may be caught at
the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where
the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at
least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a
wide woody dell, along, which raves a large brook among broken rocks and
trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far
from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led
to it and the bridge itself were thickly shaded by overhanging trees,
which cast a gloom about it even in the daytime, but occasioned a
fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of
the headless horseman, and the place where he was most frequently
encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical
disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the horseman returning from his foray
into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they
galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached
the bridge, when the horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old
Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap
of thunder.

This story was immediately matched by a thrice-marvellous adventure of
Brom Bones, who made light of the galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey.
He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of
Sing-Sing he had been over taken by this midnight trooper; that he had
offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it
too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they
came to the church bridge the Hessian bolted and vanished in a flash of
fire.

All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in
the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving
a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of
Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large extracts from his invaluable
author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous events that had taken
place in his native state of Connecticut and fearful sights which he had
seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.

The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered together
their families in their wagons, and were heard for some time rattling
along the hollow roads and over the distant hills. Some of the
damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite swains, and their
light-hearted laughter, mingling with the clatter of hoofs, echoed along
the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and fainter until they gradually
died away, and the late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and
deserted. Ichabod only lingered behind, according to the custom of
country lovers, to have a tete-a-tete with the heiress, fully convinced
that he was now on the high road to success. What passed at this
interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know.
Something, however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he certainly
sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate
and chop-fallen. Oh these women! these women! Could that girl have been
playing off any of her coquettish tricks? Was her encouragement of the
poor pedagogue all a mere sham to secure her conquest of his rival?
Heaven only knows, not I! Let it suffice to say, Ichabod stole forth
with the air of one who had been sacking a hen-roost, rather than a fair
lady’s heart. Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene
of rural wealth on which he had so often gloated, he went straight to
the stable, and with several hearty cuffs and kicks roused his steed
most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters in which he was soundly
sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and oats and whole valleys of
timothy and clover.

It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and
crestfallen, pursued his travel homewards along the sides of the
lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so
cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below
him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with
here and there the tall mast of a sloop riding quietly at anchor under
the land. In the dead hush of midnight he could even hear the barking of
the watch-dog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague
and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful
companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock,
accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some farm-house
away among the hills; but it was like a dreaming sound in his ear. No
signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy chirp
of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bull-frog from a
neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in
his bed.

All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon
now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and
darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds
occasionally had them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and
dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the
scenes of the ghost-stories had been laid. In the centre of the road
stood an enormous tulip tree which towered like a giant above all the
other trees of the neighborhood and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs
were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary
trees, twisting down almost to the earth and rising again into the air.
It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate Andre, who
had been taken prisoner hard by, and was universally known by the name
of Major Andre’s tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of
respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its
ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights and
doleful lamentations told concerning it.

As Ichabod approached this fearful tree he began to whistle: he thought
his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through
the dry branches. As he approached a little nearer he thought he saw
something white hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused and ceased
whistling, but on looking more narrowly perceived that it was a place
where the tree had been scathed by lightning and the white wood laid
bare. Suddenly he heard a groan: his teeth chattered and his knees
smote against the saddle; it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon
another as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in
safety, but new perils lay before him.

About two hundred yards from the tree a small brook crossed the road and
ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen known by the name of Wiley’s
Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over
this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the wood a
group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a
cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It
was at this identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was captured, and
under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen
concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a
haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to
pass it alone after dark.

As he approached the stream his heart began to thump; he summoned up,
however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the
ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of
starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement and
ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the
delay, jerked the reins on the other side and kicked lustily with the
contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but
it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of
brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and
heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward,
snuffing and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge with a
suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head.
Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the
sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove on the margin
of the brook he beheld something huge, misshapen, black, and towering.
It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic
monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror.
What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides,
what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which
could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a
show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “Who are you?”
 He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated
voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides
of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with
involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of
alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at
once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal,
yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained.
He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions and mounted on a black
horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability,
but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side
of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.

Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and
bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping
Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The
stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled
up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind; the other did the
same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his
psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth and
he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and
dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and
appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising
ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief
against the sky, gigantic in height and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was
horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! but his horror was
still more increased on observing that the head, which should have
rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of the
saddle. His terror rose to desperation, he rained a shower of kicks and
blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion
the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they
dashed through thick and thin, stones flying and sparks flashing at
every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air as he
stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head in the eagerness
of his flight.

They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but
Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it,
made an opposite turn and plunged headlong down hill to the left. This
road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter
of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story, and just
beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.

As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskillful rider an apparent
advantage in the chase; but just as he had got halfway through the
hollow the girths of the saddle gave away and he felt it slipping from
under him. He seized it by the pommel and endeavored to hold it firm,
but in vain, and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder
round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it
trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van
Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind, for it was his Sunday saddle; but
this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches,
and (unskilled rider that he was) he had much ado to maintain his seat,
sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes
jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s back-bone with a violence that
he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church
bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the
bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls
of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the
place where Brom Bones’ ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can
but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard
the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied
that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and
old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding
planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind
to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of
fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups,
and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to
dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium
with a tremendous crash; he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and
Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider passed by like a
whirlwind.

The next morning the old horse was found, without his saddle and with
the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master’s
gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast; dinner-hour
came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at the school-house and
strolled idly about the banks of the brook but no schoolmaster. Hans Van
Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor
Ichabod and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent
investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading
to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of
horses’ hoofs, deeply dented in the road and evidently at furious speed,
were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of
the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the
unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a spattered pumpkin.

The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be
discovered. Hans Van Ripper, as executor of his estate, examined the
bundle which contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two
shirts and a half, two stocks for the neck, a pair or two of worsted
stockings, an old pair of corduroy small-clothes, a rusty razor, a book
of psalm tunes full of dog’s ears, and a broken pitch-pipe. As to the
books and furniture of the school-house, they belonged to the community,
excepting Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac,
and a book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of
foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts to
make a copy of verses in honor of the heiress of Van Tassel. These magic
books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned to the flames
by Hans Van Ripper, who from that time forward determined to send his
children no more to school, observing that he never knew any good
come of this same reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster
possessed--and he had received his quarter’s pay but a day or
two before--he must have had about his person at the time of his
disappearance.

The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church on the
following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the
churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin
had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of
others were called to mind, and when they had diligently considered them
all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook
their heads and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried
off by the galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor and in nobody’s debt,
nobody troubled his head any more about him, the school was removed to
a different quarter of the hollow and another pedagogue reigned in his
stead.

It is true an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit
several years after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure
was received, brought home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still
alive; that he had left the neighborhood, partly through fear of the
goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in mortification at having been
suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed his quarters to a
distant part of the country, had kept school and studied law at the same
time, had been admitted to the bar, turned politician, electioneered,
written for the newspapers, and finally had been made a justice of
the Ten Pound Court. Brom Bones too, who shortly after his rival’s
disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar,
was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod
was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the
pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter
than he chose to tell.

The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these
matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by
supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the
neighborhood round the intervening fire. The bridge became more than
ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason why the
road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the
border of the mill-pond. The schoolhouse, being deserted, soon fell to
decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate
pedagogue; and the plough-boy, loitering homeward of a still summer
evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance chanting a melancholy
psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.


POSTSCRIPT

FOUND IN THE HANDWRITING OF MR. KNICKERBOCKER.

THE preceding tale is given almost in the precise words in which I heard
it related at a Corporation meeting of the ancient city of Manhattoes,
at which were present many of its sagest and most illustrious burghers.
The narrator was a pleasant, shabby, gentlemanly old fellow in
pepper-and-salt clothes, with a sadly humorous face, and one whom
I strongly suspected of being poor, he made such efforts to be
entertaining. When his story was concluded there was much laughter and
approbation, particularly from two or three deputy aldermen who had
been asleep the greater part of the time. There was, however, one tall,
dry-looking old gentleman, with beetling eyebrows, who maintained a
grave and rather severe face throughout, now and then folding his arms,
inclining his head, and looking down upon the floor, as if turning a
doubt over in his mind. He was one of your wary men, who never laugh but
upon good grounds--when they have reason and the law on their side.
When the mirth of the rest of the company had subsided and silence was
restored, he leaned one arm on the elbow of his chair, and sticking the
other akimbo, demanded, with a slight but exceedingly sage motion of the
head and contraction of the brow, what was the moral of the story and
what it went to prove.

The story-teller, who was just putting a glass of wine to his lips as a
refreshment after his toils, paused for a moment, looked at his inquirer
with an air of infinite deference, and, lowering the glass slowly to the
table, observed that the story was intended most logically to prove--

“That there is no situation in life but has its advantages and
pleasures--provided we will but take a joke as we find it;

“That, therefore, he that runs races with goblin troopers is likely to
have rough riding of it.

“Ergo, for a country schoolmaster to be refused the hand of a Dutch
heiress is a certain step to high preferment in the state.”

The cautious old gentleman knit his brows tenfold closer after this
explanation, being sorely puzzled by the ratiocination of the syllogism,
while methought the one in pepper-and-salt eyed him with something of a
triumphant leer. At length he observed that all this was very well, but
still he thought the story a little on the extravagant--there were one
or two points on which he had his doubts.

“Faith, sir,” replied the story-teller, “as to that matter, I don’t
believe one-half of it myself.”

D. K.



L’ENVOY.*

    Go, little booke, God send thee good passage,
    And specially let this be thy prayere,
    Unto them all that thee will read or hear,
    Where thou art wrong, after their help to call,
    Thee to correct in any part or all.
                  CHAUCER’S Belle Dame sans Mercie.

IN concluding a second volume of the Sketch Book the Author cannot but
express his deep sense of the indulgence with which his first has been
received, and of the liberal disposition that has been evinced to treat
him with kindness as a stranger. Even the critics, whatever may be
said of them by others, he has found to be a singularly gentle and
good-natured race; it is true that each has in turn objected to some
one or two articles, and that these individual exceptions, taken in the
aggregate, would amount almost to a total condemnation of his work; but
then he has been consoled by observing that what one has particularly
censured another has as particularly praised; and thus, the encomiums
being set off against the objections, he finds his work, upon the whole,
commended far beyond its deserts.


     * Closing the second volume of the London edition.


He is aware that he runs a risk of forfeiting much of this kind favor by
not following the counsel that has been liberally bestowed upon him; for
where abundance of valuable advice is given gratis it may seem a man’s
own fault if he should go astray. He only can say in his vindication
that he faithfully determined for a time to govern himself in his second
volume by the opinions passed upon his first; but he was soon brought to
a stand by the contrariety of excellent counsel. One kindly advised him
to avoid the ludicrous; another to shun the pathetic; a third assured
him that he was tolerable at description, but cautioned him to leave
narrative alone; while a fourth declared that he had a very pretty knack
at turning a story, and was really entertaining when in a pensive mood,
but was grievously mistaken if he imagined himself to possess a spirit
of humor.

Thus perplexed by the advice of his friends, who each in turn closed
some particular path, but left him all the world beside to range in,
he found that to follow all their counsels would, in fact, be to stand
still. He remained for a time sadly embarrassed, when all at once the
thought struck him to ramble on as he had begun; that his work being
miscellaneous and written for different humors, it could not be expected
that any one would be pleased with the whole; but that if it should
contain something to suit each reader, his end would be completely
answered. Few guests sit down to a varied table with an equal appetite
for every dish. One has an elegant horror of a roasted pig; another
holds a curry or a devil in utter abomination; a third cannot tolerate
the ancient flavor of venison and wild-fowl; and a fourth, of truly
masculine stomach, looks with sovereign contempt on those knick-knacks
here and there dished up for the ladies. Thus each article is in
condemned in its turn, and yet amidst this variety of appetites seldom
does a dish go away from the table without being tasted and relished by
some one or other of the guests.

With these considerations he ventures to serve up this second volume in
the same heterogeneous way with his first; simply requesting the reader,
if he should find here and there something to please him, to rest
assured that it was written expressly for intelligent readers like
himself; but entreating him, should he find anything to dislike, to
tolerate it, as one of those articles which the author has been obliged
to write for readers of a less refined taste.

To be serious: The author is conscious of the numerous faults and
imperfections of his work, and well aware how little he is disciplined
and accomplished in the arts of authorship. His deficiencies are also
increased by a diffidence arising from his peculiar situation. He finds
himself writing in a strange land, and appearing before a public
which he has been accustomed from childhood to regard with the highest
feelings of awe and reverence. He is full of solicitude to deserve their
approbation, yet finds that very solicitude continually embarrassing his
powers and depriving him of that case and confidence which are necessary
to successful exertion. Still, the kindness with which he is treated
encourages him to go on, hoping that in time he may acquire a steadier
footing; and thus he proceeds, half venturing, half shrinking, surprised
at his own good-fortune and wondering at his own temerity.





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