The English Mail-Coach and Joan of Arc by De Quincey, Thomas
THE ENGLISH MAIL-COACH
JOAN OF ARC
By Thomas De Quincey
Edited With Introduction And Notes By Milton Haight Turk, Ph.D.
TO CHARLES DEACON CREE
THIS LITTLE VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED
_Glencairn, Kilmacolm, Scotland June 27, 1905_
Some portions of this Introduction have been taken from the Athenæum Press _Selections from De Quincey_; many of the notes have also been transferred from that volume. A number of the new notes I owe to a review of the _Selections_ by Dr. Lane Cooper, of Cornell University. I wish also to thank for many favors the Committee and officers of the Glasgow University Library.
If a word by way of suggestion to teachers be pertinent, I would venture to remark that the object of the teacher of literature is, of course, only to fulfill the desire of the author--to make clear his facts and to bring home his ideas in all their power and beauty. Introductions and notes are only means to this end. Teachers, I think, sometimes lose sight of this fact; I know it is fatally easy for students to forget it. That teacher will have rendered a great service who has kept his pupils alive to the real aim of their studies,--to know the author, not to know of him.
INTRODUCTION I. LIFE II. CRITICAL REMARKS III. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
SELECTIONS THE ENGLISH MAIL-COACH JOAN OF ARC
Thomas de Quincey was born in Manchester on the 15th of August, 1785. His father was a man of high character and great taste for literature as well as a successful man of business; he died, most unfortunately, when Thomas was quite young. Very soon after our author's birth the family removed to The Farm, and later to Greenhay, a larger country place near Manchester. In 1796 De Quincey's mother, now for some years a widow, removed to Bath and placed him in the grammar school there.
Thomas, the future opium-eater, was a weak and sickly child. His first years were spent in solitude, and when his elder brother, William, a real boy, came home, the young author followed in humility mingled with terror the diversions of that ingenious and pugnacious "son of eternal racket." De Quincey's mother was a woman of strong character and emotions, as well as excellent mind, but she was excessively formal, and she seems to have inspired more awe than affection in her children, to whom she was for all that deeply devoted. Her notions of conduct in general and of child rearing in particular were very strict. She took Thomas out of Bath School, after three years' excellent work there, because he was too much praised, and kept him for a year at an inferior school at Winkfield in Wiltshire.
In 1800, at the age of fifteen, De Quincey was ready for Oxford; he had not been praised without reason, for his scholarship was far in advance of that of ordinary pupils of his years. "That boy," his master at Bath School had said, "that boy could harangue an Athenian mob better than you or I could address an English one." He was sent to Manchester Grammar School, however, in order that after three years' stay he might secure a scholarship at Brasenose College, Oxford. He remained there--strongly protesting against a situation which deprived him "of _health_, of _society_, of _amusement_, of _liberty_, of _congeniality of pursuits_"--for nineteen months, and then ran away.
His first plan had been to reach Wordsworth, whose _Lyrical Ballads_ (1798) had solaced him in fits of melancholy and had awakened in him a deep reverence for the neglected poet. His timidity preventing this, he made his way to Chester, where his mother then lived, in the hope of seeing a sister; was apprehended by the older members of the family; and through the intercession of his uncle, Colonel Penson, received the promise of a guinea a week to carry out his later project of a solitary tramp through Wales. From July to November, 1802, De Quincey then led a wayfarer's life. [Footnote: For a most interesting account of this period see the _Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_, Athenæum Press _Selections from De Quincey_, pp. 165-171, and notes.] He soon lost his guinea, however, by ceasing to keep his family informed of his whereabouts, and subsisted for a time with great difficulty. Still apparently fearing pursuit, with a little borrowed money he broke away entirely from his home by exchanging the solitude of Wales for the greater wilderness of London. Failing there to raise money on his expected patrimony, he for some time deliberately clung to a life of degradation and starvation rather than return to his lawful governors.
Discovered by chance by his friends, De Quincey was brought home and finally allowed (1803) to go to Worcester College, Oxford, on a reduced income. Here, we are told, "he came to be looked upon as a strange being who associated with no one." During this time he learned to take opium. He left, apparently about 1807, without a degree. In the same year he made the acquaintance of Coleridge and Wordsworth; Lamb he had sought out in London several years before.
His acquaintance with Wordsworth led to his settlement in 1809 at Grasmere, in the beautiful English Lake District; his home for ten years was Dove Cottage, which Wordsworth had occupied for several years and which is now held in trust as a memorial of the poet. De Quincey was married in 1816, and soon after, his patrimony having been exhausted, he took up literary work in earnest.
In 1821 he went to London to dispose of some translations from German authors, but was persuaded first to write and publish an account of his opium experiences, which accordingly appeared in the _London Magazine_ in that year. This new sensation eclipsed Lamb's _Essays of Elia_, which were appearing in the same periodical. The _Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_ was forthwith published in book form. De Quincey now made literary acquaintances. Tom Hood found the shrinking author "at home in a German ocean of literature, in a storm, flooding all the floor, the tables, and the chairs--billows of books." Richard Woodhouse speaks of the "depth and reality of his knowledge. ... His conversation appeared like the elaboration of a mine of results. ... Taylor led him into political economy, into the Greek and Latin accents, into antiquities, Roman roads, old castles, the origin and analogy of languages; upon all these he was informed to considerable minuteness. The same with regard to Shakespeare's sonnets, Spenser's minor poems, and the great writers and characters of Elizabeth's age and those of Cromwell's time."
From this time on De Quincey maintained himself by contributing to various magazines. He soon exchanged London and the Lakes for Edinburgh and its suburb, Lasswade, where the remainder of his life was spent. _Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine_ and its rival _Tatt's Magazine_ received a large number of contributions. _The English Mail-Coach_ appeared in 1849 in Blackwood. _Joan of Arc_ had already been published (1847) in _Tait_. De Quincey continued to drink laudanum throughout his life,--twice after 1821 in very great excess. During his last years he nearly completed a collected edition of his works. He died in Edinburgh on the 8th of December, 1859.
II. CRITICAL REMARKS
The Opium-Eater had been a weak, lonely, and over-studious child, and he was a solitary and ill-developed man. His character and his work present strange contradictions. He is most precise in statement, yet often very careless of fact; he is most courteous in manner, yet inexcusably inconsiderate in his behavior. Again, he sets up a high standard of purity of diction, yet uses slang quite unnecessarily and inappropriately; and though a great master of style, he is guilty, at times, of digression within digression until all trace of the original subject is lost.
De Quincey divides his writings into three groups: first, that class which "proposes primarily to amuse the reader, but which, in doing so, may or may not happen occasionally to reach a higher station, at which the amusement passes into an impassioned interest." To this class would belong the _Autobiographic Sketches_ and the _Literary Reminiscences_. As a second class he groups "those papers which address themselves purely to the understanding as an insulated faculty, or do so primarily." These essays would include, according to Professor Masson's subdivision, (a) Biographies, such as _Shakespeare_ or _Pope_--_Joan of Arc_ falls here, yet has some claim to a place in the first class; (b) Historical essays, like The _Cæsars_; (c) Speculative and Theological essays; (d) Essays in Political Economy and Politics; (e) Papers of Literary Theory and Criticism, such as the brilliant discussions of _Rhetoric, Style_, and _Conversation_, and the famous _On the Knocking at the Gate in 'Macbeth_.' As a third and "far higher" class the author ranks the _Confessions of an English Opium-Eater_, and also (but more emphatically) the _Suspiria de Profundis_. "On these," he says, "as modes of impassioned prose ranging under no precedents that I am aware of in any literature, it is much more difficult to speak justly, whether in a hostile or a friendly character."
Of De Quincey's essays in general it may be said that they bear witness alike to the diversity of his knowledge and the penetrative power of his intellect. The wide range of his subjects, however, deprives his papers when taken together of the weight which might attach to a series of related discussions. And, remarkable as is De Quincey's aptitude for analysis and speculation, more than once we have to regret the lack of the "saving common-sense" possessed by many far less gifted men. His erudition and insight are always a little in advance of his good judgment.
As to the works of the first class, the _Reminiscences_ are defaced by the shrewish spirit shown in the accounts of Wordsworth and other friends; nor can we depend upon them as records of fact. But our author had had exceptional opportunities to observe these famous men and women, and he possessed no little insight into literature and personality. As to the _Autobiographic Sketches_, the handling of events is hopelessly arbitrary and fragmentary. In truth, De Quincey is drawing an idealized picture of childhood,--creating a type rather than re-creating a person; it is a study of a child of talent that we receive from him, and as such these sketches form one of the most satisfactory products of his pen.
The _Confessions_ as a narrative is related to the Autobiography, while its poetical passages range it with the _Suspiria_ and the _Mail-Coach_. De Quincey seems to have believed that he was creating in such writings a new literary type of prose poetry or prose phantasy; he had, with his splendid dreams as subject-matter, lifted prose to heights hitherto scaled only by the poet. In reality his style owed much to the seventeenth-century writers, such as Milton and Sir Thomas Browne. He took part with Coleridge, Lamb, and others in the general revival of interest in earlier modern English prose, which is a feature of the Romantic Movement. Still none of his contemporaries wrote as he did; evidently De Quincey has a distinct quality of his own. Ruskin, in our own day, is like him, but never the same.
Yet De Quincey's prose poetry is a very small portion of his work, and it is not in this way only that he excels. Mr. Saintsbury has spoken of the strong appeal that De Quincey makes to boys. [Footnote: "Probably more boys have in the last forty years been brought to a love of literature proper by De Quincy than by any other writer whatever."--_History of Nineteenth-Century Literature_, p.198.] It is not without significance that he mentions as especially attractive to the young only writings with a large narrative element. [Footnote: "To read the _Essay on Murder_, the _English Mail-Coach_, _The Spanish Nun_, _The Cæsars_, and half a score other things at the age of about fifteen or sixteen is, or ought to be, to fall in love with them."--_Essays in English Literature_, 1780-1860, p.307.] Few boys read poetry, whether in verse or prose, and fewer still criticism or philosophy; to every normal boy the gate of good literature is the good story. It is the narrative skill of De Quincey that has secured for him, in preference to other writers of his class, the favor of youthful readers.
It would be too much to say that the talent that attracts the young to him must needs be the Opium-Eater's grand talent, though the notion is defensible, seeing that only salient qualities in good writing appeal to inexperienced readers. I believe, however, that this skill in narration is De Quincey's most persistent quality,--the golden thread that unites all his most distinguished and most enduring work. And it is with him a part of his genius for style. Creative power of the kind that goes to the making of plots De Quincey had not; he has proved that forever by the mediocrity of _Klosterheim_. Give him Bergmann's account of the Tartar Migration, or the story of the Fighting Nun,--give him the matter,--and a brilliant narrative will result. Indeed, De Quincey loved a story for its own sake; he rejoiced to see it extend its winding course before him; he delighted to follow it, touch it, color it, see it grow into body and being under his hand. That this enthusiasm should now and then tend to endanger the integrity of the facts need not surprise us; as I have said elsewhere, accuracy in these matters is hardly to be expected of De Quincey. And we can take our pleasure in the skillful unfolding of the dramatic narrative of the Tartar Flight--we can feel the author's joy in the scenic possibilities of his theme--even if we know that here and there an incident appears that is quite in its proper place--but is unknown to history.
In his _Confessions_ the same constructive power bears its part in the author's triumph. A peculiar end was to be reached in that narrative,--an end in which the writer had a deep personal interest. What is an opium-eater? Says a character in a recent work of fiction, of a social wreck: "If it isn't whisky with him, it's opium; if it isn't opium, it's whisky." This speech establishes the popular category in which De Quincey's habit had placed him. Our attention was to be drawn from these degrading connections. And this is done not merely by the correction of some widespread fallacies as to the effects of the drug; far more it is the result of narrative skill. As we follow with ever-increasing sympathy the lonely and sensitive child, the wandering youth, the neuralgic patient, into the terrible grasp of opium, who realizes, amid the gorgeous delights and the awful horrors of the tale, that the writer is after all the victim of the worst of bad habits? We can hardly praise too highly the art which even as we look beneath it throws its glamour over us still.
Nor is it only in this constructive power, in the selection and arrangement of details, that De Quincey excels as a narrator; a score of minor excellences of his style, such as the fine Latin words or the sweeping periodic sentences, contribute to the effective progress of his narrative prose. Mr. Lowell has said that "there are no such vistas and avenues of verse as Milton's." The comparison is somewhat hazardous, still I should like to venture the parallel claim that there are no such streams of prose as De Quincey's. The movement of his discourse is that of the broad river, not in its weight or force perhaps, but in its easy flowing progress, in its serene, unhurried certainty of its end. To be sure, only too often the waters overflow their banks and run far afield in alien channels. Yet, when great power over the instrument of language is joined to so much constructive skill, the result is narrative art of high quality,--an achievement that must be in no small measure the solid basis of De Quincey's fame.
III. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
1. _The Collected Writings of Thomas de Quincey_. New and enlarged edition by David Masson. Edinburgh: A. and C. Black, 1889-1890. [New York: The Macmillan Co. 14 vols., with footnotes, a preface to each volume, and index. Reissued in cheaper form. The standard edition.]
2. _The Works of Thomas de Quincey_. Riverside Edition. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1877. [12 vols., with notes and index.]
3. _Selections from De Quincey._ Edited with an Introduction and Notes, by M. H. Turk. Athenaeum Press Series. Boston, U.S.A., and London: Ginn and Company, 1902. ["The largest body of selections from De Quincey recently published.... The selections are _The affliction of Childhood, Introduction to the World of Strife, A Meeting with Lamb, A Meeting with Coleridge, Recollections of Wordsworth, Confessions, A Portion of Suspiria, The English Mail-Coach, Murder as one of the Fine Arts, Second Paper, Joan of Arc,_ and _On the Knocking at the Gate in 'Macbeth.'_"]
II. BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM
4. D. MASSON. _Thomas De Quincey._ English Men of Letters. London. [New York: Harper. An excellent brief biography. This book, with a good volume of selections, should go far toward supplying the ordinary student's needs.]
5. H. S. SALT. DE QUINCEY. Bell's Miniature Series of Great Writers. London: George Bell and Sons. [A good short life.] 6. A. H. JAPP. _Thomas De Quincey: His Life and Writings._ London, 1890. [New York: Scribner. First edition by "H. A. Page," 1877. The standard life of De Quincey; it contains valuable communications from De Quincey's daughters, J. Hogg, Rev. F. Jacox, Professor Masson, and others.]
7. A. H. JAPP. _De Quincey Memorials. Being Letters and Other Records, here first published. With Communications from Coleridge, the Wordsworths, Hannah More, Professor Wilson, and others._ 2 vols. London: W. Heinemann, 1891.
8. J. HOGG. _De Quincey and his Friends, Personal Recollections, Souvenirs, and Anecdotes_ [including Woodhouse's _Conversations_, Findlay's _Personal Recollections_, Hodgson's _On the Genius of De Quincey_, and a mass of personal notes from a host of friends]. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1895.
9. E. T. MASON. _Personal Traits of British Authors_. New York, 1885. [4 vols. The volume subtitled _Scott, Hogg,_ etc., contains some accounts of De Quincey not included by Japp or Hogg.]
10. L. STEPHEN. _Hours in a Library_. Vol. I. New York, 1892.
11. W. MINTO. _Manual of English Prose Literature_. Boston, 1889. [Contains the best general discussion of De Quincey's style.]
12. L. COOPER. _The Prose Poetry of Thomas De Quincey_. Leipzig, 1902.
THE ENGLISH MAIL-COACH
SECTION I--THE GLORY OF MOTION
Some twenty or more years before I matriculated at Oxford, Mr. Palmer, at that time M.P. for Bath, had accomplished two things, very hard to do on our little planet, the Earth, however cheap they may be held by eccentric people in comets: he had invented mail-coaches, and he had married the daughter of a duke. He was, therefore, just twice as great a man as Galileo, who did certainly invent (or, which is the same thing, [Footnote: "_The same thing_":--Thus, in the calendar of the Church Festivals, the discovery of the true cross (by Helen, the mother of Constantine) is recorded (and, one might think, with the express consciousness of sarcasm) as the _Invention_ of the Cross.] discover) the satellites of Jupiter, those very next things extant to mail-coaches in the two capital pretensions of speed and keeping time, but, on the other hand, who did _not_ marry the daughter of a duke.
These mail-coaches, as organised by Mr. Palmer, are entitled to a circumstantial notice from myself, having had so large a share in developing the anarchies of my subsequent dreams: an agency which they accomplished, 1st, through velocity at that time unprecedented--for they first revealed the glory of motion; 2dly, through grand effects for the eye between lamplight and the darkness upon solitary roads; 3dly, through animal beauty and power so often displayed in the class of horses selected for this mail service; 4thly, through the conscious presence of a central intellect, that, in the midst of vast distances [Footnote: "Vast distances":--One case was familiar to mail-coach travellers where two mails in opposite directions, north and south, starting at the same minute from points six hundred miles apart, met almost constantly at a particular bridge which bisected the total distance.]--of storms, of darkness, of danger--overruled all obstacles into one steady co-operation to a national result. For my own feeling, this post-office service spoke as by some mighty orchestra, where a thousand instruments, all disregarding each other, and so far in danger of discord, yet all obedient as slaves to the supreme _baton_ of some great leader, terminate in a perfection of harmony like that of heart, brain, and lungs in a healthy animal organisation. But, finally, that particular element in this whole combination which most impressed myself, and through which it is that to this hour Mr. Palmer's mail-coach system tyrannises over my dreams by terror and terrific beauty, lay in the awful _political_ mission which at that time it fulfilled. The mail-coach it was that distributed over the face of the land, like the opening of apocalyptic vials, the heart-shaking news of Trafalgar, of Salamanca, of Vittoria, of Waterloo. These were the harvests that, in the grandeur of their reaping, redeemed the tears and blood in which they had been sown. Neither was the meanest peasant so much below the grandeur and the sorrow of the times as to confound battles such as these, which were gradually moulding the destinies of Christendom, with the vulgar conflicts of ordinary warfare, so often no more than gladiatorial trials of national prowess. The victories of England in this stupendous contest rose of themselves as natural _Te Deums_ to heaven; and it was felt by the thoughtful that such victories, at such a crisis of general prostration, were not more beneficial to ourselves than finally to France, our enemy, and to the nations of all western or central Europe, through whose pusillanimity it was that the French domination had prospered.
The mail-coach, as the national organ for publishing these mighty events, thus diffusively influential, became itself a spiritualised and glorified object to an impassioned heart; and naturally, in the Oxford of that day, _all_ hearts were impassioned, as being all (or nearly all) in _early_ manhood. In most universities there is one single college; in Oxford there were five-and-twenty, all of which were peopled by young men, the _élite_ of their own generation; not boys, but men: none under eighteen. In some of these many colleges the custom permitted the student to keep what are called "short terms"; that is, the four terms of Michaelmas, Lent, Easter, and Act, were kept by a residence, in the aggregate, of ninety-one days, or thirteen weeks. Under this interrupted residence, it was possible that a student might have a reason for going down to his home four times in the year. This made eight journeys to and fro. But, as these homes lay dispersed through all the shires of the island, and most of us disdained all coaches except his Majesty's mail, no city out of London could pretend to so extensive a connexion with Mr. Palmer's establishment as Oxford. Three mails, at the least, I remember as passing every day through Oxford, and benefiting by my personal patronage--viz., the Worcester, the Gloucester, and the Holyhead mail. Naturally, therefore, it became a point of some interest with us, whose journeys revolved every six weeks on an average, to look a little into the executive details of the system. With some of these Mr. Palmer had no concern; they rested upon bye-laws enacted by posting-houses for their own benefit, and upon other bye-laws, equally stern, enacted by the inside passengers for the illustration of their own haughty exclusiveness. These last were of a nature to rouse our scorn; from which the transition was not very long to systematic mutiny. Up to this time, say 1804, or 1805 (the year of Trafalgar), it had been the fixed assumption of the four inside people (as an old tradition of all public carriages derived from the reign of Charles II) that they, the illustrious quaternion, constituted a porcelain variety of the human race, whose dignity would have been compromised by exchanging one word of civility with the three miserable delf-ware outsides. Even to have kicked an outsider might have been held to attaint the foot concerned in that operation, so that, perhaps, it would have required an act of Parliament to restore its purity of blood. What words, then, could express the horror, and the sense of treason, in that case, which _had_ happened, where all three outsides (the trinity of Pariahs) made a vain attempt to sit down at the same breakfast-table or dinner-table with the consecrated four? I myself witnessed such an attempt; and on that occasion a benevolent old gentleman endeavoured to soothe his three holy associates, by suggesting that, if the outsides were indicted for this criminal attempt at the next assizes, the court would regard it as a case of lunacy or _delirium tremens_ rather than of treason. England owes much of her grandeur to the depth of the aristocratic element in her social composition, when pulling against her strong democracy. I am not the man to laugh at it. But sometimes, undoubtedly, it expressed itself in comic shapes. The course taken with the infatuated outsiders, in the particular attempt which I have noticed, was that the waiter, beckoning them away from the privileged _salle-à-manger_, sang out, "This way, my good men," and then enticed these good men away to the kitchen. But that plan had not always answered. Sometimes, though rarely, cases occurred where the intruders, being stronger than usual, or more vicious than usual, resolutely refused to budge, and so far carried their point as to have a separate table arranged for themselves in a corner of the general room. Yet, if an Indian screen could be found ample enough to plant them out from the very eyes of the high table, or _dais_, it then became possible to assume as a fiction of law that the three delf fellows, after all, were not present. They could be ignored by the porcelain men, under the maxim that objects not appearing and objects not existing are governed by the same logical construction. [Footnote: _De non apparentibus_, etc.]
Such being, at that time, the usage of mail-coaches, what was to be done by us of young Oxford? We, the most aristocratic of people, who were addicted to the practice of looking down superciliously even upon the insides themselves as often very questionable characters--were we, by voluntarily going outside, to court indignities? If our dress and bearing sheltered us generally from the suspicion of being "raff" (the name at that period for "snobs" [Footnote: "_Snobs_," and its antithesis, "_nobs_," arose among the internal factions of shoemakers perhaps ten years later. Possibly enough, the terms may have existed much earlier; but they were then first made known, picturesquely and effectively, by a trial at some assizes which happened to fix the public attention.]), we really _were_ such constructively by the place we assumed. If we did not submit to the deep shadow of eclipse, we entered at least the skirts of its penumbra. And the analogy of theatres was valid against us,--where no man can complain of the annoyances incident to the pit or gallery, having his instant remedy in paying the higher price of the boxes. But the soundness of this analogy we disputed. In the case of the theatre, it cannot be pretended that the inferior situations have any separate attractions, unless the pit may be supposed to have an advantage for the purposes of the critic or the dramatic reporter. But the critic or reporter is a rarity. For most people, the sole benefit is in the price. Now, on the contrary, the outside of the mail had its own incommunicable advantages. These we could not forego. The higher price we would willingly have paid, but not the price connected with the condition of riding inside; which condition we pronounced insufferable. The air, the freedom of prospect, the proximity to the horses, the elevation of seat: these were what we required; but, above all, the certain anticipation of purchasing occasional opportunities of driving.
Such was the difficulty which pressed us; and under the coercion of this difficulty we instituted a searching inquiry into the true quality and valuation of the different apartments about the mail. We conducted this inquiry on metaphysical principles; and it was ascertained satisfactorily that the roof of the coach, which by some weak men had been called the attics, and by some the garrets, was in reality the drawing-room; in which drawing-room the box was the chief ottoman or sofa; whilst it appeared that the _inside_ which had been traditionally regarded as the only room tenantable by gentlemen, was, in fact, the coal-cellar in disguise.
Great wits jump. The very same idea had not long before struck the celestial intellect of China. Amongst the presents carried out by our first embassy to that country was a state-coach. It had been specially selected as a personal gift by George III; but the exact mode of using it was an intense mystery to Pekin. The ambassador, indeed (Lord Macartney), had made some imperfect explanations upon this point; but, as His Excellency communicated these in a diplomatic whisper at the very moment of his departure, the celestial intellect was very feebly illuminated, and it became necessary to call a cabinet council on the grand state question, "Where was the Emperor to sit?" The hammer-cloth happened to be unusually gorgeous; and, partly on that consideration, but partly also because the box offered the most elevated seat, was nearest to the moon, and undeniably went foremost, it was resolved by acclamation that the box was the imperial throne, and, for the scoundrel who drove,--he might sit where he could find a perch. The horses, therefore, being harnessed, solemnly his imperial majesty ascended his new English throne under a flourish of trumpets, having the first lord of the treasury on his right hand, and the chief jester on his left. Pekin gloried in the spectacle; and in the whole flowery people, constructively present by representation, there was but one discontented person, and _that_ was the coachman. This mutinous individual audaciously shouted, "Where am _I_ to sit?" But the privy council, incensed by his disloyalty, unanimously opened the door, and kicked him into the inside. He had all the inside places to himself; but such is the rapacity of ambition that he was still dissatisfied. "I say," he cried out in an extempore petition addressed to the Emperor through the window--"I say, how am I to catch hold of the reins?"--"Anyhow," was the imperial answer; "don't trouble _me_, man, in my glory. How catch the reins? Why, through the windows, through the keyholes--_anyhow_." Finally this contumacious coachman lengthened the check-strings into a sort of jury-reins communicating with the horses; with these he drove as steadily as Pekin had any right to expect. The Emperor returned after the briefest of circuits; he descended in great pomp from his throne, with the severest resolution never to remount it. A public thanksgiving was ordered for his majesty's happy escape from the disease of a broken neck; and the state-coach was dedicated thenceforward as a votive offering to the god Fo Fo--whom the learned more accurately called Fi Fi.
A revolution of this same Chinese character did young Oxford of that era effect in the constitution of mail-coach society. It was a perfect French Revolution; and we had good reason to say, _ça ira_. In fact, it soon became _too_ popular. The "public"--a well-known character, particularly disagreeable, though slightly respectable, and notorious for affecting the chief seats in synagogues--had at first loudly opposed this revolution; but, when the opposition showed itself to be ineffectual, our disagreeable friend went into it with headlong zeal. At first it was a sort of race between us; and, as the public is usually from thirty to fifty years old, naturally we of young Oxford, that averaged about twenty, had the advantage. Then the public took to bribing, giving fees to horse-keepers, &c., who hired out their persons as warming-pans on the box seat. _That_, you know, was shocking to all moral sensibilities. Come to bribery, said we, and there is an end to all morality,--Aristotle's, Zeno's, Cicero's, or anybody's. And, besides, of what use was it? For _we_ bribed also. And, as our bribes, to those of the public, were as five shillings to sixpence, here again young Oxford had the advantage. But the contest was ruinous to the principles of the stables connected with the mails. This whole corporation was constantly bribed, rebribed, and often surrebribed; a mail-coach yard was like the hustings in a contested election; and a horse-keeper, ostler, or helper, was held by the philosophical at that time to be the most corrupt character in the nation.
There was an impression upon the public mind, natural enough from the continually augmenting velocity of the mail, but quite erroneous, that an outside seat on this class of carriages was a post of danger. On the contrary, I maintained that, if a man had become nervous from some gipsy prediction in his childhood, allocating to a particular moon now approaching some unknown danger, and he should inquire earnestly, "Whither can I fly for shelter? Is a prison the safest retreat? or a lunatic hospital? or the British Museum?" I should have replied, "Oh no; I'll tell you what to do. Take lodgings for the next forty days on the box of his Majesty's mail. Nobody can touch you there. If it is by bills at ninety days after date that you are made unhappy--if noters and protesters are the sort of wretches whose astrological shadows darken the house of life--then note you what I vehemently protest: viz., that, no matter though the sheriff and under-sheriff in every county should be running after you with his _posse_, touch a hair of your head he cannot whilst you keep house and have your legal domicile on the box of the mail. It is felony to stop the mail; even the sheriff cannot do that. And an _extra_ touch of the whip to the leaders (no great matter if it grazes the sheriff) at any time guarantees your safety." In fact, a bedroom in a quiet house seems a safe enough retreat; yet it is liable to its own notorious nuisances--to robbers by night, to rats, to fire. But the mail laughs at these terrors. To robbers, the answer is packed up and ready for delivery in the barrel of the guard's blunderbuss. Rats again! there _are_ none about mail-coaches any more than snakes in Von Troil's Iceland; [Footnote: "_Von Troil's Iceland_":--The allusion is to a well-known chapter in Von Troil's work, entitled, "Concerning the Snakes of Iceland." The entire chapter consists of these six words--"_There art no snakes in Iceland_."] except, indeed, now and then a parliamentary rat, who always hides his shame in what I have shown to be the "coal-cellar." And, as to fire, I never knew but one in a mail-coach; which was in the Exeter mail, and caused by an obstinate sailor bound to Devonport. Jack, making light of the law and the lawgiver that had set their faces against his offence, insisted on taking up a forbidden seat [Footnote: "_Forbidden seat_":--The very sternest code of rules was enforced upon the mails by the Post-office. Throughout England, only three outsides were allowed, of whom one was to sit on the box, and the other two immediately behind the box; none, under any pretext, to come near the guard; an indispensable caution; since else, under the guise of a passenger, a robber might by any one of a thousand advantages--which sometimes are created, but always are favoured, by the animation of frank social intercourse--have disarmed the guard. Beyond the Scottish border, the regulation was so far relaxed as to allow of _four_ outsides, but not relaxed at all as to the mode of placing them. One, as before, was seated on the box, and the other three on the front of the roof, with a determinate and ample separation from the little insulated chair of the guard. This relaxation was conceded by way of compensating to Scotland her disadvantages in point of population. England, by the superior density of her population, might always count upon a large fund of profits in the fractional trips of chance passengers riding for short distances of two or three stages. In Scotland this chance counted for much less. And therefore, to make good the deficiency, Scotland was allowed a compensatory profit upon one _extra_ passenger.] in the rear of the roof, from which he could exchange his own yarns with those of the guard. No greater offence was then known to mail-coaches; it was treason, it was _læsa majestas_, it was by tendency arson; and the ashes of Jack's pipe, falling amongst the straw of the hinder boot, containing the mail-bags, raised a flame which (aided by the wind of our motion) threatened a revolution in the republic of letters. Yet even this left the sanctity of the box unviolated. In dignified repose, the coachman and myself sat on, resting with benign composure upon our knowledge that the fire would have to burn its way through four inside passengers before it could reach ourselves. I remarked to the coachman, with a quotation from Virgil's "Æneid" really too hackneyed--
"Jam proximus ardet Ucalegon."
But, recollecting that the Virgilian part of the coachman's education might have been neglected, I interpreted so far as to say that perhaps at that moment the flames were catching hold of our worthy brother and inside passenger, Ucalegon. The coachman made no answer,--which is my own way when a stranger addresses me either in Syriac or in Coptic; but by his faint sceptical smile he seemed to insinuate that he knew better,--for that Ucalegon, as it happened, was not in the way-bill, and therefore could not have been booked.
No dignity is perfect which does not at some point ally itself with the mysterious. The connexion of the mail with the state and the executive government--a connexion obvious, but yet not strictly defined--gave to the whole mail establishment an official grandeur which did us service on the roads, and invested us with seasonable terrors. Not the less impressive were those terrors because their legal limits were imperfectly ascertained. Look at those turnpike gates: with what deferential hurry, with what an obedient start, they fly open at our approach! Look at that long line of carts and carters ahead, audaciously usurping the very crest of the road. Ah! traitors, they do not hear us as yet; but, as soon as the dreadful blast of our horn reaches them with proclamation of our approach, see with what frenzy of trepidation they fly to their horses' heads, and deprecate our wrath by the precipitation of their crane-neck quarterings. Treason they feel to be their crime; each individual carter feels himself under the ban of confiscation and attainder; his blood is attainted through six generations; and nothing is wanting but the headsman and his axe, the block and the sawdust, to close up the vista of his horrors. What! shall it be within benefit of clergy to delay the king's message on the high road?--to interrupt the great respirations, ebb and flood, _systole_ and _diastole_, of the national intercourse?--to endanger the safety of tidings running day and night between all nations and languages? Or can it be fancied, amongst the weakest of men, that the bodies of the criminals will be given up to their widows for Christian burial? Now, the doubts which were raised as to our powers did more to wrap them in terror, by wrapping them in uncertainty, than could have been effected by the sharpest definitions of the law from the Quarter Sessions. We, on our parts (we, the collective mail, I mean), did our utmost to exalt the idea of our privileges by the insolence with which we wielded them. Whether this insolence rested upon law that gave it a sanction, or upon conscious power that haughtily dispensed with that sanction, equally it spoke from a potential station; and the agent, in each particular insolence of the moment, was viewed reverentially, as one having authority.
Sometimes after breakfast his Majesty's mail would become frisky; and, in its difficult wheelings amongst the intricacies of early markets, it would upset an apple-cart, a cart loaded with eggs, &c. Huge was the affliction and dismay, awful was the smash. I, as far as possible, endeavoured in such a case to represent the conscience and moral sensibilities of the mail; and, when wildernesses of eggs were lying poached under our horses' hoofs, then would I stretch forth my hands in sorrow, saying (in words too celebrated at that time, from the false echoes [Footnote: "_False echoes_":--Yes, false! for the words ascribed to Napoleon, as breathed to the memory of Desaix, never were uttered at all. They stand in the same category of theatrical fictions as the cry of the foundering line-of-battle ship _Vengeur_, as the vaunt of General Cambronne at Waterloo, "La Garde meurt, mais ne se rend pas," or as the repartees of Talleyrand.] of Marengo), "Ah! wherefore have we not time to weep over you?"--which was evidently impossible, since, in fact, we had not time to laugh over them. Tied to post-office allowance in some cases of fifty minutes for eleven miles, could the royal mail pretend to undertake the offices of sympathy and condolence? Could it be expected to provide tears for the accidents of the road? If even it seemed to trample on humanity, it did so, I felt, in discharge of its own more peremptory duties.
Upholding the morality of the mail, _a fortiori_ I upheld its rights; as a matter of duty, I stretched to the uttermost its privilege of imperial precedency, and astonished weak minds by the feudal powers which I hinted to be lurking constructively in the charters of this proud establishment. Once I remember being on the box of the Holyhead mail, between Shrewsbury and Oswestry, when a tawdry thing from Birmingham, some "Tallyho" or "Highflyer," all flaunting with green and gold, came up alongside of us. What a contrast to our royal simplicity of form and colour in this plebeian wretch! The single ornament on our dark ground of chocolate colour was the mighty shield of the imperial arms, but emblazoned in proportions as modest as a signet-ring bears to a seal of office. Even this was displayed only on a single panel, whispering, rather than proclaiming, our relations to the mighty state; whilst the beast from Birmingham, our green-and-gold friend from false, fleeting, perjured Brummagem, had as much writing and painting on its sprawling flanks as would have puzzled a decipherer from the tombs of Luxor. For some time this Birmingham machine ran along by our side--a piece of familiarity that already of itself seemed to me sufficiently Jacobinical. But all at once a movement of the horses announced a desperate intention of leaving us behind. "Do you see _that?_" I said to the coachman.--"I see," was his short answer. He was wide awake,--yet he waited longer than seemed prudent; for the horses of our audacious opponent had a disagreeable air of freshness and power. But his motive was loyal; his wish was that the Birmingham conceit should be full-blown before he froze it. When _that_ seemed right, he unloosed, or, to speak by a stronger word, he _sprang_, his known resources: he slipped our royal horses like cheetahs, or hunting-leopards, after the affrighted game. How they could retain such a reserve of fiery power after the work they had accomplished seemed hard to explain. But on our side, besides the physical superiority, was a tower of moral strength, namely the king's name, "which they upon the adverse faction wanted." Passing them without an effort, as it seemed, we threw them into the rear with so lengthening an interval between us as proved in itself the bitterest mockery of their presumption; whilst our guard blew back a shattering blast of triumph that was really too painfully full of derision.
I mention this little incident for its connexion with what followed. A Welsh rustic, sitting behind me, asked if I had not felt my heart burn within me during the progress of the race? I said, with philosophic calmness, _No_; because we were not racing with a mail, so that no glory could be gained. In fact, it was sufficiently mortifying that such a Birmingham thing should dare to challenge us. The Welshman replied that he didn't see _that_; for that a cat might look at a king, and a Brummagem coach might lawfully race the Holyhead mail. "_Race_ us, if you like," I replied, "though even _that_ has an air of sedition; but not _beat_ us. This would have been treason; and for its own sake I am glad that the 'Tallyho' was disappointed." So dissatisfied did the Welshman seem with this opinion that at last I was obliged to tell him a very fine story from one of our elder dramatists: viz., that once, in some far Oriental kingdom, when the sultan of all the land, with his princes, ladies, and chief omrahs, were flying their falcons, a hawk suddenly flew at a majestic eagle, and, in defiance of the eagle's natural advantages, in contempt also of the eagle's traditional royalty, and before the whole assembled field of astonished spectators from Agra and Lahore, killed the eagle on the spot. Amazement seized the sultan at the unequal contest, and burning admiration for its unparalleled result. He commanded that the hawk should be brought before him; he caressed the bird with enthusiasm; and he ordered that, for the commemoration of his matchless courage, a diadem of gold and rubies should be solemnly placed on the hawk's head, but then that, immediately after this solemn coronation, the bird should be led off to execution, as the most valiant indeed of traitors, but not the less a traitor, as having dared to rise rebelliously against his liege lord and anointed sovereign, the eagle. "Now," said I to the Welshman, "to you and me, as men of refined sensibilities, how painful it would have been that this poor Brummagem brute, the 'Tallyho,' in the impossible case of a victory over us, should have been crowned with Birmingham tinsel, with paste diamonds and Roman pearls, and then led off to instant execution." The Welshman doubted if that could be warranted by law. And, when I hinted at the 6th of Edward Longshanks, chap. 18, for regulating the precedency of coaches, as being probably the statute relied on for the capital punishment of such offences, he replied drily that, if the attempt to pass a mail really were treasonable, it was a pity that the "Tallyho" appeared to have so imperfect an acquaintance with law.
The modern modes of travelling cannot compare with the old mail-coach system in grandeur and power. They boast of more velocity,--not, however, as a consciousness, but as a fact of our lifeless knowledge, resting upon _alien_ evidence: as, for instance, because somebody _says_ that we have gone fifty miles in the hour, though we are far from feeling it as a personal experience; or upon the evidence of a result, as that actually we find ourselves in York four hours after leaving London. Apart from such an assertion, or such a result, I myself am little aware of the pace. But, seated on the old mail-coach, we needed no evidence out of ourselves to indicate the velocity. On this system the word was not _magna loquimur_, as upon railways, but _vivimus_. Yes, "magna _vivimus_"; we do not make verbal ostentation of our grandeurs, we realise our grandeurs in act, and in the very experience of life. The vital experience of the glad animal sensibilities made doubts impossible on the question of our speed; we heard our speed, we saw it, we felt it as a thrilling; and this speed was not the product of blind insensate agencies, that had no sympathy to give, but was incarnated in the fiery eyeballs of the noblest amongst brutes, in his dilated nostril, spasmodic muscles, and thunder-beating hoofs. The sensibility of the horse, uttering itself in the maniac light of his eye, might be the last vibration of such a movement; the glory of Salamanca might be the first. But the intervening links that connected them, that spread the earthquake of battle into the eyeballs of the horse, were the heart of man and its electric thrillings--kindling in the rapture of the fiery strife, and then propagating its own tumults by contagious shouts and gestures to the heart of his servant the horse. But now, on the new system of travelling, iron tubes and boilers have disconnected man's heart from the ministers of his locomotion. Nile nor Trafalgar has power to raise an extra bubble in a steam-kettle. The galvanic cycle is broken up for ever; man's imperial nature no longer sends itself forward through the electric sensibility of the horse; the inter-agencies are gone in the mode of communication between the horse and his master out of which grew so many aspects of sublimity under accidents of mists that hid, or sudden blazes that revealed, of mobs that agitated, or midnight solitudes that awed. Tidings fitted to convulse all nations must henceforwards travel by culinary process; and the trumpet that once announced from afar the laurelled mail, heart-shaking when heard screaming on the wind and proclaiming itself through the darkness to every village or solitary house on its route, has now given way for ever to the pot-wallopings of the boiler. Thus have perished multiform openings for public expressions of interest, scenical yet natural, in great national tidings,--for revelations of faces and groups that could not offer themselves amongst the fluctuating mobs of a railway station. The gatherings of gazers about a laurelled mail had one centre, and acknowledged one sole interest. But the crowds attending at a railway station have as little unity as running water, and own as many centres as there are separate carriages in the train.
How else, for example, than as a constant watcher for the dawn, and for the London mail that in summer months entered about daybreak amongst the lawny thickets of Maryborough forest, couldst thou, sweet Fanny of the Bath road, have become the glorified inmate of my dreams? Yet Fanny, as the loveliest young woman for face and person that perhaps in my whole life I have beheld, merited the station which even now, from a distance of forty years, she holds in my dreams; yes, though by links of natural association she brings along with her a troop of dreadful creatures, fabulous and not fabulous, that are more abominable to the heart than Fanny and the dawn are delightful.
Miss Fanny of the Bath road, strictly speaking, lived at a mile's distance from that road, but came so continually to meet the mail that I on my frequent transits rarely missed her, and naturally connected her image with the great thoroughfare where only I had ever seen her. Why she came so punctually I do not exactly know; but I believe with some burden of commissions, to be executed in Bath, which had gathered to her own residence as a central rendezvous for converging them. The mail-coachman who drove the Bath mail and wore the royal livery [Footnote: "Wore the royal livery":--The general impression was that the royal livery belonged of right to the mail-coachmen as their professional dress. But that was an error. To the guard it _did_ belong, I believe, and was obviously essential as an official warrant, and as a means of instant identification for his person, in the discharge of his important public duties. But the coachman, and especially if his place in the series did not connect him immediately with London and the General Post-Office, obtained the scarlet coat only as an honorary distinction after long (or, if not long, trying and special) service.] happened to be Fanny's grandfather. A good man he was, that loved his beautiful granddaughter, and, loving her wisely, was vigilant over her deportment in any case where young Oxford might happen to be concerned. Did my vanity then suggest that I myself, individually, could fall within the line of his terrors? Certainly not, as regarded any physical pretensions that I could plead; for Fanny (as a chance passenger from her own neighbourhood once told me) counted in her train a hundred and ninety-nine professed admirers, if not open aspirants to her favour; and probably not one of the whole brigade but excelled myself in personal advantages. Ulysses even, with the unfair advantage of his accursed bow, could hardly have undertaken that amount of suitors. So the danger might have seemed slight--only that woman is universally aristocratic; it is amongst her nobilities of heart that she _is_ so. Now, the aristocratic distinctions in my favour might easily with Miss Fanny have compensated my physical deficiencies. Did I then make love to Fanny? Why, yes; about as much love as one _could_ make whilst the mail was changing horses--a process which, ten years later, did not occupy above eighty seconds; but _then_,--viz., about Waterloo--it occupied five times eighty. Now, four hundred seconds offer a field quite ample enough for whispering into a young woman's ear a great deal of truth, and (by way of parenthesis) some trifle of falsehood. Grandpapa did right, therefore, to watch me. And yet, as happens too often to the grandpapas of earth in a contest with the admirers of granddaughters, how vainly would he have watched me had I meditated any evil whispers to Fanny! She, it is my belief, would have protected herself against any man's evil suggestions. But he, as the result showed, could not have intercepted the opportunities for such suggestions. Yet, why not? Was he not active? Was he not blooming? Blooming he was as Fanny herself.
"Say, all our praises why should lords----"
Stop, that's not the line.
"Say, all our roses why should girls engross?"
The coachman showed rosy blossoms on his face deeper even than his granddaughter's--_his_ being drawn from the ale-cask, Fanny's from the fountains of the dawn. But, in spite of his blooming face, some infirmities he had; and one particularly in which he too much resembled a crocodile. This lay in a monstrous inaptitude for turning round. The crocodile, I presume, owes that inaptitude to the absurd _length_ of his back; but in our grandpapa it arose rather from the absurd _breadth_ of his back, combined, possibly, with some growing stiffness in his legs. Now, upon this crocodile infirmity of his I planted a human advantage for tendering my homage to Miss Fanny. In defiance of all his honourable vigilance, no sooner had he presented to us his mighty Jovian back (what a field for displaying to mankind his royal scarlet!), whilst inspecting professionally the buckles, the straps, and the silvery turrets [Footnote: "_Turrets_":--As one who loves and venerates Chaucer for his unrivalled merits of tenderness, of picturesque characterisation, and of narrative skill, I noticed with great pleasure that the word _torrettes_ is used by him to designate the little devices through which the reins are made to pass. This same word, in the same exact sense, I heard uniformly used by many scores of illustrious mail-coachmen to whose confidential friendship I had the honour of being admitted in my younger days.] of his harness, than I raised Miss Fanny's hand to my lips, and, by the mixed tenderness and respectfulness of my manner, caused her easily to understand how happy it would make me to rank upon her list as No. 10 or 12: in which case a few casualties amongst her lovers (and, observe, they _hanged_ liberally in those days) might have promoted me speedily to the top of the tree; as, on the other hand, with how much loyalty of submission I acquiesced by anticipation in her award, supposing that she should plant me in the very rearward of her favour, as No. 199 + 1. Most truly I loved this beautiful and ingenuous girl; and, had it not been for the Bath mail, timing all courtships by post-office allowance, heaven only knows what might have come of it. People talk of being over head and ears in love; now, the mail was the cause that I sank only over ears in love,--which, you know, still left a trifle of brain to overlook the whole conduct of the affair.
Ah, reader! when I look back upon those days, it seems to me that all things change--all things perish. "Perish the roses and the palms of kings": perish even the crowns and trophies of Waterloo: thunder and lightning are not the thunder and lightning which I remember. Roses are degenerating. The Fannies of our island--though this I say with reluctance--are not visibly improving; and the Bath road is notoriously superannuated. Crocodiles, you will say, are stationary. Mr. Waterton tells me that the crocodile does _not change_,--that a cayman, in fact, or an alligator, is just as good for riding upon as he was in the time of the Pharaohs. _That_ may be; but the reason is that the crocodile does not live fast--he is a slow coach. I believe it is generally understood among naturalists that the crocodile is a blockhead. It is my own impression that the Pharaohs were also blockheads. Now, as the Pharaohs and the crocodile domineered over Egyptian society, this accounts for a singular mistake that prevailed through innumerable generations on the Nile. The crocodile made the ridiculous blunder of supposing man to be meant chiefly for his own eating. Man, taking a different view of the subject, naturally met that mistake by another: he viewed the crocodile as a thing sometimes to worship, but always to run away from. And this continued till Mr. Waterton [Footnote: "_Mr. Waterton_":--Had the reader lived through the last generation, he would not need to be told that, some thirty or thirty-five years back, Mr. Waterton, a distinguished country gentleman of ancient family in Northumberland, publicly mounted and rode in top-boots a savage old crocodile, that was restive and very impertinent, but all to no purpose. The crocodile jibbed and tried to kick, but vainly. He was no more able to throw the squire than Sinbad was to throw the old scoundrel who used his back without paying for it, until he discovered a mode (slightly immoral, perhaps, though some think not) of murdering the old fraudulent jockey, and so circuitously of unhorsing him.] changed the relations between the animals. The mode of escaping from the reptile he showed to be not by running away, but by leaping on its back booted and spurred. The two animals had misunderstood each other. The use of the crocodile has now been cleared up--viz., to be ridden; and the final cause of man is that he may improve the health of the crocodile by riding him a-fox-hunting before breakfast. And it is pretty certain that any crocodile who has been regularly hunted through the season, and is master of the weight he carries, will take a six-barred gate now as well as ever he would have done in the infancy of the pyramids.
If, therefore, the crocodile does _not_ change, all things else undeniably _do_: even the shadow of the pyramids grows less. And often the restoration in vision of Fanny and the Bath road makes me too pathetically sensible of that truth. Out of the darkness, if I happen to call back the image of Fanny, up rises suddenly from a gulf of forty years a rose in June; or, if I think for an instant of the rose in June, up rises the heavenly face of Fanny. One after the other, like the antiphonies in the choral service, rise Fanny and the rose in June, then back again the rose in June and Fanny. Then come both together, as in a chorus--roses and Fannies, Fannies and roses, without end, thick as blossoms in paradise. Then comes a venerable crocodile, in a royal livery of scarlet and gold, with sixteen capes; and the crocodile is driving four-in-hand from the box of the Bath mail. And suddenly we upon the mail are pulled up by a mighty dial, sculptured with the hours, that mingle with the heavens and the heavenly host. Then all at once we are arrived at Marlborough forest, amongst the lovely households [Footnote: "_Households_":--Roe-deer do not congregate in herds like the fallow or the red deer, but by separate families, parents and children; which feature of approximation to the sanctity of human hearths, added to their comparatively miniature and graceful proportions, conciliates to them an interest of peculiar tenderness, supposing even that this beautiful creature is less characteristically impressed with the grandeurs of savage and forest life.] of the roe-deer; the deer and their fawns retire into the dewy thickets; the thickets are rich with roses; once again the roses call up the sweet countenance of Fanny; and she, being the granddaughter of a crocodile, awakens a dreadful host of semi-legendary animals--griffins, dragons, basilisks, sphinxes--till at length the whole vision of fighting images crowds into one towering armorial shield, a vast emblazonry of human charities and human loveliness that have perished, but quartered heraldically with unutterable and demoniac natures, whilst over all rises, as a surmounting crest, one fair female hand, with the forefinger pointing, in sweet, sorrowful admonition, upwards to heaven, where is sculptured the eternal writing which proclaims the frailty of earth and her children.
GOING DOWN WITH VICTORY
But the grandest chapter of our experience within the whole mail-coach service was on those occasions when we went down from London with the news of victory. A period of about ten years stretched from Trafalgar to Waterloo; the second and third years of which period (1806 and 1807) were comparatively sterile; but the other nine (from 1805 to 1815 inclusively) furnished a long succession of victories, the least of which, in such a contest of Titans, had an inappreciable value of position: partly for its absolute interference with the plans of our enemy, but still more from its keeping alive through central Europe the sense of a deep-seated vulnerability in France. Even to tease the coasts of our enemy, to mortify them by continual blockades, to insult them by capturing if it were but a baubling schooner under the eyes of their arrogant armies, repeated from time to time a sullen proclamation of power lodged in one quarter to which the hopes of Christendom turned in secret. How much more loudly must this proclamation have spoken in the audacity [Footnote: "_Audacity_":--Such the French accounted it; and it has struck me that Soult would not have been so popular in London, at the period of her present Majesty's coronation, or in Manchester, on occasion of his visit to that town, if they had been aware of the insolence with which he spoke of us in notes written at intervals from the field of Waterloo. As though it had been mere felony in our army to look a French one in the face, he said in more notes than one, dated from two to four P.M. on the field of Waterloo, "Here are the English--we have them; they are caught _en flagrant délit_" Yet no man should have known us better; no man had drunk deeper from the cup of humiliation than Soult had in 1809, when ejected by us with headlong violence from Oporto, and pursued through a long line of wrecks to the frontier of Spain; and subsequently at Albuera, in the bloodiest of recorded battles, to say nothing of Toulouse, he should have learned our pretensions.] of having bearded the _élite_ of their troops, and having beaten them in pitched battles! Five years of life it was worth paying down for the privilege of an outside place on a mail-coach, when carrying down the first tidings of any such event. And it is to be noted that, from our insular situation, and the multitude of our frigates disposable for the rapid transmission of intelligence, rarely did any unauthorised rumour steal away a prelibation from the first aroma of the regular despatches. The government news was generally the earliest news.
From eight P.M. to fifteen or twenty minutes later imagine the mails assembled on parade in Lombard Street; where, at that time, [Footnote: "_At that time_":--I speak of the era previous to Waterloo.] and not in St. Martin's-le-Grand, was seated the General Post-Office. In what exact strength we mustered I do not remember; but, from the length of each separate _attelage_, we filled the street, though a long one, and though we were drawn up in double file. On _any_ night the spectacle was beautiful. The absolute perfection of all the appointments about the carriages and the harness, their strength, their brilliant cleanliness, their beautiful simplicity--but, more than all, the royal magnificence of the horses--were what might first have fixed the attention. Every carriage on every morning in the year was taken down to an official inspector for examination: wheels, axles, linchpins, pole, glasses, lamps, were all critically probed and tested. Every part of every carriage had been cleaned, every horse had been groomed, with as much rigour as if they belonged to a private gentleman; and that part of the spectacle offered itself always. But the night before us is a night of victory; and, behold! to the ordinary display what a heart-shaking addition!--horses, men, carriages, all are dressed in laurels and flowers, oak-leaves and ribbons. The guards, as being officially his Majesty's servants, and of the coachmen such as are within the privilege of the post-office, wear the royal liveries of course; and, as it is summer (for all the _land_ victories were naturally won in summer), they wear, on this fine evening, these liveries exposed to view, without any covering of upper coats. Such a costume, and the elaborate arrangement of the laurels in their hats, dilate their hearts, by giving to them openly a personal connexion with the great news in which already they have the general interest of patriotism. That great national sentiment surmounts and quells all sense of ordinary distinctions. Those passengers who happen to be gentlemen are now hardly to be distinguished as such except by dress; for the usual reserve of their manner in speaking to the attendants has on this night melted away. One heart, one pride, one glory, connects every man by the transcendent bond of his national blood. The spectators, who are numerous beyond precedent, express their sympathy with these fervent feelings by continual hurrahs. Every moment are shouted aloud by the post-office servants, and summoned to draw up, the great ancestral names of cities known to history through a thousand years--Lincoln, Winchester, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Oxford, Bristol, Manchester, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, Aberdeen--expressing the grandeur of the empire by the antiquity of its towns, and the grandeur of the mail establishment by the diffusive radiation of its separate missions. Every moment you hear the thunder of lids locked down upon the mail-bags. That sound to each individual mail is the signal for drawing off; which process is the finest part of the entire spectacle. Then come the horses into play. Horses! can these be horses that bound off with the action and gestures of leopards? What stir!--what sea-like ferment!--what a thundering of wheels!--what a trampling of hoofs!--what a sounding of trumpets!--what farewell cheers--what redoubling peals of brotherly congratulation, connecting the name of the particular mail--"Liverpool for ever!"--with the name of the particular victory--"Badajoz for ever!" or "Salamanca for ever!" The half-slumbering consciousness that all night long, and all the next day--perhaps for even a longer period--many of these mails, like fire racing along a train of gunpowder, will be kindling at every instant new successions of burning joy, has an obscure effect of multiplying the victory itself, by multiplying to the imagination into infinity the stages of its progressive diffusion. A fiery arrow seems to be let loose, which from that moment is destined to travel, without intermission, westwards for three hundred [Footnote: "_Three hundred_":--Of necessity, this scale of measurement, to an American, if he happens to be a thoughtless man, must sound ludicrous. Accordingly, I remember a case in which an American writer indulges himself in the luxury of a little fibbing, by ascribing to an Englishman a pompous account of the Thames, constructed entirely upon American ideas of grandeur, and concluding in something like these terms:--"And, sir, arriving at London, this mighty father of rivers attains a breadth of at least two furlongs, having, in its winding course, traversed the astonishing distance of one hundred and seventy miles." And this the candid American thinks it fair to contrast with the scale of the Mississippi. Now, it is hardly worth while to answer a pure fiction gravely; else one might say that no Englishman out of Bedlam ever thought of looking in an island for the rivers of a continent, nor, consequently, could have thought of looking for the peculiar grandeur of the Thames in the length of its course, or in the extent of soil which it drains. Yet, if he _had_ been so absurd, the American might have recollected that a river, not to be compared with the Thames even as to volume of water--viz., the Tiber--has contrived to make itself heard of in this world for twenty-five centuries to an extent not reached as yet by any river, however corpulent, of his own land. The glory of the Thames is measured by the destiny of the population to which it ministers, by the commerce which it supports, by the grandeur of the empire in which, though far from the largest, it is the most influential stream. Upon some such scale, and not by a transfer of Columbian standards, is the course of our English mails to be valued. The American may fancy the effect of his own valuations to our English ears by supposing the case of a Siberian glorifying his country in these terms:--"These wretches, sir, in France and England, cannot march half a mile in any direction without finding a house where food can be had and lodging; whereas such is the noble desolation of our magnificent country that in many a direction for a thousand miles I will engage that a dog shall not find shelter from a snow-storm, nor a wren find an apology for breakfast."] miles--northwards for six hundred; and the sympathy of our Lombard Street friends at parting is exalted a hundredfold by a sort of visionary sympathy with the yet slumbering sympathies which in so vast a succession we are going to awake.
Liberated from the embarrassments of the city, and issuing into the broad uncrowded avenues of the northern suburbs, we soon begin to enter upon our natural pace of ten miles an hour. In the broad light of the summer evening, the sun, perhaps, only just at the point of setting, we are seen from every storey of every house. Heads of every age crowd to the windows; young and old understand the language of our victorious symbols; and rolling volleys of sympathising cheers run along us, behind us, and before us. The beggar, rearing himself against the wall, forgets his lameness--real or assumed--thinks not of his whining trade, but stands erect, with bold exulting smiles, as we pass him. The victory has healed him, and says, Be thou whole! Women and children, from garrets alike and cellars, through infinite London, look down or look up with loving eyes upon our gay ribbons and our martial laurels; sometimes kiss their hands; sometimes hang out, as signals of affection, pocket-handkerchiefs, aprons, dusters, anything that, by catching the summer breezes, will express an aerial jubilation. On the London side of Barnet, to which we draw near within a few minutes after nine, observe that private carriage which is approaching us. The weather being so warm, the glasses are all down; and one may read, as on the stage of a theatre, everything that goes on within. It contains three ladies--one likely to be "mamma," and two of seventeen or eighteen, who are probably her daughters. What lovely animation, what beautiful unpremeditated pantomime, explaining to us every syllable that passes, in these ingenuous girls! By the sudden start and raising of the hands on first discovering our laurelled equipage, by the sudden movement and appeal to the elder lady from both of them, and by the heightened colour on their animated countenances, we can almost hear them saying, "See, see! Look at their laurels! Oh, mamma! there has been a great battle in Spain; and it has been a great victory." In a moment we are on the point of passing them. We passengers--I on the box, and the two on the roof behind me--raise our hats to the ladies; the coachman makes his professional salute with the whip; the guard even, though punctilious on the matter of his dignity as an officer under the crown, touches his hat. The ladies move to us, in return, with a winning graciousness of gesture; all smile on each side in a way that nobody could misunderstand, and that nothing short of a grand national sympathy could so instantaneously prompt. Will these ladies say that we are nothing to _them_? Oh no; they will not say _that_. They cannot deny--they do not deny--that for this night they are our sisters; gentle or simple, scholar or illiterate servant, for twelve hours to come, we on the outside have the honour to be their brothers. Those poor women, again, who stop to gaze upon us with delight at the entrance of Barnet, and seem, by their air of weariness, to be returning from labour--do you mean to say that they are washerwomen and charwomen? Oh, my poor friend, you are quite mistaken. I assure you they stand in a far higher rank; for this one night they feel themselves by birthright to be daughters of England, and answer to no humbler title.
Every joy, however, even rapturous joy--such is the sad law of earth--may carry with it grief, or fear of grief, to some. Three miles beyond Barnet, we see approaching us another private carriage, nearly repeating the circumstances of the former case. Here, also, the glasses are all down; here, also, is an elderly lady seated; but the two daughters are missing; for the single young person sitting by the lady's side seems to be an attendant--so I judge from her dress, and her air of respectful reserve. The lady is in mourning; and her countenance expresses sorrow. At first she does not look up; so that I believe she is not aware of our approach, until she hears the measured beating of our horses' hoofs. Then she raises her eyes to settle them painfully on our triumphal equipage. Our decorations explain the case to her at once; but she beholds them with apparent anxiety, or even with terror. Some time before this, I, finding it difficult to hit a flying mark when embarrassed by the coachman's person and reins intervening, had given to the guard a "Courier" evening paper, containing the gazette, for the next carriage that might pass. Accordingly he tossed it in, so folded that the huge capitals expressing some such legend as GLORIOUS VICTORY might catch the eye at once. To see the paper, however, at all, interpreted as it was by our ensigns of triumph, explained everything; and, if the guard were right in thinking the lady to have received it with a gesture of horror, it could not be doubtful that she had suffered some deep personal affliction in connexion with this Spanish war.
Here, now, was the case of one who, having formerly suffered, might, erroneously perhaps, be distressing herself with anticipations of another similar suffering. That same night, and hardly three hours later, occurred the reverse case. A poor woman, who too probably would find herself, in a day or two, to have suffered the heaviest of afflictions by the battle, blindly allowed herself to express an exultation so unmeasured in the news and its details as gave to her the appearance which amongst Celtic Highlanders is called _fey_. This was at some little town where we changed horses an hour or two after midnight. Some fair or wake had kept the people up out of their beds, and had occasioned a partial illumination of the stalls and booths, presenting an unusual but very impressive effect. We saw many lights moving about as we drew near; and perhaps the most striking scene on the whole route was our reception at this place. The flashing of torches and the beautiful radiance of blue lights (technically, Bengal lights) upon the heads of our horses; the fine effect of such a showery and ghostly illumination falling upon our flowers and glittering laurels [Footnote: "_Glittering laurels_":--I must observe that the colour of _green_ suffers almost a spiritual change and exaltation under the effect of Bengal lights.]; whilst all around ourselves, that formed a centre of light, the darkness gathered on the rear and flanks in massy blackness: these optical splendours, together with the prodigious enthusiasm of the people, composed a picture at once scenical and affecting, theatrical and holy. As we staid for three or four minutes, I alighted; and immediately from a dismantled stall in the street, where no doubt she had been presiding through the earlier part of the night, advanced eagerly a middle-aged woman. The sight of my newspaper it was that had drawn her attention upon myself. The victory which we were carrying down to the provinces on _this_ occasion was the imperfect one of Talavera--imperfect for its results, such was the virtual treachery of the Spanish general, Cuesta, but not imperfect in its ever-memorable heroism. I told her the main outline of the battle. The agitation of her enthusiasm had been so conspicuous when listening, and when first applying for information, that I could not but ask her if she had not some relative in the Peninsular army. Oh yes; her only son was there. In what regiment? He was a trooper in the 23d Dragoons. My heart sank within me as she made that answer. This sublime regiment, which an Englishman should never mention without raising his hat to their memory, had made the most memorable and effective charge recorded in military annals. They leaped their horses--_over_ a trench where they could; _into_ it, and with the result of death or mutilation, when they could _not_. What proportion cleared the trench is nowhere stated. Those who _did_ closed up and went down upon the enemy with such divinity of fervour (I use the word _divinity_ by design: the inspiration of God must have prompted this movement for those whom even then He was calling to His presence) that two results followed. As regarded the enemy, this 23d Dragoons, not, I believe, originally three hundred and fifty strong, paralysed a French column six thousand strong, then ascended the hill, and fixed the gaze of the whole French army. As regarded themselves, the 23d were supposed at first to have been barely not annihilated; but eventually, I believe, about one in four survived. And this, then, was the regiment--a regiment already for some hours glorified and hallowed to the ear of all London, as lying stretched, by a large majority, upon one bloody aceldama--in which the young trooper served whose mother was now talking in a spirit of such joyous enthusiasm. Did I tell her the truth? Had I the heart to break up her dreams? No. To-morrow, said I to myself--to-morrow, or the next day, will publish the worst. For one night more wherefore should she not sleep in peace? After to-morrow the chances are too many that peace will forsake her pillow. This brief respite, then, let her owe to _my_ gift and _my_ forbearance. But, if I told her not of the bloody price that had been paid, not therefore was I silent on the contributions from her son's regiment to that day's service and glory. I showed her not the funeral banners under which the noble regiment was sleeping. I lifted not the overshadowing laurels from the bloody trench in which horse and rider lay mangled together. But I told her how these dear children of England, officers and privates, had leaped their horses over all obstacles as gaily as hunters to the morning's chase. I told her how they rode their horses into the midst of death,--saying to myself, but not saying to _her_ "and laid down their young lives for thee, O mother England! as willingly--poured out their noble blood as cheerfully--as ever, after a long day's sport, when infants, they had rested their weary heads upon their mother's knees, or had sunk to sleep in her arms." Strange it is, yet true, that she seemed to have no fears for her son's safety, even after this knowledge that the 23d Dragoons had been memorably engaged; but so much was she enraptured by the knowledge that _his_ regiment, and therefore that _he_, had rendered conspicuous service in the dreadful conflict--a service which had actually made them, within the last twelve hours, the foremost topic of conversation in London--so absolutely was fear swallowed up in joy--that, in the mere simplicity of her fervent nature, the poor woman threw her arms round my neck, as she thought of her son, and gave to _me_ the kiss which secretly was meant for _him_.
SECTION II--THE VISION OF SUDDEN DEATH
What is to be taken as the predominant opinion of man, reflective and philosophic, upon SUDDEN DEATH? It is remarkable that, in different conditions of society, sudden death has been variously regarded as the consummation of an earthly career most fervently to be desired, or, again, as that consummation which is with most horror to be deprecated. Cæsar the Dictator, at his last dinner-party (_coena_), on the very evening before his assassination, when the minutes of his earthly career were numbered, being asked what death, in _his_ judgment, might be pronounced the most eligible, replied "That which should be most sudden." On the other hand, the divine Litany of our English Church, when breathing forth supplications, as if in some representative character, for the whole human race prostrate before God, places such a death in the very van of horrors: "From lightning and tempest; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from SUDDEN DEATH--_Good Lord, deliver us_." Sudden death is here made to crown the climax in a grand ascent of calamities; it is ranked among the last of curses; and yet by the noblest of Romans it was ranked as the first of blessings. In that difference most readers will see little more than the essential difference between Christianity and Paganism. But this, on consideration, I doubt. The Christian Church may be right in its estimate of sudden death; and it is a natural feeling, though after all it may also be an infirm one, to wish for a quiet dismissal from life, as that which _seems_ most reconcilable with meditation, with penitential retrospects, and with the humilities of farewell prayer. There does not, however, occur to me any direct scriptural warrant for this earnest petition of the English Litany, unless under a special construction of the word "sudden." It seems a petition indulged rather and conceded to human infirmity than exacted from human piety. It is not so much a doctrine built upon the eternities of the Christian system as a plausible opinion built upon special varieties of physical temperament. Let that, however, be as it may, two remarks suggest themselves as prudent restraints upon a doctrine which else _may_ wander, and _has_ wandered, into an uncharitable superstition. The first is this: that many people are likely to exaggerate the horror of a sudden death from the disposition to lay a false stress upon words or acts simply because by an accident they have become _final_ words or acts. If a man dies, for instance, by some sudden death when he happens to be intoxicated, such a death is falsely regarded with peculiar horror; as though the intoxication were suddenly exalted into a blasphemy. But _that_ is unphilosophic. The man was, or he was not, _habitually_ a drunkard. If not, if his intoxication were a solitary accident, there can be no reason for allowing special emphasis to this act simply because through misfortune it became his final act. Nor, on the other hand, if it were no accident, but one of his _habitual_ transgressions, will it be the more habitual or the more a transgression because some sudden calamity, surprising him, has caused this habitual transgression to be also a final one. Could the man have had any reason even dimly to foresee his own sudden death, there would have been a new feature in his act of intemperance--a feature of presumption and irreverence, as in one that, having known himself drawing near to the presence of God, should have suited his demeanour to an expectation so awful. But this is no part of the case supposed. And the only new element in the man's act is not any element of special immorality, but simply of special misfortune.
The other remark has reference to the meaning of the word _sudden_. Very possibly Cæsar and the Christian Church do not differ in the way supposed,--that is, do not differ by any difference of doctrine as between Pagan and Christian views of the moral temper appropriate to death; but perhaps they are contemplating different cases. Both contemplate a violent death, a _Biathanatos_--death that is _biaios_, or, in other words, death that is brought about, not by internal and spontaneous change, but by active force having its origin from without. In this meaning the two authorities agree. Thus far they are in harmony. But the difference is that the Roman by the word "sudden" means _unlingering_, whereas the Christian Litany by "sudden death" means a death _without warning_, consequently without any available summons to religious preparation. The poor mutineer who kneels down to gather into his heart the bullets from twelve firelocks of his pitying comrades dies by a most sudden death in Cæsar's sense; one shock, one mighty spasm, one (possibly _not_ one) groan, and all is over. But, in the sense of the Litany, the mutineer's death is far from sudden: his offence originally, his imprisonment, his trial, the interval between his sentence and its execution, having all furnished him with separate warnings of his fate--having all summoned him to meet it with solemn preparation.
Here at once, in this sharp verbal distinction, we comprehend the faithful earnestness with which a holy Christian Church pleads on behalf of her poor departing children that God would vouchsafe to them the last great privilege and distinction possible on a death-bed, viz., the opportunity of untroubled preparation for facing this mighty trial. Sudden death, as a mere variety in the modes of dying where death in some shape is inevitable, proposes a question of choice which, equally in the Roman and the Christian sense, will be variously answered according to each man's variety of temperament. Meantime, one aspect of sudden death there is, one modification, upon which no doubt can arise, that of all martyrdoms it is the most agitating--viz., where it surprises a man under circumstances which offer (or which seem to offer) some hurrying, flying, inappreciably minute chance of evading it. Sudden as the danger which it affronts must be any effort by which such an evasion can be accomplished. Even _that_, even the sickening necessity for hurrying in extremity where all hurry seems destined to be vain,--even that anguish is liable to a hideous exasperation in one particular case: viz., where the appeal is made not exclusively to the instinct of self-preservation, but to the conscience, on behalf of some other life besides your own, accidentally thrown upon _your_ protection. To fail, to collapse in a service merely your own, might seem comparatively venial; though, in fact, it is far from venial. But to fail in a case where Providence has suddenly thrown into your hands the final interests of another,--a fellow creature shuddering between the gates of life and death: this, to a man of apprehensive conscience, would mingle the misery of an atrocious criminality with the misery of a bloody calamity. You are called upon, by the case supposed, possibly to die, but to die at the very moment when, by any even partial failure or effeminate collapse of your energies, you will be self-denounced as a murderer. You had but the twinkling of an eye for your effort, and that effort might have been unavailing; but to have risen to the level of such an effort would have rescued you, though not from dying, yet from dying as a traitor to your final and farewell duty.
The situation here contemplated exposes a dreadful ulcer, lurking far down in the depths of human nature. It is not that men generally are summoned to face such awful trials. But potentially, and in shadowy outline, such a trial is moving subterraneously in perhaps all men's natures. Upon the secret mirror of our dreams such a trial is darkly projected, perhaps, to every one of us. That dream, so familiar to childhood, of meeting a lion, and, through languishing prostration in hope and the energies of hope, that constant sequel of lying down before the lion publishes the secret frailty of human nature--reveals its deep-seated falsehood to itself--records its abysmal treachery. Perhaps not one of us escapes that dream; perhaps, as by some sorrowful doom of man, that dream repeats for every one of us, through every generation, the original temptation in Eden. Every one of us, in this dream, has a bait offered to the infirm places of his own individual will; once again a snare is presented for tempting him into captivity to a luxury of ruin; once again, as in aboriginal Paradise, the man falls by his own choice; again, by infinite iteration, the ancient earth groans to Heaven, through her secret caves, over the weakness of her child. "Nature, from her seat, sighing through all her works," again "gives signs of woe that all is lost"; and again the counter-sigh is repeated to the sorrowing heavens for the endless rebellion against God. It is not without probability that in the world of dreams every one of us ratifies for himself the original transgression. In dreams, perhaps under some secret conflict of the midnight sleeper, lighted up to the consciousness at the time, but darkened to the memory as soon as all is finished, each several child of our mysterious race completes for himself the treason of the aboriginal fall.
The incident, so memorable in itself by its features of horror, and so scenical by its grouping for the eye, which furnished the text for this reverie upon _Sudden Death_ occurred to myself in the dead of night, as a solitary spectator, when seated on the box of the Manchester and Glasgow mail, in the second or third summer after Waterloo. I find it necessary to relate the circumstances, because they are such as could not have occurred unless under a singular combination of accidents. In those days, the oblique and lateral communications with many rural post-offices were so arranged, either through necessity or through defect of system, as to make it requisite for the main north-western mail (_i.e._, the _down_ mail) on reaching Manchester to halt for a number of hours; how many, I do not remember; six or seven, I think; but the result was that, in the ordinary course, the mail recommenced its journey northwards about midnight. Wearied with the long detention at a gloomy hotel, I walked out about eleven o'clock at night for the sake of fresh air; meaning to fall in with the mail and resume my seat at the post-office. The night, however, being yet dark, as the moon had scarcely risen, and the streets being at that hour empty, so as to offer no opportunities for asking the road, I lost my way, and did not reach the post-office until it was considerably past midnight; but, to my great relief (as it was important for me to be in Westmoreland by the morning), I saw in the huge saucer eyes of the mail, blazing through the gloom, an evidence that my chance was not yet lost. Past the time it was; but, by some rare accident, the mail was not even yet ready to start. I ascended to my seat on the box, where my cloak was still lying as it had lain at the Bridgewater Arms. I had left it there in imitation of a nautical discoverer, who leaves a bit of bunting on the shore of his discovery, by way of warning off the ground the whole human race, and notifying to the Christian and the heathen worlds, with his best compliments, that he has hoisted his pocket-handkerchief once and for ever upon that virgin soil: thenceforward claiming the _jus dominii_ to the top of the atmosphere above it, and also the right of driving shafts to the centre of the earth below it; so that all people found after this warning either aloft in upper chambers of the atmosphere, or groping in subterraneous shafts, or squatting audaciously on the surface of the soil, will be treated as trespassers--kicked, that is to say, or decapitated, as circumstances may suggest, by their very faithful servant, the owner of the said pocket-handkerchief. In the present case, it is probable that my cloak might not have been respected, and the _jus gentium_ might have been cruelly violated in my person--for, in the dark, people commit deeds of darkness, gas being a great ally of morality; but it so happened that on this night there was no other outside passenger; and thus the crime, which else was but too probable, missed fire for want of a criminal.
Having mounted the box, I took a small quantity of laudanum, having already travelled two hundred and fifty miles--viz., from a point seventy miles beyond London. In the taking of laudanum there was nothing extraordinary. But by accident it drew upon me the special attention of my assessor on the box, the coachman. And in _that_ also there was nothing extraordinary. But by accident, and with great delight, it drew my own attention to the fact that this coachman was a monster in point of bulk, and that he had but one eye. In fact, he had been foretold by Virgil as
"Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum."
He answered to the conditions in every one of the items:--1, a monster he was; 2, dreadful; 3, shapeless; 4, huge; 5, who had lost an eye. But why should _that_ delight me? Had he been one of the Calendars in the "Arabian Nights," and had paid down his eye as the price of his criminal curiosity, what right had _I_ to exult in his misfortune? I did _not_ exult; I delighted in no man's punishment, though it were even merited. But these personal distinctions (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) identified in an instant an old friend of mine whom I had known in the south for some years as the most masterly of mail-coachmen. He was the man in all Europe that could (if _any_ could) have driven six-in-hand full gallop over _Al Sirat_--that dreadful bridge of Mahomet, with no side battlements, and of _extra_ room not enough for a razor's edge--leading right across the bottomless gulf. Under this eminent man, whom in Greek I cognominated Cyclops _Diphrélates_ (Cyclops the Charioteer), I, and others known to me, studied the diphrelatic art. Excuse, reader, a word too elegant to be pedantic. As a pupil, though I paid extra fees, it is to be lamented that I did not stand high in his esteem. It showed his dogged honesty (though, observe, not his discernment) that he could not see my merits. Let us excuse his absurdity in this particular by remembering his want of an eye. Doubtless _that_ made him blind to my merits. In the art of conversation, however, he admitted that I had the whip-hand of him. On the present occasion great joy was at our meeting. But what was Cyclops doing here? Had the medical men recommended northern air, or how? I collected, from such explanations as he volunteered, that he had an interest at stake in some suit-at-law now pending at Lancaster; so that probably he had got himself transferred to this station for the purpose of connecting with his professional pursuits an instant readiness for the calls of his lawsuit.
Meantime, what are we stopping for? Surely we have now waited long enough. Oh, this procrastinating mail, and this procrastinating post-office! Can't they take a lesson upon that subject from _me_? Some people have called _me_ procrastinating. Yet you are witness, reader, that I was here kept waiting for the post-office. Will the post-office lay its hand on its heart, in its moments of sobriety, and assert that ever it waited for me? What are they about? The guard tells me that there is a large extra accumulation of foreign mails this night, owing to irregularities caused by war, by wind, by weather, in the packet service, which as yet does not benefit at all by steam. For an _extra_ hour, it seems, the post-office has been engaged in threshing out the pure wheaten correspondence of Glasgow, and winnowing it from the chaff of all baser intermediate towns. But at last all is finished. Sound your horn, guard! Manchester, good-bye! we've lost an hour by your criminal conduct at the post-office: which, however, though I do not mean to part with a serviceable ground of complaint, and one which really _is_ such for the horses, to me secretly is an advantage, since it compels us to look sharply for this lost hour amongst the next eight or nine, and to recover it (if we can) at the rate of one mile extra per hour. Off we are at last, and at eleven miles an hour; and for the moment I detect no changes in the energy or in the skill of Cyclops.
From Manchester to Kendal, which virtually (though not in law) is the capital of Westmoreland, there were at this time seven stages of eleven miles each. The first five of these, counting from Manchester, terminate in Lancaster; which is therefore fifty-five miles north of Manchester, and the same distance exactly from Liverpool. The first three stages terminate in Preston (called, by way of distinction from other towns of that name, _Proud_ Preston); at which place it is that the separate roads from Liverpool and from Manchester to the north become confluent. [Footnote: "_Confluent_":--Suppose a capital Y (the Pythagorean letter): Lancaster is at the foot of this letter; Liverpool at the top of the _right_ branch; Manchester at the top of the _left_; Proud Preston at the centre, where the two branches unite. It is thirty-three miles along either of the two branches; it is twenty-two miles along the stem,--viz., from Preston in the middle to Lancaster at the root. There's a lesson in geography for the reader!] Within these first three stages lay the foundation, the progress, and termination of our night's adventure. During the first stage, I found out that Cyclops was mortal: he was liable to the shocking affection of sleep--a thing which previously I had never suspected. If a man indulges in the vicious habit of sleeping, all the skill in aurigation of Apollo himself, with the horses of Aurora to execute his notions, avails him nothing. "Oh, Cyclops!" I exclaimed, "thou art mortal. My friend, thou snorest." Through the first eleven miles, however, this infirmity--which I grieve to say that he shared with the whole Pagan Pantheon--betrayed itself only by brief snatches. On waking up, he made an apology for himself which, instead of mending matters, laid open a gloomy vista of coming disasters. The summer assizes, he reminded me, were now going on at Lancaster: in consequence of which for three nights and three days he had not lain down on a bed. During the day he was waiting for his own summons as a witness on the trial in which he was interested, or else, lest he should be missing at the critical moment, was drinking with the other witnesses under the pastoral surveillance of the attorneys. During the night, or that part of it which at sea would form the middle watch, he was driving. This explanation certainly accounted for his drowsiness, but in a way which made it much more alarming; since now, after several days' resistance to this infirmity, at length he was steadily giving way. Throughout the second stage he grew more and more drowsy. In the second mile of the third stage he surrendered himself finally and without a struggle to his perilous temptation. All his past resistance had but deepened the weight of this final oppression. Seven atmospheres of sleep rested upon him; and, to consummate the case, our worthy guard, after singing "Love amongst the Roses" for perhaps thirty times, without invitation and without applause, had in revenge moodily resigned himself to slumber--not so deep, doubtless, as the coachman's, but deep enough for mischief. And thus at last, about ten miles from Preston, it came about that I found myself left in charge of his Majesty's London and Glasgow mail, then running at the least twelve miles an hour.
What made this negligence less criminal than else it must have been thought was the condition of the roads at night during the assizes. At that time, all the law business of populous Liverpool, and also of populous Manchester, with its vast cincture of populous rural districts, was called up by ancient usage to the tribunal of Lilliputian Lancaster. To break up this old traditional usage required, 1, a conflict with powerful established interests, 2, a large system of new arrangements, and 3, a new parliamentary statute. But as yet this change was merely in contemplation. As things were at present, twice in the year [Footnote: "_Twice in the year_":--There were at that time only two assizes even in the most populous counties--viz., the Lent Assizes and the Summer Assizes.] so vast a body of business rolled northwards from the southern quarter of the county that for a fortnight at least it occupied the severe exertions of two judges in its despatch. The consequence of this was that every horse available for such a service, along the whole line of road, was exhausted in carrying down the multitudes of people who were parties to the different suits. By sunset, therefore, it usually happened that, through utter exhaustion amongst men and horses, the road sank into profound silence. Except the exhaustion in the vast adjacent county of York from a contested election, no such silence succeeding to no such fiery uproar was ever witnessed in England.
On this occasion the usual silence and solitude prevailed along the road. Not a hoof nor a wheel was to be heard. And, to strengthen this false luxurious confidence in the noiseless roads, it happened also that the night was one of peculiar solemnity and peace. For my own part, though slightly alive to the possibilities of peril, I had so far yielded to the influence of the mighty calm as to sink into a profound reverie. The month was August; in the middle of which lay my own birthday--a festival to every thoughtful man suggesting solemn and often sigh-born [Footnote: "_Sigh-born_":--I owe the suggestion of this word to an obscure remembrance of a beautiful phrase in "Giraldus Cambrensis"--viz., _suspiriosæ cogitationes_.] thoughts. The county was my own native county--upon which, in its southern section, more than upon any equal area known to man past or present, had descended the original curse of labour in its heaviest form, not mastering the bodies only of men, as of slaves, or criminals in mines, but working through the fiery will. Upon no equal space of earth was, or ever had been, the same energy of human power put forth daily. At this particular season also of the assizes, that dreadful hurricane of flight and pursuit, as it might have seemed to a stranger, which swept to and from Lancaster all day long, hunting the county up and down, and regularly subsiding back into silence about sunset, could not fail (when united with this permanent distinction of Lancashire as the very metropolis and citadel of labour) to point the thoughts pathetically upon that counter-vision of rest, of saintly repose from strife and sorrow, towards which, as to their secret haven, the profounder aspirations of man's heart are in solitude continually travelling. Obliquely upon our left we were nearing the sea; which also must, under the present circumstances, be repeating the general state of halcyon repose. The sea, the atmosphere, the light, bore each an orchestral part in this universal lull. Moonlight and the first timid tremblings of the dawn were by this time blending; and the blendings were brought into a still more exquisite state of unity by a slight silvery mist, motionless and dreamy, that covered the woods and fields, but with a veil of equable transparency. Except the feet of our own horses,--which, running on a sandy margin of the road, made but little disturbance,--there was no sound abroad. In the clouds and on the earth prevailed the same majestic peace; and, in spite of all that the villain of a schoolmaster has done for the ruin of our sublimer thoughts, which are the thoughts of our infancy, we still believe in no such nonsense as a limited atmosphere. Whatever we may swear with our false feigning lips, in our faithful hearts we still believe, and must for ever believe, in fields of air traversing the total gulf between earth and the central heavens. Still, in the confidence of children that tread without fear every chamber in their father's house, and to whom no door is closed, we, in that Sabbatic vision which sometimes is revealed for an hour upon nights like this, ascend with easy steps from the sorrow-stricken fields of earth upwards to the sandals of God.
Suddenly, from thoughts like these I was awakened to a sullen sound, as of some motion on the distant road. It stole upon the air for a moment; I listened in awe; but then it died away. Once roused, however, I could not but observe with alarm the quickened motion of our horses. Ten years' experience had made my eye learned in the valuing of motion; and I saw that we were now running thirteen miles an hour. I pretend to no presence of mind. On the contrary, my fear is that I am miserably and shamefully deficient in that quality as regards action. The palsy of doubt and distraction hangs like some guilty weight of dark unfathomed remembrances upon my energies when the signal is flying for _action_. But, on the other hand, this accursed gift I have, as regards _thought_, that in the first step towards the possibility of a misfortune I see its total evolution; in the radix of the series I see too certainly and too instantly its entire expansion; in the first syllable of the dreadful sentence I read already the last. It was not that I feared for ourselves. _Us_ our bulk and impetus charmed against peril in any collision. And I had ridden through too many hundreds of perils that were frightful to approach, that were matter of laughter to look back upon, the first face of which was horror, the parting face a jest--for any anxiety to rest upon _our_ interests. The mail was not built, I felt assured, nor bespoke, that could betray _me_ who trusted to its protection. But any carriage that we could meet would be frail and light in comparison of ourselves. And I remarked this ominous accident of our situation,--we were on the wrong side of the road. But then, it may be said, the other party, if other there was, might also be on the wrong side; and two wrongs might make a right. _That_ was not likely. The same motive which had drawn _us_ to the right-hand side of the road--viz., the luxury of the soft beaten sand as contrasted with the paved centre--would prove attractive to others. The two adverse carriages would therefore, to a certainty, be travelling on the same side; and from this side, as not being ours in law, the crossing over to the other would, of course, be looked for from _us_. [Footnote: It is true that, according to the law of the case as established by legal precedents, all carriages were required to give way before royal equipages, and therefore before the mail as one of them. But this only increased the danger, as being a regulation very imperfectly made known, very unequally enforced, and therefore often embarrassing the movements on both sides.] Our lamps, still lighted, would give the impression of vigilance on our part. And every creature that met us would rely upon _us_ for quartering. [Footnote: "_Quartering_":--This is the technical word, and, I presume, derived from the French _cartayer_, to evade a rut or any obstacle.] All this, and if the separate links of the anticipation had been a thousand times more, I saw, not discursively, or by effort, or by succession, but by one flash of horrid simultaneous intuition.
Under this steady though rapid anticipation of the evil which _might_ be gathering ahead, ah! what a sullen mystery of fear, what a sigh of woe, was that which stole upon the air, as again the far-off sound of a wheel was heard! A whisper it was--a whisper from, perhaps, four miles off--secretly announcing a ruin that, being foreseen, was not the less inevitable; that, being known, was not therefore healed. What could be done--who was it that could do it--to check the storm-flight of these maniacal horses? Could I not seize the reins from the grasp of the slumbering coachman? You, reader, think that it would have been in _your_ power to do so. And I quarrel not with your estimate of yourself. But, from the way in which the coachman's hand was viced between his upper and lower thigh, this was impossible. Easy was it? See, then, that bronze equestrian statue. The cruel rider has kept the bit in his horse's mouth for two centuries. Unbridle him for a minute, if you please, and wash his mouth with water. Easy was it? Unhorse me, then, that imperial rider; knock me those marble feet from those marble stirrups of Charlemagne.
The sounds ahead strengthened, and were now too clearly the sounds of wheels. Who and what could it be? Was it industry in a taxed cart? Was it youthful gaiety in a gig? Was it sorrow that loitered, or joy that raced? For as yet the snatches of sound were too intermitting, from distance, to decipher the character of the motion. Whoever were the travellers, something must be done to warn them. Upon the other party rests the active responsibility, but upon _us_--and, woe is me! that _us_ was reduced to my frail opium-shattered self--rests the responsibility of warning. Yet, how should this be accomplished? Might I not sound the guard's horn? Already, on the first thought, I was making my way over the roof of the guard's seat. But this, from the accident which I have mentioned, of the foreign mails being piled upon the roof, was a difficult and even dangerous attempt to one cramped by nearly three hundred miles of outside travelling. And, fortunately, before I had lost much time in the attempt, our frantic horses swept round an angle of the road which opened upon us that final stage where the collision must be accomplished and the catastrophe sealed. All was apparently finished. The court was sitting; the case was heard; the judge had finished; and only the verdict was yet in arrear.
Before us lay an avenue straight as an arrow, six hundred yards, perhaps, in length; and the umbrageous trees, which rose in a regular line from either side, meeting high overhead, gave to it the character of a cathedral aisle. These trees lent a deeper solemnity to the early light; but there was still light enough to perceive, at the further end of this Gothic aisle, a frail reedy gig, in which were seated a young man, and by his side a young lady. Ah, young sir! what are you about? If it is requisite that you should whisper your communications to this young lady--though really I see nobody, at an hour and on a road so solitary, likely to overhear you--is it therefore requisite that you should carry your lips forward to hers? The little carriage is creeping on at one mile an hour; and the parties within it, being thus tenderly engaged, are naturally bending down their heads. Between them and eternity, to all human calculation, there is but a minute and a half. Oh heavens! what is it that I shall do? Speaking or acting, what help can I offer? Strange it is, and to a mere auditor of the tale might seem laughable, that I should need a suggestion from the "Iliad" to prompt the sole resource that remained. Yet so it was. Suddenly I remembered the shout of Achilles, and its effect. But could I pretend to shout like the son of Peleus, aided by Pallas? No: but then I needed not the shout that should alarm all Asia militant; such a shout would suffice as might carry terror into the hearts of two thoughtless young people and one gig-horse. I shouted--and the young man heard me not. A second time I shouted--and now he heard me, for now he raised his head.
Here, then, all had been done that, by me, _could_ be done; more on _my_ part was not possible. Mine had been the first step; the second was for the young man; the third was for God. If, said I, this stranger is a brave man, and if indeed he loves the young girl at his side--or, loving her not, if he feels the obligation, pressing upon every man worthy to be called a man, of doing his utmost for a woman confided to his protection--he will at least make some effort to save her. If _that_ fails, he will not perish the more, or by a death more cruel, for having made it; and he will die as a brave man should, with his face to the danger, and with his arm about the woman that he sought in vain to save. But, if he makes no effort,--shrinking without a struggle from his duty,--he himself will not the less certainly perish for this baseness of poltroonery. He will die no less: and why not? Wherefore should we grieve that there is one craven less in the world? No; _let_ him perish, without a pitying thought of ours wasted upon him; and, in that case, all our grief will be reserved for the fate of the helpless girl who now, upon the least shadow of failure in _him_, must by the fiercest of translations--must without time for a prayer--must within seventy seconds stand before the judgment-seat of God.
But craven he was not: sudden had been the call upon him, and sudden was his answer to the call. He saw, he heard, he comprehended, the ruin that was coming down: already its gloomy shadow darkened above him; and already he was measuring his strength to deal with it. Ah! what a vulgar thing does courage seem when we see nations buying it and selling it for a shilling a-day: ah! what a sublime thing does courage seem when some fearful summons on the great deeps of life carries a man, as if running before a hurricane, up to the giddy crest of some tumultuous crisis from which lie two courses, and a voice says to him audibly, "One way lies hope; take the other, and mourn for ever!" How grand a triumph if, even then, amidst the raving of all around him, and the frenzy of the danger, the man is able to confront his situation--is able to retire for a moment into solitude with God, and to seek his counsel from _Him!_
For seven seconds, it might be, of his seventy, the stranger settled his countenance steadfastly upon us, as if to search and value every element in the conflict before him. For five seconds more of his seventy he sat immovably, like one that mused on some great purpose. For five more, perhaps, he sat with eyes upraised, like one that prayed in sorrow, under some extremity of doubt, for light that should guide him to the better choice. Then suddenly he rose; stood upright; and, by a powerful strain upon the reins, raising his horse's fore-feet from the ground, he slewed him round on the pivot of his hind-legs, so as to plant the little equipage in a position nearly at right angles to ours. Thus far his condition was not improved; except as a first step had been taken towards the possibility of a second. If no more were done, nothing was done; for the little carriage still occupied the very centre of our path, though in an altered direction. Yet even now it may not be too late: fifteen of the seventy seconds may still be unexhausted; and one almighty bound may avail to clear the ground. Hurry, then, hurry! for the flying moments--_they_ hurry. Oh, hurry, hurry, my brave young man! for the cruel hoofs of our horses--_they_ also hurry! Fast are the flying moments, faster are the hoofs of our horses. But fear not for _him_, if human energy can suffice; faithful was he that drove to his terrific duty; faithful was the horse to _his_ command. One blow, one impulse given with voice and hand, by the stranger, one rush from the horse, one bound as if in the act of rising to a fence, landed the docile creature's forefeet upon the crown or arching centre of the road. The larger half of the little equipage had then cleared our over-towering shadow: _that_ was evident even to my own agitated sight. But it mattered little that one wreck should float off in safety if upon the wreck that perished were embarked the human freightage. The rear part of the carriage--was _that_ certainly beyond the line of absolute ruin? What power could answer the question? Glance of eye, thought of man, wing of angel, which of these had speed enough to sweep between the question and the answer, and divide the one from the other? Light does not tread upon the steps of light more indivisibly than did our all-conquering arrival upon the escaping efforts of the gig. _That_ must the young man have felt too plainly. His back was now turned to us; not by sight could he any longer communicate with the peril; but, by the dreadful rattle of our harness, too truly had his ear been instructed that all was finished as regarded any effort of _his_. Already in resignation he had rested from his struggle; and perhaps in his heart he was whispering, "Father, which art in heaven, do Thou finish above what I on earth have attempted." Faster than ever mill-race we ran past them in our inexorable flight. Oh, raving of hurricanes that must have sounded in their young ears at the moment of our transit! Even in that moment the thunder of collision spoke aloud. Either with the swingle-bar, or with the haunch of our near leader, we had struck the off-wheel of the little gig; which stood rather obliquely, and not quite so far advanced as to be accurately parallel with the near-wheel. The blow, from the fury of our passage, resounded terrifically. I rose in horror, to gaze upon the ruins we might have caused. From my elevated station I looked down, and looked back upon the scene; which in a moment told its own tale, and wrote all its records on my heart for ever.
Here was the map of the passion that now had finished. The horse was planted immovably, with his fore-feet upon the paved crest of the central road. He of the whole party might be supposed untouched by the passion of death. The little cany carriage--partly, perhaps, from the violent torsion of the wheels in its recent movement, partly from the thundering blow we had given to it--as if it sympathised with human horror, was all alive with tremblings and shiverings. The young man trembled not, nor shivered. He sat like a rock. But _his_ was the steadiness of agitation frozen into rest by horror. As yet he dared not to look round; for he knew that, if anything remained to do, by him it could no longer be done. And as yet he knew not for certain if their safety were accomplished. But the lady--
But the lady--! Oh, heavens! will that spectacle ever depart from my dreams, as she rose and sank upon her seat, sank and rose, threw up her arms wildly to heaven, clutched at some visionary object in the air, fainting, praying, raving, despairing? Figure to yourself, reader, the elements of the case; suffer me to recall before your mind the circumstances of that unparalleled situation. From the silence and deep peace of this saintly summer night--from the pathetic blending of this sweet moonlight, dawnlight, dreamlight--from the manly tenderness of this flattering, whispering, murmuring love--suddenly as from the woods and fields--suddenly as from the chambers of the air opening in revelation--suddenly as from the ground yawning at her feet, leaped upon her, with the flashing of cataracts, Death the crowned phantom, with all the equipage of his terrors, and the tiger roar of his voice.
The moments were numbered; the strife was finished; the vision was closed. In the twinkling of an eye, our flying horses had carried us to the termination of the umbrageous aisle; at the right angles we wheeled into our former direction; the turn of the road carried the scene out of my eyes in an instant, and swept it into my dreams for ever.
FOUNDED ON THE PRECEDING THEME OF SUDDEN DEATH
"Whence the sound Of instruments, that made melodious chime, Was heard, of harp and organ; and who moved Their stops and chords was seen; his volant touch Instinct through all proportions, low and high, Fled and pursued transverse the resonant fugue." _Par. Lost_, Bk. XI.
Passion of sudden death! that once in youth I read and interpreted by the shadows of thy averted signs [Footnote: "_Averted signs_":--I read the course and changes of the lady's agony in the succession of her involuntary gestures; but it must be remembered that I read all this from the rear, never once catching the lady's full face, and even her profile imperfectly.]!--rapture of panic taking the shape (which amongst tombs in churches I have seen) of woman bursting her sepulchral bonds--of woman's Ionic form bending forward from the ruins of her grave with arching foot, with eyes upraised, with clasped adoring hands--waiting, watching, trembling, praying for the trumpet's call to rise from dust for ever! Ah, vision too fearful of shuddering humanity on the brink of almighty abysses!--vision that didst start back, that didst reel away, like a shrivelling scroll from before the wrath of fire racing on the wings of the wind! Epilepsy so brief of horror, wherefore is it that thou canst not die? Passing so suddenly into darkness, wherefore is it that still thou sheddest thy sad funeral blights upon the gorgeous mosaics of dreams? Fragment of music too passionate, heard once, and heard no more, what aileth thee, that thy deep rolling chords come up at intervals through all the worlds of sleep, and after forty years have lost no element of horror?
Lo, it is summer--almighty summer! The everlasting gates of life and summer are thrown open wide; and on the ocean, tranquil and verdant as a savannah, the unknown lady from the dreadful vision and I myself are floating--she upon a fairy pinnace, and I upon an English three-decker. Both of us are wooing gales of festal happiness within the domain of our common country, within that ancient watery park, within the pathless chase of ocean, where England takes her pleasure as a huntress through winter and summer, from the rising to the setting sun. Ah, what a wilderness of floral beauty was hidden, or was suddenly revealed, upon the tropic islands through which the pinnace moved! And upon her deck what a bevy of human flowers: young women how lovely, young men how noble, that were dancing together, and slowly drifting towards _us_ amidst music and incense, amidst blossoms from forests and gorgeous corymbi from vintages, amidst natural carolling, and the echoes of sweet girlish laughter. Slowly the pinnace nears us, gaily she hails us, and silently she disappears beneath the shadow of our mighty bows. But then, as at some signal from heaven, the music, and the carols, and the sweet echoing of girlish laughter--all are hushed. What evil has smitten the pinnace, meeting or overtaking her? Did ruin to our friends couch within our own dreadful shadow? Was our shadow the shadow of death? I looked over the bow for an answer, and, behold! the pinnace was dismantled; the revel and the revellers were found no more; the glory of the vintage was dust; and the forests with their beauty were left without a witness upon the seas. "But where," and I turned to our crew--"where are the lovely women that danced beneath the awning of flowers and clustering corymbi? Whither have fled the noble young men that danced with _them_?" Answer there was none. But suddenly the man at the mast-head, whose countenance darkened with alarm, cried out, "Sail on the weather beam! Down she comes upon us: in seventy seconds she also will founder."
I looked to the weather side, and the summer had departed. The sea was rocking, and shaken with gathering wrath. Upon its surface sat mighty mists, which grouped themselves into arches and long cathedral aisles. Down one of these, with the fiery pace of a quarrel from a cross-bow, ran a frigate right athwart our course. "Are they mad?" some voice exclaimed from our deck. "Do they woo their ruin?" But in a moment, as she was close upon us, some impulse of a heady current or local vortex gave a wheeling bias to her course, and off she forged without a shock. As she ran past us, high aloft amongst the shrouds stood the lady of the pinnace. The deeps opened ahead in malice to receive her, towering surges of foam ran after her, the billows were fierce to catch her. But far away she was borne into desert spaces of the sea: whilst still by sight I followed her, as she ran before the howling gale, chased by angry sea-birds and by maddening billows; still I saw her, as at the moment when she ran past us, standing amongst the shrouds, with her white draperies streaming before the wind. There she stood, with hair dishevelled, one hand clutched amongst the tackling--rising, sinking, fluttering, trembling, praying; there for leagues I saw her as she stood, raising at intervals one hand to heaven, amidst the fiery crests of the pursuing waves and the raving of the storm; until at last, upon a sound from afar of malicious laughter and mockery, all was hidden for ever in driving showers; and afterwards, but when I knew not, nor how.
Sweet funeral bells from some incalculable distance, wailing over the dead that die before the dawn, awakened me as I slept in a boat moored to some familiar shore. The morning twilight even then was breaking; and, by the dusky revelations which it spread, I saw a girl, adorned with a garland of white roses about her head for some great festival, running along the solitary strand in extremity of haste. Her running was the running of panic; and often she looked back as to some dreadful enemy in the rear. But, when I leaped ashore, and followed on her steps to warn her of a peril in front, alas! from me she fled as from another peril, and vainly I shouted to her of quicksands that lay ahead. Faster and faster she ran; round a promontory of rocks she wheeled out of sight; in an instant I also wheeled round it, but only to see the treacherous sands gathering above her head. Already her person was buried; only the fair young head and the diadem of white roses around it were still visible to the pitying heavens; and, last of all, was visible one white marble arm. I saw by the early twilight this fair young head, as it was sinking down to darkness--saw this marble arm, as it rose above her head and her treacherous grave, tossing, faltering, rising, clutching, as at some false deceiving hand stretched out from the clouds--saw this marble arm uttering her dying hope, and then uttering her dying despair. The head, the diadem, the arm--these all had sunk; at last over these also the cruel quicksand had closed; and no memorial of the fair young girl remained on earth, except my own solitary tears, and the funeral bells from the desert seas, that, rising again more softly, sang a requiem over the grave of the buried child, and over her blighted dawn.
I sat, and wept in secret the tears that men have ever given to the memory of those that died before the dawn, and by the treachery of earth, our mother. But suddenly the tears and funeral bells were hushed by a shout as of many nations, and by a roar as from some great king's artillery, advancing rapidly along the valleys, and heard afar by echoes from the mountains. "Hush!" I said, as I bent my ear earthwards to listen--"hush!--this either is the very anarchy of strife, or else"--and then I listened more profoundly, and whispered as I raised my head--"or else, oh heavens! it is _victory_ that is final, victory that swallows up all strife."
Immediately, in trance, I was carried over land and sea to some distant kingdom, and placed upon a triumphal car, amongst companions crowned with laurel. The darkness of gathering midnight, brooding over all the land, hid from us the mighty crowds that were weaving restlessly about ourselves as a centre: we heard them, but saw them not. Tidings had arrived, within an hour, of a grandeur that measured itself against centuries; too full of pathos they were, too full of joy, to utter themselves by other language than by tears, by restless anthems, and _Te Deums_ reverberated from the choirs and orchestras of earth. These tidings we that sat upon the laurelled car had it for our privilege to publish amongst all nations. And already, by signs audible through the darkness, by snortings and tramplings, our angry horses, that knew no fear or fleshly weariness, upbraided us with delay. Wherefore _was_ it that we delayed? We waited for a secret word, that should bear witness to the hope of nations as now accomplished for ever. At midnight the secret word arrived; which word was--_Waterloo and Recovered Christendom!_ The dreadful word shone by its own light; before us it went; high above our leaders' heads it rode, and spread a golden light over the paths which we traversed. Every city, at the presence of the secret word, threw open its gates. The rivers were conscious as we crossed. All the forests, as we ran along their margins, shivered in homage to the secret word. And the darkness comprehended it.
Two hours after midnight we approached a mighty Minster. Its gates, which rose to the clouds, were closed. But, when the dreadful word that rode before us reached them with its golden light, silently they moved back upon their hinges; and at a flying gallop our equipage entered the grand aisle of the cathedral. Headlong was our pace; and at every altar, in the little chapels and oratories to the right hand and left of our course, the lamps, dying or sickening, kindled anew in sympathy with the secret word that was flying past. Forty leagues we might have run in the cathedral, and as yet no strength of morning light had reached us, when before us we saw the aerial galleries of organ and choir. Every pinnacle of fretwork, every station of advantage amongst the traceries, was crested by white-robed choristers that sang deliverance; that wept no more tears, as once their fathers had wept; but at intervals that sang together to the generations, saying,
"Chant the deliverer's praise in every tongue,"
and receiving answers from afar,
"Such as once in heaven and earth were sung."
And of their chanting was no end; of our headlong pace was neither pause nor slackening.
Thus as we ran like torrents--thus as we swept with bridal rapture over the Campo Santo [Footnote: "_Campo Santo_":--It is probable that most of my readers will be acquainted with the history of the Campo Santo (or cemetery) at Pisa, composed of earth brought from Jerusalem from a bed of sanctity as the highest prize which the noble piety of crusaders could ask or imagine. To readers who are unacquainted with England, or who (being English) are yet unacquainted with the cathedral cities of England, it may be right to mention that the graves within-side the cathedrals often form a flat pavement over which carriages and horses _might_ run; and perhaps a boyish remembrance of one particular cathedral, across which I had seen passengers walk and burdens carried, as about two centuries back they were through the middle of St. Paul's in London, may have assisted my dream.] of the cathedral graves--suddenly we became aware of a vast necropolis rising upon the far-off horizon--a city of sepulchres, built within the saintly cathedral for the warrior dead that rested from their feuds on earth. Of purple granite was the necropolis; yet, in the first minute, it lay like a purple stain upon the horizon, so mighty was the distance. In the second minute it trembled through many changes, growing into terraces and towers of wondrous altitude, so mighty was the pace. In the third minute already, with our dreadful gallop, we were entering its suburbs. Vast sarcophagi rose on every side, having towers and turrets that, upon the limits of the central aisle, strode forward with haughty intrusion, that ran back with mighty shadows into answering recesses. Every sarcophagus showed many bas-reliefs--bas-reliefs of battles and of battle-fields; battles from forgotten ages, battles from yesterday; battle-fields that, long since, nature had healed and reconciled to herself with the sweet oblivion of flowers; battle-fields that were yet angry and crimson with carnage. Where the terraces ran, there did _we_ run; where the towers curved, there did _we_ curve. With the flight of swallows our horses swept round every angle. Like rivers in flood wheeling round headlands, like hurricanes that ride into the secrets of forests, faster than ever light unwove the mazes of darkness, our flying equipage carried earthly passions, kindled warrior instincts, amongst the dust that lay around us--dust oftentimes of our noble fathers that had slept in God from Crécy to Trafalgar. And now had we reached the last sarcophagus, now were we abreast of the last bas-relief, already had we recovered the arrow-like flight of the illimitable central aisle, when coming up this aisle to meet us we beheld afar off a female child, that rode in a carriage as frail as flowers. The mists which went before her hid the fawns that drew her, but could not hide the shells and tropic flowers with which she played--but could not hide the lovely smiles by which she uttered her trust in the mighty cathedral, and in the cherubim that looked down upon her from the mighty shafts of its pillars. Face to face she was meeting us; face to face she rode, as if danger there were none. "Oh, baby!" I exclaimed, "shalt thou be the ransom for Waterloo? Must we, that carry tidings of great joy to every people, be messengers of ruin to thee!" In horror I rose at the thought; but then also, in horror at the thought, rose one that was sculptured on a bas-relief--a Dying Trumpeter. Solemnly from the field of battle he rose to his feet; and, unslinging his stony trumpet, carried it, in his dying anguish, to his stony lips--sounding once, and yet once again; proclamation that, in _thy_ ears, oh baby! spoke from the battlements of death. Immediately deep shadows fell between us, and aboriginal silence. The choir had ceased to sing. The hoofs of our horses, the dreadful rattle of our harness, the groaning of our wheels, alarmed the graves no more. By horror the bas-relief had been unlocked unto life. By horror we, that were so full of life, we men and our horses, with their fiery fore-legs rising in mid air to their everlasting gallop, were frozen to a bas-relief. Then a third time the trumpet sounded; the seals were taken off all pulses; life, and the frenzy of life, tore into their channels again; again the choir burst forth in sunny grandeur, as from the muffling of storms and darkness; again the thunderings of our horses carried temptation into the graves. One cry burst from our lips, as the clouds, drawing off from the aisle, showed it empty before us.--"Whither has the infant fled?--is the young child caught up to God?" Lo! afar off, in a vast recess, rose three mighty windows to the clouds; and on a level with their summits, at height insuperable to man, rose an altar of purest alabaster. On its eastern face was trembling a crimson glory. A glory was it from the reddening dawn that now streamed _through_ the windows? Was it from the crimson robes of the martyrs painted _on_ the windows? Was it from the bloody bas-reliefs of earth? There, suddenly, within that crimson radiance, rose the apparition of a woman's head, and then of a woman's figure. The child it was--grown up to woman's height. Clinging to the horns of the altar, voiceless she stood--sinking, rising, raving, despairing; and behind the volume of incense that, night and day, streamed upwards from the altar, dimly was seen the fiery font, and the shadow of that dreadful being who should have baptized her with the baptism of death. But by her side was kneeling her better angel, that hid his face with wings; that wept and pleaded for _her_; that prayed when _she_ could _not_; that fought with Heaven by tears for _her_ deliverance; which also, as he raised his immortal countenance from his wings, I saw, by the glory in his eye, that from Heaven he had won at last.
Then was completed the passion of the mighty fugue. The golden tubes of the organ, which as yet had but muttered at intervals--gleaming amongst clouds and surges of incense--threw up, as from fountains unfathomable, columns of heart-shattering music. Choir and anti-choir were filling fast with unknown voices. Thou also, Dying Trumpeter, with thy love that was victorious, and thy anguish that was finishing, didst enter the tumult; trumpet and echo--farewell love, and farewell anguish--rang through the dreadful _sanctus_. Oh, darkness of the grave! that from the crimson altar and from the fiery font wert visited and searched by the effulgence in the angel's eye--were these indeed thy children? Pomps of life, that, from the burials of centuries, rose again to the voice of perfect joy, did ye indeed mingle with the festivals of Death? Lo! as I looked back for seventy leagues through the mighty cathedral, I saw the quick and the dead that sang together to God, together that sang to the generations of man. All the hosts of jubilation, like armies that ride in pursuit, moved with one step. Us, that, with laurelled heads, were passing from the cathedral, they overtook, and, as with a garment, they wrapped us round with thunders greater than our own. As brothers we moved together; to the dawn that advanced, to the stars that fled; rendering thanks to God in the highest--that, having hid His face through one generation behind thick clouds of War, once again was ascending, from the Campo Santo of Waterloo was ascending, in the visions of Peace; rendering thanks for thee, young girl! whom having overshadowed with His ineffable passion of death, suddenly did God relent, suffered thy angel to turn aside His arm, and even in thee, sister unknown! shown to me for a moment only to be hidden for ever, found an occasion to glorify His goodness. A thousand times, amongst the phantoms of sleep, have I seen thee entering the gates of the golden dawn, with the secret word riding before thee, with the armies of the grave behind thee,--seen thee sinking, rising, raving, despairing; a thousand times in the worlds of sleep have I seen thee followed by God's angel through storms, through desert seas, through the darkness of quicksands, through dreams and the dreadful revelations that are in dreams; only that at the last, with one sling of His victorious arm, He might snatch thee back from ruin, and might emblazon in thy deliverance the endless resurrections of His love!
JOAN OF ARC
[Footnote: "_Arc_":--Modern France, that should know a great deal better than myself, insists that the name is not D'Arc--_i.e._, of Arc--but _Darc_. Now it happens sometimes that, if a person whose position guarantees his access to the best information will content himself with gloomy dogmatism, striking the table with his fist, and saying in a terrific voice, "It _is_ so, and there's an end of it," one bows deferentially, and submits. But, if, unhappily for himself, won by this docility, he relents too amiably into reasons and arguments, probably one raises an insurrection against him that may never be crushed; for in the fields of logic one can skirmish, perhaps, as well as he. Had he confined himself to dogmatism, he would have intrenched his position in darkness, and have hidden his own vulnerable points. But coming down to base reasons he lets in light, and one sees where to plant the blows. Now, the worshipful reason of modern France for disturbing the old received spelling is that Jean Hordal, a descendant of La Pucelle's brother, spelled the name _Darc_ in 1612. But what of that? It is notorious that what small matter of spelling Providence had thought fit to disburse amongst man in the seventeenth century was all monopolised by printers; now, M. Hordal was _not_ a printer.]
What is to be thought of _her_? What is to be thought of the poor shepherd girl from the hills and forests of Lorraine, that--like the Hebrew shepherd boy from the hills and forests of Judea--rose suddenly out of the quiet, out of the safety, out of the religious inspiration, rooted in deep pastoral solitudes, to a station in the van of armies, and to the more perilous station at the right hand of kings? The Hebrew boy inaugurated his patriotic mission by an _act_, by a victorious _act_, such as no man could deny. But so did the girl of Lorraine, if we read her story as it was read by those who saw her nearest. Adverse armies bore witness to the boy as no pretender; but so they did to the gentle girl. Judged by the voices of all who saw them _from a station of good will_, both were found true and loyal to any promises involved in their first acts. Enemies it was that made the difference between their subsequent fortunes. The boy rose to a splendour and a noonday prosperity, both personal and public, that rang through the records of his people, and became a byword among his posterity for a thousand years, until the sceptre was departing from Judah. The poor, forsaken girl, on the contrary, drank not herself from that cup of rest which she had secured for France. She never sang together with the songs that rose in her native Domrémy as echoes to the departing steps of invaders. She mingled not in the festal dances at Vaucouleurs which celebrated in rapture the redemption of France. No! for her voice was then silent; no! for her feet were dust. Pure, innocent, noble-hearted girl! whom, from earliest youth, ever I believed in as full of truth and self-sacrifice, this was amongst the strongest pledges for _thy_ truth, that never once--no, not for a moment of weakness--didst thou revel in the vision of coronets and honour from man. Coronets for thee! Oh, no! Honours, if they come when all is over, are for those that share thy blood. [Footnote: "_Those that share thy blood_":--A collateral relative of Joanna's was subsequently ennobled by the title of _Du Lys_.] Daughter of Domrémy, when the gratitude of thy king shall awaken, thou wilt be sleeping the sleep of the dead. Call her, King of France, but she will not hear thee. Cite her by the apparitors to come and receive a robe of honour, but she will be found _en contumace_. When the thunders of universal France, as even yet may happen, shall proclaim the grandeur of the poor shepherd girl that gave up all for her country, thy ear, young shepherd girl, will have been deaf for five centuries. To suffer and to do, that was thy portion in this life; that was thy destiny; and not for a moment was it hidden from thyself. Life, thou saidst, is short; and the sleep which is in the grave is long; let me use that life, so transitory, for the glory of those heavenly dreams destined to comfort the sleep which is so long! This pure creature--pure from every suspicion of even a visionary self-interest, even as she was pure in senses more obvious--never once did this holy child, as regarded herself, relax from her belief in the darkness that was travelling to meet her. She might not prefigure the very manner of her death; she saw not in vision, perhaps, the aerial altitude of the fiery scaffold, the spectators without end, on every road, pouring into Rouen as to a coronation, the surging smoke, the volleying flames, the hostile faces all around, the pitying eye that lurked but here and there, until nature and imperishable truth broke loose from artificial restraints--these might not be apparent through the mists of the hurrying future. But the voice that called her to death, _that_ she heard for ever.
Great was the throne of France even in those days, and great was He that sat upon it; but well Joanna knew that not the throne, nor he that sat upon it, was for _her_; but, on the contrary, that she was for _them_; not she by them, but they by her, should rise from the dust. Gorgeous were the lilies of France, and for centuries had the privilege to spread their beauty over land and sea, until, in another century, the wrath of God and man combined to wither them; but well Joanna knew, early at Domrémy she had read that bitter truth, that the lilies of France would decorate no garland for _her_. Flower nor bud, bell nor blossom, would ever bloom for _her_!
* * * * *
But stay. What reason is there for taking up this subject of Joanna precisely in the spring of 1847? Might it not have been left till the spring of 1947, or, perhaps, left till called for? Yes, but it _is_ called for, and clamorously. You are aware, reader, that amongst the many original thinkers whom modern France has produced, one of the reputed leaders is M. Michelet. All these writers are of a revolutionary cast; not in a political sense merely, but in all senses; mad, oftentimes, as March hares; crazy with the laughing gas of recovered liberty; drunk with the wine cup of their mighty Revolution, snorting, whinnying, throwing up their heels, like wild horses in the boundless pampas, and running races of defiance with snipes, or with the winds, or with their own shadows, if they can find nothing else to challenge. Some time or other, I, that have leisure to read, may introduce _you_, that have not, to two or three dozen of these writers; of whom I can assure you beforehand that they are often profound, and at intervals are even as impassioned as if they were come of our best English blood. But now, confining our attention to M. Michelet, we in England--who know him best by his worst book, the book against priests, etc.--know him disadvantageously. That book is a rhapsody of incoherence. But his "History of France" is quite another thing. A man, in whatsoever craft he sails, cannot stretch away out of sight when he is linked to the windings of the shore by towing-ropes of History. Facts, and the consequences of facts, draw the writer back to the falconer's lure from the giddiest heights of speculation. Here, therefore--in his "France"--if not always free from flightiness, if now and then off like a rocket for an airy wheel in the clouds, M. Michelet, with natural politeness, never forgets that he has left a large audience waiting for him on earth, and gazing upward in anxiety for his return; return, therefore, he does. But History, though clear of certain temptations in one direction, has separate dangers of its own. It is impossible so to write a history of France, or of England--works becoming every hour more indispensable to the inevitably political man of this day--without perilous openings for error. If I, for instance, on the part of England, should happen to turn my labours into that channel, and (on the model of Lord Percy going to Chevy Chase)
"A vow to God should make My pleasure in the Michelet woods Three summer days to take,"
probably, from simple delirium, I might hunt M. Michelet into _delirium tremens_. Two strong angels stand by the side of History, whether French history or English, as heraldic supporters: the angel of research on the left hand, that must read millions of dusty parchments, and of pages blotted with lies; the angel of meditation on the right hand, that must cleanse these lying records with fire, even as of old the draperies of _asbestos_ were cleansed, and must quicken them into regenerated life. Willingly I acknowledge that no man will ever avoid innumerable errors of detail; with so vast a compass of ground to traverse, this is impossible; but such errors (though I have a bushel on hand, at M. Michelet's service) are not the game I chase; it is the bitter and unfair spirit in which M. Michelet writes against England. Even _that_, after all, is but my secondary object; the real one is Joanna, the Pucelle d'Orléans herself.
I am not going to write the history of La Pucelle: to do this, or even circumstantially to report the history of her persecution and bitter death, of her struggle with false witnesses and with ensnaring judges, it would be necessary to have before us _all_ the documents, and therefore the collection only now forthcoming in Paris. [Footnote: "_Only now forthcoming_":--In 1847 _began_ the publication (from official records) of Joanna's trial. It was interrupted, I fear, by the convulsions of 1848; and whether even yet finished I do not know.] But _my_ purpose is narrower. There have been great thinkers, disdaining the careless judgments of contemporaries, who have thrown themselves boldly on the judgment of a far posterity, that should have had time to review, to ponder, to compare. There have been great actors on the stage of tragic humanity that might, with the same depth of confidence, have appealed from the levity of compatriot friends--too heartless for the sublime interest of their story, and too impatient for the labour of sifting its perplexities--to the magnanimity and justice of enemies. To this class belongs the Maid of Arc. The ancient Romans were too faithful to the ideal of grandeur in themselves not to relent, after a generation or two, before the grandeur of Hannibal. Mithridates, a more doubtful person, yet, merely for the magic perseverance of his indomitable malice, won from the same Romans the only real honour that ever he received on earth. And we English have ever shown the same homage to stubborn enmity. To work unflinchingly for the ruin of England; to say through life, by word and by deed, _Delenda est Anglia Victrix_!--that one purpose of malice, faithfully pursued, has quartered some people upon our national funds of homage as by a perpetual annuity. Better than an inheritance of service rendered to England herself has sometimes proved the most insane hatred to England. Hyder Ali, even his son Tippoo, though so far inferior, and Napoleon, have all benefited by this disposition among ourselves to exaggerate the merit of diabolic enmity. Not one of these men was ever capable, in a solitary instance, of praising an enemy (what do you say to _that_, reader?); and yet in _their_ behalf, we consent to forget, not their crimes only, but (which is worse) their hideous bigotry and anti-magnanimous egotism--for nationality it was not. Suffren, and some half dozen of other French nautical heroes, because rightly they did us all the mischief they could (which was really great), are names justly reverenced in England. On the same principle, La Pucelle d'Orléans, the victorious enemy of England, has been destined to receive her deepest commemoration from the magnanimous justice of Englishmen.
Joanna, as we in England should call her, but according to her own statement, Jeanne (or, as M. Michelet asserts, Jean [Footnote: "_Jean_":--M. Michelet asserts that there was a mystical meaning at that era in calling a child _Jean_; it implied a secret commendation of a child, if not a dedication, to St. John the evangelist, the beloved disciple, the apostle of love and mysterious visions. But, really, as the name was so exceedingly common, few people will detect a mystery in calling a _boy_ by the name of Jack, though it _does_ seem mysterious to call a girl Jack. It may be less so in France, where a beautiful practice has always prevailed of giving a boy his mother's name--preceded and strengthened by a male name, as _Charles Anne_, _Victor Victoire_. In cases where a mother's memory has been unusually dear to a son, this vocal memento of her, locked into the circle of his own name, gives to it the tenderness of a testamentary relic, or a funeral ring. I presume, therefore, that La Pucelle must have borne the baptismal name of Jeanne Jean; the latter with no reference, perhaps, to so sublime a person as St. John, but simply to some relative.]) D'Arc was born at Domrémy, a village on the marches of Lorraine and Champagne, and dependent upon the town of Vaucouleurs. I have called her a Lorrainer, not simply because the word is prettier, but because Champagne too odiously reminds us English of what are for _us_ imaginary wines--which, undoubtedly, La Pucelle tasted as rarely as we English: we English, because the champagne of London is chiefly grown in Devonshire; La Pucelle, because the champagne of Champagne never, by any chance, flowed into the fountain of Domrémy, from which only she drank. M. Michelet will have her to be a _Champenoise_, and for no better reason than that she "took after her father," who happened to be a _Champenois_.
These disputes, however, turn on refinements too nice. Domrémy stood upon the frontiers, and, like other frontiers, produced a _mixed_ race, representing the _cis_ and the _trans_. A river (it is true) formed the boundary line at this point--the river Meuse; and _that_, in old days, might have divided the populations; but in these days it did not; there were bridges, there were ferries, and weddings crossed from the right bank to the left. Here lay two great roads, not so much for travellers that were few, as for armies that were too many by half. These two roads, one of which was the great highroad between France and Germany, _decussated_ at this very point; which is a learned way of saying that they formed a St. Andrew's Cross, or letter X. I hope the compositor will choose a good large X; in which case the point of intersection, the _locus_ of conflux and intersection for these four diverging arms, will finish the reader's geographical education, by showing him to a hair's-breadth where it was that Domrémy stood. These roads, so grandly situated, as great trunk arteries between two mighty realms,[Footnote: And reminding one of that inscription, so justly admired by Paul Richter, which a Russian Czarina placed on a guide-post near Moscow: _This is the road that leads to Constantinople._] and haunted for ever by wars or rumours of wars, decussated (for anything I know to the contrary) absolutely under Joanna's bedroom window; one rolling away to the right, past M. D'Arc's old barn, and the other unaccountably preferring to sweep round that odious man's pig-sty to the left.
On whichever side of the border chance had thrown Joanna, the same love to France would have been nurtured. For it is a strange fact, noticed by M. Michelet and others, that the Dukes of Bar and Lorraine had for generations pursued the policy of eternal warfare with France on their own account, yet also of eternal amity and league with France in case anybody else presumed to attack her. Let peace settle upon France, and before long you might rely upon seeing the little vixen Lorraine flying at the throat of France. Let France be assailed by a formidable enemy, and instantly you saw a Duke of Lorraine insisting on having his own throat cut in support of France; which favour accordingly was cheerfully granted to him in three great successive battles: twice by the English, viz., at Crécy and Agincourt, once by the Sultan at Nicopolis.
This sympathy with France during great eclipses, in those that during ordinary seasons were always teasing her with brawls and guerilla inroads, strengthened the natural piety to France of those that were confessedly the children of her own house. The outposts of France, as one may call the great frontier provinces, were of all localities the most devoted to the Fleurs de Lys. To witness, at any great crisis, the generous devotion to these lilies of the little fiery cousin that in gentler weather was for ever tilting at the breast of France, could not but fan the zeal of France's legitimate daughters; while to occupy a post of honour on the frontiers against an old hereditary enemy of France would naturally stimulate this zeal by a sentiment of martial pride, by a sense of danger always threatening, and of hatred always smouldering. That great four-headed road was a perpetual memento to patriotic ardour. To say "This way lies the road to Paris, and that other way to Aix-la-Chapelle; this to Prague, that to Vienna," nourished the warfare of the heart by daily ministrations of sense. The eye that watched for the gleams of lance or helmet from the hostile frontier, the ear that listened for the groaning of wheels, made the highroad itself, with its relations to centres so remote, into a manual of patriotic duty.
The situation, therefore, _locally_, of Joanna was full of profound suggestions to a heart that listened for the stealthy steps of change and fear that too surely were in motion. But, if the place were grand, the time, the burden of the time, was far more so. The air overhead in its upper chambers was _hurtling_ with the obscure sound; was dark with sullen fermenting of storms that had been gathering for a hundred and thirty years. The battle of Agincourt in Joanna's childhood had reopened the wounds of France. Crécy and Poictiers, those withering overthrows for the chivalry of France, had, before Agincourt occurred, been tranquilised by more than half a century; but this resurrection of their trumpet wails made the whole series of battles and endless skirmishes take their stations as parts in one drama. The graves that had closed sixty years ago seemed to fly open in sympathy with a sorrow that echoed their own. The monarchy of France laboured in extremity, rocked and reeled like a ship fighting with the darkness of monsoons. The madness of the poor king (Charles VI), falling in at such a crisis, like the case of women labouring in child-birth during the storming of a city, trebled the awfulness of the time. Even the wild story of the incident which had immediately occasioned the explosion of this madness--the case of a man unknown, gloomy, and perhaps maniacal himself, coming out of a forest at noonday, laying his hand upon the bridle of the king's horse, checking him for a moment to say, "Oh, king, thou art betrayed," and then vanishing, no man knew whither, as he had appeared for no man knew what--fell in with the universal prostration of mind that laid France on her knees, as before the slow unweaving of some ancient prophetic doom. The famines, the extraordinary diseases, the insurrections of the peasantry up and down Europe--these were chords struck from the same mysterious harp; but these were transitory chords. There had been others of deeper and more ominous sound. The termination of the Crusades, the destruction of the Templars, the Papal interdicts, the tragedies caused or suffered by the house of Anjou, and by the Emperor--these were full of a more permanent significance. But, since then, the colossal figure of feudalism was seen standing, as it were on tiptoe, at Crécy, for flight from earth: that was a revolution unparalleled; yet _that_ was a trifle by comparison with the more fearful revolutions that were mining below the Church. By her own internal schisms, by the abominable spectacle of a double Pope--so that no man, except through political bias, could even guess which was Heaven's vicegerent, and which the creature of Hell--the Church was rehearsing, as in still earlier forms she had already rehearsed, those vast rents in her foundations which no man should ever heal.
These were the loftiest peaks of the cloudland in the skies that to the scientific gazer first caught the colors of the _new_ morning in advance. But the whole vast range alike of sweeping glooms overhead dwelt upon all meditative minds, even upon those that could not distinguish the tendencies nor decipher the forms. It was, therefore, not her own age alone, as affected by its immediate calamities, that lay with such weight upon Joanna's mind, but her own age as one section in a vast mysterious drama, unweaving through a century back, and drawing nearer continually to some dreadful crisis. Cataracts and rapids were heard roaring ahead; and signs were seen far back, by help of old men's memories, which answered secretly to signs now coming forward on the eye, even as locks answer to keys. It was not wonderful that in such a haunted solitude, with such a haunted heart, Joanna should see angelic visions, and hear angelic voices. These voices whispered to her for ever the duty, self-imposed, of delivering France. Five years she listened to these monitory voices with internal struggles. At length she could resist no longer. Doubt gave way; and she left her home for ever in order to present herself at the dauphin's court. The education of this poor girl was mean according to the present standard: was ineffably grand, according to a purer philosophic standard: and only not good for our age because for us it would be unattainable. She read nothing, for she could not read; but she had heard others read parts of the Roman martyrology. She wept in sympathy with the sad "Misereres" of the Romish Church; she rose to heaven with the glad triumphant "Te Deums" of Rome; she drew her comfort and her vital strength from the rites of the same Church. But, next after these spiritual advantages, she owed most to the advantages of her situation. The fountain of Domrémy was on the brink of a boundless forest; and it was haunted to that degree by fairies that the parish priest (_curé_) was obliged to read mass there once a year, in order to keep them in any decent bounds. Fairies are important, even in a statistical view: certain weeds mark poverty in the soil; fairies mark its solitude. As surely as the wolf retires before cities does the fairy sequester herself from the haunts of the licensed victualer. A village is too much for her nervous delicacy; at most, she can tolerate a distant view of a hamlet. We may judge, therefore, by the uneasiness and extra trouble which they gave to the parson, in what strength the fairies mustered at Domrémy, and, by a satisfactory consequence, how thinly sown with men and women must have been that region even in its inhabited spots. But the forests of Domrémy--those were the glories of the land: for in them abode mysterious powers and ancient secrets that towered into tragic strength. "Abbeys there were, and abbey windows"--"like Moorish temples of the Hindoos"--that exercised even princely power both in Lorraine and in the German Diets. These had their sweet bells that pierced the forests for many a league at matins or vespers, and each its own dreamy legend. Few enough, and scattered enough, were these abbeys, so as in no degree to disturb the deep solitude of the region; yet many enough to spread a network or awning of Christian sanctity over what else might have seemed a heathen wilderness. This sort of religious talisman being secured, a man the most afraid of ghosts (like myself, suppose, or the reader) becomes armed into courage to wander for days in their sylvan recesses. The mountains of the Vosges, on the eastern frontier of France, have never attracted much notice from Europe, except in 1813-14 for a few brief months, when they fell within Napoleon's line of defence against the Allies. But they are interesting for this among other features, that they do not, like some loftier ranges, repel woods; the forests and the hills are on sociable terms. "Live and let live" is their motto. For this reason, in part, these tracts in Lorraine were a favourite hunting-ground with the Carlovingian princes. About six hundred years before Joanna's childhood, Charlemagne was known to have hunted there. That, of itself, was a grand incident in the traditions of a forest or a chase. In these vast forests, also, were to be found (if anywhere to be found) those mysterious fawns that tempted solitary hunters into visionary and perilous pursuits. Here was seen (if anywhere seen) that ancient stag who was already nine hundred years old, but possibly a hundred or two more, when met by Charlemagne; and the thing was put beyond doubt by the inscription upon his golden collar. I believe Charlemagne knighted the stag; and, if ever he is met again by a king, he ought to be made an earl, or, being upon the marches of France, a marquis. Observe, I don't absolutely vouch for all these things: my own opinion varies. On a fine breezy forenoon I am audaciously sceptical; but as twilight sets in my credulity grows steadily, till it becomes equal to anything that could be desired. And I have heard candid sportsmen declare that, outside of these very forests, they laughed loudly at all the dim tales connected with their haunted solitudes, but, on reaching a spot notoriously eighteen miles deep within them, they agreed with Sir Roger de Coverley that a good deal might be said on both sides.
Such traditions, or any others that (like the stag) connect distant generations with each other, are, for that cause, sublime; and the sense of the shadowy, connected with such appearances that reveal themselves or not according to circumstances, leaves a colouring of sanctity over ancient forests, even in those minds that utterly reject the legend as a fact.
But, apart from all distinct stories of that order, in any solitary frontier between two great empires--as here, for instance, or in the desert between Syria and the Euphrates--there is an inevitable tendency, in minds of any deep sensibility, to people the solitudes with phantom images of powers that were of old so vast. Joanna, therefore, in her quiet occupation of a shepherdess, would be led continually to brood over the political condition of her country by the traditions of the past no less than by the mementoes of the local present.
M. Michelet, indeed, says that La Pucelle was not a shepherdess. I beg his pardon; she was. What he rests upon I guess pretty well: it is the evidence of a woman called Haumette, the most confidential friend of Joanna. Now, she is a good witness, and a good girl, and I like her; for she makes a natural and affectionate report of Joanna's ordinary life. But still, however good she may be as a witness, Joanna is better; and she, when speaking to the dauphin, calls herself in the Latin report _Bergereta_. Even Haumette confesses that Joanna tended sheep in her girlhood. And I believe that, if Miss Haumette were taking coffee along with me this very evening (February 12, 1847)--in which there would be no subject for scandal or for maiden blushes, because I am an intense philosopher, and Miss H. would be hard upon 450 years old--she would admit the following comment upon her evidence to be right. A Frenchman, about forty years ago--M. Simond, in his "Travels"--mentions accidentally the following hideous scene as one steadily observed and watched by himself in chivalrous France not very long before the French Revolution: A peasant was plowing; and the team that drew his plow was a donkey and a woman. Both were regularly harnessed; both pulled alike. This is bad enough; but the Frenchman adds that, in distributing his lashes, the peasant was obviously desirous of being impartial; or, if either of the yokefellows had a right to complain, certainly it was not the donkey. Now, in any country where such degradation of females could be tolerated by the state of manners, a woman of delicacy would shrink from acknowledging, either for herself or her friend, that she had ever been addicted to any mode of labour not strictly domestic; because, if once owning herself a prædial servant, she would be sensible that this confession extended by probability in the hearer's thoughts to the having incurred indignities of this horrible kind. Haumette clearly thinks it more dignified for Joanna to have been darning the stockings of her horny-hoofed father, M. D'Arc, than keeping sheep, lest she might then be suspected of having ever done something worse. But, luckily, there was no danger of _that_: Joanna never was in service; and my opinion is that her father should have mended his own stockings, since probably he was the party to make the holes in them, as many a better man than D'Arc does--meaning by _that_ not myself, because, though probably a better man than D'Arc, I protest against doing anything of the kind. If I lived even with Friday in Juan Fernandez, either Friday must do all the darning, or else it must go undone. The better men that I meant were the sailors in the British navy, every man of whom mends his own stockings. Who else is to do it? Do you suppose, reader, that the junior lords of the admiralty are under articles to darn for the navy?
The reason, meantime, for my systematic hatred of D'Arc is this: There was a story current in France before the Revolution, framed to ridicule the pauper aristocracy, who happened to have long pedigrees and short rent rolls: viz., that a head of such a house, dating from the Crusades, was overheard saying to his son, a Chevalier of St. Louis, "_Chevalier, as-tu donné au cochon à manger_?" Now, it is clearly made out by the surviving evidence that D'Arc would much have preferred continuing to say, "_Ma fille, as-tu donné au cochon à manger_?" to saying, "_Pucelle d'Orléans, as-tu sauvé les fleurs-de-lys_?" There is an old English copy of verses which argues thus:
"If the man that turnips cries Cry not when his father dies, Then 'tis plain the man had rather Have a turnip than his father."
I cannot say that the logic of these verses was ever _entirely_ to my satisfaction. I do not see my way through it as clearly as could be wished. But I see my way most clearly through D'Arc; and the result is--that he would greatly have preferred not merely a turnip to his father, but the saving a pound or so of bacon to saving the Oriflamme of France.
It is probable (as M. Michelet suggests) that the title of Virgin or Pucelle had in itself, and apart from the miraculous stories about her, a secret power over the rude soldiery and partisan chiefs of that period; for in such a person they saw a representative manifestation of the Virgin Mary, who, in a course of centuries, had grown steadily upon the popular heart.
As to Joanna's supernatural detection of the dauphin (Charles VII) among three hundred lords and knights, I am surprised at the credulity which could ever lend itself to that theatrical juggle. Who admires more than myself the sublime enthusiasm, the rapturous faith in herself, of this pure creature? But I am far from admiring stage artifices which not La Pucelle, but the court, must have arranged; nor can surrender myself to the conjurer's legerdemain, such as may be seen every day for a shilling. Southey's "Joan of Arc" was published in 1796. Twenty years after, talking with Southey, I was surprised to find him still owning a secret bias in favor of Joan, founded on her detection of the dauphin. The story, for the benefit of the reader new to the case, was this: La Pucelle was first made known to the dauphin, and presented to his court, at Chinon; and here came her first trial. By way of testing her supernatural pretensions, she was to find out the royal personage amongst the whole ark of clean and unclean creatures. Failing in this _coup d'essai_, she would not simply disappoint many a beating heart in the glittering crowd that on different motives yearned for her success, but she would ruin herself, and, as the oracle within had told her, would, by ruining herself, ruin France. Our own Sovereign Lady Victoria rehearses annually a trial not so severe in degree, but the same in kind. She "pricks" for sheriffs. Joanna pricked for a king. But observe the difference: our own Lady pricks for two men out of three; Joanna for one man out of three hundred. Happy Lady of the Islands and the Orient!--she _can_ go astray in her choice only by one-half: to the extent of one-half she _must_ have the satisfaction of being right. And yet, even with these tight limits to the misery of a boundless discretion, permit me, Liege Lady, with all loyalty, to submit that now and then you prick with your pin the wrong man. But the poor child from Domremy, shrinking under the gaze of a dazzling court--not _because_ dazzling (for in visions she had seen those that were more so), but because some of them wore a scoffing smile on their features--how should _she_ throw her line into so deep a river to angle for a king, where many a gay creature was sporting that masqueraded as kings in dress! Nay, even more than any true king would have done: for, in Southey's version of the story, the dauphin says, by way of trying the virgin's magnetic sympathy with royalty,
"On the throne, I the while mingling with the menial throng, Some courtier shall be seated."
This usurper is even crowned: "the jeweled crown shines on a menial's head." But, really, that is "_un peu fort_"; and the mob of spectators might raise a scruple whether our friend the jackdaw upon the throne, and the dauphin himself, were not grazing the shins of treason. For the dauphin could not lend more than belonged to him. According to the popular notion, he had no crown for himself; consequently none to lend, on any pretence whatever, until the consecrated Maid should take him to Rheims. This was the _popular_ notion in France. But certainly it was the dauphin's interest to support the popular notion, as he meant to use the services of Joanna. For if he were king already, what was it that she could do for him beyond Orleans? That is to say, what more than a merely _military_ service could she render him? And, above all, if he were king without a coronation, and without the oil from the sacred ampulla, what advantage was yet open to him by celerity above his competitor, the English boy? Now was to be a race for a coronation: he that should win _that_ race carried the superstition of France along with him: he that should first be drawn from the ovens of Rheims was under that superstition baked into a king.
La Pucelle, before she could be allowed to practise as a warrior, was put through her manual and platoon exercise, as a pupil in divinity, at the bar of six eminent men in wigs. According to Southey (v. 393, bk. iii., in the original edition of his "Joan of Arc,") she "appalled the doctors." It's not easy to do _that_: but they had some reason to feel bothered, as that surgeon would assuredly feel bothered who, upon proceeding to dissect a subject, should find the subject retaliating as a dissector upon himself, especially if Joanna ever made the speech to them which occupies v. 354-391, bk. iii. It is a double impossibility: 1st, because a piracy from Tindal's "Christianity as old as the Creation"--a piracy _a parte ante_, and by three centuries; 2d, it is quite contrary to the evidence on Joanna's trial. Southey's "Joan" of A.D. 1796 (Cottle, Bristol) tells the doctors, among other secrets, that she never in her life attended--1st, Mass; nor 2d, the Sacramental Table; nor 3d, Confession. In the meantime, all this deistical confession of Joanna's, besides being suicidal for the interest of her cause, is opposed to the depositions upon _both_ trials. The very best witness called from first to last deposes that Joanna attended these rites of her Church even too often; was taxed with doing so; and, by blushing, owned the charge as a fact, though certainly not as a fault. Joanna was a girl of natural piety, that saw God in forests and hills and fountains, but did not the less seek him in chapels and consecrated oratories.
This peasant girl was self-educated through her own natural meditativeness. If the reader turns to that divine passage in "Paradise Regained" which Milton has put into the mouth of our Saviour when first entering the wilderness, and musing upon the tendency of those great impulses growing within himself-----
"Oh, what a multitude of thoughts at once Awakened in me swarm, while I consider What from within I feel myself, and hear What from without comes often to my ears, Ill sorting with my present state compared! When I was yet a child, no childish play To me was pleasing; all my mind was set Serious to learn and know, and thence to do, What might be public good; myself I thought Born to that end----"
he will have some notion of the vast reveries which brooded over the heart of Joanna in early girlhood, when the wings were budding that should carry her from Orleans to Rheims; when the golden chariot was dimly revealing itself that should carry her from the kingdom of _France Delivered_ to the Eternal Kingdom.
It is not requisite for the honour of Joanna, nor is there in this place room, to pursue her brief career of _action._ That, though wonderful, forms the earthly part of her story; the spiritual part is the saintly passion of her imprisonment, trial, and execution. It is unfortunate, therefore, for Southey's "Joan of Arc" (which, however, should always be regarded as a _juvenile_ effort), that precisely when her real glory begins the poem ends. But this limitation of the interest grew, no doubt, from the constraint inseparably attached to the law of epic unity. Joanna's history bisects into two opposite hemispheres, and both could not have been presented to the eye in one poem, unless by sacrificing all unity of theme, or else by involving the earlier half, as a narrative episode, in the latter; which, however, might have been done, for it might have been communicated to a fellow-prisoner, or a confessor, by Joanna herself. It is sufficient, as concerns _this_ section of Joanna's life, to say that she fulfilled, to the height of her promises, the restoration of the prostrate throne. France had become a province of England, and for the ruin of both, if such a yoke could be maintained. Dreadful pecuniary exhaustion caused the English energy to droop; and that critical opening La Pucelle used with a corresponding felicity of audacity and suddenness (that were in themselves portentous) for introducing the wedge of French native resources, for rekindling the national pride, and for planting the dauphin once more upon his feet. When Joanna appeared, he had been on the point of giving up the struggle with the English, distressed as they were, and of flying to the south of France. She taught him to blush for such abject counsels. She liberated Orleans, that great city, so decisive by its fate for the issue of the war, and then beleaguered by the English with an elaborate application of engineering skill unprecedented in Europe. Entering the city after sunset on the 29th of April, she sang mass on Sunday, May 8th, for the entire disappearance of the besieging force. On the 29th of June she fought and gained over the English the decisive battle of Patay; on the 9th of July she took Troyes by a _coup-de-main_ from a mixed garrison of English and Burgundians; on the 15th of that month she carried the dauphin into Rheims; on Sunday the 17th she crowned him; and there she rested from her labour of triumph. All that was to be _done_ she had now accomplished; what remained was--to _suffer_.
All this forward movement was her own; excepting one man, the whole council was against her. Her enemies were all that drew power from earth. Her supporters were her own strong enthusiasm, and the headlong contagion by which she carried this sublime frenzy into the hearts of women, of soldiers, and of all who lived by labour. Henceforward she was thwarted; and the worst error that she committed was to lend the sanction of her presence to counsels which she had ceased to approve. But she had now accomplished the capital objects which her own visions had dictated. These involved all the rest. Errors were now less important; and doubtless it had now become more difficult for herself to pronounce authentically what _were_ errors. The noble girl had achieved, as by a rapture of motion, the capital end of clearing out a free space around her sovereign, giving him the power to move his arms with effect, and, secondly, the inappreciable end of winning for that sovereign what seemed to all France the heavenly ratification of his rights, by crowning him with the ancient solemnities. She had made it impossible for the English now to step before her. They were caught in an irretrievable blunder, owing partly to discord among the uncles of Henry VI, partly to a want of funds, but partly to the very impossibility which they believed to press with tenfold force upon any French attempt to forestall theirs. They laughed at such a thought; and, while they laughed, _she_ did it. Henceforth the single redress for the English of this capital oversight, but which never _could_ have redressed it effectually, was to vitiate and taint the coronation of Charles VII as the work of a witch. That policy, and not malice (as M. Michelet is so happy to believe), was the moving principle in the subsequent prosecution of Joanna. Unless they unhinged the force of the first coronation in the popular mind by associating it with power given from hell, they felt that the sceptre of the invader was broken.
But she, the child that, at nineteen, had wrought wonders so great for France, was she not elated? Did she not lose, as men so often _have_ lost, all sobriety of mind when standing upon the pinnacle of success so giddy? Let her enemies declare. During the progress of her movement, and in the centre of ferocious struggles, she had manifested the temper of her feelings by the pity which she had everywhere expressed for the suffering enemy. She forwarded to the English leaders a touching invitation to unite with the French, as brothers, in a common crusade against infidels--thus opening the road for a soldierly retreat. She interposed to protect the captive or the wounded; she mourned over the excesses of her countrymen; she threw herself off her horse to kneel by the dying English soldier, and to comfort him with such ministrations, physical or spiritual, as his situation allowed. "Nolebat," says the evidence, "uti ense suo, aut quemquam interficere." She sheltered the English that invoked her aid in her own quarters. She wept as she beheld, stretched on the field of battle, so many brave enemies that had died without confession. And, as regarded herself, her elation expressed itself thus: on the day when she had finished her work, she wept; for she knew that, when her _triumphal_ task was done, her end must be approaching. Her aspirations pointed only to a place which seemed to her more than usually full of natural piety, as one in which it would give her pleasure to die. And she uttered, between smiles and tears, as a wish that inexpressibly fascinated her heart, and yet was half fantastic, a broken prayer that God would return her to the solitudes from which he had drawn her, and suffer her to become a shepherdess once more. It was a natural prayer, because nature has laid a necessity upon every human heart to seek for rest and to shrink from torment. Yet, again, it was a half-fantastic prayer, because, from childhood upward, visions that she had no power to mistrust, and the voices which sounded in her ear for ever, had long since persuaded her mind that for _her_ no such prayer could be granted. Too well she felt that her mission must be worked out to the end, and that the end was now at hand. All went wrong from this time. She herself had created the _funds_ out of which the French restoration should grow; but she was not suffered to witness their development or their prosperous application. More than one military plan was entered upon which she did not approve. But she still continued to expose her person as before. Severe wounds had not taught her caution. And at length, in a sortie from Compiègne (whether through treacherous collusion on the part of her own friends is doubtful to this day), she was made prisoner by the Burgundians, and finally surrendered to the English.
Now came her trial. This trial, moving of course under English influence, was conducted in chief by the Bishop of Beauvais. He was a Frenchman, sold to English interests, and hoping, by favour of the English leaders, to reach the highest preferment. "Bishop that art, Archbishop that shalt be, Cardinal that mayest be," were the words that sounded continually in his ear; and doubtless a whisper of visions still higher, of a triple crown, and feet upon the necks of kings, sometimes stole into his heart. M. Michelet is anxious to keep us in mind that this bishop was but an agent of the English. True. But it does not better the case for his countryman that, being an accomplice in the crime, making himself the leader in the persecution against the helpless girl, he was willing to be all this in the spirit, and with the conscious vileness of a cat's-paw. Never from the foundations of the earth was there such a trial as this, if it were laid open in all its beauty of defence and all its hellishness of attack. Oh, child of France! shepherdess, peasant girl! trodden under foot by all around thee, how I honour thy flashing intellect, quick as God's lightning, and true as God's lightning to its mark, that ran before France and laggard Europe by many a century, confounding the malice of the ensnarer, and making dumb the oracles of falsehood! Is it not scandalous, is it not humiliating to civilization, that, even at this day, France exhibits the horrid spectacle of judges examining the prisoner against himself; seducing him, by fraud, into treacherous conclusions against his own head; using the terrors of their power for extorting confessions from the frailty of hope; nay (which is worse), using the blandishments of condescension and snaky kindness for thawing into compliances of gratitude those whom they had failed to freeze into terror? Wicked judges! barbarian jurisprudence!--that, sitting in your own conceit on the summits of social wisdom, have yet failed to learn the first principles of criminal justice--sit ye humbly and with docility at the feet of this girl from Domrémy, that tore your webs of cruelty into shreds and dust. "Would you examine me as a witness against myself?" was the question by which many times she defied their arts. Continually she showed that their interrogations were irrelevant to any business before the court, or that entered into the ridiculous charges against her. General questions were proposed to her on points of casuistical divinity; two-edged questions, which not one of themselves could have answered, without, on the one side, landing himself in heresy (as then interpreted), or, on the other, in some presumptuous expression of self-esteem. Next came a wretched Dominican, that pressed her with an objection, which, if applied to the Bible, would tax every one of its miracles with unsoundness. The monk had the excuse of never having read the Bible. M. Michelet has no such excuse; and it makes one blush for him, as a philosopher, to find him describing such an argument as "weighty," whereas it is but a varied expression of rude Mahometan metaphysics. Her answer to this, if there were room to place the whole in a clear light, was as shattering as it was rapid. Another thought to entrap her by asking what language the angelic visitors of her solitude had talked--as though heavenly counsels could want polyglot interpreters for every word, or that God needed language at all in whispering thoughts to a human heart. Then came a worse devil, who asked her whether the Archangel Michael had appeared naked. Not comprehending the vile insinuation, Joanna, whose poverty suggested to her simplicity that it might be the _costliness_ of suitable robes which caused the demur, asked them if they fancied God, who clothed the flowers of the valleys, unable to find raiment for his servants. The answer of Joanna moves a smile of tenderness, but the disappointment of her judges makes one laugh exultingly. Others succeeded by troops, who upbraided her with leaving her father; as if that greater Father, whom she believed herself to have been serving, did not retain the power of dispensing with his own rules, or had not said that for a less cause than martyrdom man and woman should leave both father and mother.
On Easter Sunday, when the trial had been long proceeding, the poor girl fell so ill as to cause a belief that she had been poisoned. It was not poison. Nobody had any interest in hastening a death so certain. M. Michelet, whose sympathies with all feelings are so quick that one would gladly see them always as justly directed, reads the case most truly. Joanna had a twofold malady. She was visited by a paroxysm of the complaint called _homesickness_. The cruel nature of her imprisonment, and its length, could not but point her solitary thoughts, in darkness and in chains (for chained she was), to Domrémy. And the season, which was the most heavenly period of the spring, added stings to this yearning. That was one of her maladies--_nostalgia_, as medicine calls it; the other was weariness and exhaustion from daily combats with malice. She saw that everybody hated her and thirsted for her blood; nay, many kind-hearted creatures that would have pitied her profoundly, as regarded all political charges, had their natural feelings warped by the belief that she had dealings with fiendish powers. She knew she was to die; that was _not_ the misery! the misery was that this consummation could not be reached without so much intermediate strife, as if she were contending for some chance (where chance was none) of happiness, or were dreaming for a moment of escaping the inevitable. Why, then, _did_ she contend? Knowing that she would reap nothing from answering her persecutors, why did she not retire by silence from the superfluous contest? It was because her quick and eager loyalty to truth would not suffer her to see it darkened by frauds which _she_ could expose, but others, even of candid listeners, perhaps, could not; it was through that imperishable grandeur of soul which taught her to submit meekly and without a struggle to her punishment, but taught her _not_ to submit--no, not for a moment--to calumny as to facts, or to misconstruction as to motives. Besides, there were secretaries all around the court taking down her words. That was meant for no good to _her_. But the end does not always correspond to the meaning. And Joanna might say to herself, "These words that will be used against me to-morrow and the next day, perhaps, in some nobler generation, may rise again for my justification." Yes, Joanna, they _are_ rising even now in Paris, and for more than justification!
Woman, sister, there are some things which you do not execute as well as your brother, man; no, nor ever will. Pardon me if I doubt whether you will ever produce a great poet from your choirs, or a Mozart, or a Phidias, or a Michael Angelo, or a great philosopher, or a great scholar. By which last is meant--not one who depends simply on an infinite memory, but also on an infinite and electrical power of combination; bringing together from the four winds, like the angel of the resurrection, what else were dust from dead men's bones, into the unity of breathing life. If you _can_ create yourselves into any of these great creators, why have you not?
Yet, sister woman, though I cannot consent to find a Mozart or a Michael Angelo in your sex, cheerfully, and with the love that burns in depths of admiration, I acknowledge that you can do one thing as well as the best of us men--a greater thing than even Milton is known to have done, or Michael Angelo; you can die grandly, and as goddesses would die, were goddesses mortal. If any distant worlds (which _may_ be the case) are so far ahead of us Tellurians in optical resources as to see distinctly through their telescopes all that we do on earth, what is the grandest sight to which we ever treat them? St. Peter's at Rome, do you fancy, on Easter Sunday, or Luxor, or perhaps the Himalayas? Oh, no! my friend; suggest something better; these are baubles to _them_; they see in other worlds, in their own, far better toys of the same kind. These, take my word for it, are nothing. Do you give it up? The finest thing, then, we have to show them is a scaffold on the morning of execution. I assure you there is a strong muster in those far telescopic worlds, on any such morning, of those who happen to find themselves occupying the right hemisphere for a peep at _us_. How, then, if it be announced in some such telescopic world by those who make a livelihood of catching glimpses at our newspapers, whose language they have long since deciphered, that the poor victim in the morning's sacrifice is a woman? How, if it be published in that distant world that the sufferer wears upon her head, in the eyes of many, the garlands of martyrdom? How, if it should be some Marie Antoinette, the widowed queen, coming forward on the scaffold, and presenting to the morning air her head, turned gray by sorrow--daughter of Caesars kneeling down humbly to kiss the guillotine, as one that worships death? How, if it were the noble Charlotte Corday, that in the bloom of youth, that with the loveliest of persons, that with homage waiting upon her smiles wherever she turned her face to scatter them--homage that followed those smiles as surely as the carols of birds, after showers in spring, follow the reappearing sun and the racing of sunbeams over the hills--yet thought all these things cheaper than the dust upon her sandals, in comparison of deliverance from hell for her dear suffering France! Ah! these were spectacles indeed for those sympathising people in distant worlds; and some, perhaps, would suffer a sort of martyrdom themselves, because they could not testify their wrath, could not bear witness to the strength of love and to the fury of hatred that burned within them at such scenes, could not gather into golden urns some of that glorious dust which rested in the catacombs of earth.
On the Wednesday after Trinity Sunday in 1431, being then about nineteen years of age, the Maid of Arc underwent her martyrdom. She was conducted before mid-day, guarded by eight hundred spearmen, to a platform of prodigious height, constructed of wooden billets supported by occasional walls of lath and plaster, and traversed by hollow spaces in every direction for the creation of air currents. The pile "struck terror," says M. Michelet, "by its height"; and, as usual, the English purpose in this is viewed as one of pure malignity. But there are two ways of explaining all that. It is probable that the purpose was merciful. On the circumstances of the execution I shall not linger. Yet, to mark the almost fatal felicity of M. Michelet in finding out whatever may injure the English name, at a moment when every reader will be interested in Joanna's personal appearance, it is really edifying to notice the ingenuity by which he draws into light from a dark corner a very unjust account of it, and neglects, though lying upon the highroad, a very pleasing one. Both are from English pens. Grafton, a chronicler, but little read, being a stiff-necked John Bull, thought fit to say that no wonder Joanna should be a virgin, since her "foule face" was a satisfactory solution of that particular merit. Holinshead, on the other hand, a chronicler somewhat later, every way more important, and at one time universally read, has given a very pleasing testimony to the interesting character of Joanna's person and engaging manners. Neither of these men lived till the following century, so that personally this evidence is none at all. Grafton sullenly and carelessly believed as he wished to believe; Holinshead took pains to inquire, and reports undoubtedly the general impression of France. But I cite the case as illustrating M. Michelet's candour. [Footnote: Amongst the many ebullitions of M. Michelet's fury against us poor English are four which will be likely to amuse the reader; and they are the more conspicuous in collision with the justice which he sometimes does us, and the very indignant admiration which, under some aspects, he grants to us. 1. Our English literature he admires with some gnashing of teeth. He pronounces it "fine and sombre," but, I lament to add, "skeptical, Judaic, Satanic--in a word, antichristian." That Lord Byron should figure as a member of this diabolical corporation will not surprise men. It _will_ surprise them to hear that Milton is one of its Satanic leaders. Many are the generous and eloquent Frenchmen, besides Chateaubriand, who have, in the course of the last thirty years, nobly suspended their own burning nationality, in order to render a more rapturous homage at the feet of Milton; and some of them have raised Milton almost to a level with angelic natures. Not one of them has thought of looking for him _below_ the earth. As to Shakspere, M. Michelet detects in him a most extraordinary mare's nest. It is this: he does "not recollect to have seen the name of God" in any part of his works. On reading such words, it is natural to rub one's eyes, and suspect that all one has ever seen in this world may have been a pure ocular delusion. In particular, I begin myself to suspect that the word "_la gloire_" never occurs in any Parisian journal. "The great English nation," says M. Michelet, "has one immense profound vice"--to wit, "pride." Why, really, that may be true; but we have a neighbour not absolutely clear of an "immense profound vice," as like ours in colour and shape as cherry to cherry. In short, M. Michelet thinks us, by fits and starts, admirable--only that we are detestable; and he would adore some of our authors, were it not that so intensely he could have wished to kick them.
2. M. Michelet thinks to lodge an arrow in our sides by a very odd remark upon Thomas à Kempis: which is, that a man of any conceivable European blood--a Finlander, suppose, or a Zantiote--might have written Tom; only not an Englishman. Whether an Englishman could have forged Tom must remain a matter of doubt, unless the thing had been tried long ago. That problem was intercepted for ever by Tom's perverseness in choosing to manufacture himself. Yet, since nobody is better aware than M. Michelet that this very point of Kempis _having_ manufactured Kempis is furiously and hopelessly litigated, three or four nations claiming to have forged his work for him, the shocking old doubt will raise its snaky head once more--whether this forger, who rests in so much darkness, might not, after all, be of English blood. Tom, it may be feared, is known to modern English literature chiefly by an irreverent mention of his name in a line of Peter Pindar's (Dr Wolcot) fifty years back, where he is described as
"Kempis Tom, Who clearly shows the way to Kingdom Come"
Few in these days can have read him, unless in the Methodist version of John Wesley Among those few, however, happens to be myself, which arose from the accident of having, when a boy of eleven, received a copy of the "De Imitatione Christi" as a bequest from a relation who died very young, from which cause, and from the external prettiness of the book--being a Glasgow reprint by the celebrated Foulis, and gaily bound--I was induced to look into it, and finally read it many times over, partly out of some sympathy which, even in those days, I had with its simplicity and devotional fervour, but much more from the savage delight I found in laughing at Tom's Latinity that, I freely grant to M Michelet, is inimitable. Yet, after all, it is not certain whether the original _was_ Latin. But, however that may have been, if it is possible that M Michelet [Footnote: "_If M. Michelet can be accurate_"--However, on consideration, this statement does not depend on Michelet. The bibliographer Barbier has absolutely _specified_ sixty in a separate dissertation, _soixante traductions_ among those even that have not escaped the search. The Italian translations are said to be thirty. As to mere editions, not counting the early MSS. for half a century before printing was introduced, those in Latin amount to 2000, and those in French to 1000. Meantime it is very clear to me that this astonishing popularity so entirely unparalleled in literature, could not have existed except in Roman Catholic times, nor subsequently have lingered in any Protestant land. It was the denial of Scripture fountains to thirsty lands which made this slender rill of Scripture truth so passionately welcome.] can be accurate in saying that there are no less than sixty French versions (not editions, observe, but separate versions) existing of the "De Imitatione," how prodigious must have been the adaptation of the book to the religious heart of the fifteenth century! Excepting the Bible, but excepting _that_ only in Protestant lands, no book known to man has had the same distinction. It is the most marvellous bibliographical fact on record.
3. Our English girls, it seems, are as faulty in one way as we English males in another. None of us men could have written the _Opera Omnia_ of Mr. à Kempis; neither could any of our girls have assumed male attire like La Pucelle. But why? Because, says Michelet, English girls and German think so much of an indecorum. Well, that is a good fault, generally speaking. But M. Michelet ought to have remembered a fact in the martyrologies which justifies both parties--the French heroine for doing, and the general choir of English girls for _not_ doing. A female saint, specially renowned in France, had, for a reason as weighty as Joanna's--viz., expressly to shield her modesty among men--worn a male military harness. That reason and that example authorised La Pucelle; but our English girls, as a body, have seldom any such reason, and certainly no such saintly example, to plead. This excuses _them_. Yet, still, if it is indispensable to the national character that our young women should now and then trespass over the frontier of decorum, it then becomes a patriotic duty in me to assure M. Michelet that we _have_ such ardent females among us, and in a long series; some detected in naval hospitals when too sick to remember their disguise; some on fields of battle; multitudes never detected at all; some only suspected; and others discharged without noise by war offices and other absurd people. In our navy, both royal and commercial, and generally from deep remembrances of slighted love, women have sometimes served in disguise for many years, taking contentedly their daily allowance of burgoo, biscuit, or cannon-balls--anything, in short, digestible or indigestible, that it might please Providence to send. One thing, at least, is to their credit: never any of these poor masks, with their deep silent remembrances, have been detected through murmuring, or what is nautically understood by "skulking." So, for once, M. Michelet has an _erratum_ to enter upon the fly-leaf of his book in presentation copies.
4. But the last of these ebullitions is the most lively. We English, at Orleans, and after Orleans (which is not quite so extraordinary, if all were told), fled before the Maid of Arc. Yes, says M. Michelet, you _did_: deny it, if you can. Deny it, _mon cher_? I don't mean to deny it. Running away, in many cases, is a thing so excellent that no philosopher would, at times, condescend to adopt any other step. All of us nations in Europe, without one exception, have shown our philosophy in that way at times. Even people "_qui ne se rendent pas_" have deigned both to run and to shout, "_Sauve qui peut_!" at odd times of sunset; though, for my part, I have no pleasure in recalling unpleasant remembrances to brave men; and yet, really, being so philosophic, they ought _not_ to be unpleasant. But the amusing feature in M. Michelet's reproach is the way in which he _improves_ and varies against us the charge of running, as if he were singing a catch. Listen to him: They "_showed their backs_" did these English. (Hip, hip, hurrah! three times three!) "_Behind good walls they let themselves be taken_." (Hip, hip! nine times nine!) They "_ran as fast as their legs could carry them_" (Hurrah! twenty-seven times twenty-seven!) They "_ran before a girl_"; they did. (Hurrah! eighty-one times eighty-one!) This reminds one of criminal indictments on the old model in English courts, where (for fear the prisoner should escape) the crown lawyer varied the charge perhaps through forty counts. The law laid its guns so as to rake the accused at every possible angle. While the indictment was reading, he seemed a monster of crime in his own eyes; and yet, after all, the poor fellow had but committed one offence, and not always _that_. N. B.--Not having the French original at hand, I make my quotations from a friend's copy of Mr. Walter Kelly's translation; which seems to me faithful, spirited, and idiomatically English--liable, in fact, only to the single reproach of occasional provincialisms.]
The circumstantial incidents of the execution, unless with more space than I can now command, I should be unwilling to relate. I should fear to injure, by imperfect report, a martyrdom which to myself appears so unspeakably grand. Yet, for a purpose, pointing not at Joanna, but at M. Michelet--viz, to convince him that an Englishman is capable of thinking more highly of La Pucelle than even her admiring countrymen--I shall, in parting, allude to one or two traits in Joanna's demeanour on the scaffold, and to one or two in that of the bystanders, which authorise me in questioning an opinion of his upon this martyr's firmness. The reader ought to be reminded that Joanna D'Arc was subjected to an unusually unfair trial of opinion. Any of the elder Christian martyrs had not much to fear of _personal_ rancour. The martyr was chiefly regarded as the enemy of Cæsar; at times, also, where any knowledge of the Christian faith and morals existed, with the enmity that arises spontaneously in the worldly against the spiritual. But the martyr, though disloyal, was not supposed to be therefore anti-national; and still less was _individually_ hateful. What was hated (if anything) belonged to his class, not to himself separately. Now, Joanna, if hated at all, was hated personally, and in Rouen on national grounds. Hence there would be a certainty of calumny arising against _her_ such as would not affect martyrs in general. That being the case, it would follow of necessity that some people would impute to her a willingness to recant. No innocence could escape _that_. Now, had she really testified this willingness on the scaffold, it would have argued nothing at all but the weakness of a genial nature shrinking from the instant approach of torment. And those will often pity that weakness most who, in their own persons, would yield to it least. Meantime, there never was a calumny uttered that drew less support from the recorded circumstances. It rests upon no _positive_ testimony, and it has a weight of contradicting testimony to stem. And yet, strange to say, M, Michelet, who at times seems to admire the Maid of Arc as much as I do, is the one sole writer among her _friends_ who lends some countenance to this odious slander. His words are that, if she did not utter this word _recant_ with her lips, she uttered it in her heart. "Whether she _said_ the word is uncertain; but I affirm that she _thought_ it."
Now, I affirm that she did not; not in any sense of the word "_thought_" applicable to the case. Here is France calumniating La Pucelle; here is England defending her. M. Michelet can only mean that, on _a priori_ principles, every woman must be presumed liable to such a weakness; that Joanna was a woman; _ergo_, that she was liable to such a weakness. That is, he only supposes her to have uttered the word by an argument which presumes it impossible for anybody to have done otherwise. I, on the contrary, throw the onus of the argument not on presumable tendencies of nature, but on the known facts of that morning's execution, as recorded by multitudes. What else, I demand, than mere weight of metal, absolute nobility of deportment, broke the vast line of battle then arrayed against her? What else but her meek, saintly demeanour won, from the enemies that till now had believed her a witch, tears of rapturous admiration? "Ten thousand men," says M. Michelet himself--"ten thousand men wept"; and of these ten thousand the majority were political enemies knitted together by cords of superstition. What else was it but her constancy, united with her angelic gentleness, that drove the fanatic English soldier--who had sworn to throw a fagot on her scaffold as _his_ tribute of abhorrence, that _did_ so, that fulfilled his vow--suddenly to turn away a penitent for life, saying everywhere that he had seen a dove rising upon wings to heaven from the ashes where she had stood? What else drove the executioner to kneel at every shrine for pardon to _his_ share in the tragedy? And, if all this were insufficient, then I cite the closing act of her life as valid on her behalf, were all other testimonies against her. The executioner had been directed to apply his torch from below. He did so. The fiery smoke rose upward in billowing volumes. A Dominican monk was then standing almost at her side. Wrapped up in his sublime office, he saw not the danger, but still persisted in his prayers. Even then, when the last enemy was racing up the fiery stairs to seize her, even at that moment did this noblest of girls think only for _him_, the one friend that would not forsake her, and not for herself; bidding him with her last breath to care for his own preservation, but to leave _her_ to God. That girl, whose latest breath ascended in this sublime expression of self-oblivion, did not utter the word _recant_ either with her lips or in her heart. No; she did not, though one should rise from the dead to swear it.
* * * * *
Bishop of Beauvais! thy victim died in fire upon a scaffold--thou upon a down bed. But, for the departing minutes of life, both are oftentimes alike. At the farewell crisis, when the gates of death are opening, and flesh is resting from its struggles, oftentimes the tortured and the torturer have the same truce from carnal torment; both sink together into sleep; together both sometimes kindle into dreams. When the mortal mists were gathering fast upon you two, bishop and shepherd girl--when the pavilions of life were closing up their shadowy curtains about you--let us try, through the gigantic glooms, to decipher the flying features of your separate visions.
The shepherd girl that had delivered France--she, from her dungeon, she, from her baiting at the stake, she, from her duel with fire, as she entered her last dream--saw Domrémy, saw the fountain of Domrémy, saw the pomp of forests in which her childhood had wandered. That Easter festival which man had denied to her languishing heart--that resurrection of springtime, which the darkness of dungeons had intercepted from _her_, hungering after the glorious liberty of forests--were by God given back into her hands as jewels that had been stolen from her by robbers. With those, perhaps (for the minutes of dreams can stretch into ages), was given back to her by God the bliss of childhood. By special privilege for _her_ might be created, in this farewell dream, a second childhood, innocent as the first; but not, like _that_, sad with the gloom of a fearful mission in the rear. This mission had now been fulfilled. The storm was weathered; the skirts even of that mighty storm were drawing off. The blood that she was to reckon for had been exacted; the tears that she was to shed in secret had been paid to the last. The hatred to herself in all eyes had been faced steadily, had been suffered, had been survived. And in her last fight upon the scaffold she had triumphed gloriously; victoriously she had tasted the stings of death. For all, except this comfort from her farewell dream, she had died--died amid the tears of ten thousand enemies--died amid the drums and trumpets of armies--died amid peals redoubling upon peals, volleys upon volleys, from the saluting clarions of martyrs.
Bishop of Beauvais! because the guilt-burdened man is in dreams haunted and waylaid by the most frightful of his crimes, and because upon that fluctuating mirror--rising (like the mocking mirrors of _mirage_ in Arabian deserts) from the fens of death-most of all are reflected the sweet countenances which the man has laid in ruins; therefore I know, bishop, that you also, entering your final dream, saw Domrémy. That fountain, of which the witnesses spoke so much, showed itself to your eyes in pure morning dews; but neither dews, nor the holy dawn, could cleanse away the bright spots of innocent blood upon its surface. By the fountain, bishop, you saw a woman seated, that hid her face. But, as _you_ draw near, the woman raises her wasted features. Would Domrémy know them again for the features of her child? Ah, but _you_ know them, bishop, well! Oh, mercy! what a groan was _that_ which the servants, waiting outside the bishop's dream at his bedside, heard from his labouring heart, as at this moment he turned away from the fountain and the woman, seeking rest in the forests afar off. Yet not _so_ to escape the woman, whom once again he must behold before he dies. In the forests to which he prays for pity, will he find a respite? What a tumult, what a gathering of feet is there! In glades where only wild deer should run armies and nations are assembling; towering in the fluctuating crowd are phantoms that belong to departed hours. There is the great English Prince, Regent of France. There is my Lord of Winchester, the princely cardinal, that died and made no sign. There is the bishop of Beauvais, clinging to the shelter of thickets. What building is that which hands so rapid are raising? Is it a martyr's scaffold? Will they burn the child of Domrémy a second time? No; it is a tribunal that rises to the clouds; and two nations stand around it, waiting for a trial. Shall my Lord of Beauvais sit again upon the judgment-seat, and again number the hours for the innocent? Ah, no! he is the prisoner at the bar. Already all is waiting: the mighty audience is gathered, the Court is hurrying to their seats, the witnesses are arrayed, the trumpets are sounding, the judge is taking his place. Oh, but this is sudden! My lord, have you no counsel? "Counsel I have none; in heaven above, or on earth beneath, counsellor there is none now that would take a brief from _me_: all are silent." Is it, indeed, come to this? Alas! the time is short, the tumult is wondrous, the crowd stretches away into infinity; but yet I will search in it for somebody to take your brief; I know of somebody that will be your counsel. Who is this that cometh from Domrémy? Who is she in bloody coronation robes from Rheims? Who is she that cometh with blackened flesh from walking the furnaces of Rouen? This is she, the shepherd girl, counsellor that had none for herself, whom I choose, bishop, for yours. She it is, I engage, that shall take my lord's brief. She it is, bishop, that would plead for you; yes, bishop, _she_--when heaven and earth are silent.
THE ENGLISH MAIL-COACH
"In October 1849 there appeared in _Blackwood's Magazine_ an article entitled _The English Mail-Coach, or the Glory of Motion_. There was no intimation that it was to be continued; but in December 1849 there followed in the same magazine an article in two sections, headed by a paragraph explaining that it was by the author of the previous article in the October number, and was to be taken in connexion with that article. One of the sections of this second article was entitled _The Vision of Sudden Death_, and the other _Dream-Fugue on the above theme of Sudden Death_. When De Quincey revised the papers in 1854 for republication in volume iv of the Collective Edition of his writings, he brought the whole under the one general title of _The English Mail-Coach_, dividing the text, as at present, into three sections or chapters, the first with the sub-title _The Glory of Motion_, the second with the sub-title _The Vision of Sudden Death_, and the third with the sub-title _Dream-Fugue, founded on the preceding theme of Sudden Death_. Great care was bestowed on the revision. Passages that had appeared in the magazine articles were omitted; new sentences were inserted; and the language was retouched throughout."--MASSON. Cf. as to the revision, Professor Dowden's article, "How De Quincey worked," _Saturday Review_, Feb. 23, 1895. This selection is found in _Works_, Masson's ed., Vol. XIII, pp. 270-327; Riverside ed., Vol. I, pp. 517-582.
1 6 HE HAD MARRIED THE DAUGHTER OF A DUKE: "Mr. John Palmer, a native of Bath, and from about 1768 the energetic proprietor of the Theatre Royal in that city, had been led, by the wretched state in those days of the means of intercommunication between Bath and London, wand his own consequent difficulties in arranging for a punctual succession of good actors at his theatre, to turn his attention to the improvement of the whole system of Post-Office conveyance, and of locomotive machinery generally, in the British Islands. The result was a scheme for superseding, on the great roads at least, the then existing system of sluggish and irregular stage-coaches, the property of private persons and companies, by a new system of government coaches, in connexion with the Post-Office, carrying the mails and also a regulated number of passengers, with clockwork precision, at a rate of comparative speed, which he hoped should ultimately be not less than ten miles an hour. The opposition to the scheme was, of course, enormous; coach proprietors, innkeepers, the Post-Office officials themselves, were all against Mr. Palmer; he was voted a crazy enthusiast and a public bore. Pitt, however, when the scheme was submitted to him, recognized its feasibility; on the 8th of August 1784 the first mail-coach on Mr. Palmer's plan started from London at 8 o'clock in the morning and reached Bristol at 11 o'clock at night; and from that day the success of the new system was assured.--Mr. Palmer himself, having been appointed Surveyor and Comptroller-General of the Post-Office, took rank as an eminent and wealthy public man, M. P. for Bath and what not, and lived till 1818. De Quincey makes it one of his distinctions that he "had married the daughter of a duke," and in a footnote to that paragraph he gives the lady's name as "Lady Madeline Gordon." From an old Debrett, however, I learn that Lady Madelina Gordon, second daughter of Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon, was first married, on the 3d of April 1789, to Sir Robert Sinclair, Bart., and next, on the 25th of November 1805, to _Charles Palmer, of Lockley Park, Berks, Esq._ If Debrett is right, her second husband was not John Palmer of Mail-Coach celebrity, and De Quincey is wrong."--MASSON.
1 (footnote) INVENTION OF THE CROSS: Concerning the _Inventio sanctae crucis_, see Smith, _Dictionary of Christian Antiquities_, Vol. I, p. 503.
2 4 NATIONAL RESULT: Cf. De Quincey's paper on _Travelling, Works,_ Riverside ed., Vol. II, especially pp. 313-314; Masson's ed., Vol. I, especially pp. 270-271.
3 13 THE FOUR TERMS OF MICHAELMAS, LENT, EASTER, AND ACT: These might be called respectively the autumn, winter, spring, and summer terms. Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, is on September 29. Hilary and Trinity are other names for Lent term and Act term respectively. Act term is the last term of the academic year; its name is that originally given to a disputation for a Master's degree; such disputations took place at the end of the year generally, and hence gave a name to the summer term. Although the rules concerning residence at Oxford are more stringent than in De Quincey's time, only eighteen weeks' residence is required during the year, six in Michaelmas, six in Lent, and six in Easter and Act.
3 17 GOING DOWN: Cf. "Going down with victory," i.e. from London into the country.
3 30 POSTING-HOUSES: inns where relays of horses were furnished for coaches and carriages. Cf. De Quincey on _Travelling, loc. cit._
4 3 AN OLD TRADITION... from the reign of Charles II: Then no one sat outside; later, outside places were taken by servants, and were quite cheap.
4 9 ATTAINT THE FOOT: The word is used in its legal sense. The blood of one convicted of high treason is "attaint," and his deprivations extend to his descendants, unless Parliament remove the attainder.
4 14 PARIAHS: The fate of social outcasts seems to have taken early and strong hold upon De Quincey's mind; one of the _Suspiria_ was to have enlarged upon this theme. Strictly speaking, the Pariahs is that one of the lower castes of Hindoo society of which foreigners have seen most; it is not in all districts the lowest caste, however.
5 6 OBJECTS NOT APPEARING, ETC.: _De non apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est lex_, a Roman legal phrase.
5 16 "SNOBS": Apparently snob originally meant "shoemaker"; then, in university cant, a "townsman" as opposed to a "gownsman." Cf. _Gradus ad Cantabrigiam_ (1824), quoted in _Century Dictionary_: "_Snobs_.--A term applied indiscriminately to all who have not the honour of being members of the university; but in a more particular manner to the 'profanum vulgus,' the tag-rag and bob-tail, who vegetate on the sedgy banks of Camus." This use is in De Quincey's mind. Later, in the strikes of that time, the workmen who accepted lower wages were called _snobs_; those who held out for higher, _nobs_.
7 33 FO FO... FI FI: "This paragraph is a caricature of a story told in Staunton's Account of the Earl of Macartney's Embassy to China in 1792."--MASSON.
8 4 ÇA IRA ("This will do," "This is the go"): "a proverb of the French Revolutionists when they were hanging the aristocrats in the streets, &c., and the burden of one of the most popular revolutionary songs, 'Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira.'"--MASSON.
8 18 ALL MORALITY,--ARISTOTLE'S, ZENO'S, CICERO'S: Each of these three has a high place in the history of ethical teaching. Aristotle wrote the so-called _Nicomachean Ethics_. According to his teaching, "ethical virtue is that permanent direction of the will which guards the mean [_to méson_] proper for us... Bravery is the mean between cowardice and temerity; temperance, the mean between inordinate desire and stupid indifference; etc." (Ueberweg, _History of Philosophy_, Vol. I, p. 169). Zeno, who died about 264 B.C., founded about 308 the Stoic sect, which took its name from the "Painted Porch" (_Stoa poklae_) in the Agora at Athens, where the master taught. The Stoics held that men should be free from passion, and undisturbed by joy or grief, submitting themselves uncomplainingly to their fate. Such austere views are, of course, as far as possible removed from those of the Eudæmonist, who sought happiness as the end of life. Cicero was the author of De Officiis, "Of Duties."
9 9 ASTROLOGICAL SHADOWS: misfortunes due to being born under an unlucky star; house of life is also an astrological term.
9 24 VON TROIL'S ICELAND: The Letters on Iceland (Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, Vol. I, p. 621), containing Observations ... made during a Voyage undertaken in the year 1772, by Uno Von Troil, D.D., of Stockholm, contains no chapter of the kind. Such a chapter had appeared, however, in N. Horrebow's (Danish, 1758) Natural History of Iceland: "Chap. LXXII. Concerning snakes. No snakes of any kind are to be met with throughout the whole island." In Boswell's Johnson, Vol. IV, p. 314, Temple ed., there is a much more correct allusion, which may have been in De Quincey's mind: "Langton said very well to me afterwards, that he could repeat Johnson's conversation before dinner, as Johnson had said that he could repeat a complete chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus: 'Chap. LXXII. Concerning Snakes. There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.'"
9 25 A PARLIAMENTARY RAT: one who deserts his own party when it is losing.
10 16 "JAM PROXIMUS," etc.: Æneid, II, lines 311-312: "Now next (to Deiphobus' house) Ucalegon (i.e. his house) blazes!"
11 27 QUARTERINGS: See p. 47, footnote, and note 47 2.
11 32 WITHIN BENEFIT OF CLERGY: Benefit of clergy was, under old English law, the right of clerics, afterward extended to all who could read, to plead exemption from trial before a secular judge. This privilege was first legally recognized in 1274, and was not wholly abolished until 1827.
12 9 QUARTER SESSIONS: This court is held in England in the counties by justices of the peace for the trial of minor criminal offenses and to administer the poor laws, etc.
12 26 FALSE ECHOES OF MARENGO: General Desaix was shot through the heart at the battle of Marengo (June 14, 1800); he died without a word, and his body was found by Rovigo (cf. Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo, London, 1835, Vol. I, p. 181), "stripped of his clothes, and surrounded by other naked bodies." Napoleon, however, published three different versions of an heroic and devoted message from Desaix to himself, the original version being: "Go, tell the First Consul that I die with this regret,--that I have not done enough for posterity." (Cf. Lanfrey, History of Napoleon the First, 2d ed., London, 1886, Vol. II, p. 39.) Napoleon himself was credited likewise with the words De Quincey adopts. "Why is it not permitted me to weep" is one version (Bussey, _History of Napoleon_, London, 1840, Vol. I, p. 302). Cf. Hazlitt, _Life of Napoleon_, 2d ed., London, 1852, Vol. II, p. 317, footnote.
12 (footnote) THE CRY OF THE FOUNDERING LINE-OF-BATTLE SHIP "VENGEUR": On the 1st of June, 1794, the English fleet under Lord Howe defeated the French under Villaret-Joyeuse, taking six ships and sinking a seventh, the _Vengeur_. This ship sank, as a matter of fact, with part of her crew on board, imploring kid which there was not time to give them. Some two hundred and fifty men had been taken off by the English; the rest were lost. On the 9th of July Barrere published a report setting forth "how the _Vengeur_, ... being entirely disabled, ... refused to strike, though sinking; how the enemies fired on her, but she returned their fire, shot aloft all her tricolor streamers, shouted _Vive la République_, ... and so, in this mad whirlwind of fire and shouting and invincible despair, went down into the ocean depths; _Vive la République_ and a universal volley from the upper deck being the last sounds she made." Cf. Carlyle, _Sinking of the Vengeur_, and _French Revolution, Book_ XVIII, Chap. VI.
12 (footnote) LA GARDE MEURT, ETC.: "This phrase, attributed to Cambronne, who was made prisoner at Waterloo, was vehemently denied by him. It was invented by Rougemont, a prolific author of _mots_, two days after the battle, in the _Indépendant_."--Fournier's _L'Esprit dans l'Histoire_, trans. Bartlett, _Familiar Quotations_, p. 661.
13 25 BRUMMAGEM: Birmingham became early the chief place of manufacture of cheap wares. Hence the name _Brummagem_, a vulgar pronunciation of the name of the city, has become in England a common name for cheap, tawdry jewelry. Cf. also Shakespeare, Richard III, Act I, sc. iv, 1. 55:
False, fleeting, perjured Clarence.
13 27 LUXOR occupies part of the site of ancient Thebes, capital of Egypt; its antiquities are famous.
14 9 BUT ON OUR SIDE... WAS A TOWER OF MORAL STRENGTH, ETC.: Cf. Shakespeare, _Richard_ III, Act V, sc. in, 11. 12-13:
Besides, the king's name is a tower of strength, Which they upon the adverse party want.
14 20 FELT MY HEART BURN WITHIN ME: Cf. Luke xxiv. 32.
14 32 A VERY FINE STORY FROM ONE OF OUR ELDER DRAMATISTS: The dramatist in question has not been identified. I am indebted indirectly to Professor W. Strunk, Jr., of Cornell University, for reference to Johann Caius' Of English Dogs, translated by A. Fleming, in Arber's English Garner, original edition, Vol. III, p. 253 (new edition, Social England Illustrated, pp. 28-29), where, after telling how Henry the Seventh, perceiving that four mastiffs could overcome a lion, ordered the dogs all hanged, the writer continues: "I read an history answerable to this, of the selfsame HENRY, who having a notable and an excellent fair falcon, it fortuned that the King's Falconers, in the presence and hearing of his Grace, highly commended his Majesty's Falcon, saying, that it feared not to intermeddle with an eagle, it was so venturous and so mighty a bird; which when the king heard, he charged that the falcon should be killed without delay: for the selfsame reason, as it may seem, which was rehearsed in the conclusion of the former history concerning the same king."
15 l OMRAHS... FROM AGRA AND LAHORE: There seems to be a reminiscence here of Wordsworth's Prelude, Book X, 11. 18-20:
The Great Mogul, when he Erewhile went forth from Agra or Lahore, Rajahs and Omrahs in his train.
Omrah, which is not found in Century Dictionary, is itself really plural of Arabic amir (ameer), a commander, nobleman.
15 23 THE 6TH OF EDWARD LONGSHANKS: a De Quinceyan jest, of course. This wrould refer to a law of the sixth year of Edward I, or 1278, but there are but fifteen chapters in the laws of that year.
16 8 NOT MAGNA LOQUIMUR,... BUT VIVIMUS: not "we speak great things," but "we live" them.
17 21 MARLBOROUGH FOREST is twenty-seven miles east of Bath, where De Quincey attended school.
18 18 ULYSSES, ETC.: The allusion is, of course, to the slaughter of the suitors of Penelope, his wife, by Ulysses, after his return. Cf. Odyssey, Books XXI-XXII.
19 3 ABOUT WATERLOO: i.e. about 1815. This phrase is one of many that indicate the deep impression made by this event upon the English mind. Cf. p. 58.
19 17 "SAY, ALL OUR PRAISES," ETC.: Cf. Pope, Moral Essays: Epistle III, Of the Use of Riches, II. 249-250:
But all our praises why should lords engross, Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross.
20 3 TURRETS: "Tourettes fyled rounde" appears in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, 1. 1294, where it means the ring on a dog's collar through which the leash was passed. Skeat explains _torets_ as "probably eyes in which rings will turn round, because each eye is a little larger than the thickness of the ring." Cf. Chaucer's _Treatise on the Astrolabe_, Part I, sec. 2, "This ring renneth in a maner turet," "this ring runs in a kind of eye." But Chaucer does not refer to harness.
21 2 MR. WATERTON TELLS ME: Charles Waterton, the naturalist, was born in 1782 and died in 1865. His _Wanderings in South America_ was published in 1825.
23 11 EARTH AND HER CHILDREN: This paragraph is about one fifth of the length of the corresponding paragraph as it appeared in _Blackwood_. For the longer version see Masson's ed., Vol. XIII, p. 289, note 2.
24 14 THE GENERAL POST-OFFICE: The present office was opened Sept. 23, 1829. St. Martin's-le-Grand is a church within the "city" of London, so named to distinguish it from St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, which faces what is now Trafalgar Square, and is, as the name indicates, outside the "city." The street takes its name from the church.
28 10 BARNET is a Hertfordshire village, eleven miles north of London.
29 33 A "COURIER" EVENING PAPER, CONTAINING THE GAZETTE: A gazette was originally one of the three official papers of the kingdom; afterwards any official announcement, as this of a great victory.
30 17 FEY: This is not a Celtic word; it is the Anglo-Saxon _faege_ retained in Lowland Scotch, which is the most northerly English dialect. The word appears frequently in descriptions of battles, the Anglo-Saxon fatalistic philosophy teaching that, certain warriors entered the conflict _faege_, "doomed." Now the meaning is altered slightly: "You are surely fey," would be said in Scotland, as Professor Masson remarks, to a person observed to be in extravagantly high spirits, or in any mood surprisingly beyond the bounds of his ordinary temperament,--the notion being that the excitement is supernatural, and a presage of his approaching death, or of some other calamity about to befall him.
31 27 THE INSPIRATION OF GOD, ETC.: This is an indication--more interesting than agreeable, perhaps--of the heights to which the martial ardor of De Quincey's toryism rises.
33 13 CÆSAR THE DICTATOR, AT HIS LAST DINNER-PARTY, ETC.: related by Suetonius in his life of Julius Cæsar, Chap. LXXXVII: "The day before he died, some discourse occurring at dinner in M. Lepidus' house upon that subject, which was the most agreeable way of dying, he expressed his preference for what is sudden and unexpected" (repentinum inopinatumque praetulerat). The story is told by Plutarch and Appian also.
35 13 _BIATHANATOS_: "De Quincey has evidently taken this from John Donne's treatise: _BIATHANATOS, A Declaration of that Paradoxe or Thesis, That Self-homicide is not so naturally Sin, that it may never be otherwise_, 1644. See his paper on _Suicide, etc._, Masson's ed., VIII, 398 [Riverside, IX, 209]. But not even Donne's precedent justifies the word formation. The only acknowledged compounds are _biaio-thanasia_, 'violent death,' and _biaio-thanatos_, 'dying a violent death.' Even _bia thanatos_, 'death by violence,' is not classical."--HART. But the form _biathanatos_ is older than Donne and is said to be common in MSS. It should be further remarked that neither of the two compounds cited is classical. As to De Quincey's interpretation of Cæsar's meaning here, cf. Merivale's _History of the Romans under the Empire_, Chap. XXI, where he translates Cæsar's famous reply: "That which is least expected." Cf. also Shakespeare, _Julius Cæsar_, Act II, sc. ii, 1. 33.
37 25 "NATURE, FROM HER SEAT," ETC.: Cf. Milton's _Paradise Lost_, Book IX, 11. 780-784:
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she eat: Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe, That all was lost.
38 2 SO SCENICAL, ETC.: De Quincey's love for effects of this sort appears everywhere. Cf. the opening paragraphs of the _Revolt of the Tartars_, Masson's ed., Vol. VII; Riverside ed., Vol. XII.
39 4 JUS DOMINII: "the law of ownership," a legal term.
39 14 JUS GENTIUM: "the law of nations," a legal term.
39 30 "MONSTRUM HORRENDUM," ETC..: _Æneid_, III, 658. Polyphemus, one of the Cyclopes, whose eye was put out by Ulysses, is meant. Cf. _Odyssey_, IX, 371 et seq.; _Æneid_, III, 630 _et seq_.
40 1 ONE OF THE CALENDARS, ETC.: The histories of the three Calenders, sons of kings, will be found in most selections from the _Arabian Nights_. A Calender is one of an order of Dervishes founded in the fourteenth century by an Andalusian Arab; they are wanderers who preach in market places and live by alms.
40 10 AL SIRAT: According to Mahometan teaching this bridge over Hades was in width as a sword's edge. Over it souls must pass to Paradise.
40 12 UNDER THIS EMINENT MAN, ETC.: For these two sentences the original in _Blackwood_ had this, with its addition of good De Quinceyan doctrine: "I used to call him _Cyclops Mastigophorus_, Cyclops the Whip-bearer, until I observed that his skill made whips useless, except to fetch off an impertinent fly from a leader's head, upon which I changed his Grecian name to _Cyclops Diphrelates_ (Cyclops the Charioteer). I, and others known to me, studied under him the diphrelatic art. Excuse, reader, a word too elegant to be pedantic. And also take this remark from me as a _gage d'amitié_--that no word ever was or _can_ be pedantic which, by supporting a distinction, supports the accuracy of logic, or which fills up a chasm for the understanding."
41 1 SOME PEOPLE HAVE CALLED ME PROCRASTINATING: Cf. Page's (Japp's) _Life_, Chap. XIX, and Japp's _De Quincey Memorials_, Vol. II, pp. 45,47,49- 42 11 THE WHOLE PAGAN PANTHEON: i.e. all the gods put together; from the Greek _Pantheion_, a temple dedicated to all the gods.
43 2 SEVEN ATMOSPHERES OF SLEEP, ETC.: Professor Hart suggests that De Quincey is here "indulging in jocular arithmetic. The three nights plus the three days, plus the present night, equal seven." Dr. Cooper compares with this a reference to the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. But it seems doubtful whether any explanation is necessary.
43 17 LILLIPUTIAN LANCASTER: the county town of Lancashire, in which Liverpool and Manchester, towns of recent and far greater growth, are situated.
44 (footnote) "Giraldus Cambrensis," or Gerald de Barry (1146-1220), was a Welsh historian; one of his chief works is the _Itinerarium Cambrica_, or Voyage in Wales.
47 2 QUARTERING: De Quincey's derivation of this word in his footnote is correct, but its use in this French sense is not common. De Quincey, however, has it above, p. 11.
49 8 THE SHOUT OF ACHILLES: Cf. Homer, _Iliad_, XVIII, 217 _et seq_.
50 10 BUYING IT, ETC.: De Quincey refers, no doubt, to the pay of common soldiers and to the practice of employing mercenaries.
52 1 FASTER THAN EVER MILL-RACE, ETC.: the change in the wording of this sentence in De Quincey's revision is, as Masson remarks, particularly characteristic of his sense of melody; it read in _Blackwood_, "We ran past them faster than ever mill-race in our inexorable flight."
52 15 HERE WAS THE MAP, ETC.: This sentence is an addition in the reprint. Masson remarks "how artistically it causes the due pause between the horror as still in rush of transaction and the backward look at the wreck when the crash was past."
53 18 "WHENCE THE SOUND," ETC.: _Paradise Lost_, Book XI, 11. 558-563.
54 3 WOMAN'S IONIC FORM: In thus using the word Ionic, De Quincey doubtless has in mind the character of Ionic architecture, with its tall and graceful column, differing from the severity of the Doric on the one hand and from the floridity of the Corinthian on the other. Probably he is thinking of a caryatid. Cf. the following version of the old story of the origin of the styles of Greek architecture in Vitruvius, IV, Chap. I (Gwilt's translation), quoted by Hart: "They measured a man's foot, and finding its length the sixth part of his height, they gave the column a similar proportion, that is, they made its height six times the thickness of the shaft measured at the base. Thus the Doric order obtained its proportion, its strength, and its beauty from the human figure. With a similar feeling they afterward built the Temple of Diana. But in that, seeking a new proportion, they used the female figure as a standard; and for the purpose of producing a more lofty effect they first made it eight times its thickness in height. Under it they placed a base, after the manner of a shoe to the foot; they also added volutes to its capital, like graceful curling hair hanging on each side, and the front they ornamented with _cymatia_ and festoons in the place of hair. On the shafts they sunk channels, which bear a resemblance to the folds of a matronal garment. Thus two orders were invented, one of a masculine character, without ornament, the other bearing a character which resembled the delicacy, ornament, and proportion of a female. The successors of these people, improving in taste, and preferring a more slender proportion, assigned seven diameters to the height of the Doric column, and eight and a half to the Ionic."
55 3 CORYMBI: clusters of fruit or flowers.
55 28 QUARREL: the bolt of a crossbow, an arrow having a square, or four-edged head (from Middle Latin _quadrellus_, diminutive of _quadrum_, a square).
58 20 WATERLOO AND RECOVERED CHRISTENDOM! Cf. note 19 3.
61 20 THEN A THIRD TIME THE TRUMPET SOUNDED: There are throughout this passage, as Dr. Cooper remarks, many reminiscences of the language of the Book of Revelation. Cf. this with Revelation viii. 10; cf. 61 28 with Revelation xii. 5, and 62 5 with ix. 13.
63 29 THE ENDLESS RESURRECTIONS OF HIS LOVE: The following, which Masson prints as a postscript, was a part of De Quincey's introduction to the volume of the Collective Edition containing this piece:
"'THE ENGLISH MAIL-COACH.'--This little paper, according to my original intention, formed part of the 'Suspiria de Profundis'; from which, for a momentary purpose, I did not scruple to detach it, and to publish it apart, as sufficiently intelligible even when dislocated from its place in a larger whole. To my surprise, however, one or two critics, not carelessly in conversation, but deliberately in print, professed their inability to apprehend the meaning of the whole, or to follow the links of the connexion between its several parts. I am myself as little able to understand where the difficulty lies, or to detect any lurking obscurity, as these critics found themselves to unravel my logic. Possibly I may not be an indifferent and neutral judge in such a case. I will therefore sketch a brief abstract of the little paper according to my original design, and then leave the reader to judge how far this design is kept in sight through the actual execution.
"Thirty-seven years ago, or rather more, accident made me, in the dead of night, and of a night memorably solemn, the solitary witness of an appalling scene, which threatened instant death in a shape the most terrific to two young people whom I had no means of assisting, except in so far as I was able to give them a most hurried warning of their danger; but even _that_ not until they stood within the very shadow of the catastrophe, being divided from the most frightful of deaths by scarcely more, if more at all, than seventy seconds.
"Such was the scene, such in its outline, from which the whole of this paper radiates as a natural expansion. This scene is circumstantially narrated in Section the Second, entitled 'The Vision of Sudden Death.'
"But a movement of horror, and of spontaneous recoil from this dreadful scene, naturally carried the whole of that scene, raised and idealised, into my dreams, and very soon into a rolling succession of dreams. The actual scene, as looked down upon from the box of the mail, was transformed into a dream, as tumultuous and changing as a musical fugue. This troubled dream is circumstantially reported in Section the Third, entitled 'Dream-Fugue on the theme of Sudden Death.' What I had beheld from my seat upon the mail,--the scenical strife of action and passion, of anguish and fear, as I had there witnessed them moving in ghostly silence,--this duel between life and death narrowing itself to a point of such exquisite evanescence as the collision neared; all these elements of the scene blended, under the law of association, with the previous and permanent features of distinction investing the mail itself; which features at that time lay--1st, in velocity unprecedented, 2dly, in the power and beauty of the horses, 3dly, in the official connexion with the government of a great nation, and, 4thly, in the function, almost a consecrated function, of publishing and diffusing through the land the great political events, and especially the great battles, during a conflict of unparalleled grandeur. These honorary distinctions are all described circumstantially in the First or introductory Section ('The Glory of Motion'). The three first were distinctions maintained at all times; but the fourth and grandest belonged exclusively to the war with Napoleon; and this it was which most naturally introduced Waterloo into the dream. Waterloo, I understand, was the particular feature of the 'Dream-Fugue' which my censors were least able to account for. Yet surely Waterloo, which, in common with every other great battle, it had been our special privilege to publish over all the land, most naturally entered the dream under the licence of our privilege. If not--if there be anything amiss--let the Dream be responsible. The Dream is a law to itself; and as well quarrel with a rainbow for showing, or for _not_ showing, a secondary arch. So far as I know, every element in the shifting movements of the Dream derived itself either primarily from the incidents of the actual scene, or from secondary features associated with the mail. For example, the cathedral aisle derived itself from the mimic combination of features which grouped themselves together at the point of approaching collision--viz. an arrow-like section of the road, six hundred yards long, under the solemn lights described, with lofty trees meeting overhead in arches. The guard's horn, again--a humble instrument in itself--was yet glorified as the organ of publication for so many great national events. And the incident of the Dying Trumpeter, who rises from a marble bas-relief, and carries a marble trumpet to his marble lips for the purpose of warning the female infant, was doubtless secretly suggested by my own imperfect effort to seize the guard's horn, and to blow the warning blast. But the Dream knows best; and the Dream, I say again, is the responsible party."
JOAN OF ARC
This article appeared originally in _Taifs Magazine_ for March and August, 1847; it was reprinted by De Quincey in 1854 in the third volume of his _Collected Writings_. It is found in _Works_, Masson's ed., Vol. V, pp. 384-416; Riverside ed., Vol. VI, pp. 178-215.
64 10 LORRAINE, now in great part in the possession of Germany, is the district in which Domrémy, Joan's birthplace, is situated.
65 14 VAUCOULEURS: a town near Domrémy; cf. p. 70.
65 28 EN CONTUMACE: "in contumacy," a legal term applied to one who, when summoned to court, fails to appear.
66 13 ROUEN: the city in Normandy where Joan was burned at the stake.
66 25 THE LILIES OF FRANCE: the royal emblem of France from very early times until the Revolution of 1789, when "the wrath of God and man combined to wither them."
67 5 M. MICHELET: Jules Michelet (1798-1874) is said to have spent forty years in the preparation of his great work, the _History of France_. Cf. the same, translated by G. H. Smith, 2 vols., Appleton, Vol. II, pp. 119-169; or _Joan of Arc_, from Michelet's _History of France_, translated by O. W. Wight, New York, 1858.
67 8 RECOVERED LIBERTY: The Revolution of 1830 had expelled the restored Bourbon kings.
67 20 THE BOOK AGAINST PRIESTS: Michelet's lectures as professor of history in the Collège de France, in which he attacked the Jesuits, were published as follows: _Des Jésuites_, 1843; _Du Prêtre, de la Femme et de la Famille_, 1844; _Du Peuple_, 1845. To the second De Quincey apparently refers.
67 26 BACK TO THE FALCONER'S LURE: The lure was a decoy used to recall the hawk to its perch,--sometimes a dead pigeon, sometimes an artificial bird, with some meat attached.
68 6 ON THE MODEL OF LORD PERCY: These lines, as Professor Hart notes, in Percy's Folio, ed. Hales and Furnivall, Vol. II, p. 7, run:
The stout Erle of Northumberland a vow to God did make, his pleasure in the Scottish woods 3 som_m_ers days to take.
68 27 PUCELLE D'ORLÉANS: Maid of Orleans (the city on the Loire which Joan saved).
69 1 THE COLLECTION, ETC.: The work meant is Quicherat, _Procès de Condamnation et Réhabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc_, 5 vols., Paris, 1841-1849. Cf. De Quincey's note.
69 21 DELENDA EST ANGLIA VICTRIX! "Victorious England must be destroyed!" Cf. _Delenda est Carthago_! "Carthage must be destroyed!" _Delenda est Karthago_ is the version of Florus (II, 15) of the words used by Cato the Censor, just before the Third Punic War, whenever he was called upon to record his vote in the Senate on any subject under discussion.
69 27 HYDER ALI (1702-1782), a Mahometan adventurer, made himself maharajah of Mysore and gave the English in India serious trouble; he was defeated in 1782 by Sir Eyre Coote. Tippoo Sahib, his son and successor, proved less dangerous and was finally killed at Seringapatam in 1799.
70 4 NATIONALITY IT WAS NOT: i.e. nationalism--patriotism--it was not. Cf. _Revolt of the Tartars_, Riverside ed., Vol. XII, p. 4; Masson's ed., Vol. VII, p. 370, where De Quincey speaks of the Torgod as "tribes whose native ferocity was exasperated by debasing forms of superstition, and by a nationality as well as an inflated conceit of their own merit absolutely unparalleled." Cf. also footnote, p. 94.
70 4 SUFFREN: the great French admiral who in 1780-1781 inflicted so much loss upon the British.
70 10 MAGNANIMOUS JUSTICE OF ENGLISHMEN: As Professor Hart observes, the treatment of Joan in _Henry VI_ is hardly magnanimous.
71 29 THAT ODIOUS MAN: Cf. pp. 79-80.
72 12 THREE GREAT SUCCESSIVE BATTLES: Rudolf of Lorraine fell at Crécy (1346); Frederick of Lorraine at Agincourt (1415); the battle of Nicopolis, which sacrificed the third Lorrainer, took place in 1396.
73 24 CHARLES VI (1368-1422) had killed several men during his first fit of insanity. He was for the rest of his life wholly unfit to govern. He declared Henry V of England, the conqueror of Agincourt, his successor, thus disinheriting the Dauphin, his son.
74 2 THE FAMINES, ETC.: Horrible famines occurred in France and England in 1315, 1336, and 1353. Such insurrections as Wat Tyler's, in 1381, are probably in De Quincey's mind.
74 6 THE TERMINATION OF THE CRUSADES: The Crusades came to an end about 1271. "The ulterior results of the crusades," concludes Cox in _Encyclopedia Britannica_, "were the breaking up of the feudal system, the abolition of serfdom, the supremacy of a common law over the independent jurisdiction of chiefs who claimed the right of private wars."
74 7 THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLARS: This most famous of the military orders, founded in the twelfth century for the defense of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, having grown so powerful as to be greatly feared, was suppressed at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
74 7 THE PAPAL INTERDICTS: "De Quincey has probably in mind such an interdict as that pronounced in 1200, by Innocent III, against France. All ecclesiastical functions were suspended and the land was in desolation."--HART. England was put under interdict several times, as in 1170 (for the murder of Becket) and 1208.
74 8 THE TRAGEDIES CAUSED OR SUFFERED BY THE HOUSE OF ANJOU, AND BY THE EMPEROR: "The Emperor is Konradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen, beheaded by Charles of Anjou at Naples, 1268. The subsequent cruelties of Charles in Sicily caused the popular uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers, 1282, in which many thousands of Frenchmen were assassinated."--HART.
74 10 THE COLOSSAL FIGURE OF FEUDALISM, ETC.: The English yeomen at Crecy, overpowering the mounted knights of France, took from feudalism its chief support,--the superiority of the mounted knight to the unmounted yeoman. Cf. Green, _History of the English People_, Book IV, Chap. II.
74 15 THE ABOMINABLE SPECTACLE OF A DOUBLE POPE: For thirty-eight years this paradoxical state of things endured.
75 15 THE ROMAN MARTYROLOGY: a list of the martyrs of the Church, arranged according to the order of their festivals, and with accounts of their lives and sufferings.
76 4 "ABBEYS THERE WERE," ETC.: Cf. Wordsworth, _Peter Bell_, Part Second:
Temples like those among the Hindoos, And mosques, and spires, and abbey windows, And castles all with ivy green.
76 17 THE VOSGES ... HAVE NEVER ATTRACTED MUCH NOTICE, ETC.: They came into like prominence after De Quincey's day in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
76 31 THOSE MYSTERIOUS FAWNS, ETC.: In some of the romances of the Middle Ages, especially those containing Celtic material, a knight, while hunting, is led by his pursuit of a white fawn (or a white stag or boar) to a _fee_ (i.e. an inhabitant of the "Happy Other-world") or into the confines of the "Happy Other-world" itself. Sometimes, as in the _Guigemar_ of Marie de France, the knight passes on to a series of adventures in consequence of his meeting with the white fawn. I owe this note to the kindness of Mr. S. W. Kinney, A.M., of Baltimore.
76 33 THAT ANCIENT STAG: See _Englische Studien,_ Vol. V, p. 16, where additions are made to the following account from Hardwicke's _Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore,_ Manchester and London, 1872, p. 154:
This chasing of the white doe or the white hart by the spectre huntsman has assumed various forms. According to Aristotle a white hart was killed by Agathocles, King of Sicily, which a thousand years beforehand had been consecrated to Diana by Diomedes. Alexander the Great is said by Pliny to have caught a white stag, placed a collar of gold about its neck, and afterwards set it free. Succeeding heroes have in after days been announced as the capturers of this famous white hart. Julius Caesar took the place of Alexander, and Charlemagne caught a white hart at both Magdeburg, and in the Holstein woods. In 1172 William [Henry] the Lion is reported to have accomplished a similar feat, according to a Latin inscription on the walls of Lubeck Cathedral. Tradition says the white hart has been caught on Rothwell Hay Common, in Yorkshire, and in Windsor Forest.
This reference I owe indirectly to Professor J. M. Manly, of Chicago.
77 4 OR, BEING UPON THE MARCHES OF FRANCE, A MARQUIS: _Marquis_ is derived from _march,_ and was originally the title of the guardian of the frontier, or march.
77 13 AGREED WITH SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY THAT A GOOD DEAL MIGHT BE SAID ON BOTH SIDES: This expression, as has been pointed out to me, is from the middle of _Spectator_ No. 122, where Sir Roger, having been appealed to on a question of fishing privileges, replied, "with an air of a man who would not give his judgment rashly, that much might be said on both sides." It is likely, however, that De Quincey may have connected it in his mind with the discussion of witchcraft at the beginning of _Spectator_ No. 117, where Addison balances the grounds for belief and unbelief somewhat as De Quincey does here.
78 7 BERGERETA: a very late Latin form of French _bergerette,_ "a shepherdess."
78 15 M. SIMOND, IN HIS "TRAVELS": The reference is to _Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during the years 1810 and 1811,_ by Louis Simond, 2d ed. (Edinburgh, 1817), to which is added an appendix on France, written in December, 1815, and October, 1816. De Quincey refers to this story with horror several times, but such scenes are not yet wholly unknown.
79 21 A CHEVALIER OF ST. LOUIS: The French order of St. Louis was founded by Louis XIV in 1693 for military service. After its discontinuance at the Revolution this order was reinstated in 1814; but no knights have been created since 1830. "Chevalier" is the lowest rank in such an order; it is here erroneously used by De Quincey as a title of address.
79 22 "CHEVALIER, AS-TU DONNÉ," etc.: "Chevalier, have you fed the hog?" "MA FILLE," ETC.: "My daughter, have you," etc. "PUCELLE," ETC.: "Maid of Orleans, have you saved the lilies (i.e. France)?"
79 28 IF THE MAN THAT TURNIPS CRIES: Cf. _Johnsoniana_, ed. R. Napier, London, 1884, where, in _Anecdotes of Johnson_, by Mrs. Piozzi, p. 29, is found: "'T is a mere play of words (added he)"--Johnson is speaking of certain "verses by Lopez de Vega"--"and you might as well say, that
"If the man who turnips cries, Cry not when his father dies, 'T is a proof that he had rather Have a turnip than his father."
This reference is given in Bartlett's _Familiar Quotations_.
80 4 THE ORIFLAMME OF FRANCE: the red banner of St. Denis, preserved in the abbey of that name, near Paris, and borne before the French king as a consecrated flag.
80 22 TWENTY YEARS AFTER, TALKING WITH SOUTHEY: In 1816 De Quincey was a resident of Grasmere; Southey lived for many years at Keswick, a few miles away; they met first in 1807. For De Quincey's estimate of Southey's _Joan of Arc_, see _Works_, Riverside ed., Vol. VI, pp. 262-266; Masson's ed., Vol. V, pp. 238-242.
80 28 CHINON is a little town near Tours.
81 3 SHE "PRICKS" FOR SHERIFFS: The old custom was to prick with a pin the names of those chosen by the sovereign for sheriffs.
82 9 AMPULLA: the flask containing the sacred oil used at coronations.
82 10 THE ENGLISH BOY: Henry VI was nine months old when he was proclaimed king of England and France in 1422, Charles VI of France, and Henry V, his legal heir, having both died in that year. Henry's mother was the eldest daughter of Charles VI.
82 13 DRAWN FROM THE OVENS OF RHEIMS: Rheims, where the kings of France were crowned, was famous for its biscuits and gingerbread.
82 26 TINDAL'S "CHRISTIANITY AS OLD AS THE CREATION": Matthew Tindal (1657-1732) published this work in 1732; its greatest interest lies in the fact that to this book more than to any other Butler's _Analogy_ was a reply. Tindal's argument was that natural religion, as taught by the deists, was complete; that no revelation was necessary. A life according to nature is all that the best religion can teach. Such doctrine as this Joan preached in the speech ascribed to her.
82 27 A PARTE ANTE: "from the part gone before"; Joan's speech being three centuries earlier than the book from which it was taken.
83 9 THAT DIVINE PASSAGE IN "PARADISE REGAINED": from Book I, II. 196-205.
84 34 PATAY IS NEAR ORLEANS: Troyes was the capital of the old province of Champagne.
86 25 "NOLEBAT," ETC.: "She would not use her sword or kill any one."
87 24 MADE PRISONER BY THE BURGUNDIANS: The English have accused the French officers of conniving at Joan's capture through jealousy of her successes. Compiègne is fifty miles northeast of Paris.
87 27 BISHOP OF BEAUVAIS: Beauvais is forty-three miles northwest of Paris, in Normandy. This bishop, Pierre Cauchon, rector of the University at Paris, was devoted to the English party.
87 30 "BISHOP THAT ART," ETC.: Cf. Shakespeare's _Macbeth_, Act I, sc. v, 1. 13.
87 33 A TRIPLE CROWN: The papacy is meant, of course. The pope's tiara is a tall cap of golden cloth, encircled by three coronets.
88 17 JUDGES EXAMINING THE PRISONER: The judge in France questions a prisoner minutely when he is first taken, before he is remanded for trial. De Quincey displays here his inveterate prejudice against the French; but this practice is widely regarded as the vital error of French criminal procedure.,
89 5 A WRETCHED DOMINICAN: a member of the order of mendicant friars established in France by Domingo de Guzman in 1216. Their official name was Fratres Predicatores, "Preaching Friars," and their chief objects were preaching and instruction. Their influence was very great until the rise of the Jesuit order in the sixteenth century. The Dominicans Le Maitre and Graverent (the Grand Inquisitor) both took part in the prosecution.
89 31 FOR A LESS CAUSE THAN MARTYRDOM: Cf. Genesis ii. 24.
91 14 FROM THE FOUR WINDS: There may be a reminiscence here of Ezekiel xxxvii. 1-10, especially verse 9: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
91 30 LUXOR. See note 13 27.
92 15 DAUGHTER OF CÆSARS: She was the daughter of the German emperor, Francis I, whose sovereignty, as the name "Holy Roman Empire" shows, was supposed to continue that of the ancient Roman emperors.
92 17 CHARLOTTE CORDAY (1768-93) murdered the revolutionist Marat in the belief that the good of France required it; two days later she paid the penalty, as she had expected, with her life.
93 18 GRAFTON, A CHRONICLER: Richard Grafton died about 1572. He was printer to Edward VI. His chronicle was published in 1569.
93 20 "FOULE FACE": _Foule_ formerly meant "ugly."
9321 HOLINSHEAD: Raphael Holinshed died about 1580. His great work, _Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland_, was used by Shakespeare as the source of several plays. He writes of Joan: "Of favor [appearance] was she counted likesome; of person stronglie made, and manlie; of courage, great, hardie, and stout withall."
94 (footnote) SATANIC: This epithet was applied to the work of some of his contemporaries by Southey in the preface to his _Vision of Judgement_, 1821. It has been generally assumed that Byron and Shelley are meant. See Introduction to Byron's _Vision of Judgment_ in the new Murray edition of Byron, Vol. IV.
96 (footnote) BURGOO: a thick oatmeal gruel or porridge used by seamen. According to the _New English Dictionary_ the derivation is unknown; but in the _Athenaeum_, Oct. 6, 1888, quoted by Hart, the word is explained as a corruption of Arabic _burghul_.
101 30 ENGLISH PRINCE, REGENT OF FRANCE: John, Duke of Bedford, uncle of Henry VI. "In genius for war as in political capacity," says J. R. Green, "John was hardly inferior to Henry [the Fifth, his brother] himself" (_A History of the English People_, Book IV, Chap. VI).
101 31 MY LORD OF WINCHESTER: Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, half-brother of Henry IV. He was the most prominent English prelate of his time and was the only Englishman in the Court that condemned Joan. As to the story of his death, to which De Quincey alludes, see Shakespeare, 2 Henry VI, Act III, sc. in. Beaufort became cardinal in 1426.
102 17 WHO IS THIS THAT COMETH FROM DOMRÉMY? This is an evident imitation of the famous passage from Isaiah Ixiii. I: "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?" "Bloody coronation robes" is rather obscure, but probably refers to the fact that Joan had shed her own blood to bring about the coronation of her sovereign; she is supposed to have appeared in armor at the actual coronation ceremony, and this armor might with reason be imagined as "bloody."
102 22 SHE ... SHALL TAKE MY LORD'S BRIEF: that is, she shall act as the bishop's counsel. In the case of Beauvais, as in that of Winchester, it must be remembered that in all monarchical countries the bishops are "lords spiritual," on an equality with the greater secular nobles, the "lords temporal."