Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 by Various
generously made available by The Internet Library of Early Journals.)
No. CCCXXXIV AUGUST, 1843. VOL. LIV.
FORMS AND BALLADS OF SCHILLER. BY SIR EDWARD LYTTON BULWER.
PART THE LAST.
We here close our attempts to convey to the English reader some notion, however inadequate, of the genius and mind of Schiller. It is in these Poems, rather, perhaps, than in his Dramas and Prose works, that the upright earnestness of the mind, and the rich variety of the genius, are best displayed. Here, certainly, can best be seen that peculiar union of intellect and imagination which Mr Carlyle has so well distinguished as Schiller's characteristic attribute, and in which it would be difficult to name the modern poet by whom he is surpassed; and here the variety of the genius is least restrained and limited by the earnestness of the mind. For Schiller's variety is not that of Shakspeare, a creative and universal spirit, passing with the breath of life into characters the most diverse, and unidentified with the creations its invisible agency invokes. But it is the variety of one in whom the consciousness of his own existence is never laid aside; shown not so much in baring the minds and hearts of others, as in developing the progress and the struggles of his own, in the infinite gradations of joy and of sorrow, of exquisite feeling and solemn thought. Hence, in the drama, arise his faults and deficiencies; in his characters, he himself speaks. They are gigantic images of his own moods at different epochs of his life--impassioned with Moor--philosophizing with Posa--stately, tranquil, and sad, with Wallenstein. But as, in his dramas, this intense perception of self--this earnest, haunting consciousness--this feeling of genius as a burden, and of life as a religion--interferes with true dramatic versatility; so, on the contrary, these qualities give variety in his poems to the expositions of a mind always varying, always growing--always eager to think, and sensitive to feel. And his art loved to luxuriate in all that copious fertility of materials which the industry of a scholar submitted to the mastery of a poet; to turn to divine song whatever had charmed the study or aroused the thought: philosophy, history, the dogma, or the legend, all repose in the memory to bloom in the verse. The surface of knowledge apparent in his poems is immense; and this alone suffices to secure variety in thought. But the aspiring and ardent nature of his intellect made him love to attempt also constant experiments in the theme and in the style. The romantic ballad, the classical tale, the lyric, the didactic, the epigrammatic--the wealth of his music comprehended every note, the boldness of his temper adventured every hazard. Yet still, (as in our Byron, in our Goldsmith, and as, perhaps, in every mind tenacious of its impressions,) some favourite ideas take possession of him so forcibly, as to be frequently repeated as important truths. The sacred and majestic office of the poet--the beauty of ideal life, (in which the author of the "_Robbers_" and "_William Tell_" deemed, at last, that the only liberty was to be found)--the worship of Virtue and the Beautiful, for their own sake, and without hope of reward;--these, and many ideas minor to, and proceeding from them, revisit us in a thousand tones of eloquent and haunting music.
Reluctantly we tear ourselves from a task which has indeed been a labour of love. Many poets may inspire as high an admiration as Schiller; few so tender a personal affection. Even in his doubts and his errors, we have that interest in his struggles which arises from the conviction of his sound heart and his manly nature. Wrestling at one time with bitter poverty, at one with unhappy passion--lonely in his habits, prematurely broken in his health, his later wisdom dispelling his early dreams of Utopian liberty--still, throughout all, his bravery never fails him, his gentleness is never soured; his philanthropy changes its form, but it is never chilled. Even when he wanders into error, it is from his search for truth. That _humanity_ which the French writers of the last century sought to preach, Schiller took from the scoffing wit of Voltaire, and the unhealthy enthusiasm of Rousseau, to invest it with the thoughtful sweetness and the robust vigour of his own great soul. And we believe that no one can depart from the attentive study of that divine bequest he has left the world, without a more serious respect for virtue, and a more genial affection for mankind.
E. LYTTON BULWER.
The Poems included in the Second Period of Schiller's literary career are few, but remarkable for their beauty, and deeply interesting from the struggling and anxious state of mind which some of them depict. It was, both to his taste and to his thought, a period of visible transition. He had survived the wild and irregular power which stamps, with fierce and somewhat sensual characters, the productions of his youth; but he had not attained that serene repose of strength--that calm, bespeaking depth and fulness, which is found in the best writings of his maturer years. In point of style, the Poems in this division have more facility and sweetness than those that precede them, and perhaps more evident vigour, more popular _verve_ and _gusto_, than some that follow: in point of thought, they mark that era through which few men of inquisitive and adventurous genius--of sanguine and impassioned temperament--and of education chiefly self-formed, undisciplined, and imperfect, have failed to pass--the era of doubt and gloom, of self-conflict, and of self-torture.--In the "_Robbers_," and much of the poetry written in the same period of Schiller's life, there is a bold and wild imagination, which attacks rather than questions--innovates rather than examines--seizes upon subjects of vast social import, that float on the surface of opinion, and assails them with a blind and half-savage rudeness, according as they offend the enthusiasm of unreasoning youth. But now this eager and ardent mind had paused to contemplate; its studies were turned to philosophy and history--a more practical knowledge of life (though in this last, Schiller, like most German authors, was ever more or less deficient in variety and range) had begun to soften the stern and fiery spirit which had hitherto sported with the dangerous elements of social revolution. And while this change was working, before its feverish agitation subsided into that Kantism which is the antipodes of scepticism, it was natural that, to the energy which had asserted, denounced, and dogmatized, should succeed the reaction of despondency and distrust. Vehement indignation at "the solemn plausibilities" of the world pervades the "_Robbers_." In "_Don Carlos_," (commenced in this period, though published much later,) the passion is no longer vehement indignation, but mournful sorrow--not indignation that hypocrisy reigns, but sorrow that honesty cannot triumph--not indignation that formal vice usurps the high places of the world, but sorrow that, in the world, warm and generous virtue glows, and feels, and suffers--without reward. So, in the poems of this period, are two that made a considerable sensation at their first appearance--"_The Conflict_," published originally under the title of "_The Freethinking of Passion_," and "_Resignation_." They present a melancholy view of the moral struggles in the heart of a noble and virtuous man. From the first of these poems, Schiller, happily and wisely, at a later period of his life, struck the passages most calculated to offend. What hand would dare restore them? The few stanzas that remain still suggest the outline of dark and painful thoughts, which is filled up in the more elaborate, and, in many respects, most exquisite, poem of "_Resignation_." Virtue exacting all sacrifices, and giving no reward--Belief which denies enjoyment, and has no bliss save its own illusions; such is the sombre lesson of the melancholy poet--the more impressive because _so far_ it is truth--deep and everlasting truth--but only, to a Christian, a part of truth. Resignation, so sad if not looking beyond the earth, becomes joy, when assured and confident of heaven. Another poem in this intermediate collection was no less subjected to severe animadversion, but with infinitely less justice. We mean "_The Gods of Greece_." This lament for the beautiful old mythology, is but the lament of a poet for the ancient founts of poetry; and few, now-a-days, can be literal enough to suppose it seriously intended to set up Paganism, to the disparagement of Christianity. But the fact is, that Schiller's mind was so essentially religious, that we feel more angry, when he whom we would gladly hail as our light and guide, only darkens us or misleads, than we should, with a less grave and reverent genius. Yet a period--a transition state--of doubt and despondency is perhaps common to men in proportion to their natural dispositions to faith and veneration. With them, it comes from keen sympathy with undeserved sufferings--from wrath at wickedness triumphant--from too intense a brooding over the great mysteries involved in the government of the world. Scepticism of this nature can but little injure the frivolous, and will be charitably regarded by the wise. Schiller's mind soon outgrew the state which, to the mind of a poet, above all men, is most ungenial, but the sadness which the struggle bequeathed, seems to have wrought a complete revolution in all his preconceived opinions. The wild creator of the "_Robbers_," drunk with liberty, and audacious against all restraint, becomes the champion of "Holy Order,"--the denouncer of the French republic--the extoller of an Ideal Life, which should entirely separate Genius the Restless from Society the Settled. And as his impetuous and stormy vigour matured into the lucent and tranquil art of "_Der Spaziergang_," "_Wallenstein_," and "_Die Braut von Messina_," so his philosophy threw itself into calm respect for all that custom sanctioned, and convention hallowed.
But even during the painful transition, of which, in his minor poems, glimpses alone are visible, Scepticism, with Schiller, never insults the devoted, or mocks the earnest mind. It may have sadness--but never scorn. It is the question of a traveller who has lost his way in the great wilderness, but who mourns with his fellow-seekers, and has no bitter laughter for their wanderings from the goal. This division begins, indeed, with a Hymn which atones for whatever pains us in the two whose strain and spirit so gloomily contrast it, viz. the matchless and immortal "_Hymn to Joy_"--a poem steeped in the very essence of all-loving and all-aiding, Christianity--breathing the enthusiasm of devout yet gladsome adoration, and ranking amongst the most glorious bursts of worship which grateful Genius ever rendered to the benign Creator.
And it is peculiarly noticeable, that, whatever Schiller's state of mind upon theological subjects at the time that this hymn was composed, and though all doctrinal stamp and mark be carefully absent from it, it is yet a poem that never could have been written but in a Christian age, in a Christian land--but by a man whose whole soul and heart had been at one time (nay, _was_ at the very moment of composition) inspired and suffused with that firm belief in God's goodness and His justice--that full assurance of rewards beyond the grave--that exulting and seraphic cheerfulness which associates joy with the Creator--and that animated affection for the Brotherhood of Mankind, which Christianity--and Christianity alone, in its pure, orthodox, gospel form, needing no aid from schoolman or philosopher--taught and teaches. Would, for objects higher than the praise which the ingenuity of labour desires and strives for--would that some faint traces of the splendour which invests the original, could attend the passage of thoughts so noble and so tender, from the verse of a poet to the rhyme of a translator!
HYMN TO JOY.
Spark from the fire that Gods have fed-- JOY--thou Elysian Child divine, Fire-drunk, our airy footsteps tread, O Holy One! thy holy shrine. The heart that Custom from the other Divides, thy charms again unite, And man in man but hails a brother, Wherever rest thy wings of light.
_Chorus_--Embrace ye millions--let this kiss, Brothers, embrace the earth below! You starry worlds that shine on this, One common Father know!
He who this lot from fate can grasp-- Of one true friend the friend to be,-- He who one faithful maid can clasp, Shall hold with us his jubilee; Yes, each who but one single heart In all the earth can claim his own!-- Let him who cannot, stand apart, And weep beyond the pale, alone!
_Chorus_--Homage to holy Sympathy, Ye dwellers in our mighty ring; Up to yon Star-pavilions--she Leads to the Unknown King!
All being drinks the mother-dew Of joy from Nature's holy bosom; And Vice and Worth her steps pursue-- We trace them by the blossom. Hers Love's sweet kiss--the grape's rich treasure, That cheers Life on to Death's abode; Joy in each link--the worm has pleasure, The Cherub has the smile of God!
_Chorus_--Why bow ye down--why down--ye millions? O World, thy Maker's throne to see, Look upward-search the Star-pavilions: _There_ must His mansion be!
Joy is the mainspring in the whole Of endless Nature's calm rotation; Joy moves the dazzling wheels that roll In the great Timepiece of Creation; Joy breathes on buds, and flowers they are; Joy beckons--suns come forth from heaven; Joy rolls the spheres in realms afar, Ne'er to thy glass, dim Wisdom, given!
_Chorus_--Joyous as Suns careering gay Along their royal paths on high, March, Brothers, march our dauntless way, As Chiefs to Victory!
Joy, from Truth's pure and lambent fires, Smiles out upon the ardent seeker; Joy leads to Virtue Man's desires, And cheers as Suffering's step grows weaker. High from the sunny slopes of Faith, The gales her waving banners buoy; And through the shattered vaults of Death, Springs to the choral Angels-Joy!
_Chorus_--Bear this life, millions, bravely bear-- Bear this life for the Better One! See ye the Stars?--a life is there, Where the reward is won.
Man never can the gods requite; How fair alike to gods to be! Where want and woe shall melt in light That plays round Bliss eternally! Revenge and Hatred both forgot; No foe, the deadliest, unforgiven; With smiles that tears can neighbour not; No path can lead Regret to Heaven!
_Chorus_--Let all the world be peace and love-- Cancel thy debt-book with thy brother; For God shall judge of _us_ above, As we shall judge each other!
Joy sparkles to us from the bowl-- Behold the juice whose golden colour To meekness melts the savage soul, And gives Despair a Hero's valour. Up, brothers!--Lo, we crown the cup! Lo, the wine flashes to the brim! Let the bright Fount spring heavenward!--Up! To THE GOOD SPIRIT this glass!--To HIM!
_Chorus_--Praised by the ever-whirling ring Of Stars, and tuneful Seraphim-- To THE GOOD SPIRIT--the Father-King In Heaven!--This glass to Him!
Strong-hearted Hope to Sorrow's sloth; Swift aid to guiltless Woe; Eternity to plighted Troth; Truth just to Friend and Foe; Proud men before the throne to stand; (These things are worth the dying!) Good fortune to the Honest, and Confusion to the Lying!
_Chorus_--Draw closer in the holy ring, Sworn by the wine-cup's golden river-- Sworn by the Stars, and by their King, To keep our vow for ever!
THE INVINCIBLE ARMADA.
She comes, she comes--the Burthen of the Deeps! Beneath her wails the Universal Sea! With clanking chains and a new God, she sweeps, And with a thousand thunders, unto thee! The ocean-castles and the floating hosts-- Ne'er on their like, look'd the wild waters!--Well May man the monster name "Invincible." O'er shudd'ring waves she gathers to thy coasts! The horror that she spreads can claim Just title to her haughty name. The trembling Neptune quails Under the silent and majestic forms; The Doom of Worlds in those dark sails;-- Near and more near they sweep! and slumber all the Storms
Before thee the array, Blest island, Empress of the Sea! The sea-born squadrons threaten thee, And thy great heart, BRITANNIA! Woe to thy people, of their freedom proud-- She rests, a thunder heavy in its cloud! Who, to thy hand the orb and sceptre gave, That thou should'st be the sovereign of the nations? To tyrant kings thou wert thyself the slave, Till Freedom dug from Law its deep foundations; The mighty CHART thy citizens made kings, And kings to citizens sublimely bow'd! And thou thyself, upon thy realm of water, Hast thou not render'd millions up to slaughter, When thy ships brought upon their sailing wings The sceptre--and the shroud? What should'st thou thank?--Blush, Earth, to hear and feel: What should'st thou thank?--Thy genius and thy steel. Behold the hidden and the giant fires! Behold thy glory trembling to its fall! Thy coming doom the round earth shall appall, And all the hearts of freemen beat for thee, And all free souls their fate in shine foresee-- _Theirs_ is _thy_ glory's fall! One look below the Almighty gave, Where stream'd the lion-flags of thy proud foe; And near and wider yawn'd the horrent grave. "And who," saith HE, "shall lay mine England low-- The stem that blooms with hero-deeds-- The rock when man from wrong a refuge needs-- The stronghold where the tyrant comes in vain? Who shall bid England vanish from the main? Ne'er be this only Eden freedom knew, Man's stout defence from Power, to Fate consign'd." God the Almighty blew, And the Armada went to every wind!
No! I this conflict longer will not wage, The conflict Duty claims--the giant task;-- Thy spells, O Virtue, never can assuage The heart's wild fire--this offering do not ask!
True, I have sworn--a solemn vow have sworn, That I myself will curb the self within; Yet take thy wreath, no more it shall be worn-- Take back thy wreath, and leave me free to sin.
Rent be the contract I with thee once made;-- She loves me, loves me--forfeit be thy crown! Blest he who, lull'd in rapture's dreamy shade, Glides, as I glide, the deep fall gladly down.
She sees the worm that my youth's bloom decays, She sees my springtime wasted as it flees; And, marv'ling at the rigour that gainsays The heart's sweet impulse, my reward decrees.
Distrust this angel purity, fair soul! It is to guilt thy pity armeth me; Could Being lavish its unmeasured whole, It ne'er could give a gift to rival _Thee!_
Thee--the dear guilt I ever seek to shun, O tyranny of fate, O wild desires! My virtue's only crown can but be won In that last breath--when virtue's self expires!
And I, too, was amidst Arcadia born, And Nature seem'd to woo me; And to my cradle such sweet joys were sworn: And I, too, was amidst Arcadia born, Yet the short spring gave only tears unto me! Life but one blooming holiday can keep-- For me the bloom is fled; The silent Genius of the Darker Sleep Turns down my torch--and weep, my brethren, weep-- Weep, for the light is dead! Upon thy bridge the shadows round me press, O dread Eternity! And I have known no moment that can bless;-- Take back this letter meant for Happiness-- The seal's unbrokenen--see! Before thee, Judge, whose eyes the dark-spun veil Conceals, my murmur came; On this our orb a glad belief prevails, That, thine the earthly sceptre and the scales, REQUITER is thy name.
Terrors, they say, thou cost for Vice prepare, And joys the good shall know; Thou canst the crooked heart unmask and bare; Thou canst the riddle of our fate declare, And keep account with Woe. With thee a home smiles for the exiled one-- There ends the thorny strife. Unto my side a godlike vision won, Called TRUTH, (few know her, and the many shun,) And check'd the reins of life. "I will repay thee in a holier land-- Give thou to me thy youth; All I can grant thee lies in this command." I heard, and, trusting in a holier land, Gave my young joys to Truth.
"Give me thy Laura--give me her whom Love To thy heart's core endears; The usurer, Bliss, pays every grief--_above_!" I tore the fond shape from the bleeding love, And gave--albeit with tears! "What bond can bind the Dead to life once more? Poor fool," (the scoffer cries;) "Gull'd by the despot's hireling lie, with lore That gives for Truth a shadow;--life is o'er When the delusion dies!" "Tremblest thou," hiss'd the serpent-herd in scorn, "Before the vain deceit? Made holy but by custom, stale and worn, The phantom Gods, of craft and folly born-- The sick world's solemn cheat? What is this Future underneath the stone? But for the veil that hides, revered alone; The giant shadow of our Terror, thrown On Conscience' troubled glass-- Life's lying likeness--in the dreary shroud Of the cold sepulchre-- Embalm'd by Hope--Time's mummy--which the proud Delirium, driv'ling through thy reason's cloud, Calls '_Immortality!_' Giv'st thou for hope (corruption proves its lie) Sure joy that most delights us? Six thousand years has Death reign'd tranquilly!-- Nor one corpse come to whisper those who die, What _after_ death requites us!" Along Time's shores I saw the Seasons fly; Nature herself, interr'd Among her blooms, lay dead; to those who die There came no corpse to whisper Hope! Still I Clung to the Godlike Word. Judge!--All my joys to thee did I resign, All that did most delight ne; And now I kneel--man's scorn I scorn'd--thy shrine Have I adored--Thee only held divine-- Requiter, now requite me! "For all my sons an equal love I know, And equal each condition," Answer'd an unseen Genius--"See below, Two flowers, for all who rightly seek them, blow-- The HOPE and the FRUITION. He who has pluck'd the one, resign'd must see The sister's forfeit bloom: Let Unbelief enjoy--Belief must be All to the chooser;--the world's history Is the world's judgment doom. Thou hast had HOPE--in thy belief thy prize-- Thy bliss was centred in it: Eternity itself--(Go ask the Wise!) Never to him who forfeits, resupplies The sum struck from the Minute!"
THE GODS OF GREECE.
Ye in the age gone by, Who ruled the world--a world how lovely then!-- And guided still the steps of happy men In the light leading strings of careless joy! Ah, flourish'd them your service of delight! How different, oh, how different, in the day When thy sweet fanes with many a wreath were bright, O Venus Amathusia!
Then, through a veil of dreams Woven by Song, Truth's youthful beauty glow'd, And life's redundant and rejoicing streams Gave to the soulless, soul--where'er they flow'd. Man gifted Nature with divinity To lift and link her to the breast of Love; All things betray'd to the initiate eye The track of gods above!
Where lifeless--fix'd afar, A flaming ball to our dull sense is given, Phoebus Apollo, in his golden car, In silent glory swept the fields of heaven! On yonder hill the Oread was adored, In yonder tree the Dryad held her home; And from her Urn the gentle Naiad pour'd The wavelet's silver foam.
Yon bay, chaste Daphnè wreathed, Yon stone was mournful Niobe's mute cell, Low through yon sedges pastoral Syrinx breathed, And through those groves wail'd the sweet Philomel; The tears of Ceres swell'd in yonder rill-- Tears shed for Proserpine to Hades borne; And, for her lost Adonis, yonder hill Heard Cytherea mourn!--
Heaven's shapes were charm'd unto The mortal race of old Deucalion; Pyrrha's fair daughter, humanly to woo, Came down, in shepherd-guise, Latona's son. Between men, heroes, Gods, harmonious then Love wove sweet links and sympathies divine; Blest Amathusia, heroes, Gods, and men, Equals before thy shrine!
Not to that culture gay, Stern self-denial, or sharp penance wan! Well might each heart be happy in that day-- For Gods, the Happy Ones, were kin to Man! The Beautiful alone, the Holy there! No pleasure shamed the Gods of that young race; So that the chaste Camoenæ favouring were, And the subduing Grace!
A palace every shrine; Your very sports heroic;--Yours the crown Of contests hallow'd to a power divine, As rush'd the chariots thund'ring to renown. Fair round the altar where the incense breathed, Moved your melodious dance inspired; and fair Above victorious brows, the garland wreathed Sweet leaves round odorous hair!
The lively Thyrsus-swinger, And the wild car the exulting Panthers bore, Announced the Presence of the Rapture-Bringer-- Bounded the Satyr and blithe Fawn before; And Mænads, as the frenzy stung the soul, Hymn'd, in their madding dance, the glorious wine-- As ever beckon'd to the lusty bowl The ruddy Host divine!
Before the bed of death No ghastly spectre stood--but from the porch Of life, the lip--one kiss inhaled the breath, And the mute graceful Genius lower'd a torch. The judgment-balance of the Realms below, A judge, himself of mortal lineage, held; The very Furies at the Thracian's woe, Were moved and music-spell'd.
In the Elysian grove The shades renew'd the pleasures life held dear: The faithful spouse rejoin'd remember'd love, And rush'd along the meads the charioteer; There Linus pour'd the old accustom'd strain; Admetus there Alcestes still could greet; his Friend there once more Orestes could regain, His arrows--Philoctetes!
More glorious then the meeds That in their strife with labour nerved the brave, To the great doer of renownèd deeds, The Hebe and the Heaven the Thunderer gave. To him the rescued Rescuer of the dead, Bow'd down the silent and Immortal Host; And the Twin Stars their guiding lustre shed, On the bark tempest-tost!
Art thou, fair world, no more? Return, thou virgin-bloom on Nature's face; Ah, only on the Minstrel's magic shore, Can we the footstep of sweet Fable trace! The meadows mourn for the old hallowing life; Vainly we search the earth of gods bereft; Where once the warm and living shapes were rife, Shadows alone are left!
Cold, from the North, has gone Over the Flowers the Blast that kill'd their May; And, to enrich the worship of the ONE, A Universe of Gods must pass away! Mourning, I search on yonder starry steeps, But thee no more, Selene, there I see! And through the woods I call, and o'er the deeps, And--Echo answers me!
Deaf to the joys she gives-- Blind to the pomp of which she is possest-- Unconscious of the spiritual Power that lives Around, and rules her--by our bliss unblest-- Dull to the Art that colours or creates, Like the dead timepiece, Godless NATURE creeps Her plodding round, and, by the leaden weights, The slavish motion keeps.
To-morrow to receive New life, she digs her proper grave to-day; And icy moons, with weary sameness, weave From their own light their fullness and decay: Home to the Poet's land the Gods are flown; Light use in _them_ that later world discerns, Which, the diviner leading-strings outgrown, On its own axle turns.
Home!--and with them are gone The hues they gazed on, and the tones they heard, Life's beauty and life's melodies--alone Broods o'er the desolate void the lifeless Word! Yet rescued from Time's deluge, still they throng, Unseen, the Pindus they were wont to cherish, Ah--that which gains immortal life in song To mortal life must perish!
We subjoin a few poems, belonging to the third period, which were omitted in our former selections from that division.
I see her still, with many a fair one nigh, Of every fair the stateliest shape appear: Like a lone son she shone upon my eye-- I stood afar, and durst not venture near. Seized, as her presence brighten'd round me, by The trembling passion of voluptuous fear, Yet, swift, as borne upon some hurrying wing, The impulse snatch'd me, and I struck the string!
What then I felt--what sung--my memory hence From that wild moment would in vain invoke-- It was the life of some discover'd sense That in the heart's divine emotion spoke; Long years imprison'd, and escaping thence From every chain, the SOUL enchanted broke, And found a music in its own deep core, Its holiest, deepest deep, unguess'd before.
Like melody long hush'd, and lost in space, Back to its home the breathing spirit came: I look'd, and saw upon that angel face The fair love circled with the modest shame; I heard (and heaven descended on the place) Low-whisper'd words a charmèd truth proclaim-- Save in thy choral hymns, O spirit-shore, Ne'er may I hear such thrilling sweetness more!
"I know the worth within the heart which sighs, Yet shuns, the modest sorrow to declare; And what rude Fortune niggardly denies, Love to the noble can with love repair. The lowly have the loftiest destinies; Love only culls the flower that love should wear; And ne'er in vain for love's rich gifts, shill yearn The heart that feels their wealth--and can return!"
Amidst the cloud-grey deeps afar The Bliss departed lies; How linger on one lonely star The loving wistful eyes! Alas--a star in truth--the light Shines but a signal of the night!
If lock'd within the icy chill Of the long sleep, thou wert-- My faithful grief could find thee still A life within my heart;-- But, oh, the worse despair to see Thee live to earth, and die to me!
Can those sweet longing hopes, which make Love's essence, thus decay? Can that be love which doth forsake?-- _That_ love--which fades away? That earthly gifts are brief, I knew-- Is that all heaven-born mortal too?
TO A YOUNG FRIEND DEVOTING HIMSELF TO PHILOSOPHY.
Severe the proof the Grecian youth was doom'd to undergo, Before he might what lurks beneath the Eleusinia know-- Art _thou_ prepared and ripe, the shrine--that inner shrine--to win, Where Pallas guards from vulgar eyes the mystic prize within? Know'st thou what bars thy way? how dear the bargain thou dost make, When but to buy uncertain good, sure good thou dost forsake? Feel'st thou sufficient strength to brave the deadliest human fray-- When Heart from Reason--Sense from Thought, shall rend themselves away? Sufficient valour, war with Doubt, the Hydra-shape, to wage; And that worst Foe within thyself with manly soul engage? With eyes that keep their heavenly health--the innocence of youth To guard from every falsehood, fair beneath the mask of Truth? Fly, if thou can'st not trust thy heart to guide thee on the way-- Oh, fly the charmèd margin ere th' abyss engulf its prey. Round many a step that seeks the light, the shades of midnight close; But in the glimmering twilight, see--how safely Childhood goes!
THE PUPPET-SHOW OF LIFE.
(_Das Spiel des Lebens._)
A _literal_ version of this pretty little poem, which possibly may have been suggested by some charming passages in Wilhelm Meister, would, perhaps, be incompatible with the spirit which constitutes its chief merit. And perhaps, therefore, the original may be more faithfully rendered (like many of the Odes of Horace) by paraphrase than translation.
Ho--ho--my puppet-show! Ladies and gentlemen, see my show! Life and the world--look here, in troth, Though but _in parvo_, I promise ye both! The world and life--in my box are they; But keep at a distance, good folks, I pray! Lit is each lamp, from the stage to the porch, With Venus's naphtha, from Cupid's torch; Never a moment, if rules can tempt ye, Never a moment my scene is empty! Here is the babe in his loading-strings-- Here is the boy at play; Here is the passionate youth with wings, Like a bird's on a stormy day, To and fro, waving here and there, Down to the earth and aloft through the air! Now see the man, as for combat, enter-- Where is the peril he fears to adventure? See how the puppets speed on to the race,} Each his own fortune pursues in the chase; } How many the rivals, how narrow the space! } But, hurry and scurry, O mettlesome game! The cars roll in thunder, the wheels rush in flame. How the brave dart onward, and pant and glow! How the craven behind them come creeping slow-- Ha! ha! see how Pride gets a terrible fall! See how Prudence, or Cunning, out-races them all! See how at the goal, with her smiling eyes, Ever waits Woman to give the prize!
THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NEW CENTURY.
Where can Peace find a refuge?--whither, say, Can Freedom turn?--lo, friend, before our view The CENTURY rends itself in storm away, And, red with slaughter, dawns on earth the New. The girdle of the lands is loosen'd;--hurl'd To dust the forms old Custom deem'd divine,-- Safe from War's fury not the watery world;-- Safe not the Nile-God nor the antique Rhine. Two mighty nations make the world their field, Deaming the world is for their heirloom given-- Against the freedom of all lands they wield This--Neptune's trident; that--the Thund'rer's levin. Gold to their scales each region must afford; And, as fierce Brennus in Gaul's early tale, The Frank casts in the iron of his sword, To poise the balance, where the right may fail-- Like some huge Polypus, with arms that roam Outstretch'd for prey--the Briton spreads his reign; And, as the Ocean were his household home, Locks up the chambers of the liberal main. Where on the Pole scarce gleams the faintest star, Onward his restless course unbounded flies; Tracks every isle and every coast afar, And undiscover'd leaves but--Paradise! Alas, in vain on earth's wide chart, I ween, Thou seek'st that holy realm beneath the sky-- Where Freedom dwells in gardens ever green-- And blooms the Youth of fair Humanity! O'er shores where sail ne'er rustled to the wind, O'er the vast universe, may rove thy ken; But in the universe thou canst not find A space sufficing for ten happy men! In the heart's holy stillness only beams The shrine of refuge from life's stormy throng; Freedom is only in the land of Dreams; And only blooms the Beautiful in Song!
THE MINSTRELS OF OLD.
Where now the minstrel of the large renown, Rapturing with living words the heark'ning throng? Charming the Man to heaven, and earthward down Charming the God?--who wing'd the soul with song? Yet lives the minstrel, not the deeds--the lyre Of old demands ears that of old believed it-- Bards of bless'd time--how flew your living fire From lip to lip! how race from race received it! As if a God, men hallow'd with devotion-- What Genius, speaking, shaping, wrought below, The glow of song inflamed the ear's emotion, The ear's emotion gave the song the glow; Each nurturing each--back on his soul--its tone Whole nations echoed with a rapture-peal; Then all around the heavenly splendour shone Which now the heart, and scarce the heart can feel.
FAREWELL TO THE READER.
The Muse is silent; with a virgin cheek, Bow'd with the blush of shame, she ventures near-- She waits the judgment that thy lips may speak, And feels the def'rence, but disowns the fear. Such praise as Virtue gives, 'tis hers to seek-- Bright Truth, not tinsel Folly to revere; He only for her wreath the flowers should cull Whose heart, with hers, beats for the Beautiful.
Nor longer yet these days of mine would live, Than to one genial heart, not idly stealing, There some sweet dreams and fancies fair to give, Some hallowing whispers of a loftier feeling. Not for the far posterity they strive, Doom'd with the time, its impulse but revealing, Born to record the Moment's smile or sigh, And with the light dance of the Hours to fly.
Spring wakes--and life, in all its youngest hues, Shoots through the mellowing meads delightedly; Air the fresh herbage scents with nectar-dews; Livelier the choral music fills the sky; Youth grows more young, and Age its youth renews, In that field-banquet of the ear and eye; Spring flies--lo, seeds where once the flowers have blush'd And the last bloom's gone, and the last muse hush'd.
A READING PARTY IN THE LONG VACATION.
Every one who knows Oxford, and a good many besides, must have heard of certain periodical migrations of the younger members of that learned university into distant and retired parts of her Majesty's dominions, which (on the _"lucus à non lucendo"_ principle) are called and known by the name of Reading Parties. Some half dozen under-graduates, in peril of the coming examination, form themselves into a joint-stock cramming company; take L.30 or L.40 shares in a private tutor; pitch their camp in some Dan or Beersheba which has a reputation for dulness; and, like other joint-stock companies, humbug the public, and sometimes themselves, into the belief that they are "doing business." For these classical bubbles, the long vacation is the usual season, and Wales one of the favourite localities; and certainly, putting "Reading" out of the question, three fine summer months might be worse spent, than in climbing the mountains, and whipping the trout-streams, of that romantic land. Many a quiet sea-side town, or picturesque fishing-village, might be mentioned, which owes no little of its summer gayety, and perhaps something of its prosperity, to the annual visit of "the Oxonians:" many a fair girl has been indebted for the most piquant flirtation of the season to the "gens togata," who were reading at the little watering-place to which fate and papa had carried her for the race-week, or the hunt ball: and whatever the effect of these voluntary rustications upon the class lists in Oxford, they certainly have procured for the parties occasionally a very high "provincial celebrity." I know that when we beat our retreat from summer quarters at Glyndewi in 18--, the sighs of our late partners were positively heart-rending, and the blank faces of the deserted billiard-marker and solitary livery-stable 'groom' haunt me to this day.
I had been endeavouring by hard reading, for the last three months, to work up the arrears of three years of college idleness, when my evil genius himself, in the likeness of George Gordon of Trinity, persuaded me to put the finishing touch to my education, by joining a party who were going down to Glyndewi in ----shire, "really to read." In an unguarded moment, I consented; packed up books enough to last me for five years, reading at the rate of twenty-four hours per day, wrote to the governor announcing my virtuous intention, and was formally introduced to the Rev. Mr Hanmer, Gordon's tutor, as one of his "cubs" for the long vacation.
Six of us there were to be; a very mixed party, and not well mixed--a social chaos. We had an exquisite from St Mary Hall, a pea-coated Brazenose boatman, a philosophical water-drinker and union-debater from Balliol, and a two bottle man from Christ Church. When we first met, it was like oil and water; it seemed as if we might be churned together for a century, and never coalesce: but in time, like punch-making, it turned out that the very heterogeneousness of the ingredients was the zest of the compound.
I had never heard of such a place as Glyndewi, nor had I an idea how to get there. Gordon and Hanmer were gone already; so I packed myself on the top of the Shrewsbury mail, as the direct communication between Oxford and North Wales, and there became acquainted with No. 2 of my fellows in transportation; (for, except Gordon and myself, we were all utter strangers to each other.) "I say, Hawkins; let's feel those ribbons a bit, will you?" quoth the occupant of the box-seat to our respectable Jehu. "Can't indeed, sir, with these hosses; it's as much as ever I can do to hold this here near leader." This was satisfactory; risking one's neck in a tandem was all very well--a part of the regular course of an Oxford education; but amateur drivers of stage coaches I had always a prejudice against: let gentlemen keep their own four-in-hands, and upset themselves and families, as they have an undeniable right to do--but not the public. I looked at the first speaker: at his pea-jacket, that is, which was all I could see of him: Oxford decidedly. His cigar was Oxford too, by the villanous smell of it. He took the coachman's implied distrust of his professional experience good-humouredly enough, proffered him his cigar-case, and entered into a discussion on the near-leader's moral and physical qualities. "I'll trouble you for a light, if you please," said I; he turned round, we stuck the ends of our cigars together, and puffed into each other's faces for about a minute, (my cigars were damp-ish,) as grave as North American Indians. "Thank you," said I, as the interesting ceremony was concluded, and our acquaintance begun. We got into conversation, when it appeared that he, too, was bound for the undiscovered shores of Glyndewi, and that we were therefore likely to be companions for the next three months. He was an off-hand, good-humoured fellow; drank brandy and water, treated the coachman, and professed an acquaintance with bar-maids in general, and pretty ones in particular, on our line of road. He was going up for a class, he supposed, he said; the governor had taken a "second below the line" himself, and insisted upon his emulating the paternal distinction; d----d nonsense, he said, in his opinion; except that the governor had a couple of harriers with Greek names, he did not see that his classics were of any use to him: and no doubt but that Hylax and Phryne would run just as well if they had been called Stormer and Merry Lass. However, he must rub up all his old Eton books this 'long,' and get old Hanmer to lay it on thick. Such was Mr Branling of Brazenose.
At Shrewsbury, we were saluted with the intelligence, "Coach dines here, gentlemen." We found a couple of fowls that the coach might probably have dined upon, and digested with other articles--in the hind boot; to human stomachs they seemed impracticable. We employed the allotted ten minutes upon a leg of mutton, and ascended again to our stations on the roof: and here was an addition to our party. Externally, it consisted of a mackintosh and a fur cap: in the very short interval between the turned-down flap of the one and the turned-up collar of the other, were a pair of grey-glass spectacles, and part of a nose. So far we had no very sufficient premises from which to draw conclusions, whether or not he were "one of us." But there were internal evidences; an odour of Bouquet de Roi or some such villanous compound nearly overpowering the fragrance of some genuine weed which I had supplied my pea-coated friend with in the place of his Oxford "Havannahs"--a short cough occasionally, as though the smoke of the said weed were not altogether "the perfume of the lip he loved;"--and a resolute taciturnity. What was he? It is a lamentable fact that an Oxford under-graduate does not invariably look the gentleman. He vibrates between the fashionable assurance of a London swindler, and the modest diffidence of an overgrown schoolboy. There is usually a degree of unfinishedness about him. He seems to be assuming a character unlike the glorious Burschenschaf of Germany, he has no character of his own. However, for want of more profitable occupation, we set to work in earnest to discover who our fellow traveller really was: and by a series of somewhat American conversational enquiries, we at last fished out that he was going into ----shire like ourselves--nay, in answer to a direct question on the subject, that he hopes to meet Hanmer of Trinity at Glyndewi. But no further information could we get: our new friend was reserved. Mr Branling and I had commenced intimacy already. "My name is Branling of Brazenose;" "and mine Hawthorne of ----;" was our concise introduction. But our companion was the pink of Oxford correctness on this point. He thanked the porter for putting his luggage up called me "Sir" till he found I was an Oxford man; and had we travelled for a month together, would rather have requested the coachman to introduce us, than be guilty of any such barbarism as to introduce himself. So by degrees our intimacy, instead of warming, waxed cold. As night drew on, and the fire of cigars from Branling, self, and coachman, became more deadly, the fur cap was drawn still closer over the ears, the mackintosh crept up higher, and we lost sight of all but the outline of the spectacles.
The abominable twitter of the sparrows in the hedgerows gave notice of the break of day--to travellers the most dismal of all hours, in my opinion--when I awoke from the comfortable nap into which I had fallen since the last change of horses. For some time we alternately dozed, tumbled against each other, begged pardon, and awoke; till at last the sun broke out gloriously as we drove into the cheerful little town of B----.
A good breakfast set us all to rights, and made even our friend in the mackintosh talkative. He came out most in the character of tea-maker: (an office, by the way, which he filled to the general satisfaction of his constituents during our stay in North Wales.) We found out that he was a St Mary Hall man, with a duplicate name: Mr Sydney Dawson, as the cards on his multifarious luggage set forth: that he was an aspirant for "any thing he could get" in the way of honours: (humble aspiration as it seemed, it was not destined to be gratified, for he got nothing.) He thought he might find some shooting and fishing in Wales, so had brought with him a gun-case and a setter; though his pretensions to sportsmanship proved to be rather of the cockney order. For three months he was the happily unconscious butt of our party, and yet never but once was our good-humour seriously interrupted.
From B---- to Glyndewi we had been told we must make our way as we could: and a council of war, which included boots and the waiter, ended in the arrival of the owner of one of the herring-boats, of which there were several under "the terrace." "Was you wish to go to Glyndewi, gentlemen? I shall take you so quick as any way; she is capital wind, and you shall have fine sail." A man who could speak such undeniable English was in himself a treasure; for an ineffectual attempt at a bargain for some lobsters (even with a "Welsh interpreter" in our hands) had warned us that there were in this Christian country unknown tongues which would have puzzled even the Rev. Edward Irving. So the bargain was struck: in half-an-hour ourselves and traps were alongside the boat: and after waiting ten minutes for the embarkation of Mr Sydney Dawson and his dog Sholto, who seemed to have an abhorrence of sea-voyages, Branling at last hauled in the latter in the last agonies of strangulation, and his master having tumbled in over him, to the detriment of a pair of clean whites and a cerulean waistcoat, we--_i.e._ the rest of us--set sail for Glyndewi in high spirits.
Our boatmen were intelligent fellows, and very anxious to display their little stock of English. They knew Mr Hanmer well, they said--he had been at Glyndewi the summer before; he was "nice free gentleman;" and they guessed immediately the object of our pilgrimage: Glyndewi was "very much for learning;" did not gentlemen from Oxford College, and gentlemen from Cambridge College, all come there? We warned him not on any account to couple us in his mind with "Cambridge gentlemen:" we were quite a distinct species, we assured him. (They had beaten us that year in the eight-oar match on the Thames.) But there seemed no sufficient reason for disabusing their minds of the notion, that this influx of students was owing to something classical in the air of Glyndewi: indeed, supposing this theory to be wrong, it was no easy matter to substitute a sounder one. In what did the superiority of Mrs Jenkins's smoky parlour at Glyndewi consist, for the purposes of reading for a degree, compared with my pleasant rooms looking into ---- Gardens at Oxford, or the governor's snug library at home? It is an abstruse question. Parents and guardians, indeed, whose part upon the stage of life, as upon the theatrical stage, consists principally in submitting to be more or less humbugged, attribute surprising effects to a fancied absence of all amusements, with a mill-horse round of Greek, Latin, and logic, early rising, and walks in the country with a pocket Horace. From my own experience of reading parties, I should select as their peculiar characteristics, a tendency to hats and caps of such remarkable shapes, as, if once sported in the college quadrangle, would be the subject of a common-room _instanter_; and, among some individuals (whom we may call the peripatetic philosophers of the party) a predilection for seedy shooting-coats and short pipes, with which they perambulate the neighbourhood to the marvel of the aboriginal inhabitants; while those whom we may class with the stoics, display a preference for dressing-gowns and meerschaums, and confine themselves principally to the doorways and open windows of their respective lodgings. How far these "helps to knowledge"--for which Oxford certainly does not afford equal facilities--conduce to the required first or second class, is a question I do not feel competent to decide; but _if_ reading-parties _do_ succeed, the secret of their success may at least as probably lie in these hitherto unregarded phenomena.
Five hours of a fair wind brought us to Glyndewi. Here we found Hanmer and Gordon, who had taken a house for the party, and seemed already domesticated. I cannot say that we were royally lodged; the rooms were low, and the terms high; but as no one thought of taking lodgings at Glyndewi in the winter, and the rats consequently lived in them rent-free for six months, it was but fair somebody should pay: and we did. "Attendance" we had into the bargain. Now, attendance at a lodging-house has been defined to be, the privilege of ringing your bell as often as you please, provided you do not expect any one to answer it. But the bell-ropes in Mrs. Jenkins's parlours being only ornamental appendages, our privilege was confined to calling upon the landing-place for a red-headed female, who, when she did come, which was seldom, was terrible to look upon, and could only be conversed with by pantomime.
To do Mrs. Jenkins and "Gwenny" justice, they were scrupulously clean in every thing but their own persons, which, the latter's especially, seemed to have monopolised the dirt of the whole establishment. College bedrooms are not luxurious affairs, so we were not inclined to be captious on that head; and we slept soundly, and awoke with a determination to make out first voyage of discovery in a charitable spirit.
The result of our morning's stroll was the unanimous conclusion, that Glyndewi was a rising place. It did not seem inclined to rise at all at once though; but in patches here and there, with a quarter of a mile or so between, like what we read of the great sea-serpent. (I fear this individual is no more; this matter-of-fact age has been the death of him.) There were two long streets--one parallel to the quay, (or, as the more refined called it, "the terrace,") and the other at right angles to it. The first was Herring Street--the second Goose Street. At least such were the ancient names, which I give for the benefit of antiquarian readers. Since the then Princess Victoria visited B----, the loyalty of the Glyndewi people had changed "Herring" into "Victoria;" and her royal consort has since had the equivocal compliment paid him of transmuting "Goose Street" into "Albert Buildings." I trust it will not be considered disloyal to say, that the original sponsors--the geese and the herrings--seen to me to have been somewhat hardly used; having done more for their namesakes, than, as far as I can learn, their royal successors even promised.
Glyndewi was rising, however, in more respects than in the matter of taste in nomenclature. Tall houses, all front and windows, were stuck up here and there; sometimes with a low fisherman's cottage between then, whose sinking roof and bulging walls looked as if, like the frog in the fable, it had burst in the vain attempt to rival its majestic neighbour. At one end stood a large hotel with a small business, and an empty billiard-room: at the other, a wall some six inches high marked the spot where subscription-rooms were to be built for the accommodation of visitors and the public generally, as set forth in the prospectus, as soon as the visitors and the public chose to find the money. Nearly the whole of the village was the property of a gentleman who had built the hotel and billiard-room, and run up a few lodging-houses on a speculation, which seemed at best a doubtful one, of making it in time a fashionable watering-place.
Glyndewi had been recommended to us as a quiet place. It was quiet--horribly quiet. Not the quiet of green fields and deep woods, the charm of country life; but the quiet of a teetotal supper-party, or a college in vacation. "Just the place for reading: no gayety--no temptations." So I had written to tell the governor, in the ardour of my setting forth as one of a "reading-party:" alas! it was a fatal mistake. Had it been an ordinarily cheerful place, I think one or two of us could and should have read there; as it was, our whole wits were set to work to enliven its dulness. It took us as long to invent an amusement, as would have sufficed elsewhere for getting tired of half a dozen different dissipations. The very reason which made us fix upon it as a place to read in, proved in our case the source of unmitigated idleness. "No temptations" indeed! there were no temptations--the only temptation I felt there was to hang or drown myself, and there was not a tree six feet high within as many miles, and the Dewi was a river "darkly, deeply, beautifully"--muddy; it would have been smothering rather. We should not have staid to the end of the first month, had it not been for very shame; but to run away from a reading-party would have been a joke against us for ever. So from the time we got up in the morning, until we climbed Mrs Jenkins's domestic treadmill again at night, the one question was, what should we do with ourselves? Walk? there were the A---- and B---- roads--three miles of sand and dust either way. Before us was the bay--behind the ----shire mountains, up which one might walk some sixteen miles, (in the month of July,) and yet the same view from each successive point you reached: viz., a hill before you, which you thought must be the top at last, and Glyndewi--of which we knew the number of houses, and the number of windows in each--behind. Ride then? the two hacks kept by mine host of the Mynysnewydd Arms, deserve a history to themselves. Rossinante would have been ashamed to be seen grazing in the same field with such caricatures of his race. There was a board upon a house a few doors off, announcing that "pleasure and other boats" were to be let on hire. All the boats that we were acquainted with must have been the "other" ones--for they smelled of herrings, sailed at about the pace of a couple of freshmen in a "two--oar," and gave very pretty exercise--to those who were fond of it--in baling. As for reading, we were like the performers at a travelling theatre--always "going to begin."
Branling, indeed, did once shut himself up in his bedroom, as we afterwards ascertained, with a box of cigars and a black and tan terrier, and read for three weeks on end in the peculiar atmosphere thus created. Willingham of Christ Church, and myself, had what was called the dining-room in common, and proceeded so far on the third day after our arrival, as to lay out a very imposing spread of books upon all the tables; and there it remained in evidence of our good intentions, until the first time we were called upon to do the honours of an extempore luncheon. Unfortunately, from the very first, Willingham and myself were set down by Hanmer as the idle men of the party; the sort of prophetical discrimination, which tutors at Oxford are very much in the habit of priding themselves upon, tends, like other prophecies, to work its own fulfilment. Did a civil Welshman favour us with a call? "Show him in to Mr Hawthorne and Mr Willingham; I dare say they are not very busy"--quoth our _Jupiter tonans_ from on high in the dining-room, where he held his court; and accordingly in he came. We had Stilton and bottled porter in charge for these occasions from the common stock; but the honours of all these visits were exclusively our own, as far as houseroom went. In dropped the rest of the party, one by one. Hanmer himself pitched the Ethics into a corner to make room, as he said, for substantials, the froth of bottled Guiness damped the eloquence of Cicero, and Branling having twisted up my analysis of the last-read chapter into a light for his cigar, there was an end of our morning's work. How could we read? That was what we always said, and there was some truth in it.
Mr Branling's reading fit was soon over too; and having cursed the natives for barbarians, because there was not a pack of harriers within ten miles, which confirmed him in the opinion he had always expressed of their utter want of civilization, (for, as he justly remarked, not one in a dozen could even speak decent English,) he waited impatiently for September, when he had got leave from some Mr Williams or Jones, I never remembered which, to shoot over a considerable range about Glyndewi.
But with the 20th of August, a change came over the spirit of our dream. Hitherto we had seen little of any of the neighbouring families, excepting that of a Captain George Phillips, who, living only three miles off, on the bank of the river, and having three sons and two daughters, and keeping a pretty yacht, had given us a dinner party or two, and a pleasant day's sail. Capital fellows were the young Phillipses: Nature's gentlemen; unsophisticated, hearty Welshmen; lads from sixteen to twenty. Down they used to come, in a most dangerous little craft of their own, which went by the name of the "Coroner's Inquest," to smoke cigars, (against which the Captain had published an interdict at home,) and question us about Oxford larks, and tell us in return stories of wild-fowl shooting, otter hunting, and salmon fishing, in all which they were proficient.
Our establishment was not an imposing one, but of them we made no strangers. Once they came, I remember, self-invited to dinner, in a most unfortunate state of our larder. The weekly half sheep had not arrived from B----; to get any thing in Glyndewi, beyond the native luxuries of bacon and herrings, was hopeless; and our dinner happened to be a leash of fowls, of which we had just purchased a live supply. Mrs Glasse would have been in despair; we took it coolly; to the three boiled fowls at top, we added three roast ditto at bottom, and by unanimous consent of both guests and entertainers, a more excellent dinner was never put on table.
But the 20th of August! the day of the Glyndewi regatta! _that_ must have a chapter to itself.
When a dull place like Glyndewi does undertake to be gay, it seldom does things by halves. Ordinary doses of excitement fail to meet the urgency of the case. It was the fashion, it appeared, for all the country families of any pretensions to _ton_, and not a few of the idlers from the neighbouring watering-places, to be at Glyndewi for the race-week. And as far as the programme of amusements went, certainly the committee (consisting of the resident surgeon, the non-resident proprietor of the "hotel," &c., and a retired major in the H.E.I.C.'s service, called by his familiars by the endearing name of "Tiger Jones") had made a spirited attempt to meet the demand. A public breakfast, and a regatta, and a ball--a "Full Dress and Fancy Ball," the advertisement said, on the 20th a Horse-Race; and an Ordinary on the 21st; a Cricket Match, if possible, and any extra fun which the Visitors' own genius might strike out on the following days.
The little bay of Glyndewi was not a bad place for a boat-race on a small scale. The "terrace" commanded the whole of it; there were plenty of herring-boats, about equally matched in sailing deficiencies, ready and willing to "run"--_i.e._ creep--for the prizes; and an honourable member of the Yacht Club, who for some years past, for reasons which it was said his creditors could explain, had found it more convenient to keep his season at B---- than at Cowes, always paid the stewards the compliment of carrying off the "Ladies' Challenge Cup."
The two or three years' experience which the Glyndewi people had lately gained of the nature and habits of "the Oxonians," made them an article in great demand on these occasions. Mammas and daughters agreed in looking upon us as undeniable partners in the ballroom, while the sporting men booked us as safe for getting up a creditable four-oar, with a strong probability of finding a light weight willing to risk his neck and reputation at a hurdle-race. Certain it is, that from the time the races began to be seriously talked about, we began to feel ourselves invested with additional importance. "Tiger Jones" (who occupied a snug little box about a mile out of Glyndewi, where he lived upon cheroots and brandy and water) called, was exceedingly polite, apologized for not inviting us to dinner--a thing he declared impossible in his quarters--hoped we would call some day and take a lunch with him, spoke with rapture of the capital crew which "the gentlemen who were studying here last summer" had made up, and which ran away from all competitors, and expressed a fervent hope that we should do likewise.
The sporting surgeon (of course he had called upon us long ago) redoubled his attentions, begged that if any of us were cricketers we would endeavour to aid him in getting up a "Glyndewi eleven" against the "Strangers," and fixed himself upon me as an invaluable acquisition, when he found I had actually once played in a match against Marylebone. (I did not tell him that the total score of my innings was "_one_.") Would I, then, at once take the drilling of as many recruits as he could get together? And would Mr Willingham and Mr Gordon, who "used to play at school," get up their practice again? (It wanted about a fortnight to the races.) The result of this, and sundry other interviews, was, that Branling at length found a vent for the _vis inertiæ_ in putting us all, with the exception of Mr Sydney Dawson, whom he declared to be so stiff in the back that he had no hope of him, into training for a four-oar; and the surgeon and myself set off in his gig for B----, to purchase materials for cricket.
It is true, that our respected tutor did look more than usually grave, and shook his head with a meaning almost as voluminous as Lord Burleigh's, when informed of our new line of study. Rowing he declared to be a most absurd expenditure of time and strength; he never could see the fun of men breaking bloodvessels, and getting plucked for their degree, for the honour of "the Trinity Boat." But the cricket touched him on the raw. He was an old Etonian, and had in his time been a good player; and was now as active as any stout gentleman of seven-and-thirty, who had been twelve years a steady admirer of bursary dinners and common-room port. So, after some decent scruples on his part, and some well-timed compliments touching his physical abilities on ours, (he was much vainer of the muscle of his arm than of his high reputation as a scholar,) we succeeded in drawing from him a sort of promise, that if we were so foolish as to get up a match, he would try whether he had forgot all about bowling.
For the next fortnight, therefore, we had occupation enough cut out for us. Branling was unmerciful in his practice on the river; and considering that two of us had never pulled an oar but in the slowest of "Torpids," we improved surprisingly under his tuition. The cricket, too, was quite a new era in our existence. Davson (we told him that the "Sydney" must be kept for Sundays) was a perfect fund of amusement in his zealous practice. He knew as much about the matter as a cow might, and was rather less active. But if perseverance could have made a cricketer, he would have turned out a first-rate one. Not content with two or three hours of it every fine evening, when we all sallied down to the marsh, followed by every idler in Glyndewi, he used to disappear occasionally in the mornings, and for some days puzzled us as to where and how he disposed of himself. We had engaged, in our corporate capacity, the services of a most original retainer, who cleaned boots, fetched the beer, eat the cold mutton, and made himself otherwise useful when required. He was amphibious in his habits, having been a herring-fisher the best part of his life; but being a martyr to the rheumatism, which occasionally screwed him up into indescribable forms, had betaken himself to earning a precarious subsistence as he could on shore. It was not often that we required his services between breakfast and luncheon, but one morning, after having dispatched Gwenny in all directions to hunt for Bill Thomas in vain, we at last elicited from her that "may-be she was gone with Mr Dawson." Then it came out, to our infinite amusement, that Dawson was in the habit, occasionally, of impressing our factotum Bill to carry bat, stumps, and ball down to the marsh, and there commencing private practice on his own account.
Mr Sydney Dawson and Bill Thomas--the sublime and the ridiculous--amalgamating at cricket, was far too good a joke to lose; so we got Hanmer to cut his lecture short, and come down with us to the scene of action. From the cover of a sandbank, we had a view of all that was going on in the plain below. There was our friend at the wicket, with his coat off, and the grey spectacles on, in an attitude which it must have taken him some study to accomplish, and Bill, with the ball in his hand, vociferating "Plaiy." A ragged urchin behind the wicket, attempting to bag the balls as Dawson missed them in what had once been a hat, and Sholto looking on with an air of mystification, completed the picture.
"That's too slow," said Sydney, as Bill, after some awful contortions, at length delivered himself of what he called "a cast." "_Diawl!_" said Bill, _sotto voce_, as he again got possession of the ball. "That's too high," was the complaint, as with an extraordinary kind of jerk, it flew some yards over the batsman's head, and took what remained of the crown out of the little lazzaroni's hat behind. "_Diawl!_" quoth Bill again, apologetically, "She got too much way on her that time." Bill was generally pretty wide of his mark, and great appeared to be the satisfaction of all parties when Dawson contrived to make a hit, and Sholto and the boy set off after the ball, while the striker leaned with elegant _nonchalance_ upon his bat, and Bill mopped his face, and gave vent to a complimentary varety of "Diawl." It was really a pity to interrupt the performance; but we did at last. Bill looked rather ashamed of his share in the business when he saw "Mishtar," as he called Hanmer; but Dawson's self-complacency and good-humour carried him through every thing. "By Jove," said Willingham to him, "no wonder you improve in your style of play; Bill has no bad notion of bowling, has he?" "Why, no; he does very well for practice; and he is to have half-a-crown if he gets me out." "Bowl at his legs, Bill," said Willingham aside, "he's out, you know, if you hit them." "Nay," said Bill, with a desponding shake of the head, "She squat'n hard on the knee now just, and made'n proper savage, but I wasn't get nothing for that."
Positively we did more in the way of reading after the boating and the cricket began, than while we continued in a state of vagrant idleness, without a fixed amusement of any kind. In the first place, it was necessary to conciliate Hanmer by some show of industry in the morning, in order to keep him in good humour for the cricket in the evening; for he was decidedly the main hope of our having any thing like a decent eleven. Secondly, the Phillipses took to dining early at home, and coming to practice with us in the evening, instead of dropping down the river every breezy morning, and either idling in our rooms, or beguiling us out mackerel-fishing or flapper-shooting in their boat. And thirdly, it became absolutely necessary that we should do something, if class lists and examiners had any real existence, and were not mere bugbears invented by "alma mater" to instil a wholesome terror into her unruly progeny. Really, when one compared our actual progress with the Augean labour which was to be gone through, it required a large amount of faith to believe that we were all "going up for honours in October."
We spent a very pleasant morning at Llyn-eiros, the den of "Tiger Jones." He obtained this somewhat appalling soubriquet from a habit of spinning yarns, more marvellous than his unwarlike neighbours were accustomed to, of the dangers encountered in his Indian sports; and one in particular, of an extraordinary combat between his "chokedar" and a tiger--whether the gist of the story lay in the tiger's eating the chokedar, or the chokedar eating the tiger, I am not sure--I rather think the latter. However, in Wales one is always glad to have some distinguishing appellation to prefix to the name of Jones. If a man's godfathers and godmothers have the forethought to christen him "Mountstewart Jones," or "Fitzhardinge Jones," (I knew such instances of cognominal anticlimax,) then it was all very well--no mistake about the individuality of such fortunate people. But "Tom Joneses" and "Bob Joneses" were no individuals at all. They were classes, and large classes; and had to be again distinguished into "Little Bob Joneses" and "Long Bob Joneses." Or if there happened to be nothing sufficiently characteristic in the personal appearance of the rival Joneses, then was he fortunate who had no less complimentary additions to his style and title than what might be derived from the name of his location, or the nature of his engagements. These honours were often hereditary--nay, sometimes descended in the female line. We hear occasionally, in England, of "Mrs Doctor Smith," and "Mrs Major Brown;" and absurd as it is, one does comprehend by intuition that it was the gentleman and not the lady who was the ten-year man at Cambridge, or the commandant of the Boggleton yeomanry; but few besides a Welshman would have learned, without a smile, that "Mrs Jones the officer" was the relict of the late tide-waiter at Glyndewi, or that the quiet, modest little daughter of the town-clerk of B---- was known to her intimates as "Miss Jones the lawyer." Luckily our friend the Tiger was a bachelor; it would have been alarming to a nervous stranger at the Glyndewi ball, upon enquiring the name of the young lady with red hair and cat's eyes, to have been introduced incontinently to "Miss Jones the tiger."
The Tiger himself was a well-disposed animal; somewhat given to solitary prowling, like his namesakes in a state of nature, but of most untiger-like and facetious humour. He generally marched into Glyndewi after an early breakfast, and from that time until he returned to his "mutton" at five, might be seen majestically stalking up and down the extreme edge of the terrace, looking at the fishing-boats, and shaking--_not_ his tail, for, as all stout gentlemen seem to think it their duty to do by the sea-side, he wore a round jacket. From the time that we began our new pursuits, he took to us amazingly--called us his "dear lads"--offered bets to any amount that we should beat the B----Cutter Club, and protested that he never saw finer bowling at Lord's than Hanmer's.
Branling was in delight. He had found a man who would smoke with him all day, (report said, indeed, that the Tiger regularly went to sleep with a cheroot in his mouth,) and he had the superintending of "the boat," which was his thought from morning to night. A light gig, that had once belonged to the custom-house, was polished and painted under his special directions, (often did we sigh for one of King's worst "fours!") and the fishermen marvelled at such precocious nautical talent.
None of these, however--great events as they were in our hitherto monotonous sojourn--were the "crowning mercy" of the Glyndewi regatta. Hitherto the sunshine of bright eyes, and the breath of balmy lips, had been almost as much unknown to us as if we had been still within the monastic walls of Oxford. We had dined in a body at our friend the surgeon's: he was a bachelor. We had been invited by two's and three's at a time to a Welsh squire's in the neighbourhood, who had two maiden sisters, and a fat, good-humoured wife. Captain Phillips had given us a spread more than once at Craig-y-gerron, and, of course, some of us (I was not so fortunate) had handed in the Misses Phillips to dinner; but the greater part of the time from six till eleven (at which hour Hanmer always ordered out our "_trap_") was too pleasantly occupied in discussing the captain's port and claret, and laughing at his jokes, to induce us to give much time or attention to the ladies in the drawing-room. If some of my fair readers exclaim against this stoic (or rather epicurean) indifference, it may gratify their injured vanity to know, that in the sequel some of us paid for it.
The Phillipses came down in full force, the day before the regatta; they were engaged to lunch with us, and, as it was the first time that the ladies of the party had honoured us with a visit, we spared no pains to make our entertainment somewhat more _recherché_ than was our wont. It was then that I first discovered that Clara Phillips was beautiful. I am not going to describe her now; I never could have described her. All I knew, and all I remember, was, that for a long time afterwards I formed my standard of what a woman ought to be, by unconscious comparison with what she was. What colour her eyes were, was a question among us at the time. Willingham swore they were grey; Dawson insisted that they were hazel; Branling, to whom they referred the point, was inclined to think there was, "something green" in them. But that they were eyes of no common expression, all of us were agreed. I think at least half the party were more than half in love with her when that race-week was over. In one sense it was not her fault if we were; for a girl more thoroughly free from every species of coquetry, and with less of that pitiful ambition of making conquests, which is the curse of half the sex, it was impossible to meet with. But she was to blame for it too, in another way; for to know her, and not love her, would have been a reproach to any man. Lively and good-humoured, with an unaffected buoyancy of spirits, interesting herself in all that passed around her, and unconscious of the interest she herself excited, no wonder that she seemed to us like an angel sent to cheer us in our house of bondage. Of her own family she was deservedly the darling; even Dick Phillips, whom three successive tutors had given up in despair, became the most docile of pupils under his sister Clara; accustomed early to join her brothers in all out-door sports, she was an excellent horsewoman, a fearless sailor, and an untiring explorer of mountains and waterfalls, without losing her naturally feminine character, or becoming in any degree a hoyden or a romp. She sang the sweet national airs of Wales with a voice whose richness of tone was only second to its power of expression. She did every thing with the air of one who, while delighting others, is conscious only of delighting herself; and never seeking admiration, received it as gracefully as it was ungrudgingly bestowed.
If there is one form of taking exercise which I really hate, it is what people call dancing. I am passionately fond of music; but why people should conceive it necessary to shuffle about in all varieties of awkwardness, in order to enjoy it to their satisfaction, has been, is, and probably will ever be, beyond my comprehension. It is all very well for young ladies on the look-out for husbands to affect a fondness for dancing: in the first place, some women dance gracefully, and even elegantly, and show themselves off undoubtedly to advantage; (if any exhibition on a woman's part be an advantage;) then it gives an excuse for whispering, and squeezing of hands, and stealing flowers, and a thousand nameless skirmishings preparatory to what they are endeavouring to bring about--an engagement; but for a man to be fond of shuffling and twirling himself out of the dignity of step which nature gave him--picking his way through a quadrille, like a goose upon hot bricks, or gyrating like a bad tee-totum in what English fashionables are pleased to term a "valse," I never see a man thus occupied, without a fervent desire to kick him. "What a Goth!" I hear a fair reader of eighteen, prettily ejaculate--"thank Heaven, that all men have not such barbarous ideas! Why, I would go fifty miles to a good ball!" Be not alarmed, my dear young lady; give me but a moment to thank Providence, in my turn, that you are neither my sister nor my daughter, and will promise you, that you shall never be my wife.
On the Saturday night then, I made Gordon and Willingham both very cross, and caught Sydney Dawson's eye looking over his spectacles with supreme contempt, when I declared my decided intention of staying at home the night of the ball. Even the Reverend Robert Hanmer, who was going himself, was annoyed when Gordon told him of what he called my wilfulness, having a notion that it was decidedly disrespectful in any of us, either to go when he did _not_, or to decline going, when he _did_.
On the Tuesday morning, I sent to B---- for white kids. Gordon looked astonished, Hanmer was glad that I had "taken his advice," and Willingham laughed outright; he had overheard Clara Phillips ask me to dance with her. Men _are_ like green gooseberries--very green ones; women _do_ make fools of them, and a comparatively small proportion of sugar, in the shape of flattery, is sufficient.
Two days before the regatta, there marched into Mrs Jenkins's open doorway, a bewildered looking gentleman, shaking off the dust from his feet in testimony of having had a long walk, and enquiring for Hanmer. Gwenny, with her natural grace, trotted up stairs before him, put her head in at the "drawing-room" door, (she seemed always conscious that the less one saw of her person the better,) and having announced briefly, but emphatically, "a gentlemans," retreated. Hanmer had puzzled himself and me, by an attempt to explain a passage which Aristotle, of course, would have put in plainer language, if he had known what he meant himself--but modern philosophers are kind enough to help him out occasionally--when the entrance of the gentleman in dust cut the Gordian knot, and saved the Stagyrite from the disgrace of having a pretty bit of esoteric abstruseness translated into common sense.
(What a blessing would it be for Dr ----, and Professor ----, if they might be allowed to mystify their readers in Greek! though, to do them justice, they have turned the Queen's English to good account for that purpose, and have produced passages which first-class men, at an Athenian University, might possibly construe, but which the whole board of sophists might be defied to explain.)
The _deus ex machinâ_--the gentleman on, or rather off the tramp--who arrived thus opportunely, was no less a person than the Reverend George Plympton, Fellow of Oriel, &c. &c. &c. He was an intimate friend of our worthy tutor's; if the friendship between Oxford dons can be called intimacy. They compared the merits of their respective college cooks three or four times a term, and contended for the superior vintage of the common-room port. They played whist together; walked arm-in-arm round Christchurch meadow; and knew the names of all the old incumbents in each other's college-list, and the value of the respective livings. Mr Plympton and a friend had been making a walking tour of North Wales; that is, they walked about five miles, stared at a mountain, or a fall, or an old castle, as per guide-book, and then coached it to the next point, when the said book set down that "the Black Dog was an excellent inn," or that "travellers would find every accommodation at Mrs Price's of the Wynnstay Arms." Knowing that Hanmer was to be found at Glyndewi, Mr Plympton left his friend at B----, where the salmon was unexceptionable, and had completed the most arduous day's walk in his journal, nearly thirteen miles, in a state of dust and heat far from agreeable to a stoutish gentleman of forty, who usually looked as spruce as if he came out of a band-box. Hanmer and he seemed really glad to see each other. On those "oxless" shores, where, as Byron says, "beef was rare," though
"Goat's flesh there was, no doubt, and kid, and mutton,"
the tender reminiscences of far-off Gaude days and Bursary dinners, that must have arisen in the hearts of each, were enough to make their meeting almost an affecting one. Hanmer must have blushed, I think, though far from his wont, when he asked Mr Plympton if he could feed with us at four upon--hashed mutton! (We consumed nearly a sheep per week, and exhausted our stock of culinary ideas, as well as our landlady's patience, in trying to vary the forms in which it was to appear; not having taken the precaution, as some Cambridge men did at B----s one vacation, to bespeak a French cook at a rather higher salary than the mathematical tutor's.[A]) Probably, however, Mr Plympton's unusual walk made him more anxious about the quantity than the quality of his diet, for he not only attacked the mutton like an Etonian, but announced his intention of staying with us over the ball, if a bed was to be had, and sending to B---- for his decorations. He was introduced in due form to the Phillipses the next day, and in the number and elegance of his bows, almost eclipsed Mr Sydney Dawson, whom Clara never ceased to recommend to her brothers as an example of politeness.
Bright dawned the morning of the 20th of August, the first of the "three glorious days" of Glyndewi. As people came to these races really for amusement, the breakfast was fixed for the very unfashionable hour of ten, in order not to interfere with the main business of the day--the regatta. Before half-past, the tables at the Mynysnewydd Arms were filled with what the _----shire Herald_ termed "a galaxy of beauty and fashion." But every one seemed well aware, that there were far more substantial attractions present, meant to fill not the tables only, but the guests. The breakfast was by no means a matter of form. People had evidently come with more serious intentions, than merely to display new bonnets, and trifle with grapes and peaches. Sea-air gives a whet to even a lady's appetite, and if the performances that morning were any criterion of the effects of that of Glyndewi, the new Poor Law Commissioners, in forming their scale of allowances, must really have reported it a "special case." The fair Cambrians, in short, played very respectable knives and forks--made no bones--or rather nothing but bones--of the chickens, and ate kippered salmon like Catholics. You caught a bright eye gazing in your direction with evident interest--"Would you have the kindness to cut that pasty before you for a lady?" You almost overheard a tender whisper from the gentleman opposite to the pretty girl beside him. She blushes and gently remonstrates. Again his lip almost touches her cheek in earnest persuasion--yes! she is consenting--to another _little_ slice of ham! As for the jolly Welsh squires themselves, and their strapping heirs-apparent, (you remember that six-foot-four man surely, number six of the Jesus boat)--now that the ladies have really done, and the waiters have brought in the relays of brandered chickens and fresh-caught salmon, which mine host, who has had some experience of his customers, has most liberally provided--they set to work in earnest. They have been only politely trifling hitherto with the wing of a fowl or so, to keep the ladies' company. But now, as old Captain Phillips, at the head of the table, cuts a slice and a joke alternately, and the Tiger at the bottom begins to let out his carnivorous propensities, one gets to have an idea what breakfast means. "Let me advise you, my dear Mr Dawson--as a friend--you'll excuse an old stager--if you have no particular wish to starve yourself--you've had nothing yet but two cups of tea--to help yourself, and let your neighbours do the same. You may keep on cutting Vauxhall shavings for those three young Lloyds till Michaelmas; pass the ham down to them, and hand me those devilled kidneys."
"Tea? no; thank you; I took a cup yesterday, and haven't been myself since. Waiter! don't you see this tankard's empty?"
"Consume you, Dick Phillips! I left two birds in that pie five minutes back, and you've cleared it out!"
"Diawl, John Jones, I was a fool to look into a tankard after you!"
Every thing has an end, and so the breakfast had at last; and we followed the ladies to the terrace to watch the sailing for the ladies' challenge cup. By the help of a glass we could see three yachts, with about half-a-mile between each, endeavouring to get round a small boat with a man and a flag in it, which, as the wind was about the worst they could have had for the purpose, seemed no easy matter. There was no great interest in straining one's eyes after them, so I found out the Phillipses, and having told Dawson, who was escorting Clara, that Hanmer was looking for him to make out the list of "the eleven," I was very sorry indeed when the sound of a gun announced that the Hon. H. Chouser's Firefly had won the cup, and that the other two yachts might be expected in the course of half-an-hour. Nobody waited for them, of course. The herring boats, after a considerable deal of what I concluded from the emphasis to be swearing in Welch, in which, however, Captain Phillips, who was umpire, seemed to have decidedly the advantage in variety of terms and power of voice, were pronounced "ready," and started by gunfire accordingly. A rare start they made of it. The great ambition of every man among them seemed to be to prevent the boats next in the line from starting at all. It was a general fouling match, and the jabbering was terrific. At last, the two outside boats, having the advantage of a clear berth on one side, got away, and made a pretty race of it, followed by such of the rest as could by degrees extricate themselves from the mêlée.
But now was to come our turn. Laden with all manner of good wishes, we hoisted a bit of dark-blue silk for the honour of Oxford, and spurted under the terrace to our starting-place. The only boat entered against us was the Dolphin, containing three stout gentlemen and a thin one, members of the B---- Cutter Club, who evidently looked upon pulling as no joke. Branling gave us a steady stroke, and Cotton of Balliol steered us admirably; the rest did as well as they could. The old boys had a very pretty boat--ours was a tub--but we beat them. They gave us a stern-chase for the first hundred yards, for I cut a crab at starting; but we had plenty of pluck, and came in winners by a length. Of course we were the favourites--the "Dolphins" were all but one married--and hearty were the congratulations with which we were greeted on landing. Clara Phillips' eyes had a most dangerous light in them, as she shook hands with our noble captain, who was in a terrible hurry, however, to get away, and hunting every where for "that d----d Dawson," who had promised to have Bill Thomas in readiness with "the lush." So I was compelled to stay with her and give an account of the race, which she perfectly understood, and be soundly scolded by the prettiest lips in the world for my awkwardness, which she declared she never could have forgiven if it had lost the race.
"You will come to the ball, then, Mr Hawthorne?"
"Am I not to dance with you?"
"Yes, if you behave well, and don't tease Mr Sydney Dawson: he is a great favourite of mine, and took great care of me this morning at breakfast."
"Well, then, for your sake, Miss Phillips, I will be particularly civil to him; but I assure you, Dawson is like the fox that took a pride in being hunted; he considers our persecution of him as the strongest evidence of his own superiority; and if you seriously undertake to patronize him he will become positively unbearable."
The regatta over, we retired to make a hurried dinner, and to dress for the ball. This, with some of our party, was a serious business. Willingham and Dawson were going in fancy dresses. The former was an admirable personification of Dick Turpin, standing upwards of six feet, and broadly built, and becoming his picturesque costume as if it were his everyday suit, he strutted before Mrs Jenkins's best glass, which Hanmer charitably gave up for his accommodation, with a pardonable vanity. Dawson had got a lancer's uniform from his London tailor; but how to get into it was a puzzle; it was delightful to see his attempts to unravel the gorgeous mysteries which were occupying every available spot in his dingy bedroom. The shako was the main stumbling-block. Being unfortunately rather small, it was no easy matter to keep it on his head at all; and how to dispose of the cap-lines was beyond our united wisdom. "Go without it, man," said Branling: "people don't want hats in a ballroom. You can never dance with that thing on your head."
"Oh, but the head-dress is always worn at a fancy-ball, you know, and I can take it off if I like to dance."
At last, the idea struck us of employing the five or six yards of gold cord that had so puzzled us, in securing shako and plume in a perpendicular position. This at length accomplished, by dint of keeping himself scrupulously upright, Mr Sydney Dawson majestically walked down stairs.
Now, there happened to be at that time residing in Glyndewi an old lady, "of the name and cousinage" of Phillips, who, though an old maid, was one of those unhappily rare individuals who do not think it necessary to rail against those amusements which they are no longer in a situation to enjoy. She was neither as young, nor as rich, nor as light-hearted, as she had been; but it was difficult to imagine that she could ever have been more truly cheerful and happy than she seemed now. So, instead of cutting short every sally of youthful spirits, and every dream of youthful happiness, by sagacious hints of cares and troubles to come, she rather lent her aid to further every innocent enjoyment among her younger friends; feeling, as she said, that the only pity was, that young hearts grew old so soon. The consequence was, that instead of exacting a forced deference from her many nephews and nieces, (so are first cousins' children called in Wales,) she was really loved and esteemed by them all, and while she never wished to deprive them of an hour's enjoyment, they would willingly give up a pleasant party at any time to spend an evening with the old lady, and enliven her solitude with the sounds she best loved--the music of youthful voices.
All among her acquaintance, therefore, who were going to the ball in fancy costume, had promised to call upon her, whether in or out of their way, to "show themselves," willing to make her a partaker, as far as they could, of the amusement of the evening. Captain Phillips had asked us if we would oblige him, and gratify a kind old woman, by allowing him to introduce us in our fancy dresses. I had none, and therefore did not form part of the exhibition; but Dick Turpin and the cornet of lancers, with Branling in a full hunting costume, (which always formed part of his travelling baggage,) walked some fifty yards to the old lady's lodgings. Mr Plympton, always polite, accepted Captain Phillips's invitation to be introduced at the same time. Now Mr Plympton, as was before recorded, was a remarkably dapper personage; wore hair powder, a formidably tall and stiff white "choker," and upon all occasions of ceremony, black shorts and silks, with gold buckles. Remarkably upright and somewhat pompous in his gait, and abominating the free-and-easy manners of the modern school, his bow would have graced the court of Versailles, and his step was a subdued minuet. Equipped with somewhat more than his wonted care, the rev. junior bursar of Oriel was introduced into Mrs Phillips's little drawing-room, accompanying, and strongly contrasting with, three gentlemen in scarlet and gold. Hurriedly did the good old lady seize her spectacles, and rising to receive her guests with a delighted curtsy, scan curiously for a few moments Turpin's athletic proportions, and the fox-hunter's close-fitting leathers and tops. As for Dawson, he stood like the clear-complexioned and magnificently-whiskered officer, who silently invites the stranger to enter the doors of Madame Tussaud's wax exhibition; not daring to bow for fear of losing his beloved shako, but turning his head from side to side as slowly, and far less naturally, than the waxen gentleman aforementioned. All, in their several ways, were worthy of admiration, and all did she seem to admire; but it was when her eye rested at last on the less showy, but equally characteristic figure in black, who stood bowing his acknowledgments of the honour of the interview, with an _empressement_ which fully made up for Dawson's forced _hauteur_--that her whole countenance glistened with intense appreciation of the joke, and the very spectacles danced with glee. Again did she make the stranger her most gracious curtsy; again did Mr Plympton, as strongly as a bow could do it, declare how entirely he was at her service: he essayed to speak, but before a word escaped his lips, the old lady fairly burst out into a hearty laugh, clapped her hands, and shouted to his astonished ears, "Capital, capital! do it again! oh, do it again!" For a moment the consternation depicted upon Mr Plympton's countenance at this remarkable reception, extended to the whole of his companions; but the extraordinary sounds which proceeded from Captain Phillips, in the vain attempt to stifle the laugh that was nearly choking him, were too much for the gravity of even the polite Mr Dawson; and it was amidst the violent application of pocket-handkerchiefs in all possible ways, that the captain stepped forward with the somewhat tardy announcement, "My dear aunt, allow me to present the Rev. Mr Plympton, Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College." This was accompanied by a wink and an attempt at a frown, intended to convey the strongest reprobation of the old lady's proceedings; but which, upon the features of the good captain, whose risible muscles were still rebellious, had any thing but a serious effect. "Indeed!" said she, curtsying yet more profoundly in return for another bow. "How do you do, sir? Oh, he is beautiful, isn't he?" half-aside to Willingham, who was swallowing as much as he could of the butt of his whip. Poor Mr Plympton looked aghast at the compliment. Branling fairly turned his back, and burst from the room, nearly upsetting Hanmer and myself; who, having waited below some time for our party to join us, had made our way upstairs to ascertain the cause of the unusual noises which reached us from the open door of the drawing-room. Dawson was shaking with reckless disregard of the safety of his head-dress, and the captain in an agony between his natural relish for a joke and his real good breeding. "Aunt Martha, this is a clergyman, a friend of Mr Hanmer's, who is on a visit here, and whom I introduce to you, because I know you will like him." Mr Plympton commenced a fresh series of bows, in which there was, perhaps, less gallantry and more dignity than usual, looking all the time as comfortable as a gentleman might do who was debating with himself whether the probabilities, as regarded the old lady's next movements, lay on the side of kissing or scratching. Mrs Martha Phillips herself commenced an incoherent apology about "expecting to see four young gentlemen in fancy dresses;" and Hanmer and the captain tried all they could to laugh off a _contretemps_, which to explain was impossible. What the old lady took Mr Plympton for, and what Mr Plympton thought of her, were questions which, so far as I know, no one ventured to ask. He left Glyndewi the next morning, but the joke, after furnishing us with a never-failing fund of ludicrous reminiscence for the rest of our stay, followed him to the Oriel common-room, and was an era in the dulness of that respectable symposium.
Dancing had begun in good earnest when we arrived at the ballroom. There was the usual motley assemblage of costumes of all nations under the sun, and some which the sun, when he put down the impudence of the wax-lights upon his return the next morning, must have marvelled to behold. Childish as it may be called, a fancy ball is certainly, for the first half-hour at all events, an amusing scene. Willingham and myself stood a little inside the doorway for some moments, he enjoying the admiring glances which his tine figure and picturesque costume were well calculated to call forth, and I vainly endeavouring to make out Clara's figure amidst the gay dresses, and well-grown proportions, of the pretty Cambrians who flitted past. Sounds of expostulation and entreaty, mingled with a laugh which we knew to be Branling's, in the passage outside, disturbed both our meditations, and at last induced me to turn my eyes unwillingly to the open door. Branling was leaning against it in a fit of uncontrollable mirth, and beckoned us earnestly to join him. Outside stood Dawson, stamping with vexation, and endeavouring to undo the complex machinery which had hitherto secured his shako in an erect position. He was in the unfortunate predicament of Dr S----'s candelabrum, which, presented to him as a testimony of respect from his grateful pupils, was found by many feet too large to be introduced into any room in the Dr's comparatively humble habitation, and stood for some time in the manufacturer's show-room in testimony of the fact, that public acknowledgments of merit are _sometimes_ made on too large a scale. Architects who give measurements for ordinary doorways, do not contemplate such emergencies as testimonial candelabrums or irremoveable caps and plumes: and the door of the Glyndewi ballroom had no notion of accommodating a lancer in full dress who could not even be civil enough to take off his hat. So there stood our friend, impatient to display his uniform, and unwilling to lessen the effect of his first appearance by doffing so important a part of his costume: to get through the door, in the rigid inflexibility of head and neck which he had hitherto maintained, was a manifest impossibility: Branling had suggested his staying outside, and he would undertake to bring people to look at him: but Dawson, for some unaccountable reason, was usually suspicious of advice from that quarter; so he "stooped to conquer" and lost all. The shako tumbled from its precarious perch, and hung ignobly suspended by the cap-lines. A lancer with a pair of grey spectacles, and a shako hanging round his neck, would have been a very fancy dress indeed: so he was endeavouring, at the risk of choking himself, to disentangle, by main force, the complication of knots which we had woven with some dim hope of the result. In vain did we exhort him to take it patiently, and remind him how preposterous it was to expect, that what had taken our united ingenuity half an hour to arrange "to please him," could be undone in a minute. "Cut the cursed things, can't you?" implored he. No one had a knife. "I do believe Branling, you are tying that knot tighter: I had much rather not have your assistance." Branling protested his innocence. At last we did release him, and he entered the room with a look most appropriately crest-fallen, shako in hard, solacing himself by displaying its glories as well as could be effected by judicious changes of its position.
I soon found Clara, looking more radiantly beautiful than ever I had seen her, in a sweet dress of Stuart tartan. I had to make my apologies, which were most sincerely penitent ones, for not being in time to claim my privilege of dancing the first quadrille with her. She smiled at my evident earnestness, and good-humouredly added, that the next would be a much more pleasant dance, as the room was now beginning to fill. It was a pleasant dance as she said: and the waltz that followed still more delightful: and then Clara, with a blush and a laugh, declined my pressing entreaties until after supper at all events. I refused her good-natured offer of an introduction to "that pretty girl in blue" or any other among the stars of the night: and sat down, or leant against the wall, almost unconsciously watching her light step, and sternly resisting all attempts on the part of my acquaintances to persuade me to dance again. Of course all the dancing characters among our party were Clara's partners in succession; and both Gordon and Dawson, who came to ask what had put me into the sulks, were loud in their encomiums on her beauty and fascination; even Branling, no very devoted admirer of the sex, (he saw too much of them, he said, having four presentable sisters,) allowed that she was "the right sort of girl;" but it was not until I saw her stand up with Willingham, and marked his evident admiration of her, and heard the remarks freely made around me, that they were the handsomest couple in the room, that I felt a twinge of what I would hardly allow to myself was jealousy: when, however, after the dance, they passed me in laughing conversation, evidently in high good humour with each other, and too much occupied to notice any one else, I began to wonder I had never before found out what a conceited puppy Willingham was, and set down poor Clara as an arrant flirt. But I was in a variable mood, it seemed, and a feather--or, what some may say is even lighter, a woman's word--was enough to turn me. So when I found myself, by some irresistible attraction, drawn next to her again at supper, and heard her sweet voice, and saw what I interpreted into a smile of welcome, as she made room for me beside her, I forgave her all past offences, and was perfectly happy for the next hour: nay, even condescended to challenge Willingham to a glass of _soi-disant_ champagne. The Tiger, who was, according to annual custom, displaying the tarnished uniform of the 3d Madras N. I., and illustrating his tremendous stories of the siege of Overabad, or some such place, by attacks on all the edibles in his neighbourhood, gave me a look of intelligence as he requested I would "do him the honour," and shook his whiskers with some meaning which I did not think it necessary to enquire into. What was it to him if I chose to confine my attentions to my undoubtedly pretty neighbour? No one could dispute my taste, at all events; for Clara Phillips was a universal favourite, though I had remarked that none of the numerous "eligible young men" in the room appeared about her in the character of a dangler. She was engaged to Willingham for the waltz next after supper, and I felt queerish again, till she willingly agreed to dance the next set with me, on condition that I would oblige her so far as to ask a friend of hers to be my partner in the mean time. "She is a very nice girl, Mr. Hawthorne, though, perhaps, not one of the _belles_ of the room, and has danced but twice this evening, and it will be so kind in you to ask her--only don't do it upon my introduction, but let Major Jones introduce you as if at your own request." Let no one say that vanity, jealousy, and all those pretty arts by which woman wrongs her better nature, are the rank growth necessarily engendered by the vitiated air of a ballroom; rooted on the same soil, warmed by the same sunshine, fed by the same shower, one plant shall bear the antidote and one the poison: one kind and gentle nature shall find exercise for all its sweetest qualities in those very scenes which, in another, shall foster nothing but heartless coquetry or unfeminine display. Never did Clara seem so lovely in mind and person as when she drew upon her own attractions to give pleasure to her less gifted friend; and I suppose, I must have thrown into the tone of my reply something of what I felt; for she blushed, uttered a hasty "I thank you," and told Willingham it was time to take their places. I sought and obtained the introduction, and endeavoured, for Clara's sake, to be an agreeable partner to the quiet little girl beside me. One subject of conversation, at all events, we hit upon, where we seemed both at home; and if I felt some hesitation in saying all I thought of Clara, my companion had none, but told me how much every body loved her, and how much she deserved to be loved. It was really so much easier to draw my fair partner out on this point than any other that I excused myself for being so eager a listener; and, when we parted, to show my gratitude in what I conceived the most agreeable way, I begged permission to introduce Mr. Sydney Dawson, and thus provided her with what, I dare say, she considered a most enviable partner. I had told Dawson she was a very clever girl; (he was fond of what he called "talented women," and had a delusive notion that he was himself a genius:) he had the impertinence to tell me afterwards he found her rather stupid; I ought, perhaps, to have given him the key-note. During the dance which followed, I remember I was silent and _distrait_; and when it was over, and Clara told me she was positively engaged for more sets than she should dance again, I left the ballroom, and wandered feverishly along the quay to our lodgings. I remember persuading myself, by a syllogistic process, that I was not in love, and dreaming that I was anxiously reading the class-list, in which it seemed unaccountable that my name should be omitted, till I discovered, on a second perusal, that just about the centre of the first class, where "Hawthorne, Franciscus, e. Coll--" ought to have come in, stood in large type the name of "CLARA PHILLIPS."
The races, which occupied the morning of the next day, were as stupid as country races usually are, except that the Welshmen had rather more noise about it. The guttural shouts and yells from the throats of tenants and other dependents, as the "mishtur's" horse won or lost, and the extraordinary terms in which they endeavoured to encourage the riders, were amusing even to a stranger, though one lost the point of the various sallies which kept the course in one continued roar. As to the running, every body--that is, all the sporting world--knew perfectly well, long before the horses started, which was to win; that appearing to be the result of some private arrangement between the parties interested, while the "racing" was for the benefit of the strangers and the ladies. Those of the latter who had fathers, or brothers, or, above all, lovers, among the knowing ones, won divers pairs of gloves on the occasion, while those who were not so fortunate, lost them.
I fancied that Clara was not in her usual spirits on the race-course, and she pleaded a headach as an excuse to her sister for ordering the carriage to drive home long before the "sport" was over. If I had thought the said sport stupid before, it did not improve in attraction after her departure; and, when the jumping in sacks, and climbing up poles, and other callisthenic exercises began, feeling a growing disgust for "things in general," I resisted the invitation of a mamma and three daughters, to join themselves and Mr Dawson in masticating some sandwiches which looked very much like "relics of joy" from last night's supper, and sauntered home, and sat an hour over a cigar and a chapter of ethics. As the clock struck five, remembering that the Ordinary hour was six, I called at the Phillips' lodgings to enquire for Clara. She was out walking with her sister; so I returned to dress in a placid frame of mind, confident that I should meet her at dinner.
For it was an Ordinary for ladies as well as gentlemen. A jovial Welsh baronet sat at the head of the table, with the two ladies of highest "consideration"--the county member's wife and the would-have-been member's daughter--on his right and left; nobody thought of politics at the Glyndewi regatta. Clara was there; but she was escorted into the room by some odious man, who, in virtue of having been made high-sheriff by mistake, sat next Miss Anti-reform on the chairman's left. The natives were civil enough to marshal us pretty high up by right of strangership, but still I was barely near enough to drink wine with her.
If a man wants a good dinner, a hearty laugh, an opportunity of singing songs and speech-making, and can put up with indifferent wine, let him go to the race Ordinary at Glyndewi next year, if it still be among the things which time has spared. There was nothing like stiffness or formality: people came there for amusement, and they knew that the only way to get it was to make it for themselves. There seemed to be fun enough for half-a-dozen of the common run of such dinners, even while the ladies remained. It was, as Hanmer called it, an _extra_-ordinary. But it was when the ladies had retired, and Hanmer and a few of the "steady ones" had followed them, and those who remained closed up around the chairman, and cigars and genuine whisky began to supersede the questionable port and sherry, and the "Vice" requested permission to call on a gentleman for a song, that we began to fancy ourselves within the walls of some hitherto unknown college, where the "levelling system" had mixed up fellows and under-graduates in one common supper-party, and the portly principal himself rejoiced in the office of "arbiter bibendi." Shall I confess it? I forgot even Clara in the uproarious mirth that followed. Two of the young Phillipses were admirable singers, and drew forth the hearty applause of the whole company. We got Dawson to make a speech, in which he waxed poetical touching the "flowers of Cambria," and drew down thunders of applause by a Latin quotation, which every one took that means of showing that they understood. I obtained almost unconsciously an immortal reputation by a species of flattery to which the Welsh are most open. I had learnt, after no little application, a Welsh toast--a happy specimen of the language; it was but three words, but they were truly cabalistic. No sooner had I, after a "neat and appropriate" preface, uttered my triple Shibboleth, (it ended in _rag_, and signified "Wales, Welshmen, and Welshwomen,") than the whole party rose, and cheered at me till I felt positively modest. My pronunciation, I believe, was perfect, (a woman's lips and an angel's voice had taught it to me:) and it was indeed the Open Sesame to their hearts and feelings. I became at once the intimate friend of all who could get near enough to offer me their houses, their horses, their dogs--I have no doubt, had I given a hint at the moment, I might have had any one of their daughters. "Would I come and pay a visit at Abergwrnant before I left the neighbourhood? Only twenty-five miles, and a coach from B----!" "Would I, before the shooting began, come to Craig-y-bwldrwn, and stay over the first fortnight in September?" I could have quartered myself, and two or three friends, in a dozen places for a month at a time. And, let me do justice to the warm hospitality of North Wales--these invitations were renewed in the morning: and were I ever to visit those shores again, I should have no fear of their having been yet forgotten.
Captain Phillips had told us, that when we left the table, "the girls" would have some coffee for us, if not too late; and Willingham and myself, having taken a turn or two in the moonlight to get rid of the excitement of the evening, bent our steps in that direction. There were about as many persons assembled as the little drawing-room would hold, and Clara, having forgotten her headach, and looking as lovely as ever, was seated at a wretched piano, endeavouring to accompany herself in her favourite songs. Willingham and myself stood by, and our repeated requests for some of those melodies which, unknown to us before, we had learnt from her singing to admire beyond all the fashionable trash of the day, were gratified with untiring good-nature. Somehow I thought that she avoided my eye, and answered my remarks with less than her usual archness and vivacity. I could bear it on this evening less than ever; a hair will turn the scale, and I had just been, half ludicrously, half seriously, affected by Welsh nationality. One cannot help warming towards a community which are so warm-hearted among themselves. Visions of I know not what--love and a living, Clara and a cottage--were floating dreamlike before my eyes, and I felt as if borne along by a current whose direction might be dangerous, but which it was misery to resist. Willingham had turned away a minute to hunt for some missing book, which contained one of his favourites; and, leaning over her with my finger pointing to the words which she had just been singing, I said something about there being always a fear in happiness such as I had lately been enjoying, lest it might not last. For a moment she met my earnest look, and coloured violently; and then fixing her eyes on the music before her, she said quickly, "Mr Hawthorne, I thought you had a higher opinion of me than to make me pretty speeches; I have a great dislike to them." I began to protest warmly against any intention of mere compliment, when the return of Willingham with his song prevented any renewal of the subject. I was annoyed and silent, and detected a tremor in her voice while she sang the words, and saw her cheek paler than usual. The instant the song was over, she complained with a smile of being tired, and without a look at either of us, joined a party who were noisily recounting the events of the race-course. Nor could I again that evening obtain a moment's conversation with her. She spoke to me, indeed, and very kindly; but once only did I catch her eye, when I was speaking to some one else--the glance was rapidly withdrawn, but it seemed rather sorrowful than cold.
I was busy with Hanmer the next morning before breakfast, when Dick Phillips made his appearance, and informed us that the "strangers" had made up an eleven for the cricket match, and that we were to play at ten. He was a sort of live circular, dispatched to get all parties in readiness.
"Oh! I have something for you from Clara," said he to me, as he was leaving; "the words of a song she promised you, I believe."
I opened the sealed envelope, saw that it was not a song, and left Hanmer somewhat abruptly. When I was alone, I read the following:--
"DEAR MR HAWTHORNE,--Possibly you may have been told that I have, before now, done things which people call strange--that is, contrary to some arbitrary notions which are to supersede our natural sense of right and wrong. But never, until now, did I follow the dictates of my own feelings in opposition to conventional rules, with the painful uncertainty as to the propriety of such a course, which I now feel. And if I had less confidence than I have in your honour and your kindness, or less esteem for your character, or less anxiety for your happiness, I would not write to you now. But I feel, that if you are what I wish to believe you, it is right that you should be at once undeceived as to my position. Others should have done it, perhaps--it would have spared me much. Whether your attentions to me are in sport or earnest, they must cease. I have no right to listen to such words as yours last night--my heart and hand are engaged to one, who deserves better from me than the levity which alone could have placed me in the position from which I thus painfully extricate myself. For any fault on my part, I thus make bitter atonement. I wish you health and happiness, and now let this save us both from further misunderstanding.
Again and again did I read these words. Not one woman in a hundred would have ventured on such a step. And for what? to save me from the mortification of a rejection? It could be nothing else. How easy for a man of heartless gallantry to have written a cool note in reply, disclaiming "any aspiration after the honour implied," and placing the warm-hearted writer in the predicament of having declined attentions never meant to be serious! But I felt how kindly, how gently, I had been treated--the worst of it was, I loved her better than ever. I wrote some incoherent words in reply, sufficiently expressive of my bitter disappointment, and my admiration of her conduct; and then I felt "that my occupation was gone." She whom I had so loved to look upon, I trembled now to see. I had no mind to break my heart; but I felt that time and change were necessary to prevent it. Above all, Glyndewi was no place for me to forget _her_ in.
In the midst of my painful reflections on all the happy hours of the past week, Gordon and Willingham broke in upon me with high matter for consultation relative to the match, In vain did I plead sudden illness, and inability to play: they declared it would knock the whole thing on the head, for Hanmer would be sure to turn sulky, and there was an end of the eleven; and they looked so really chagrined at my continued refusals, that at length I conquered my selfishness, (I had had a lesson in that,) and, though really feeling indisposed for any exertion, went down with them to the ground. I was in momentary dread of seeing Clara arrive, (for all the world was to be there,) and felt nervous and low-spirited. The strangers' eleven was a better one than we expected, and they put our men out pretty fast. Hanmer got most unfortunately run out after a splendid hit, and begged me to go in and "do something." I took my place mechanically, and lost my wicket to the first ball. We made a wretched score, and the strangers went in exultingly. In spite of Hanmer's steady bowling, they got runs pretty fast; and an easy catch came into my hands just as Clara appeared on the ground, and I lost all consciousness of what I was about. Again the same opportunity offered, and again my eyes were wandering among the tents. Hanmer got annoyed, and said something not over civil: I vas vexed myself that my carelessness should be the cause of disappointment twice, and yet more than half-inclined to quarrel with Branling, whom I overheard muttering about my "cursed awkwardness." We were left in a fearful minority at the close of the first innings, when we retired to dinner. The Glyndewi party and their friends were evidently disappointed. I tried to avoid Clara; but could not keep far from her. At last she came up with one of her brothers, spoke and shook hands with me, said that her brother had told her I was not well, and that she feared I ought not to have played at all. "I wish you could have beat them, Mr Hawthorne--I had bet that you would; perhaps you will feel better after dinner, those kind of headachs soon wear off," she added with a smile and a kind look, which I understood as she meant it. I walked into the tent where we were to dine: I sat next a little man on the opposite side, an Englishman, one of their best players, as active as a monkey, who had caught out three of our men in succession. He talked big about his play, criticised Willingham's batting, which was really pretty, and ended by discussing Clara Phillips, who was, he said, "a demned fine girl, but too much of her." I disliked his flippancy before, but now my disgust to him was insuperable. I asked the odds against us, and took them freely. There was champagne before me, and I drank it in tumblers. I did what even in my under-graduate days was rarely my habit--I drank till I was considerably excited. Hanmer saw it, and got the match resumed at once to save me, as he afterwards said, "from making a fool of myself." I insisted, in spite of his advice "to cool myself," upon going in first. My flippant acquaintance of the dinner-table stood _point_, and I knew, if I could but see the ball, and not see more than one, that I could occasionally "hit square" to some purpose. I had the luck to catch the first ball just on the rise, and it caught my friend _point_ off his legs as if he had been shot. He limped off the ground, and we were troubled with him no more. I hit as I never did before, or shall again. At first I played wild; but as I got cool, and my sight became steady, I felt quite at home. The bowlers got tired, and Dick Phillips, who had no science, but the strength of a unicorn, was in with me half-an-hour, slashing in all directions. It short, the tide turned, and the match ended in our favour.
I was quite sober, and free from all excitement, when I joined Clara, for the last time after the game was over. "I am so glad you played so well," said she, "if you are but as successful at Oxford as you have been at the boat-race and the cricket, you will have no reason to be disappointed. Your career here has been one course of victory." "Not altogether, Miss Phillips: the prize I shall leave behind me when I quit Glyndewi to-morrow, is worth more than all that I can gain." "Mr Hawthorne," said she kindly, "one victory is in your own power, and you will soon gain it, and be happy--the victory over yourself."
I made some excuse to Hanmer about letters from home, to account for my sudden departure. How the party got on after I left them, and what was the final result of our "reading," is no part of my tale; but I fear the reader will search the class-lists of 18-- in vain for the names of Mr Hanmer's pupils.
[Footnote A: Fact.]
CHAPTERS OF TURKISH HISTORY.
THE SECOND SIEGE OF VIENNA.
The Ottoman empire, exhausted by its strenuous and long-continued efforts in the death-struggle of Candia, had need of peace and repose to recruit its resources; but the calm was not of long duration. A fresh complication of interests was now arising in the north, which, by involving the Porte in the stormy politics of Poland and Russia, led to consequences little foreseen at the time, and which, even at the present day are far from having reached their final accomplishment. Since the ill-judged and unfortunate invasion by Sultan Osman II., in 1620 the good understanding between Poland and the Porte had continued undisturbed, save by the occasional inroads of the Crim Tartars on the one side, and the Cossacks of the Dniepr on the other, which neither government was able entirely to restrain. But the oppression to which the Polish nobles attempted to subject their Cossack _allies_, whom they pretended to regard as serfs and vassals, was intolerable to these freeborn sons of the steppe; and an universal revolt at length broke out, which was the beginning of the evil days of Poland. For nearly twenty years, under the feeble rule of John Casimer, the country was desolated with sanguinary civil wars; the Czar Alexis Mikhailowitz, eager to regain the rich provinces lost by Russia during the reign of his father, at length appeared in the field as the protector of the Cossacks; and, in 1656, the greater part of their body, with the Ataman Bogdan Khmielniçki at their head, formally transferred their allegiance to the Russian sceptre. This fatal blow, which in effect turned the balance of power, so long fluctuating between Poland and Russia, in favour of the latter, failed, however, to teach moderation to the Polish aristocracy; and the remainder of the Cossacks, who still continued in their ancient seats under the Ataman Doroszenko, finding themselves menaced by a fresh attack, embraced the resolution of "placing themselves under the shadow of the horsetails," by becoming the voluntary vassals of the Porte, of which they had so long been the inveterate enemies. In spite of the violent reclamations of the Polish envoy Wizoçki, the offer was at once accepted, and a mace and kaftan of honour sent to the ataman as ensigns of investiture, while the Poles were warned to desist from hostilities against the subjects of the sultan. The refusal to accede to this requisition produced an instant declaration of war, addressed in an autograph letter from Kiuprili to the grand chancellor of Poland, and followed up, in the spring of 1672, by the march of an army of 100,000 men for Podolia. The sultan himself took the field for the first time, attended by Kiuprili and the other vizirs of the divan, and carrying with him his court and harem, and the whole host, after a march of four months from Adrianople, crossed the Dniester in the first days of August.
The distracted state of Poland, where the helpless Michael Coribut Wieçnowiçki bore but the empty title of king, precluded the possibility of even an attempt at resistance, and the grand marshal of the kingdom, the heroic John Sobieski, who, with only 6000 men, had held his ground against the Cossacks, Turks, and Tartars, through the preceding winter, was compelled to withdraw from Podolia. The whole province was speedily overrun; the fortresses of Kaminiec and Leopol were yielded almost without defence; and the king, terrified at the progress of the invaders, sued for peace, which was signed September 18, 1672, in the Turkish camp at Buczacz. Kaminiec, Podolia, and the Cossack territory, were by this act ceded to the Porte, besides an annual tribute from Poland of 220,000 ducats; and Mohammed, having caused proclamation to be made by the criers that "pardon for his offences had been granted to the rebel _kral_ of the _Leh_,"[B] (Poles,) returned in triumph to Adrianople, leaving his army in winter quarters on the Danube.
The Diet, however, indignantly refused either to ratify the treaty or pay the tribute; and hostilities were resumed the next year with increased inveteracy on both sides. The sultan accompanied his army only to the Danube, where he remained engrossed with the pleasures of the chase at Babataghi; while Sobieski, who had accommodated for the time his differences with his colleague and rival Paç, hetman of Lithuania, and was at the head of 50,000 men, boldly anticipated the tardy movements of the Turks, who were advancing in several separate _corps d'armée_, by crossing the Dniester early in October. He was forthwith joined by Stephen, waiwode of Moldavia, with great part of the Moldavian and Wallachian troops, who unexpectedly deserted the standards of the crescent; and, after several partial encounters, a general engagement took place, November 11, 1673, between the Polish army and the advanced divisions of the Ottomans under the serasker Hussein, pasha of Silistria, who lay in an intrenched camp on the heights near Choczim. A heavy fall of snow during the night, combined with a piercing north wind had benumbed the frames of the Janissaries, accustomed to the genial warmth of a southern climate; and the enthusiastic valour of the Poles, stimulated by the exhortations and example of their chief, made their onset irresistible. The Turkish army was almost annihilated: 25,000 men, with numerous begs and pashas, remained on the field of battle, or perished in the Dniester from the breaking of the bridge: all their cannon and standards became trophies to the victors: and the green banner of the serasker was sent to Rome by Sobieski, in the belief that it was the _Sandjak-shereef_, or sacred standard of the Prophet--the oriflamme of the Ottoman empire. Never had a defeat nearly so disastrous, with the single exception of that of St. Gotthard, ten years before, befallen the Turkish arms in Europe; and the other corps, under the command of the grand-vizir and of his brother-in-law, Kaplan-pasha of Aleppo, which were marching to the support of Hussein, fell back in dismay to their former, ground on the right bank of the Danube. The Poles, however, made no further use of their triumph than to ravage Moldavia, and the death of the king, on the same day with the victory at Choczim, recalled Sobieski to Warsaw, in order to become a candidate for the vacant crown. On his election by the Diet, in May 1674, he made overtures for peace to the Porte, but they were rejected, and the contest continued during several years, without any notable achievement on either side, the war being unpopular with the Turkish soldiery; while the civil dissensions of his kingdom, with his consequent inferiority of numbers, kept Sobieski generally on the defensive. In his intrenched camp at Zurawno, with only 15,000 men, he had for twenty days kept at bay 100,000 Turks under the serasker Ibrahim, surnamed Shaïtan or _the devil_, when both sides, weary of the fruitless struggle, agreed upon a conference, and peace was signed October 27, 1676. The humiliating demand of tribute was no longer insisted upon; but Kaminiec, Podolia, and great part of the Ukraine, were left in possession of the Turks, whose stubborn perseverance thus succeeded, as on many occasions, in gaining nearly every object for which the war had been undertaken.
Before the news, however, of the pacification with Poland had reached Constantinople, Ahmed-Kiuprili had closed his glorious career. He had long suffered from dropsy, the same disease which had proved fatal to his father, and the effects of which were in his case, aggravated by too free an indulgence in wine, to which, after his return from Candia, he is said to have become greatly addicted. He had accompanied the sultan, who had for many years remained absent from his capital, on a visit, during the summer months, to Constantinople, but, on the return to Adrianople, he was compelled, by increasing sickness, to halt on the banks of the Erkench, between Chorlu and Demotika, where he breathed his last in a _chitlik_, or farm-house, called Kara-Bovir, October 30, at the age of forty-seven, after having administered the affairs of the empire for a few days more than fifteen years. His corpse was carried back to Constantinople, and laid without pomp in the mausoleum erected by his father, amid the lamentations of the people, rarely poured forth over the tomb of a deceased grand vizir. The character of this great minister has been made the theme of unmeasured panegyrics by the Turkish historians; and Von Hammer-Purgstall (in his _History of the Ottoman Empire_) has given us a long and elaborate parallel between the life and deeds of Ahmed Kiuprili and of the celebrated vizir of Soliman the Magnificent and his two successors, Mohammed-Pasha Sokolli; but we prefer to quote the impartial and unadorned portrait drawn by his contemporary Rycaut:--"He was, in person, (for I have seen him often, and knew him well,) of a middle stature, of a black beard, and brown complexion;[C] something short-sighted, which caused him to knit his brows, and pore very intently when any strange person entered the presence; he was inclining to be fat, and grew corpulent towards his latter days. If we consider his age when he first took upon him this important charge, the enemies his father had created him, the contentions he had with the Valideh-sultana or queen-mother, and the arts he had used to reconcile the affections of these great personages, and conserve himself in the unalterable esteem of his sovereign to the last hour of his death, there is none but must judge him to have deserved the character of a most prudent and politic person. If we consider how few were put to death, and what inconsiderable mutinies or rebellions happened in any part of the empire during his government, it will afford us a clear evidence and proof of his greatness and moderation beyond the example of former times: for certainly he was not a person who delighted in blood, and in that respect far different from the temper of his father; he was generous, and free from avarice--a rare virtue in a Turk! He was educated in the law, and therefore greatly addicted to all the formalities of it, and in the administration of justice very punctual and severe: and as to his behaviour towards the neighbouring princes, there may, I believe, be fewer examples of his breach of faith, than what his predecessors have given in a shorter time of rule. In his wars abroad he was successful, having upon every expedition enlarged the bounds of the empire: he overcame Neuhausel, with a considerable part of Hungary, he concluded the long war with Venice by an entire and total subjugation of the Island of Candia, having subdued that impregnable fortress, which by the rest of the world was considered invincible; and he won Kemenitz (Kaminiec,) the key of Poland, where the Turks had been frequently baffled, and laid Ukraine to the empire. If we measure his triumphs, rather than count his years, though he might seem to have lived but little to his prince and people, yet certainly to himself he could not die more seasonably, nor in a greater height and eminency of glory."
The deceased vizir left no children: and the sultan is said to have offered the seals, in the first instance, as if the office had become in fact hereditary in the family, to Mustapha, another son of Mohammed-Kiuprili, a man of retired and studious habits, who had the philosophy to decline the onerous dignity.[D] However this may have been, (for the story appears to rest on somewhat doubtful authority,) within seven days of the death of Ahmed, the vizirat had been conferred on Kara-Mustapha Pasha, who then held the office of kaimakam, and had for several years been distinguished by the special favour and confidence of the sultan. The new minister was connected by the ties both of marriage and adoption with the house of Kiuprili. His father Oroudj, a spahi, holding land at Merzifoun, (a town and district in Anatolia contiguous to Kiupri,) had fallen at the siege of Bagdad, under Sultan Mourad-Ghazi in 1638: and the orphan had been educated in the household of Mohammed-Kiuprili as the companion and adopted brother of his son Ahmed, one of whose sisters he in due time received in marriage. The elevation of his patron to the highest dignity of the empire, of course opened to Kara-Mustapha the road to fortune and preferment--from his first post of deputy to the _meer-akhor_, or master of the horse, he was promoted to the rank of pasha of two tails--and after holding the governments successively of Silistria and Diarbekr was nominated capitan-pasha in 1662 by his brother-in-law Ahmed; but exchanged that appointment in the following year for the office of kaimakam, in which capacity he was left in charge of the capital on the departure of the vizir to the army in Hungary. His duties in this situation, as lieutenant of the grand-vizir during his absence, gave him constant access to the presence of the sultan: and being (as he is described by the contemporary writer above quoted) "a wise and experienced person, of a smooth behaviour, and a great courtier," he so well improved the opportunities thus afforded him, as to obtain a place in the monarch's favour second only to that of Kiuprili himself. This excessive partiality was, however, scarcely justified by the good qualities of the favourite; for though the abilities of Kara-Mustapha were above mediocrity, his avarice was so extreme as to lay him open to the suspicion of corruption: and his sanguinary cruelty, when holding a command in Poland in the campaign of 1674, drew down on him the severe reprobation of his illustrious brother in-law. The predilection of the sultan for his society continued, however, unabated:--and during the visit of the court to Constantinople in 1675, he was still further exalted by becoming, at least in name, son-in-law to his sovereign, being affianced to the Sultana Khadidjeh, then only three years old. The fêtes of the betrothal, which were celebrated at the same time as those for the circumcision of the heir-apparent, (afterwards Mustapha II.,) were unrivalled for splendour in a reign distinguished for magnificence:--and on the death of Ahmed-Kiuprili in the following year, this fortunate adventurer found little difficulty in stepping, as we have seen, into the vacated place.
The first cares of the new vizir were on the side of the newly acquired frontier in the Ukraine; for, though all claim to that part of the Cossack territory had been expressly resigned by Poland at the treaty of Durawno, the Czar of Muscovy had never ceased to assert his pretensions to the whole Ukraine, in virtue of the convention of 1656 with Khmielniçki; and during the Polish campaign of 1674, his troops on the border, under a general named Romanodoffski, had several times come into collision with the Turks--an era deserving notice as the first hostile encounter between these two great antagonist powers. The defection of Doroszenko, who had gone over to the Russians at the end of 1676, and surrendered to them the important fortress of Czehryn, the capital and key of the Ukraine, and the repulse of the serasker Ibrahim before its walls in the following year, showed the necessity of vigorous measures: and, in 1678, the grand vizir in person appeared at the head of a formidable force in the Ukraine, bringing with him George Khmielniçki, son of the former ataman, who had long been confined as a state prisoner in the Seven Towers, but was now released to counteract, by his hereditary influence with the Cossacks, the adverse agency of Doroszenko. Czehryn, after a close investment of a month, was carried by storm, the garrison put to the sword, and the fortifications razed. But though the war was continued through another campaign, it was obviously not the interest of the Divan to prolong this remote and unprofitable contest at a juncture when the state of parties in Hungary bid fair to present such an opportunity as had never before occurred, for definitively establishing the supremacy of the Porte over the whole of that kingdom. Negotiations were accordingly opened on the Dniepr between the Muscovite leaders and the Khan Mourad-Gherni; and a peace was signed at Radzin, Feb. 12, 1681, by which the frontiers on both sides were left unaltered, while the Porte expressly renounced all claim to Kiow and the Russian Ukraine, which had been in the possession of the Czar since 1656. The ratification of the treaty was brought to Constantinople in the following September by an envoy, whose gifts of costly arctic furs, and ivory from the tusks of the walrus, might have unfolded to the Turks the wide extent of the northern realms ruled by the monarch whom they even yet regarded only as a tributary of their own vassal the Khan of the Tartars, and scarcely deigned to admit on equal terms to diplomatic intercourse.
Though the truce for twenty years, concluded between the Porte and the Empire after the defeat of Ahmed-Kiuprili at St Gotthard in 1564, had not yet expired by nearly three years, the political aspect of Hungary left little doubt that the resumption of hostilities would not be so long delayed. To understand more clearly the extraordinary complication of interests of which this country was now the scene, it will, however, be necessary to take a retrospective glance at its history during the seventeenth century, after the treaty of Komorn with the Porte, in 1606, had terminated for the time the warfare of which it had almost constantly been the theatre since the occupation of Buda by Soliman the Magnificent in 1541, ad had, in some measure, defined the boundaries of the two great powers between which it was divided. The Emperors of the House of Hapsburg, indeed, styled themselves Kings of Hungary, and Diets were held in their name at Presburg; but the territory actually under their sway amounted to less than a third of the ancient kingdom, comprehending only the northern and western districts; while all the central portion of Hungary Proper, as far as Agria on the north, and the Raab and the Balaton Lake on the west, was united to the Ottoman Empire, and formed the pashaliks of Buda and Temeswar, which were regularly divided into sandjaks and districts, with their due quota of spahis and timariots, who had been drawn from the Moslem provinces of Turkey, and held grants of land by tenure of military service. The principality of Transylvania, (called _Erdel_ by the Turks,) which had been erected by Soliman in favour of the son of John Zapolya, comprehended nearly one-fourth of Hungary, and (though its suzerainté was claimed by Austria in virtue of a reversionary settlement executed by that prince shortly before his death,) was generally, in effect, dependent on, and tributary to the Porte, from which its princes, elected by the Diet at Klaucenburg, received confirmation and investiture, like the waiwodes of the neighbouring provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia. During the interval between the death of John Sigismond Zapolya in 1571, and the election of Michael Abaffi in 1661, not fewer than thirteen princes, besides nearly as many ephemeral pretenders, had occupied the throne; and, though at one time the family of Batthori, and, subsequently, that of Racoczy, established a kind of hereditary claim to election, their tenure was always precarious; and, on more than one occasion, the prince was imposed on the states by the Turks or Austrians, without even the shadow of constitutional forms.
This modified independence of Transylvania, however, often gave its princes great political importance, during the endless troubles of Hungary, as the assertors of civil and religions liberty against the tyranny and bad faith of the Austrian cabinet; which, with unaccountable infatuation, instead of striving to attach to its rule, by conciliation and good government, the remnant of the kingdom still subject to its sceptre, bent all its efforts to destroy the ancient privileges of the Magyars, and to make the crown formally, as it already was in fact, hereditary in the imperial family. The extirpation of Protestantism was another favourite object of Austrian policy: and the cruelties perpetrated with this view by George Basta and the other imperial generals at the beginning of the century was such, that a general rising took place under Stephen Boczkai, then waiwode of Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia, who extorted from the Emperor Rodolph, in 1607, the famous _pacification of Vienna_, which was guaranteed by the Porte, and which secured to the Hungarians full liberty of conscience, as well as the enjoyment of all their ancient rights. This agreement was soon violated; but the Protestants again found a protector in a Transylvanian prince, the celebrated Bethlen-Gabor;[E] who, assuming the royal title, occupied Presburg and Neuhausel in 1619, formed an alliance with the Bohemian revolters under Count Thurn, and was narrowly prevented from forming a junction with them under the walls of Vienna, which, if effected, would probably have overthrown the dynasty of Hapsburg. He is said to have entertained the design of uniting all Hungary east of the Theiss, with Transylvania and Wallachia, into a modern _kingdom of Dacia_, leaving the west to the Turks as a barrier against Austrian aggression--but his want of children left his schemes of aggrandizement without a motive, and at his death in 1630 they all fell to the ground. The Thirty Years' War procured the Hungarian subjects of Austria a temporary respite; but Leopold, who was elected king in 1655, and succeeded his father Ferdinand in the empire three years later, stimulated by the triumph of his predecessor over the liberties of Bohemia, resumed with fresh zeal the crusade against the privileges of the Magyars. Not only was the persecution of the Protestants recommenced, but the excesses of the ill-paid and licentious German mercenaries, who were quartered on the country in defiance of the constitution after the twenty years' truce, under the pretence of guarding against any fresh attack from the Turks, were carried to such a height that disaffection became universal even among those who had hitherto constantly adhered to the Austrian interest, so that (in the words of a writer[F] of the time,) "they began to contrast their own condition with that of the Transylvanians, who are not forced to take the turban but live quietly under the protection of the Turk--while we (as they say) are exposed to the caprices of a prince under the absolute dominion of the Jesuits, a far worse sort of people than the Dervishes!" As early as 1667, a secret communication had been made to the Porte through the envoy of Abaffi; but Kiuprili, who was then on the point of departure for Candia, and was unwilling to risk a fresh rupture with the empire in his absence, gave little encouragement either to these overtures, or to the more advantageous propositions received in 1670 from Peter Zriny, Ban of Croatia, and previously a famous partisan-leader against the Moslems; in which the malecontents offered, as the price of Ottoman aid and protection, to cede to the sultan all the fortified towns which should be taken by his arms, and to pay an annual tribute of 30,000 ducats. The conspiracy had, however, become known at Vienna; and instant measures were taken for seizing Zriny and his Croatian confederates, Nadasti, Tattenbach, and Christopher Frangipani, who were all executed in the course of the following year. The Emperor, now considering Hungary as a conquered country, formally abolished the dignity of Palatine, and nominated Gaspar Von Ampringham, grand master of the Teutonic knights, to be viceroy of the kingdom; while the Protestants were persecuted with unheard-of rigour, and many of their ministers imprisoned in the fortresses, or sent in chains to the galleys at Naples.
The confederates of Upper Hungary had been better on their guard: and on the news of the fate of Zriny and his associates, they forthwith assembled in arms at Kaschau or Cassovia, and electing Francis Racoczy, son of the late prince of Transylvania, and son-in-law of Zriny, as their leader, bade defiance to the Emperor. The civil war continued several years without decisive success on either side; till on the death, in 1676, of Racoczy, (who had previously abandoned the popular cause,) the famous Emeric Tekoeli, then only twenty years of age, was chosen general. He was the hereditary enemy of the Austrians; his father Stephen, Count of Kersmark, having been besieged in his castle by the Imperialists at the time of his death; and while he pressed the Germans in the field with such vigour as to deprive them of nearly all the fortified places they still held in Upper Hungary, the negotiation with the Porte for aid was renewed, and being backed by the diplomatic influence of France, then at war with the empire, was more favourably received by Kara-Mustapha than the former advances of the malcontents had been by his predecessor. The war with Russia, however, prevented the Turks for the present from interfering with effect, but Abaffi was authorized to support the insurgents in the mean time, while Leopold, fearing the total loss of Hungary, summoned a diet at Oedenburg (in 1681) for the redress of grievances, in which most of the ancient privileges of the kingdom were restored, full liberty of conscience promised to the Lutherans and Calvinists, and Paul Esterhazy named Palatine. But these concessions, wrung only by hard necessity from the Cabinet of Vienna, came now too late. Tekoeli replied to the amnesty proclaimed by the Emperor, by the publication of a counter-manifesto, in which were set forth a hundred grievances of the Hungarians; and, having obtained a great accession of strength by his marriage (June 1682) to Helen Zriny, the widow of Racoczy, whereby he gained all the adherents of those two powerful houses, he summoned a rival diet at Cassovia, where he openly assumed the title of sovereign prince of Upper Hungary, exercising the prerogatives of royalty, and striking money in his own name, which bore his effigy on the obverse, and on the reverse the motto inscribed on his standards--"Pro Deo, Patria, et Libertate."
Though Tekoeli professed to act by the authority of the Porte, from which he had received a firman of investiture with the usual ensigns of sovereignty, no formal declaration of war had yet been issued from Constantinople; and many of the Ulemah protested against such a measure, at least till the twenty years' truce, concluded in 1664, should have expired. The aid openly afforded, however, to Tekoeli by Abaffi and the pasha of Buda, as well as the constant march of large bodies of troops to the Danube, afforded sufficient indication that an attack would not be long delayed; and Leopold, disquieted at the prospect of having at once to contend against his own revolted subjects, and the mighty force of the Ottoman empire, sent Count Caprara on a mission to Constantinople, in the hope of averting the storm; while, at the same time, he made overtures for an alliance with Poland, still smarting under her losses in the late Turkish war. The mission of Caprara led to no result, from the exorbitant demands made by the Ottoman ministers on behalf both of the Porte and its Hungarian allies, which amounted to little less than a total cession of the country, and a few days after the arrival of the ambassador, the despatch of the firman to Tekoeli, and the display of the imperial horsetails in the plain of Daood-Pasha, showed that the resolution of the Divan was fixed for war. The negotiation with Poland presented almost equal difficulties, from the rooted jealousy entertained by the Poles of the ambition of Austria, and the opposition of the French envoy, De Vitry, who even carried his intrigues so far as to embark in a plot for the death or dethronement of the king, and the substitution of the grand marshal Iablonowski. The firmness of Sobieski, however, whom no minor considerations could blind to the importance of saving Austria and Hungary from the grasp of the Osmanli, overcame all these machinations; and the ratification of the diet was eventually given to a league, offensive and defensive, with Austria, on March 31, 1683--the same day on which the vast host of the Ottomans broke up from its cantonments about Adrianople, and directed its march towards the Danube.
The sons of Naodasti and Zriny, who had been executed ten years before, were retained as hostages, under the name of chamberlains, in the imperial household; and it fell to the lot of the former to announce to Leopold, that the legions of the crescent were pouring down on Hungary. The cheek of the Emperor blanched at the tidings; for well did he know that, till the arrival of the Poles, his disposable force amounted to scarce 35,000 men, under Duke Charles of Lorraine, who could barely make head against Abaffi and Tekoeli, while so high were the hopes of the Magyars raised of a speedy and final deliverance from Austrian tyranny, that a plot is even said to have been laid between Zriny and his sister, now the wife of Tekoeli, for seizing the person of Leopold in the palace of Vienna, and giving him up to the Tartars, who had already commenced their ravages on the frontiers. The sultan meanwhile--the cumbrous luxury of whose harem and equipages had retarded the march of the army--had halted at Belgrade, after holding a grand review of his forces, and placing the standard of the Prophet in the hands of the vizier, in token of the full powers entrusted to him for the conduct of the campaign. On the 10th of June, Tekoeli, who had crossed the Danube to welcome his potent auxiliaries, was received at Essek with royal magnificence by Kara-Mustapha, who imitated, in the ceremonial observed on this occasion, the pomp of the reception of John Zapolya by Soliman, on his march against Vienna in 1529; but after receiving personal investiture of the royal dignity conferred on him by the sultan, he returned rapidly to Cassovia, where he had fixed his headquarters. The khan of the Tartars had already arrived at Stuhlweissenburg, and was speedily joined by the vizir and the main Turkish army, which, passing the Danube to the number of 140,000 men, swept like a torrent over the rich plains of Lower Hungary: the towns, abandoned by the panic-stricken German garrisons, every where opening their gates to the partisans of Zriny and Tekoeli, in the hope of escaping the fate of Veszprim, which had been sacked by the janissaries for attempting resistance. The march was pressed with unexampled rapidity, till on the 28th the whole army was mustered under the walls of Gran; and the vizir, summoning to his tent the khan and the principal pashas, announced that his orders were to make himself master of Vienna.
The veneration with which the Turks have always regarded the memory of the greatest of their sultans, has led them not only to shrink with superstitious awe from attempting any enterprise in which he failed, but even to attach a prophetic importance to his recorded sayings. A promise attributed to him, that "an Ottoman army should never pass the Raab," had been recalled at the time of the signal defeat experienced by Ahmed-Kiuprili on that river, and his memorable repulse before Vienna had been ever held as a warning, that the Ottoman arms were destined never to prevail against the ramparts of the _Kizil-Alma_. These considerations, however, had little weight with Kara-Mustapha; bridges, hastily thrown over the ill-omened stream, afforded a passage to the army, (July 8,) and the march was again directed without stop or stay on Vienna. A body of Hungarians in the pay of the emperor, under Budiani, passed over to the ranks of their insurgent countrymen on the first appearance of the standards of Tekoeli; and the Duke of Lorraine, who had withdrawn his infantry to the island of Schutt and the other bank of the Danube, was worsted in a cavalry fight at Petronel by the Tartars, whose flying squadrons were already seen from the walls of Vienna. Proclamation had been made, forbidding the citizens to _speak of the present state of affairs!_--but the emperor and court, who had confidently reckoned on the invaders being delayed by the sieges of Raab and Komorn, no sooner learned that they had passed those fortresses unheeded, and were rapidly approaching the capital, than, seized with a panic-terror, they fled from the devoted city, on the same day with the combat at Petronel, (July 7,) in such dismayed haste, that the empress was forced to lodge one night under a tree in the open air; nor did they deem themselves in safety from the terrible pursuit of the Tartars, till they reached Lintz, on the furthest western verge of the hereditary states. The Austrian towns along the Danube were overwhelmed by the advancing tide of Turks, or ravaged by the Hungarian followers of Tekoeli, who vied with their Moslem allies in animosity against the Germans; and the light troops and Tartars, overspreading the country, pushed their predatory excursions so far up the river, as even to alarm the imperial fugitives at Lintz, who consulted their safety by a second flight to Passau. The three great abbeys of Lilienfeldt, Mölk, and Klosterneuburg, were preserved from these desultory marauders by the strength of their walls, and the valour of their monastic inmates, who took arms in defence of their cloisters; but the open country was laid waste with the same ferocity as in the invasion by Soliman, and many thousands of the country people were dragged as slaves into the Turkish camp. The regular columns of the janissaries and feudatory troops, meanwhile, continuing their advance, appeared on the morning of the 14th under the walls of Vienna; the posts of the different corps were assigned on the same day, and in the course of the following night, ground was broken for the trenches on three sides of the city.
The ancient ramparts of Vienna, which had withstood the assault of the great Soliman, had been replaced, not long after the former siege, by fortifications better adapted for modern warfare; but during the long interval of security, the extensive suburbs, with the villas and gardens of the nobles and opulent citizens, had been suffered to encroach on the glacis and encumber the approaches; and the ruins of these luxurious abodes, imperfectly destroyed in the panic arising from the unexpected celerity of the enemy's movements, were calculated at once to impede the fire from the walls, and to afford shelter and lodgement to the besiegers. Such preparations for defence, however, as the time allowed of, had been hastily made by the governor, Rudiger Count Stahrenberg, a descendant of the stout baron who, in the former siege, had repulsed the Tartars in the defiles near Enns, and an artillery officer of proved skill and valour. Most of the gates had been walled up, platforms and covered ways constructed, and the students of the university, with such of the citizens as were able and willing to bear arms, were organized into companies in aid of the regular troops, whose number did not exceed 14,000. But the flower of the Austrian nobility, with many gallant volunteers, not only from Germany, but from other parts of Christendom, were within the walls, and animated by their example the spirits of the defenders, whose only hope of relief lay apparently in the distant and uncertain succours of Poland. The Duke of Lorraine, with his cavalry, had still hoped to maintain himself in the Prater and the Leopoldstadt, (which were on an island separated from the city by a narrow arm of the river,) and thus to keep up the communication with the north bank:--but an overwhelming body of Turkish horse, (among whom were conspicuous the Arab chargers and gorgeous equipments of a troop of Egyptian Mamlukes, a force rarely seen in the Ottoman armies,) was directed against him on the 17th, and after a desperate conflict, he was driven across the main stream with the loss of 500 men, and with difficulty secured himself from pursuit by breaking the bridge. The suburb of Leopold, in itself a second city, was given up to the flames; and the Turks, erecting two batteries on the bank opposite Vienna, completed the investment on the only side which had hitherto remained open. Kara-Mustapha, in the confidence of anticipated triumph, now summoned Stahrenberg to surrender, by throwing a cartel into the city, wrapped up in linen and fastened to an arrow: and no answer being returned, the fire of the batteries on the Leopold island opened on the town; and in less than a week ten others were completed and mounted with cannon on the landward side.
The main point of attack, in the former siege under Soliman, had been the gate of Carinthia, (Kärnther-Thor,) and the adjoining bastions; but the weight of the Turkish fire on the land side was now directed principally against the Castle-Gate, (Burg-Thor,) lying to the left of the former, and against the curtain between the Castle bastion and that of Löbel; and on the river side from the batteries of the Leopold island against the Rothenthurm or Red Tower, at the point where the fortifications abut on the stream of the Danube. The tent of the vizir was pitched opposite the Burg-Thor, in the midst of the janissaries and Roumeliote troops, while the feudatories of Anatolia and Syria, under their pashas, were posted right and left of this central point, and the encampments of the various divisions stretched far round the city in a semi-circle many miles in extent, touching the Danube at its two extreme points of Ebersdorff below Vienna, and Nussdorff in the higher part of the stream, where a bridge thrown over the narrow channel formed a communication between the outposts on the mainland, and those on the Leopold island. The charge of this bridge was assigned to the Moldavian and Wallachian contingents, under the command of Scherban, waiwode of the latter province, and one of the most remarkable adventurers of the age. Born of a noble Wallachian family, which claimed descent from the ancient imperial house of Cantacuzene, he had earned from the Turks, not less by the reckless bravery he had displayed under the standard of the crescent in the wars of Poland, than by the consummate address with which he had steered his way through the tortuous intrigues of the Fanar, the sobriquet of Shaïtan Ogblu, _son of Satan_--nor was he unknown as a gay and gallant visitor to the more polished and voluptuous courts of the west. In his elevation to the throne of his native country, he was said to have been materially assisted by the criminal favour of the consort of his predecessor, the Princess Ducas:--but in the camp before Vienna he assumed the guise of extraordinary piety--a lofty cross was erected before his tent, where the rights of the Greek Church were daily celebrated with extraordinary pomp, and the priests of that communion offered up prayers for the success of the Ottoman arms against the schismatics of the Western Church![G]
On the 23d of July, two mines were fired under the counterscarp of the Löbel bastion, and though from the want of skill in the Turkish engineers, they did little damage, the alarm caused among the garrison, who called to mind the formidable use made of this species of approach in the siege of Candia, was such, that Stahrenberg issued orders that one person should be constantly on the watch in each house, to prevent the Turks from making their way into the city by these subterraneous passages. No more than forty mines, however, were sprung during the whole siege, and their effect, from the industry with which they were countermined by the garrison, was far less destructive than at Candia:--but the fire from the batteries continued without cessation, till the counterscarp and ravelin between the two bastions were reduced to a heap of ruins, and the covered approaches of the Turks, in spite of the constant sorties of the besieged, were pushed so close to the outer works that the defenders could reach the pioneers employed on the galleries by thrusting at them through the palisades with the long German pikes, the efficiency of which had been so severely experienced in the former siege. The first assault on the ravelin was made July 25--but the explosion of a mine at the instant threw the attacking column into disorder, and they were repulsed after a severe conflict, in which Stahrenberg himself was wounded. The attack was not repeated in force till the night of Aug. 3, when the troops of the pasha of Temeswar, and a select body of janissaries under their _houlkiaya_ or lieutenant-general, rushed with such fury upon the ruined rampart, that though four times driven back, they at last succeeded in effecting a lodgement in the ravelin, and threw up parapets to screen themselves from the fire of the walls. The city, meanwhile, was repeatedly set on fire by bombs thrown from the Turkish batteries; and during the confusion arising from one of these partial conflagrations, a fresh mine was run under the angle of the court bastion, and sprung with such effect as to cause a practicable breach. The quantity of powder, however, had been so greatly over calculated that great part recoiled among the Turks and the garrison, by a well-timed sortie, did great damage to the enemy's works. Before the breach, however, could be repaired, the janissaries, recovering from their panic, again assailed it, and, after a desperate struggle, established themselves in the ditch and front of the bastion, while the defenders endeavoured, by changing the direction of their guns, to enfilade the ground thus won by the enemy, so as to prevent their penetrating into the interior, which now lay open to them.
Great had been the panic throughout Europe at the advance of the Turks into Austria, and their appearance before Vienna. The infidel host was magnified, by the exaggerations of popular terror, to the number of 100,000 horse and 600,000 foot! And it was doubted whether, after destroying the power of the House of Hapsburg, the vizir would march to the Rhine, and annihilate the remaining strength of Christendom by the overthrow of Louis XIV., or would cross the Alps to fulfil the famous threat of Bayezid I., by stabbing his horse before the high altar of St Peter's. Even among those better qualified to take a calm view of the state of affairs, little hope was entertained that Vienna could hold out till the armies of Poland and the empire could be collected in sufficient force for its relief, if the Turks continued to press the siege with that vigour and stubborn perseverance, the combination of which in the attack of fortified places had hitherto been one of their most remarkable military characteristics. But Kara-Mustapha, deficient alike in martial experience and personal courage, was little qualified either to stimulate the fanatic ardour of the Ottomans or to guide it to victory. While within the wide enclosure of his own tents, carefully pitched beyond the range of cannon-shot from the ramparts, he maintained a household and harem of such luxurious magnificence as none of the sultans had ever carried with them into the field, the rations of the soldiers were reduced, on the pretext that the supplies expected from Hungary had been intercepted by the garrisons of Raab and the other towns on the Danube, which still held out for the emperor; and so little did he care to disguise his apprehensions for his own safety, that he visited the lines only in a litter rendered musket-proof by plates and lattices of iron! Whether he entertained the wild design, as asserted by Cantemir, (whose authority, as that of a contemporary, may in this case perhaps deserve some credit,) of throwing off his allegiance to the sultan, and erecting an independent _Western Empire_ of the Ottomans in Austria and Hungary, or whether he was simply instigated by his avarice to preserve the imagined treasures of the capital of the German Cæsars from the pillage which must follow from its being taken by storm--he no sooner saw the imperial city apparently within his grasp, than he restrained, instead of encouraging, the spirit of the troops, endeavouring rather to wear out the garrison by an endless succession of petty alarms, than to carry the place at once by assault. The murmurs of the soldiers, who even refused to remain in the trenches, were with difficulty quieted by the exhortations of Wani-Effendi, a celebrated Moslem divine, who had accompanied the army in order to share in the merit of the _holy war_--while the remonstrances of the pashas and generals were silenced by the exhibition of the sultan's _khatt-shereef_, which conferred on the vizir plenary powers for the conduct of the war.
While Kara Mustapha thus lay inactive in his lines before Vienna, Tekoeli, who had been detached with his Hungarian followers and an auxiliary Turkish corps to reduce the castle of Presburg, which held out after the surrender of the town, had been defeated by the Duke of Lorraine, aided by a body of Polish cavalry under Lubomirski, the forerunners of the army now assembling at Cracow. All the European princes, meanwhile, with the exception of Louis XIV., who, even in the danger of their common faith, forgot not his hostility to the house of Hapsburg, vied with each other in forwarding the equipment of the host which was to save the bulwark of Christendom. The cardinals at Rome sold their plate to supply funds for the German levies; Cardinal Barberini alone contributed 20,000 florins, and the Pope was profuse in his indulgences to those who joined the new crusade. The emperor, meanwhile, from his retreat at Passau, was abject in his entreaties to Sobieski for speedy succour, offering to cede to him his rights upon Hungary if he could preserve his Austrian capital; but the zeal of the Polish hero needed no stimulus. Though so disabled by the gout as to be unable to mount his horse without help, he was indefatigable in his exertions to hasten the march of his troops, to whom he gave the rendezvous, "Under the counterscarp at Vienna." On his march into Germany, he was every where received as a deliverer; the Jesuits of Olmutz erected, at his entrance into the town, a triumphal arch, with the inscription, "Salvatorem expectamus;" and all hailed, as a sure omen of victory, the presence of the champion whose very name had become a byword of terror among the Turks. The beleaguered garrison was, meanwhile, cheered by frequent messages promising speedy relief from the Duke of Lorraine, whose emissaries, selected for their knowledge of the Turkish language, contrived to pass and re-pass securely; but an epidemic disease, in addition to the sword and the bombardment, was rapidly thinning their numbers; and Callonitz, bishop of Neustadt, who, in his younger days, had gained distinction against the Turks in Candia, now acquired a holier fame by his pious care of the sick and wounded, who crowded the hospitals and houses. The siege had been languidly carried on during the greater part of August, but at the end of the month fresh symptoms of activity were observed in the Ottoman lines; several mines were sprung on the 27th and 28th, and the fire from the batteries was so warmly kept up, that on the 29th the garrison, conjecturing that the anniversary of the battle of Mohacz had been chosen for the general assault, stood to their arms in anxious suspense. But the day passed over without any alarm, and it was not till September 4, that, having blown up great part of the right face of the court bastion by a powerful mine, 5000 of the _élite_ of the janissaries sprang, sword in hand, with loud shouts and the clangour of martial music, into the breach thus made, and forcing their way, with the fanatic valour which had in their best days characterized the sons of Hadji-Bektash, into the interior of the bastion, planted their _bairahs_, or pennons, on the ruined ramparts. Stahrenberg himself, with his officers and guards, was fortunately going the rounds at the menaced point at the moment of the explosion and assault, but the Osmanlis held firm the ground they had gained; and Stahrenberg, seeing the enemy thus fairly established within the defences, directed barriers to be constructed and trenches sunk at the head of the streets nearest the breach, while thirty rockets, fired in the night from the steeple of St Stephen's Domkirch, announced the extremity of their distress to their approaching friends; and all eyes were turned to the rocky heights of the Kahlenberg, which bounded the prospect to the west, in hope of descrying the standards of the Christian army.
It was at Tuln, six leagues above Vienna, that Sobieski received, the day after this assault, a despatch from Stahrenberg, containing only the words--"There is no time to be lost!" On the 6th the Poles passed the river by the bridge of Tuln, and the king, amazed at the supineness of the vizir in suffering this movement to be effected without molestation, exclaimed, "Against such a general the victory is already gained!"--and advanced as to an assured triumph. Though far inferior in numbers to the Turks, who, after all their losses by the sword and desertion, still mustered 120,000 effective men, when passed in review on the 8th by the vizir, it was in truth a gallant army which Sobieski now saw united under his command. The Imperialists, under the Duke of Lorraine, were not more than 20,000; but the Saxons and Bavarians, led by their respective electors, and the contingents of the lesser states of the empire, with the fiery hussars and cuirassiers of Poland, formed an aggregate of 65,000 men, more than half of whom were cavalry; while in the ranks were found, besides the German chivalry who fought for their fatherland, many noble volunteers, who had hastened from Spain and Italy to share in the glories anticipated under the leadership of Sobieski. Among these illustrious auxiliaries was a young hero, who had escaped from France in defiance of the mandate of Louis XIV., to flesh his maiden sword in view of the Polish king, and who at a later period, under the well-known name of Prince Eugene, himself earned deathless fame by his achievements against those redoubted enemies, whose first great overthrow he was destined to witness.
On the evening of the 10th the two armies were separated only by the ridge of the Kahlenberg, and the thick forests covering its sides; and a still more urgent message arrived from the governor, who intimated that he had little chance of repelling another assault. "On the same night, however," (says the diary of a Dutch officer in the garrison,) "we saw on the hills many fires, and rockets thrown up, as signals of our approaching succours, which we joyfully answered in like manner ... and next day the Turks were moving, and their cavalry riding about in confusion, till about four P.M. we saw several of their regiments drawing off towards the hills, and those in Leopoldstadt marching over the bridge." The knowledge, indeed, that the terrible Sobieski was at the head of the Christian army, had spread such a panic among the Osmanli, that several thousands left the camp the same night; but Kara-Mustapha, though urged by all his officers to march with his whole force to meet the coming storm, contented himself with sending 10,000 men, under Kara-Ibrahim, pasha of Buda, to watch the Poles, while the rest were kept in their lines before the city, which was cannonaded with redoubled fury throughout the 11th and the night following. The summits of the Kahlenberg glittered with the arms of the confederates, who bivouacked there during the night, being unable to pitch their tents from the violence of the wind, which Sobieski, in one of his letters to his queen, (his "charmante et bien aimée Mariette,") says, was attributed by the soldiers to the incantations of the vizir, "who is known to be a great magician." From the top of the Leopoldsberg, the king and the Duke of Lorraine reconnoitred the Turkish camp, which lay in all its wide extent before them, from the opposite skirts of the Wienerberg almost to the foot of the ridge on which they stood, with the lofty pavilions and scarlet screens of the vizir's quarters conspicuous in the midst, while the incessant roar of the artillery rose from the midst of the smoke which enveloped the city.
At five in the morning of the 12th, the sound of musketry was heard from the thickets and wooded ravines at the foot of the Kahlenberg, where the Saxons were already engaged with the Turkish division under Ibrahim-Pasha; and the king, having heard mass on the Leopoldsberg from his chaplain Aviano, mounted his favourite sorrel charger, and, preceded by his son James, whom he had just dubbed a knight in front of the army, and by his esquire bearing his shield and banner, led the Poles, who held the right of the allied line, down the slopes of the mountain. The left wing, which lay nearest the river, was commanded by the Duke of Lorraine, and the columns in the centre were under the orders of the two electors, and the Dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg and Eisenach. By eight A.M. the action had become warm along the skirts of the Kahlenberg--the Turks, who were principally horse, dismounting to fight on foot behind hastily-constructed abattis of trees and earth, as the nature of the ground was unfavourable to cavalry, and keeping up a heavy fire on the enemy while they were entangled in the ravines. The ardour of the Christians, however, speedily overcame these obstacles; and by ten A.M., their van was debouching from the defiles into the plain with loud shouts of battle; and the Turks, though from time to time receiving reinforcements from the camp, were gradually obliged to give ground. The vizir, meanwhile, remaining immovable in his tent, directed a fresh cannonade to be directed against the city, under cover of which a general assault was to be made; but the long files of camels laden with the spoils of Austria, which were sent off in haste on the road to Hungary, revealed his secret disquietude--and the troops in the trenches, effectually disheartened by the delay and privations of the siege, showed little inclination again to advance against the shattered bastions. The towers and steeples of Vienna were thronged with anxious spectators, who with throbbing hearts watched the advance of their deliverers, who pressed on at all points, "making the Turks give way" (says the diary above quoted) "whenever they came to a shock." The villages of Nussdorff and Heiligenstadt on the Danube, where several _odas_ of janissaries, with heavy cannon, were posted, checked for some time the progress of the Austrians on the left; the Duc de Croye, a gallant French volunteer, fell in leading the attack, but a body of Polish cuirassiers were at last sent to their aid, who, levelling their lances, and dashing with loud shouts against the flank of the Turkish batteries, carried the position, and put the defenders to the sword. It was not so much a battle, as a series of desperate but irregular skirmishes scattered over wide extent of ground--the Turkish troops (who were almost all cavalry, as most of the regulars and artillery were still in the camp) gradually receding before the heavy advancing columns of the Christians. By four P.M. they were driven so close to their intrenchments, that Sobieski could descry the vizir, seated in a small crimson tent, and tranquilly drinking coffee with his two sons. At this moment, a torrent of the wild cavalry of the Tartars, headed by the khan in person, poured forth from the Moslem lines, and thundered upon the right of the Poles, only to recoil in disorder before the lances of Iablonowski and the Lithuanians, who pushed in pursuit close to a deep ravine, which covered the redoubts of the Turks. But the khan had recognized in the mêlée the well-known figure of Sobieski, whose personal presence had been as yet uncertain. "By Allah!" said he to the vizir on his return from his unsuccessful charge, "the heavens have fallen upon us; for the ill-omened _kral_ of the _Leh_ (Poles) of a truth is with the infidels!"
The Turks were now every where driven within their lines, and the battle appeared over for the day; but the Poles, with cries of triumph, demanded to be led to the attack of the camp, and Sobieski exclaiming, "Not unto us, O Lord, but to thy name be the praise!" directed the assault. In a moment the Polish chivalry spurred up the steep side of the ravine in the teeth of the Turkish artillery--a redoubt in the centre of the lines was stormed through the gorge by Maligny, brother-in-law of the king--the Pashas of Aleppo and Silistria, whose prowess sustained the fainting courage of their troops, were slain in the front of the battle--and, after a conflict of less than an hour, the whole vast array of the Osmanlis, pierced through the centre by the onset of the Polish lances, gave way in hopeless, irremediable confusion, and, abandoning their camp, artillery, and baggage, fled in wild confusion on the road to Hungary. By 6 P.M. the Polish King reached the tent of the vizir; but Kara-Mustapha had not awaited the arrival of the victor. In an agony of despair at the mighty ruin which he now saw to be inevitable, he gave the barbarous order (which was but partially executed) for the massacre of the women of his harem, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy; and, seizing the Sandjak-shereef,[H] mounted an Arabian camel of surpassing swiftness, and accompanied, or perhaps preceded, the flight of his army. Such was the panic haste of the rout, that, before sunset the next day, the whole host swept past the walls of Raab, the garrison of which thus gained the first tidings of the catastrophe--nor have the crimson banners of the crescent been ever again seen on the soil of Germany.
From the desultory character of the action, in which little use was made of artillery, and the headlong dismay in which the Turks at last took to flight, not more than 10,000 of their number, according to the most probable accounts, fell in the battle; of the allies, scarcely 3000 were killed or wounded. Three hundred pieces of cannon of various calibres, many of them taken in former wars by the Turks, and still bearing the arms of Poland or the empire--a countless quantity of arms, ammunition, and warlike implements of all kinds--were found in the abandoned intrenchments; and the abundance of cattle, with the amply stored magazines of provisions, afforded instant relief to the famine from which the citizens had been for some time suffering.
Surrounded by a vast crowd, who hailed him with enthusiastic acclamations as their deliverer, and thronged each other with a zeal approaching adoration, to kiss his hand or his stirrup, Sobieski entered Vienna through the breach on the morning of September 13, in company with the Duke of Lorraine and the electoral Prince of Bavaria, and with the horsetails found before the tent of the vizir borne in triumph before him; and having met and saluted Stahrenberg, repaired with him to a chapel in the church of the Augustin friars, to return thanks for the victory. As he entered the church, a priest cried aloud in an ecstacy of fervour--"There was a man sent from God whose name was John," and this text, which in past ages had been applied to the Hungarian paladin, John Hunyades, was again employed by the preachers throughout Europe, in celebration of the new champion of Christendom, John Sobieski. Far different to the entry of the Polish king was the return of the Emperor Leopold to his rescued capital. He had quitted it as a fugitive, amid the execrations of the people, who accused him of having drawn on them the storm of invasion, without providing means to ward off the destruction which threatened them; and having descended the Danube in a boat, he re-entered the city on the 14th in the guise of a penitent, proceeding on foot, with a taper in his hand, to the cathedral of St Stephen, where he knelt before the high altar in acknowledgement of his deliverance. But neither from his misfortunes, nor from his returning prosperity, had Leopold learned the lesson of gratitude or humility. He even attempted at first to evade an interview with Sobieski, on the ground that an elective king had never been received on terms of equality by an emperor of Germany: and, when this unworthy plea was overruled by the honest indignation of the Duke of Lorraine, the meeting of the two monarchs was formal and embarrassed: and Sobieski, disgusted at the meanness and arrogance of the prince who owed to him the preservation of his capital and throne, hastily cut short the conference, by deputing to his chancellor Zaluski the task of showing to Leopold the troops who had saved his empire; and departed on the 17th with his noble colleague in arms, the Duke of Lorraine, to follow up their triumphs by attacking the Turks in Hungary.
The battle of Vienna effectually broke the spell of the Ottoman military ascendancy, which for near three centuries had held Europe in awe;--and though the energies of the empire, and the efficacy of its institutions, had long been gradually decaying, it was this great blow which first revealed the secret of its impaired strength. The treaty of Zurawno with Poland in 1676, had raised the Ottoman dominions to the highest point of territorial extent which they ever attained. From the time of the reunion of the empire, after the confusion following the defeat of Bayezid I. by Timour, every reign had seen its boundaries enlarged by successive acquisitions; and if we except the voluntary abandonment, in 1636, of the remote and unprofitable province of Yemen, the horsetails had never receded from any territory on which they had been planted in token of permanent occupation. Besides the vast territories which were under the immediate rule of pashas sent from the Porte, and which the land and capitation taxes (_ssalyaneh_ and _kharatch_,) the khan of the Krim Tartars, the otaman of the Cossacks, the vassal princes of Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia, the hereditary chiefs of the Circassian and Koordish tribes, and the rulers of the Barbary regencies, were all "under the shadow of the imperial horsetails," and paid tribute and allegiance to the sultan, who might boast, with no less justice than did the monarchs of the Seljookian Turks of old, that a crowd of princes arose from the dust of his footsteps. During the reign of Mohammed IV., the last relics of Venetian rule in the Levant had been extirpated by the conquest of Candia; the frontiers in Hungary and Transylvania had been strengthened by the acquisition of the important fortresses of Grosswardein and Neuhausel, with the territory attached to them; while Poland had been deprived of the province through which she had access to the undefended points of the Ottoman frontier, and the Cossacks, from restless and intractable enemies, had been converted into friends and auxiliaries. In the domestic administration, also, the wisdom and clemency of Ahmed-Kiuprili, supported by a corresponding disposition on the part of the sultan, who was naturally averse to measures of severity, had introduced a spirit of moderation and equity unknown in the Ottoman annals. Such was the condition of the foreign relations and internal government of the Turkish empire at the juncture immediately preceding the death of Ahmed-Kiuprili, whose life closed (as mentioned above) within a few days of the conclusion of the peace of Zurawno:--and the coincidence of this highest point of territorial aggrandizement and domestic prosperity, with the last days of the great minister who had so principal a share in producing them, would almost justify the superstitious belief, that the star of the Kiuprilis was in sooth the protecting talisman of the Ottoman state, and inseparably connected with its welfare and splendour.
[Footnote B: The Poles were sometimes called _Lechi_, from Lech, the name of one of their ancient kings.]
[Footnote C: Von Hammer describes him, without quoting his authority, as of lofty stature, and extremely fair complexion; but Rycaut's personal acquaintance insures his correctness.]
[Footnote D: He subsequently became grand-vizir, and was killed at the battle of Salankaman in 1691.]
[Footnote E: This name in western parlance would be Gabriel de Bethlen; in Hungary, the Christian _follows_ the surname.]
[Footnote F: The anonymous biographer of Tekoeli, believed to be M. Leclerc.]
[Footnote G: After the defeat of the Turks, Scherban Cantacuzene opened a correspondence with the Emperor and the King of Poland, setting forth his hereditary claim to the imperial crown of Constantinople in the event of their expulsion from Europe! but his intrigues became known to the Ottoman ministry, and he is supposed to have been taken off by poison.]
[Footnote H: A _crimson_ banner was again sent to Rome as the Sandjak-shereef, as the green one of Hussein had been after the victory of Choczim.]
British art is in a transition state. Remembering many a year past our Academy Exhibitions, and the general, the family resemblance the works bore to each other, the little variety either in style or execution; and of later years noticing the gradual change, the adoption of a new class of subjects, and more varied styles; we are yet struck with the manifest difference between the present and any other we ever remember to have seen. There is, in fact, more originality. There are, indeed, mannerists enough; and we mean not here to use the word in its reprehensive sense but they stand more alone. There are far fewer imitators--some, of course, there must be, but they are chiefly in those classes where imitation is less easily avoided. Common-place subjects will ever be treated in a common-place manner, and resemble each other. Few venture now to follow even erratic genius in its wild vagaries. Turner has no rivals in the "dissolving view" style. By those who look to one or two favourite masters, who have hitherto given the character to our exhibitions, perhaps some disappointment may be felt. Edwin Landseer has but two pictures--Sir Augustus Calleott not one; and herein is a great loss, speaking not with reference to his very late pictures, his English landscape, or even his Italian views, but in vivid recollection of his fascinating river views, with their busy boats, under illuminating skies, such as, alas! he has ceased to paint.
With regard to landscape, we progress slowly. Yet we fancy we can perceive indications there, that are of a better promise; although of the higher class of landscape there is not one this year. The promise is in the pencil of Creswick. He labours to unite great finish, too minute finish, with breadth and boldness of effect. His is unquestionably a new style; his subjects are all pleasing, bordering on the poetical; we only question if his aim at minute finishing does not challenge a scrutiny into the accuracy and infinite variety of the detail of nature, that few pictures ought to require, and his certainly do not satisfy the demand. For, after all, there is a great sameness, where there ought to be variety, particularly in his foliage: it is safer, by a greater generality, to leave much to the imagination. We do not, however, mean to quarrel with this his peculiar style, nor to limit its power. There is something yet not achieved.
Mr Maclise has likewise originated a new style, and if not altogether a new class of subjects, one so richly, so luxuriantly treated as to be fairly considered new. He has given to humour a gentle satire, and more especially to works of creative fancy an historical importance; for herein he is essentially different from all other painters of this class, that none of his pieces, we might almost say none of his figures, are, or pretend to be, real life. If it be said that they are theatrical, we know not but that the term expresses their merit; for as Sir Joshua has well observed, there must be in the theatrical a certain ideal--which is, nevertheless, the higher representative of nature. Mr Maclise has adopted the elaborate finish and lavish ornament, but with so much breadth, and powerful execution, that the display scarcely offends--and he generally seeks subjects that will bear it. As a fault it was conspicuous in his Lady Macbeth: the strong emotions of that banquet-scene are of too hurrying, too absorbent a nature, to admit either the conspicuous multiplicity of parts, or the excess of ornament which that work exhibited. It was the very perfection of the "Sleeping Beauty," and singularly enough, begat a repose; for the mind was fascinated into the notion of the long sleep, by the very leisure required and taken to examine the all-quiescent detail.
May we not call the style of Mr Redgrave original? perhaps more so in his execution than his subject. He has appropriated the elegant familiar. Many are the painters we might name under whose hands the arts are advancing; those we have named, however, appear to us to be more or less the chief originators of new styles. Nor does it follow from this that their pictures are always the best in any exhibition, though they may be generally found so to be. If we are to congratulate the world of art on the particular advancement of this year, we shall certainly limit our praise to one picture, because it is the picture of the year; and it is a wondrous improvement upon all our former historical attempts. Whoever has visited the Exhibition will at once know that we allude to Mr Poole's "Plague of London." There has not been so powerful a picture painted in this country since the best days of Sir Joshua Reynolds. For its power we compare it with the "Ugolino" of the President, and we do so the more readily as both pictures are now publicly exhibited. Unlike as they are, unquestionably, in many respects, and painted indeed on opposite principles, regarding the mechanical methods and colour; yet for power, for pathos, they come into competition. The subject chosen by Mr Poole was one of much more difficulty, more complication: he has had, therefore, much more to do, much more to overcome; and he has succeeded. Both, possibly, to a certain extent, were imitators, yet both possessing a genius that made the works their own creations. Sir Joshua saw Rembrandt in every motion of his hand; and Mr Poole was not unconscious of Nicolo Poussin in the design and execution of his "Plague." This is not said to the disparagement of either painter; on the contrary, we should augur ill of that man's genius who would be more ambitious to be thought original in all things than of painting a good picture. Great minds will be above this little ambition. Raffaelle borrowed without scruple from those things that were done well before him, a whole figure, and even a group; yet the result was ever a work that none could ever suspect to be by any hand but Raffaelle's. In saying that Mr Poole has seen Nicolo Poussin, we do not mean to insinuate more than that fact: others may say more; and, depreciating a work of surprising power, and that, too, coming from an artist who has hitherto exhibited nothing to be compared with it, will add that he has stolen it from Nicolo Poussin. This we boldly deny. The works of Nicolo Poussin of similar subjects are well known, and wonderful works they are; we need mention but two--the one in the National Gallery, the "Plague of Ashdod," and that in the collection of P.S. Miles, Esq., and exhibited last year at the British Institution, and which is engraved in Forster's work. We do not believe that one group or single figure in Mr Poole's picture can be shown in these or any others of Poussin. And in the conception there is a striking difference. Mr Poole's subject, though we have called it the "Plague of London," is not, strictly speaking, the awfulness and the disgust of that dire malady, but the insanity of the fanatic Solomon Eagle, taking a divine, an almost Pythean impress from its connexion with that woful and appalling mystery. This being his subject, he has judiciously omitted much of that dreadfully disgusting detail, which _his_ subject compelled Poussin to force upon the spectator. There is, therefore, in Mr Poole's picture more to excite our wonder and pity than disgust; nay, there is even room for the exhibition of tender, sensitive, apprehensive, scarcely suffering beauty, and set off by contrasts not too strong; so that nothing impedes the mind in, or draws it off from, the contemplation of the madman--here more than madman, the maniac made inspired by the belief of the spectator in denunciations which appear verifying themselves visibly before him. It is this feeling which makes the crazed one grand, heroic, and which constitutes this picture an historical work of a high class. It is far more than a collection of incidents in a plague; it is the making the plague itself but an accessory. The theme is of the madness that spreads its bewilderment on all around, as its own of right, as cause and effect--a bewilderment that works beyond the frame, and will not let the beholder question its fanatic power. We will endeavour to describe the picture, but first, take the subject from the catalogue:--"Solomon Eagle exhorting the People to Repentance, during the Plague of the Year 1665. P. F. Poole.--'I suppose the world has heard of the famous Solomon Eagle, an enthusiast; he, though not infected at all, but in his head, went about denouncing of judgment upon the city in a frightful manner, sometimes quite naked and with a pan of burning charcoal on his head.'--See DE FOE'S _Narrative of the Plague in London_." The scene is supposed to be in that part of London termed "Alsatia," so well described by Sir Walter Scott--the refuge of the destitute and criminal. Here are groups of the infected, the dying, the callous, the despairing--a miserable languor pervades them all. The young--the aged--the innocent--the profligate. One sedate and lovely female is seeking consolation from the sacred book, beside whom sits her father--a grand figure, in whose countenance is a fixed intensity of worldly care, that alone seems to keep life within his listless body, next him is a young mother, with her dying child, and close behind him a maiden, hiding her face, whose eye alone is seen, distended and in vacant gaze. We feel that this is a family group, perhaps the broken remnant of a family, awaiting utter desolation. Behind the group are two very striking figures--a man bewildered, and more than infected, escaping from the house, within the doorway of which we see, written in red characters, "Lord have mercy upon us," and the cross; the nurse is endeavouring to detain him. Nothing can be finer than the action and expression in both figures--the horror of the nurse, and fever energy of the escaped, in whose countenance, never to be forgotten, is the personification of plague-madness. It is recorded that such a one did so escape, swam across the Thames, and recovered. Beyond these are revellers, a dissolute band, card-playing. In the midst of the game one is smitten with the plague, and is falling back--one starts with horror at the sudden seizure--a stupid, drunken indifference marks the others--they had been waiting for a feast, which one is bringing in, who stands just above the falling figure, who will never partake of it. Quite in the background, and behind a low wall, are conveyers of the dead, carrying along a body. This describes the left of the picture. To the right, and near the middle, is a dying boy, leaning upon a man, who is suddenly roused, and rising to hear the denunciations of Solomon Eagle. At his back are two lovely female figures, sisters we should suppose, the younger one dying, supported by the sister's knee, who sits with crossed hands, as if in almost hopeless prayer. Beyond is a wretched man, with his head resting upon his hand, in a fixed state of stupid indifference; above whom are several figures, mostly of the lower grade, in the various stages of infection or recovery. They are sitting before the window of a house, through the panes of which we see indistinctly one raving, while from the same house a dead body is being let down from above, and in the background are the dead-cart and the carriers. At the feet of the figures by the house lie others, in all the langour of disease and feverish watchfulness. Among these persons are various shades of character, apparently all from nature, each one, artistically speaking, representing a class, and yet with such a stamp of individual nature, that we are satisfied they must have been taken from life. In this respect they resemble Raffaelle's beggars at the "Beautiful Gate," in their admirable generality an individuality. Two are very striking--an odd, stiff-looking old man, with a beard, whose marked profile is of the old cheat; he is observing the escape of the man on the opposite side of the picture, and the woman at his side, whose face is turned upwards, one-half an idiot, and all-wicked. We cannot help thinking that we have seen these two characters. It is, perhaps, the skill of the painter that has so represented the class that we have the conviction of the individuals. So far the scene is prepared for the principal _dramatis personæ_; and so far we have only the calamity of the Plague, not in its scenes of turbulence, but kept down under an awful and quiet expectation of doom; so that, were the two principal figures obliterated, we should say the scene is yet but a preparation, awaiting the master figures to mark its true impression and feeling, constituting the subject of the picture. These principal figures are Solomon Eagle and his attendant; they are placed judiciously in the centre of the picture, in no part intercepted. Solomon Eagle hurries into the picture with a book in one hand, the other raised, as pointing to the heavens, from whence come the denunciations he pronounces: on his head is a pan of burning charcoal. He is naked, excepting his waist. His very attitude is insane--we need not look at his face to see that; the fore-finger, starting off from the others, is of mad action, and similar is the energy of the projected foot. The attitude is of one with a fixed purpose, one under an imaginary divine commission; it is of entire faith and firmness; and never was such insanity more finely conceived in a countenance. The man is all crazed, and grand, awfully grand, in his craziness. He throws around him an infection of craziness, as does the atmosphere of plague. There is a peculiar look in the eye, which shows the most consummate skill of the painter. The finger starts up as with an electric power, as if it could draw down the vengeance which it communicates. We mentioned the attendant figure--not that he is conscious of her presence. She is mysterious, veiled, a masked mystery--a walking tale of plague, woe, and desolation--a wandering, lonely, decayed gentlewoman: we read her history in her look, and in her walk. Her relations have all been smitten, swept away by the pestilence; her mind is made callous by utter misery; she wanders about careless, without any motive; a childish curiosity may be her pleasure, any incident to divert thoughts that make her sensible of her own bereavement. She stops to listen to the denunciations of the crazed prophet, and herself partakes, though callously, of his insanity--half believes, but scarcely feels. The sky is lurid, pestilential; it touches with plague what it illuminates. Such is the picture in its design. The colouring is quite in accordance with the purpose, and completes the sentiment; there is much of a green tone, yet under great variety. There is very great knowledge shown in it of artistical design, and the art of disposing lines; the groups, kept sufficiently distinct, yet have connecting links with each other; and there are general lines that bring all within the compass of one subject. Now, what, after all, is the impression on the mind of the spectator? for it is not enough to paint plague or madness: unless our human sympathy be touched, we turn away in disgust. Yet upon this picture we look with pleasure. Many whom we have heard say they could not bear to look at it, we found again and again standing before it: some we questioned; and at last they acknowledged pleasure. So are we moved at tragedy: human sympathies are moved--the great natural source of all our pleasures: pity and tenderness, and a sense of the awfulness of a great mystery, are upon us; and though pleased be too light a word, yet we are pleased; and where we are so pleased, we are made better. We feel the good flowing in upon us; and were not the busy scene of the multitudes in an exhibition, and the general glare, distracting, and discordant to the feeling such a picture is calculated to convey, we could enter calmly and deeply into its enjoyment. We have given, at much length, a description of the picture, because we think it a work of more importance than any that has, we would say ever, been exhibited upon the Academy walls--one of more decided commanding genius. There are faults in it doubtless, some of drawing, but not of much importance. We look to the mind in it--to its real greatness of manner, and we believe it to be a work of which the nation may be proud; and were we to look for a parallel, we must go to some of the best works of the best painters of the best ages. We were surprised to find that so small a sum as L 400 was set upon the picture--and more so that it was not sold. We regret that there is no power in the directors of our National Gallery to buy occasionally a modern production. Is there, in that gallery, one work of a British painter in any way equal to it?
There are only two pictures by Mr Maclise--they sustain his reputation.
"The Actress's reception of the Author."--"He advanced into the room trembling and confused, and let his gloves and cloak fall, which having taken up, he approached my mistress, and presented to her a paper with more respect than that of a counsellor when he delivers a petition to a judge, saying, "Be so good, madam, as to accept of this part, which I take the liberty to offer." She received it in a cold and disdainful manner, with out even deigning to answer his compliments.'-_Gil Blas_, c. xi."
The picture here is the luxuriantly beautiful and insolent prima-donna; we could wish that much of the picture, many of the "figures to let," were away. There is a continuous flowing of graceful lines, in this one figure, with much breadth, that give it a largeness of style, extremely powerful. She luxuriates in pride, insolence, and beauty. The expression is perfect; nor is it confined to her face--it is in every limb and feature. The poor despised author bows low and submissive--and is even looked at contemptuously by a pet dressed monkey, pampered, and eating fruit: a good satire; the fruit to the unworthy--the brute before the genius. There is the usual display, the usual elaborate finish; but it is perhaps a little harder, with more sudden transitions from brown to white than commonly to be found in Mr Maclise's works.
"Waterfall at St. Nighton's, Kieve, near Tintagel, Cornwall." A lovely girl crossing the rocky bed of a stream--attended by a dog, who is leaping from stone to stone. The action of the dog, his care in the act of springing, is admirable, and shows that Mr Maclise can paint all objects well. This is of the high pastoral: the lonely seclusion of the passage between rocks, the scene of the "Waterfall," is a most judicious background to the figure, which is large. It is most sweetly painted.
We are glad to see Mr Ward, R. A., again in the Exhibition. His "Virgil's Bulls," is a subject poetically conceived. The whole landscape is in sympathy, waking, watchful sympathy, with the bulls in their conflict. Not a tree, nor a hill, nor a cloud in the sky but looks on as a spectator. All is in keeping. There is no violence in the colour, nothing to distract the attention from the noble animals--all is quiet, passive and observant. A less poetical mind would have given a bright blue, clear sky, and sparkling sunny grass; one more daring than judicious, might have placed the creatures in a turbulent scene of storm and uprooted ground; Mr Ward has given all the action to the combatants--you shall see nothing but them, and all nature shall be looking on as in a theatre of her own making. The subject is no less grand on the canvas than in the lines of the poet.
We had fully intended to have omitted any mention of Mr Turner's strange productions; but we hear that a work has appeared, exalting him above all landscape painters that ever existed, by a graduate of the University of Oxford. Believing, then, that his style is altogether fallacious, and the extravagant praise mischievous, because none can deny him some fascinations of genius, which mislead, we think it right to comment upon his this year's works. Their subjects are taken from abstracts from a MS. poem, of which Mr Turner is, we presume, himself the author; for though somewhat more distinct and intelligible than his paint, they are obscure enough, and by their feet are as much out of the perspective of verse, as his objects are of that of lines. "The opening of the Wallhalla," is by far the best, indeed it has its beauties; distances are happily given: most absurd are the figures, and the inconceivable foreground. The catalogue announcement of No. 129 startled us. We expected to see "Bright Phoebus" himself poetically personating a doge, or a midshipman; for it points to the "Sun of Venice going to Sea." His "Shade and Darkness; or, the Evening of the Deluge," is the strangest of things--the first question we ask is, which is the shade and which the darkness? After the strictest scrutiny, we learn from this bit of pictorial history, that on the eve of the mighty Deluge, a Newfoundland dog was chained to a post, lest he should swim to the ark; that a pig had been drinking a bottle of wine--an anachronism, for certainly "as drunk as David's sow," was an after-invention: that men, women, and children, (such we suppose they are meant to be) slept a purple sleep, with most gigantic arms round little bodies; that there was fire that did not burn, and water that would nearly obliterate, but not drown. But more wonderful still is the information we pick up, or pick out bit by bit, as strange things glimmer into shape. "Light and Colour, (Goethe's Theory)--The Morning after the Deluge--Moses writing the book of Genesis." Such is the unexpected announcement of the catalogue. But further to account for so remarkable a jumble as we are to behold, Mr Turner adds the following verses:--
"The ark stood firm on Ararat: th' returning sun Exhaled earth's humid bubbles, and, emulous of light, Reflected her lost forms, each in prismatic guise, Hope's harbinger, ephemeral as the summer fly, Which rises, flits, expands, and dies."
_Fallacies of Hope, MS._
This is unquestionably one of the "Fallacies of Hope"--for it is quite hopeless to make out, the sun smoking his cigar of colour, and exhaling earth's humid bubbles; yet we do see a great number of "bubble" heads, scratchy things, in red wigs, rolling and floating out of nothing into nothing. There must indeed have been very wondrous giants in those days; for here is an enormous leg, far beyond the "ex pede Herculem," rising up some leagues off far bigger than whole figures close at hand. But we learn the wonderful fact, that the morning after the Deluge, Moses, sitting upon nothing, possibly the sky, wrote the book of Genesis with a Perryian pen, and on Bath-post, and that he was so seen by Mr Turner in his own peculiar perspective-defying telescope--for so "_sedet, eternumque sedebit_," in the year 1843. We know that in this account of it we a little jumble past, present, and future; but so we the better describe the picture; for when the Deluge went, Chaos came. That we may the more easily recognize the historian, a serpent is dropping from him, hieroglyphically. Can Mr Turner be serious? or is he trying how far he may perpetrate absurdities, and get the world to believe them beauties, or that his practice is according to any "theory of colour!" His conceptions are such as would be dreams of gallipots of colours, were they endued with life, and the power of dreaming prodigies.
There is unquestionably an impetus given to historical talent--and there is good proof that such talent is not wanting in this year's Exhibition; Mr Patten has chosen a very grand subject from the Inferno of Dante. "Dante, accompanied by Virgil in his descent to the Inferno, recognizes his three countrymen, Rusticucci, Aldobrandi, and Guidoguerra"--_Divina Commedia, Inferno._ The subject is finely conceived by Mr Patten. Virgil and Dante stand upon the edge of the fiery surge; they are noble and solemn figures. There is an abyss of flames below, that sends upward its whirling and tormenting storm, driven round and round, by which are seen the three countrymen. They are well grouped, and show the whirling motion of the fiery tempest; we should have preferred them more foreshortened, and such we think was the vision in Dante's mind's eye--for he says--
"Thus each one, as he wheel'd, his countenance At me directed, _so that opposite The neck moved ever to the twinkling feet_."
There is great art in placing the large limb of one of the figures immediately over the fiercest centre of fire--it gives interminable space to the fiery sea--an this part of the picture is very daringly and awfully coloured. We rather object to the equal largeness and importance of all the figures; and perhaps the bodies are too smooth, showing too little of the punishment of flame--they are too quiescent. Dante says, "Ah me, what wounds I marked upon their limbs!" And Rusticucci, who addresses Dante, thus describes their bodies:
"'If woe of this unsound and dreary waste,' Thus one began, 'added to our sad cheer _Thus peel'd_ with flame.'"
The persons of such sufferers should be Michael Angelesque--punishment and suffering should be equally _large_. We venture to suggest this criticism to Mr Patten, because the subject is grand, and there is so much good in his manner of treating it, that he will do well to paint another picture of it.
Mr Etty has no less than seven pictures. His "In the Greenwood Shade" is by far the best. Cupid and sleeping nymphs--the rich and lucid colours, softly losing themselves in shade, and here and there playfully recovered, very much remind us of Correggio. We should more applaud Mr Etty for his general colouring, than for his flesh tints; nor have his figures in general the soft and luxuriant roundness which grace and beauty should have--the faces, too, have often too much purple shadow. We have before remarked that, painting too closely from the model, he exhibits Graces that have worn stays. And surely he often mistakenly enlarges the loveliest portion of the female form--the bosom--whose beauty is in its undefined commencement, its gentle and innocent and modest growth. How happily is this hit off by Dryden in his description of Iphigenia sleeping, to the gaze of the clown Cymon:--
"As yet their places were but signified." While so many pictures of acknowledged merit are rejected for lack of room, it is scarcely fair, perhaps, for one artist to exhibit so many. Mr. Eastlake has, however, been too liberal to others in his forbearing modesty; we could wish he had not confined himself to one. He might offer the lioness's answer, were not his picture one most tenderly expressive of all gentleness. It is an old subject, but treated in no respect after the old manner. The boy is faint and weary, on the ground. Hagar, with a countenance of sweet anxiety, is giving the water, with a care, and with a view to the safety of the draught. There is a dead, dry, burnt palm-tree lying on the ground, poetically descriptive. The expression of both figures is perfect, and they are most sweetly, tenderly painted. If we might make any objection, it would be that the subject is not quite poetically treated as to colour. It may be, and we have no doubt it is, most true to nature in one sense. We can believe that such a country would have such a sky, and such appearance in foreground and distance; but that very truth creates to our mind's eye an anachronism--it brings down the tale of antiquity to very modernism--it robs it of its antique hue--it shows it too commonly, too familiarly. As _we read it_, we do not so see it; we are not so matter-of-fact. There is an ideal colouring that belongs to sentiment--our minds always adopt it. We have not as yet correctly worked out that theory, and therefore it is not enough in our practice. More particularly in this subject do we require something ideal in the manner, for few are equally true in the characters as in the external scene. Here, certainly, neither Hagar nor Ishmael are of their nation and country. It is too lovely a picture to wish touched. The remarks we venture upon may be applied to most modern pictures of ancient subjects, and may be worth consideration. There are two other pictures, very beautiful pictures, too, in the Exhibition, which have, we think, this defect--"Jephtha's Daughter, the last Day of Mourning. H. O. Neil;" and "Naomi and her Daughter-in-law. E. N. Eddis." The first, Jephtha's Daughter and her attendant maidens is a group of very lovely figures, extremely graceful, all breathing an air of purity; it is loveliness in many forms; for its conception as to chiaroscuro and colour, is most skilfully managed; but it has this present day's reality, and we only force ourselves to believe it Jephtha's Daughter. Exquisitely beautiful, too, is the affectionate, the very loving, Ruth. Orpah, too, is sweet, but the difference is well expressed--"Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, _but_ Ruth clave unto her." There is an unaffected simplicity about these figures that is quite charming, a simplicity of _manner_ well according with the simplicity of character; but has not the picture in colouring too much of this day's familiar air? In historical design both these pictures are a decided advance in art. We are giving promise.
We could wish that Mr. Martin would not ruin his greatness by his littlenesses. There is often a large conception, that we overlook to examine interminable minutiæ of parts, and mostly parts repeated; his figures are always injurious. His "Canute the Great rebuking his Courtiers" would have been a fine picture had he contented himself with the real subject--the sea. It is, indeed, crude in colour, and the coldness to the right ill agrees with the red heat on the left; but still, in chiaroscuro, it would have been a fine picture, if completed according to his first intention, but Canute and his courtiers spoil it. In the first place, they make, by their position and ease, the awful overwhelming sea safe. It is, as Longinus remarks, the plank that takes away the danger and the poetry; and such an assemblage of courtiers put the times of Canute quite out of our heads--a collection from a book of fashions--Ladies' Magazines--in their velvet gauze and tiffany, in colours that put the sun to shame, and make him blush less red; and the little, minute work about the pebbly shore creates a weariness, for they tempt us to count the sands. All this arises from a mistaken view of the sublime, that we have before noticed in Mr. Martin. It is very strange that an artist of his undoubted genius should err in a matter so essential to the greatness at which he aims.
Would that we could say a word in of Mr Haydon's one historical picture, "The Heroine of Saragossa." She is most unheroic certainly, stretching across the centre of the picture with a most uncomfortable stride, with what a foot! and a toe that looks for amputation--a torch suspended out of her hand, held by nothing--not like "another Helen," to "fire another Troy," but purposing to fire off a huge cannon, without a chance of success; for not only do not her fingers hold the torch, but her face is averted from the piece of ordnance, and her feet are taking her away from it. She is splendidly dressed in red, and without shoes or stockings--a great mistake, for such a foot might have been well hid. She is the very worst historical figure we have ever seen in a picture of any pretensions; there is another figure that only attempts to hold a pistol. The whole is a most unfortunate display of the vulgar historical. The unfortunate woman has two heads of hair, and both look borrowed for the occasion. How very strange it is that an artist who could paint the very respectable picture of the "Raising of Lazarus," now at the Pantheon, should not himself be sensible of the glaring faults of such a picture as this; and we may add, the large one exhibited last year. Mr Haydon understands art, lectures upon it, and is, we believe, enthusiastic in his profession. Does he bring his own works to the test of the principles he lays down? The misconception of men of talent with regard to their own works is an unexplained phenomenon.
Edwin Landseer, R. A., exhibits but two pictures, both excellent. Of the two, we prefer the smaller, "Two horses drinking"--nature itself. Lord Kames, in his Elements of Criticism, remarks, that the fore-horse of a team always has his ears forward, on the alert, while the rest mostly, throw theirs back. This watchfulness Landseer has observed in the eye of the animal; the eye of the one, protected by the horse nearest to the spectator, has a quiet, unobserving look; the eye of the other is evidently on the watch. A cunning magpie is looking into a bone. The picture is beautifully coloured.
Mr Redgrave's three pictures are exquisitely beautiful, and in his own truly English style. "The Fortune Hunter,"
"Neglects a love on pure affection built, For vain indifference if but double-gilt."
A screen separates the deserted one from the courting pair. The contrast in expression of the two fair ones is as good as can be. The "vain indifference" is not as many, treating this subject, have made her, deformed, old, and ugly, for that would have removed our pity from the suffering one, showing the man to be altogether worthless, and the loss an escape; on the contrary she is of a face and person to be admired; but she looks vain and void of affection. We like not so well his "Going to Service;" but his "Poor Teacher," is most charming; it is a most pathetic tale, though it be one figure only, but that how sweet! A lovely girl in mourning is sitting in deep thought waiting for her scholars; on the table is her humble fare, and of that she takes little heed. She is thinking of her bereavement, perhaps a father, a mother, a sister--perhaps she is altogether a bereaved one--a tear is on her cheek. These are the subjects, when so well painted; that make us love innocence and tenderness, the loveliness of duty, and, therefore, they make us better. The habitual sight might rob a villain of his evil thoughts--such human loveliness is the nearest to angelic--indeed it is more, for we must not forget the exceeding greatness, loveliness, of which human nature is capable. Divine love has given it a power to be far above every other nature, and that divine love has touched the heart, and speaks in the countenance of the "Poor Teacher."
Mr Creswick has this year rectified the fault of the last. His greens were thought somewhat too crude and too monotonous. "In culpam ducet culpæ fuga"--the old foot-road is scarcely green enough. All Mr Creswick's pictures have in them a sentiment--nature with him is sentient and suggestive. The very stillness--the silence, the quiet of the old foot-road is the contemplative of many a little history of them whose feet have trod it: such is the character of "The Terrace." But the most strikingly beautiful is "Welsh Glen"--
"The meeting cliffs each deep-sunk glen divides, The woods wild scatter'd clothe their ample sides."
What sketcher has not frequently come upon a scene like this, and, with a delight not unmixed with awe, hoped to realize it--and how many have failed! How often have we looked down upon the quiet and not shapeless rocky ledges just rising above and out of the dark still water; while beyond them, and low in the transparent pool, are stones rich of hue, and dimly seen, and beyond them the dark deep water spreads, reflecting partially the hues of the cliffs above--and watched the slender boughs, how they shoot out from rocky crevices, and above them branches from many a tree-top high up, hanging over; while we look up under the green arched boughs, and their fan-spreading leafage--every tree, every leaf communing, and all bending down to one object, worshipping as it were the deep pool's mystery! Here is the natural Gothic of Pan's temple--and out from the deep pass, golden and like a painted window of the sylvan aisle, glows the sun-touched wood, illuminated in all its wondrous tracery. In such a scene--where "Contemplation has her fill"--the perfect truth of this highly finished picture is sure to renew the feeling first enjoyed--enjoyed in solitude: it should have no figure but ourselves, for we are in it--and it has none. The colouring and execution are most true to nature; if we would wish any thing altered, it would be the sky, which is a little too light for the deep solemnity of all below it. Exquisitely beautiful as are these scenes from Mr Creswick's pencil, we doubt if he has reached or knows his own power. He has yet to add to this style the largeness of nature. We should venture to recommend to his reading, again and again, those parts of Sir Joshua's Discourses which treat of the large generality of nature.
Stanfield is, as usual, remarkably clear, more characteristic of himself, his manner, than of the places of his subjects--ever the same coloured lights and shadows. His compositions are well made up, there is seldom a line to offend. In "Mazorbo and Torcello, Gulf of Venice," however, the right-hand corner is extra-parochial to the scene--is unbalanced, and injures the composition. The scenes, as views, are very sweet, and have more repose than he usually throws into his pieces. This sameness of colouring, and scenical arrangement and effect, are no less conspicuous in the works of Mr Roberts, most of which are, however, very beautiful. Very striking is the view of "Ruins on the Island of Philoe, Nubia." It is not the worse for the absence of the general polish. We seem to be on the spot--the effect is so simple, the art is unobserved. We have to wonder at departed glory, at hidden history, and we do wonder. Why is it that Mr Danby, whose pictures of the "Sixth Seal," and the "Deluge," none that have seen them can forget, exhibits but one piece, and that, though very beautiful, not from the boldness of his genius? It is a quiet evening scene--the sun setting red towards the horizon, the sky having much of nature's green tints, her most peaceful hues, some cattle are standing in the river--the left is filled up with trees, which, beautiful in form, want transparency. There is a heaviness in that part too powerful; it attracts, and therefore disturbs the repose. Mr Lee has not very much varied his subjects or manner this year. His scenes are evidently from nature--great parts appear to have been painted out of doors, being fresh and true. Not altogether liking some of his subjects, we cannot but admire the skill in their treatment, the warm glow in the colouring, and true character of some of his woods running off in perspective are most pleasing. He does not aim at sentiment. He often reminds us of Gainsborough's best manner; but he is superior to him always, in subject, in composition, and in variety. He has great skill in the transparency and clearness of his tones. We think his pictures would be vastly improved if painted in a lower key. His "Scenery near Crediton, Devonshire," is remarkably good; perhaps the sky and distance is a little out of harmony with the rest. There are three pictures by Mr Müller, two very effective--"Prayers in the Desert"--but we are more struck with his "Arabs seeking a Treasure." The sepulchral interior is solemnly deep; the dim obscure, through which are yet seen the gigantic sculptured heads that seem the presiding guardians; the light and shade is very fine, as is the colour; the blue sky, seen from within, wonderfully assists the colour of the interior. There is great grandeur in the scene, and it is finely treated. His other picture, No. 1 in the Exhibition, is so very badly placed over the door, that we do not pretend to judge of it, because, Mr Müller being a good colourist, we do not recognise him in what we can see of this "Mill Scene on the Dolgarley."
Mr Collins has improved greatly upon his last year's exhibition. "A Sultry Day," though at Naples, and a "Windy Day," in Sussex are not the most pleasant things to feel or to think of. Mr Collins has succeeded in conveying the disagreeableness of the "windy day," and it is the more disagreeable for reminding us of Morland: luckily he has not succeeded in conveying the sultriness. On the contrary, to us, No. 217 breathes of freshness and coolness. It is a very sweet picture; water, boats, and shore, beautifully painted. It is well that Mr Kennedy has but one picture--"Italy"--for he paints by the acre. It is a great mistake--and, while so many pictures of merit are rejected for want of room, some injustice in his doing so. Nor does his subject, which is meagre enough, gain any thing by its size. There is merit in the grouping--not a little affectation in the poor colouring and general effect. Surely he might have made a much prettier small picture of a subject that has no pretensions to be large. Were "Italy" like that, we should totally differ with him, and not subscribe to his quotation--
"I must say That Italy's a pleasant place to me."
There is a very good picture by J. R. Herbert, A., if it were not for its too great or too common naturalness. The subject is the interview with the woman of Samaria. There is good expression, simplicity of design, but violence of colour. The subject demands a simplicity of colouring. Surely in such a scriptural subject, the annunciation, "I that speak unto thee am He," should alone be in the mind; but here the accessories are as conspicuous as the figures. Yet it is a picture of great merit.
There are two pictures of historical subjects, (not in the artistical sense so treated,) which attract great attention. "The Queen receiving the Sacrament," by Leslie; and "Waterloo," by Sir W. Allan, R.A. We are aware of the great value of this manner of pageant painting; it is perhaps worth while to sacrifice much of art to portraiture in this case. Viewing the necessity and the difficulty, we cannot but congratulate Mr Leslie--notwithstanding the peculiarity of the dresses, and the quantity of white to be introduced, this is by no means an unpleasantly coloured picture. There is much richness, in fact; and the artist has, with very great skill, avoided a gaudy effect. So the Battle of Waterloo must derive its great value from the truth of the portraits. It is any thing, however, but an heroic representation of a battle. Perhaps the object of the painter was confined to the facts of a military description, of positions of brigades and battalions--to our unmilitary eyes, there is wanting the vivid action, the energy, the mighty conflict--possibly only the ideal of a battle---which may, after all, be in appearance a much more tame sort of thing than we imagine. There is a necessity, for historical value, to see too much. There is Mr Ward's "Fight of the Bulls:" the whole earth echoes the boundary and the conflict; it is one great scene of energy. But the great fight of men conveys none of this feeling. It is not imposing in effect--it looks indeed rather dingy, the sky and distance cold, and not remarkably well painted--a battle should have more vigorous handling, something of the fury of the fight. If, however, it be matter-of-fact truth; that in such a subject is all important, and should be painted. A battle, any battle, may be another thing.--"Sir Joshua Reynolds and his Friends" is an excellent subject, if all the portraits are from authentic pictures; at a future day it will be of great value, although it is not very agreeable as a picture.
Either the portraits have less effect than they usually have, or there are fewer of them this year. We must give the palm to Mr Grant. He combines many excellences--perfect truth, unaffected simplicity, and most judicious and ever-harmonious colouring. It may not perhaps be far wrong to say, that he is the very best portrait-painter this country has known since Vandyck; certainly he appreciates, and has often deeply studied, that great painter. We have long considered Mr Grant's female portraits by far the best--the present exhibition raises him as a general portrait-painter. The perfect unaffected ease of his attitudes is a very great thing. Here are three pictures in a line, portraits, the _sitters_ all _seated_--and yet how striking it is, that there is only one that sits--Mr Grant's "Lord Wharncliffe." How sweet and natural, how beautiful as a picture, are "The Sisters!" The conventional style of portrait is undoubtedly good, and founded on good sense--but genius will seize an opportunity, and be original--such is the character of Mr Grant's portrait of "Lord Charles Scott, youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch." The boy stands like a boy, every limb belongs to him; he is all life--the flesh tints in the face are as perfect as can be. The attitude, the dress, so admirably managed. It has all the breadth, and power, too, of Velasquez, with all modern clearness. And what a charmingly coloured picture is the portrait of "Lady Margaret Littleton!" And close at hand, right glad were we to see the noble portrait of the "Professor of Moral Philosophy, Edinburgh," the [Greek: autos echeinos], by R. S. Lauder, an artist whose works we think have not always been done justice to in the Academy--yet how seldom do we see pictures of such power as his "Trial," from the "Heart of Mid-Lothian," and his "Ravensworth!" There is another portrait painter that is very original--Linnell; and such is he, in the "Portraits of the Three eldest Children of Robert Clutterbuck, Esq." There are so many smooth and soft pictures at the exhibitions which we must look at very near, that the habit is acquired of seeing all in that manner. To those who should so see this of Mr Linnell, it will appear odd, sketchy, unfinished--recede, and it is of very great power, and comes out wonderfully with all the truth of nature. It is an out-of-door scene. The children in most natural positions, and separate from the background, which is quite true in effect, with surprising force. It is very well coloured, and the manner, though not so at first, at length pleases. We like to see much done with little effort, as soon as the eye has recovered from the examination of laboured work.--How many works of great merit that we should wish to mention! and perhaps we ought to notice some of demerit; but we must forbear; the bad and the good must repose together--if there _can_ be repose in an exhibition room. Why has not Mr Uwins painted another "Fioretta," worth all the crude, blue, red and yellow processions he ever painted? And why--but we will ask no questions but of the "Hanging Committee:" why do they offend the eyes of spectators, and vex the hearts of exhibitors, by hanging little pictures out of sight? It is insulting to the public and the artists. Surely, if the works be not fit to be seen, boldly and honestly reject them. It is an injury to misplace them. Many of the pictures so placed, are evidently intended to be seen near the eye. You do not want to _furnish_ the walls with pictures. If so, do advertise that you will sacrifice some of your own to that purpose. You may find a sufficient number of "Amateurs" ready to immolate their reputation for art, of little value; but you should consider with what an aching heart the poor painter sees the labour of many a day, and many a cherished hope, as soon as the Academy opens, raised to its position of noted contempt. Nor should you have a "Condemned Cell"--such is the octagon-room termed. You render men unhappy--and superciliously seem to think, you pay them by a privilege of admission. Admission to what?--to see your well-placed merits, and their own disgraced position. We are happy to see an appeal to you on this subject in the _Artist's Magazine_, and eloquently written--and with good sense, as are all the notices in that work. That or some other should be enlarged to meet the requirements of art. Now we are indeed making hotbeds for the growth of artists. They will be thick as peas, and not so palatable--youths of large hope and little promise--some aiming beyond their reach, others striving and straining at a low Art-Union prize. Patronage can never keep pace with this "painting for the million system." The world will be inundated with mediocrity. This fever of art will terminate in a painting-plague. What is to become of the artists? Where will you colonize?
Now let us purpose a plan. Let the members of the Academy come to this resolution that instead of exhibiting some 1300 pictures annually, they will not admit into their rooms more than the 300--and so cut off the 1000--that the said 300 shall all have good places, and shall be the choicest works of British talent. Let them signify to the public that they will show no favour, and that they will be responsible for the merit of the works they mean to invite the public to see. They need not doubt the effect. Great will be the benefit to art, artists, and to patrons of art.
SUFFOLK STREET GALLERY--SOCIETY OF BRITISH ARTISTS.
This twentieth exhibition opens, according to the catalogue, under the auspices of Marcus Tullius Cicero; but why or wherefore the world who read the quotation mottoes of catalogues, must ever be at a loss to discover. "I think," said the wordy Roman, "that no one will ever become a highly distinguished orator, unless he shall have obtained a knowledge of all great things and arts." Therefore, you, the British public, are requested to walk in and see the show. We wish this motto affectation were put an end to--the Royal Academy are sadly puzzled year after year to hit upon a piece of Latin that will do, and their labour in that line is often in vain. And certainly this intimation from Suffolk Street, which might be very useful to a young barrister preparing for the circuit, is now to the "matter in hand" _nihil ad rem_. But have not we heard that motto before? We believe it was the last year's, and is we suppose to become an annual repetition _in secula seculorum_. The exhibition is, however, very respectable; we fear it is not so well attended as it deserves to be. The fact is, that the Academy, with its innumerable works, becomes, before it is half gone through, a very tiresome affair. What with straining at raw crude colours, and pictures out of sight, the public, who feel they must go there, have had enough of work for weary eyes; and imagining the other gallery to be inferior, go not to it. Yet, after a little rest, they would, we are sure, feel gratified in Suffolk Street. If there are but half-a-dozen good pictures, they are worth going to see, and certainly this exhibition has its very fair proportion of works of merit, and interest. Nor is there any lack of variety. We have only to make remarks upon a very few, not at all wishing to have it believed that we have selected either the best or the worst. There is novelty in some of Mr Woolmer's pictures. He seems, however, undetermined as to style; for his pictures are here very unequal. In one or two he is imitating Turner, but it is to have "confusion worse confounded." And singularly enough, in such imitations, his subjects are of repose. "A Scene in the Middle Ages, suggested by a visit to Haddon Hall," is very pleasing. The style here is suggestive, and judiciously so; he generalizes, and we are pleased to imagine. We see elegant figures walking under shade of trees, clear refreshing green shade; the composition is graceful, and fit for the speculative or enamoured loiterers. Perhaps the foreground is too ambitious--too much worked to effect. If this be done for the sake of contrast, it is a mistake of the proper effect of, and proper place for, contrast. In such a scene of ease and gentleness, all contrast is far better avoided; it always has a tendency to make active; and is to be applied in proportion to the degree of life and activity that may be desirable. His "Castle of Indolence" is much in imitation of Turner. The poet uses a singular expression,
"O'er which were _shadowy_ cast _Elysian gleams_."
What meaneth Thomson? He further calls the hue, "a roseate smile," and is reminded of Titian's pencil. By all which hints and expressions we conclude that the poet saw this "pleasing land of Drowsyhead" as through a coloured glass, subduing all the exciting colours of nature to a mellow dreaminess. No strong, no vivid colours are here--all is the quiescent modesty, the unobtruding magic of half-tones. What shall we say of such a Domain of Indolence being painted without shade or shelter; with violent contrasts of dark and light, and of positive forcing colouring? All repose is destroyed. Then again we see too much; there are too many parts, too many figures, too many occupations: indication that the territory was peopled would have been enough; this is more like a _fête champêtre_. Besides, the scene itself is not one to give delight to contemplate; it is not suggestive of pleasant dream, but looks out on an ugly, swampy, fog-infected country. The only "Indolence" we see has been devoted to the execution, for it is slovenly to a degree. We find the same fault, though not to the same extent, with his "Scene from Boccaccio." It sadly wants repose, and affects colouring which is neither good for itself, nor suitable to the subject. His "Subject from Chaucer" has the same defects. Mr Woolmer is decidedly a man of ability; but we think he has strange misconceptions with respect to colours, their sentimental effect and power.
There is a "Scene from the Arabian Nights," by Mr Jacobi, which, though it is an attempt, and by no means an unsuccessful one, at an accidental effect of nature, which is generally to be avoided, is extremely pleasing. It is a portrait of great loveliness, grace, and beauty--we look till we are in the illusion of the Arabian tale--the foot of the Beauty is not good in colour or form; and the distance is a little out of harmony. There is considerable power; such peculiar light and shade, and colouring, offered great difficulty to keep, up the effect evenly--and the difficulty has been overcome. Mr Herring greatly keeps up the character of this exhibition in his peculiar line. His "Interior of a Country Stable" is capitally painted, even to the ducks. The old horse has been evidently "a good 'un;" goats, ducks, and white horse behind, all good, and should complete the scene--we may have "too much for our money." The cows and occupation going on within, in an inner stall, are too conspicuous and a picture within a picture, and therefore would be better out. His black and roan, in the "Country Bait Stable," are perfect nature. A picture by Mr H. Johnston, "The Empress Theophane, begging her husband Leo V. to delay the execution of Michael the Physician," is well designed; has a great deal of beauty of design, of expression, and of general colour, but not colour of flesh--nor is the purple blue of the background good.
We take it for granted that artists are often at a loss for a subject, and that they often choose badly we all know; but a worse than that chosen by Mr G. Scott, we do not remember ever to have met with. It is entitled "Morbid Sympathy," forming two pictures. In the one the murderer is coming from the house where he has just committed the diabolical act; in the other he is visited. The man is an uninteresting villain and his visitors are fools. The object of the painter is doubtless a good one; it is to avert that morbid sympathy which has been so conspicuously and mischievously felt and affected for the worst, the most wicked of mankind. But to do this is the province of the press, not the pencil. It is a mistake of the whole purpose of art. It will not deter murderers, who look not at pictures; and if they were to look at these, would not be converted by any thing the pictures have to show--nor will it keep back one fool, madman, or sentimental hypocrite from making a disgraceful exhibition. We are not sorry to notice this failure of Mr Scott's, because we would call the attention of artists in general to "subject." Let a painter ask himself before he takes his brush in hand, why--for what purpose, with what object do I choose this scene or this incident? Can the moral or the sentiment it conveys be told by design and colour?--and if so, are such moral and such sentiment worth the "doing." Will it please, or will it disgust? We mean not to use the word "please" in its lowest common sense, but in that which expresses the gratification we are known to feel even when our quiescent happiness is disturbed. In that sense we know even tragedies are pleasing. We may, however, paint a martyr on his gridiron, and paint that which is only disgusting; the firmness, the devotion through faith of the martyr, are of the noblest heroism. If to represent that be the sole object, and it succeeds, such a work would rank with tragedy, and please.
PAINTING IN WATER COLOURS.
We have visited the two societies of painters in water colours. In these there are two antagonist principles in full practice--while some are endeavoring to imitate, and indeed to go beyond the power of oil colours, others are going back as much as may be to the white paper system; imitating in fact the imitation which painters in oil have taken up from the painters in water colour. We must, of course, expect from this no little extravagance both ways--and we are not disappointed in the expectation. We will first notice the elder institution. In this, certainly, there are fewer examples of the power of colour system--but not a few in the weaker system. We noticed last year that Mr Copley Fielding was making great advances in it. His practised and skilful hand causes that style to have many admirers. Poor John Varley--we look with interest at his last work. His early ones were full of genius. He was an enthusiast in art. There is very great beauty in his "View on the Croydon Canal previous to the making the rail-road." An admirable composition--the woods and water are very fine. There are some very good drawings by D. Cox, which will greatly please all who like to see much told with little labour. Prout fully sustains his reputation. Amidst much detail he is always broad and large. There is a most true effect of haze in Copley Fielding's fine drawing of "Folkstone Cliff." There is an affected absence of effect in his "Arundel Castle"--the blues and yellows are not in harmony--and all has an uncomfortable, unsubstantial look. Eliza Sharpe's "Little Dunce" is a delightful drawing. It is only the old dame that can ever be angry with a little dunce--and she puts on more than half her anger; and this is a glorious little dunce, that we would not see good for the world--the triumph of nature over tuition. This charming little creature has been happy her own way, has been wandering in her own "castle of indolence," and perhaps, too, philosophizing thus--Well, I have been naughty, but happier still than if I had been good. So is the goodness we force upon children often against nature--we love to see nature superior. Eliza Sharpe must have been of the same way of thinking, and it is archly expressed. Her Una and the lion is large and free--the face of Una nor quite the thing. We have a "Castle of Indolence" by Mr Finch, gay with "all the finches of the grove," but the country does not look indolent, nor the country for indolence. Hunt's boys, clever as ever. The sleeping boy, with his large shadow on the wall, is most successful. The companion, the boy awake, is a little of the caricature. His "Pet," a boy holding up a pig, natural as it is, is nevertheless disgusting; for such a toy will ever be the biggest beast of the two. Mr Hills has several excellent drawings of deer; but there is one, so perfect that it is quite poetical--a few deer, in their own wild haunt, heathery brown, and almost treeless, the few spots of stunted trees serving to mark the spot, separating it from similar, and making it the home. It is furthest from the haunts of man. It looks silence. The animals are quite nature, exquisitely grouped. The quiet colouring, unobtrusive, could not be more nicely conceived--it is the long Sabbath quiet of an unworking world. The picture is well executed. It is one that makes a lasting impression.
Mr Oakley's "Shrimper," a boy sitting on a rock, reminds us of some of Murillo's boys; it is as good in effect, and better in expression, than most of the Spaniard's. "After the second Battle of Newbury," by Cattermole, is a well-imagined scene, but is defective in that in which we should have supposed the artist would not have failed. It is not moonlight. "Tuning," by J. W. Wright, is a good proof that blue, as Gainsborough likewise proved, is not necessarily cold. His "Confession," with the two graceful figures, is very sweet. "The Gap of Dunloe," W. A. Nesfield--has fine folding forms--the distance and rainbow beautiful--it is, however, somewhat hurt by crude colour, and too much cut up foreground. The Vicar and his family supply work to many an artist of our day. Mr Taylor's is very good--Moses pulling the reluctant horse, is a good incident. We do not quite recognize Mrs Primrose, and could wish the daughter had more beauty. We never could very much admire Mr Richter's coarse vulgarities--and they are of gross feeling, and we think, caricatures without much humour; but his sentimentalities are worse. His "Sisters," a scene from the novel of "The Trustee," is but a miserable attempt at the pathetic. Mr Gastineau's "Bellagio" is a beautiful drawing, has great breadth and truth; but the water is certainly too blue.
EXHIBITION OF NEW SOCIETY IN WATER COLOURS.
Generally speaking, this Society is mostly ambitious of carrying water colour to its greatest possible depth and power, and certainly, in this respect, the attainment is wondrous. In design, and other character, this society more than keeps its ground. We remember last year noticing Miss Setchell's little picture, as one of the best of the year; we have still a perfect recollection of the most lovely pathetic expression of the poor girl. We were greatly disappointed that no work of Miss Setchell adorns the walls. There is a picture, however, which, if it did not move us equally, at once arrested our attention, and again and again did we return to it. The character of it is not certainly moving, as Miss Setchell's, it is altogether of a different cast--it is one for thought and manly contemplation. The subject is "Cromwell and Ireton intercepting a letter of Charles the First," by L. Haghe. Cromwell is standing reading a letter--Ireton adjusting the saddle in the recess of a window, near which Cromwell stands, is a table with a flagon, the scene is an inn in Holborn. The attitude of Cromwell is dignified ease and resolution. In his fine countenance we read the full history of the "coming events"--we see all there, that we have learned from history. The very curtains and stick seem to the imagination's eye convertible into canopy and sceptre. There is great forbearance in the painting--we mean that there is just enough, and no more, of water-colours' ambition. More depth would have injured the effect. It is a very striking picture; well finished, and with a breadth suited to the historical importance of the history. Mr Warren's "Christ's Sermon" is of the ambitious school. If we contrast the quiet, solemnly quiet, tone of that sermon of beatitudes, with the coloured character of the picture, we must condemn the inappropriate style. We should say it is immodestly painted; the picture and not the subject, obtrudes. The head of Christ is weak. It is a picture nevertheless of great ability, but with a gorgeous colouring ill suited to the subject. But we must speak with unqualified admiration of a little picture by Mr Warren--the "Ave Maria." It is a lady kneeling before a picture of a saint in a chapel. The depth and power is very surprising, and much reminds of Rembrandt, with the exception of the picture of the saint, which struck us at first as too light by a great deal, so much so that we noted it down as a glaring defect, but returning to the picture, we looked, not only till we were reconciled, but to an admiration of what we had considered a fault. It is the poetry of the subject. We see not the face of the petitioning figure, we only feel that she is there, and devoutly petitioning, and the brightness of the patron saint, with its simple open character of face and figure, comes out as a miraculous manifestation. We must not mistake--the "Ave Maria" does not mean that it is to the Virgin the petitioner prays; it is to a male saint.
Mr E. Corbould still is in the full ambition of water colour power. "Jesus at the House of Simon the Pharisee," is an example of the inappropriateness of this manner to solemn sacred subjects. The Mary is very good--not so the principal figure, it has a weak expression: some parts of this picture are too sketchy for others. His "Woman of Samaria" is a much better picture, has great breadth and grace. It is rather slight. His "Flower of the Fisher's Hut" is very pretty--a lady in masquerade. Absolon's "Uncle Toby" is well told, and with the author's naïveté. Mr Topham's farewell scene from the "Deserted Village," is, we think, too strong of the mock-pathetic--a scene of praying and babying.
There are many pictures we would wish to notice, but we must forbear: we cannot, however, omit the mention of a sea-piece, which we thought very fine, with a watery sky; a good design,--"North Sunderland Fishermen rendering assistance after a Squall."
THE BRITISH INSTITUTION.
Having recently given some account of Sir Joshua, his Discourses, his genius, and his influence upon the arts in this country, we visited this gallery, where as many as sixty of his works are exhibited, with no little interest. The North Room is occupied by them alone. Have we reason to think our estimate of Sir Joshua Reynolds, as a painter, not borne out by this exhibition? By no means. Our first impression from the whole collection, not seeing any particular picture, is of colour. And here Sir Joshua appears _inventive_; for though he not unfrequently imitated Rembrandt, there is, on the whole, a style that is far from Rembrandt, and is not like any other old master; yet we believe, for it was the character of his mind so to do, that he always had some great master in view in all he did. But he combined. Hence there is no little novelty in his style, and not seldom some inconsistencies--a mixture of care and delicacy, with great apparent slovenliness. We say apparent, for we are persuaded Sir Joshua never worked without real care and forethought; and that his apparent slovenliness was a purpose, and a long studied acquirement. He ever had in view the maxim--_Ars est celare artem_; but he did not always succeed, for he shows too evidently the art with which he concealed what first his art had effected. Looking carefully at these pictures, we see intention every where: there is no actual random work. We believe him to have finished much more than has been supposed; that there is, in reality, careful drawing and colouring, at least in many of his pictures, _under_ that large and general scumbling and glazing, to which, for the sake of making a whole, he sacrificed the minor beauties. And we believe that many of those beauties were not lost when the works were fresh from his easel, but that they lave been obscured since by the nature of the medium and the materials he used. That these were bad we cannot doubt, for we plainly see that some of these pictures, his most laboured for effect, are not only most wofully cracked, (yet that is not the word, for it expresses not the gummy separation of part from part,) but that transparency has been lost, and the once-brilliant pigments become a _caput mortuum_. Hence there is very great _heaviness_ pervading his pictures; so that even in colouring there is a want of freshness. A deep asphaltum has overpowered lightness and delicacy, and has itself become obscure. Sir Joshua did not leave his pictures in this state. It is as if one should admire, in the clear brown bed of a mountain river, luminous objects, stone or leaf, pebble or weed, most delicately uncertain in the magic of the waving glaze; and suddenly there should come over the fascination an earthy muddying inundation. In estimating Sir Joshua's mind, we must, in imagination, remove much that his hand has done. Nor was Sir Joshua, perhaps, always true to his subject in his intention of general colouring. His "Robinettas," and portraits, or ideals of children, are not improved by that deep asphaltum colouring, so unsuitable to the freshness, and may we not add, purity of childhood. And there appears, at least now in their present state, that there is too universal a use of the brown and other warm colours; Rembrandt invariably inserted among them cool and deep grays, very seldom blue, which, as too active a colour, is apt to destroy repose, the intended effect of deep colouring. Titian uses it for the sake of its activity, as in the Bacchus and Ariadne and how subdued is that blue! but even in such pictures there are the intermediate grays, both warm and cold, that the transition from warm to cold be not too sudden. We cannot say that Sir Joshua Reynolds did not introduce these qualifying grays, because the browns have so evidently become more intense, that they may have changed them to their own hue.
There are some pictures here which have either lost their glaze by cleaning, or never had it, and these have a freshness, and touch too, which others want; such is the case with "Lady Cockburn and her Three Sons"--a very fine picture, beautifully coloured, and well grouped, very like nature, and certainly in a manner of Vandyck. We remember, too, his "Kitty Fisher," and regret the practice which, with the view of giving tone, often took away real colour, and a great deal of the delicacy of nature. The very natural portrait of "Madame Schindelin," quite in another manner from any usual with Sir Joshua, shows that he was less indebted to his after theory of colouring than people in general have imagined. The most forcible picture among them is the "Ugolino." It is well known that the head of Ugolino was a study, and not designed for Ugolino, but that the story was adopted to suit it; yet it has been thought to want the dignity of that character. Ugolino had been a man in power; there is not much mark in the picture of his nobility. It has been said, too, that the addition of his sons is no improvement in the picture. We think otherwise: they are well grouped; by their various attitudes they give the greater desperate fixedness to Ugolino, and they do tell the story well, and are good in themselves. The power of the picture is very great, and it is not overpowered by glazing. On the whole, we think it his most vigorous work, and one upon which his fame as a painter may fairly rest. We have a word to say with respect to Sir Joshua's pictures of children. That he fully admired Correggio, we cannot doubt--his children have all human sweetness, tenderness, and affection; but it was the archness of children that mostly delighted our painter--their play, their frolic, their fun. In this, though in the main successful, he was apt to border upon the caricature; we often observe a cat-like expression. "The Strawberry Girl" has perhaps the most intense, and at the same time human look. It is deeply sentient or deeply feeling. The "Cardinal Beaufort" disappoints; so large a space of canvass uncouthly filled up, rather injures the intended expression in the cardinal. Has the demon been painted out, or has that part of the picture changed, and become obscure? But we will not notice particular pictures; having thus spoken so much of the general effect, we should only have to repeat what we have already said.
The Middle Room is a collection of old masters of many schools, and valuable indeed are most of these works of art. There is a small landscape by Rembrandt, "A Road leading to a Village with a Mill," wonderfully fine. It is the perfect poetry of colour. The manner and colouring give a sentiment to this most simple subject. It is a village church, with trees around it. This is the subject--the church and trees--all else belongs to that--we see dimly through the leafage--we read, through the gloom and the glimmer, the village histories. The repose of the dead--the piety of the living--all that is necessary for the village home, is introduced--but not conspicuously--and nothing more; here is a house, a farm-house, and a mill--a village stream, over which, but barely seen, is a wooden bridge--the clouds are closing round, and such clouds as "drop fatness," making the shelter the greater--a figure or two in the road. There is great simplicity in the chiaroscuros, and the paint is of the most brilliant gem-like richness, into which you look, for it is not flimsy and thin, but substance transparent--so that it lets in your imagination into the very depth of its mystery. No painter ever understood the poetry of colour as did Rembrandt. He made that his subject, whatever were the forms and figures. We have made notes of every picture, but have no room, and must be content with selecting a very few. Here are two fine sea-pieces by Vandervelde and Backhuysen. We notice them together for their unlikeness to each other. In the latter, "A Breeze, with the Prince of Orange's Yacht," there is a fine free fling of the waves, but lacking the precision of Vandervelde. There are two vessels, of nearly equal magnitude, and not together so as to make one. We are at a loss, therefore, which to look at. It is an offence in composition, and one which is never made by Vandervelde--often by Backhuysen; and not unfrequently are his vessels too large or too small for the skies and water. "The Breeze, with Man-of-War," by Vandervelde, is, in its composition, perfect. It is the Man-of-War; there is nothing to compete with it--the gallant vessel cares not for the winds or waves--she commands them. It is wondrously painted, and as fresh as from the easel. Here are three pictures by Paul Potter--the larger one, "Landscape, with Cattle and Figures," how unlike the others! "Cattle in a Storm," is a large picture in little. The wind blows, and the bull roars. It is very fine, and quite luminous. The other, "Landscape, with Horses and Figures," looks, at first view, not quite as it should; but, on examining it, there are parts most exquisitely beautiful--the white horse coming out of the stable is perfect, and, like the Daguerreotype portraits, the more you look with a good magnifying-glass, the more truth you see. There is no picture in this room that excites so much attention as the "View of Dort from the River."--Cuyp. It is certainly very splendid. It is a sunny effect; the town is low--some warm trees just across the river, near which, half-way in the stream, is a barge, the edges gilded by the sun--further off is a large vessel, whose sides are illuminated--above all is a thunder-cloud, very effectively painted. The picture has been divided, and rejoined, and is very well done. It would perhaps be better if it were cut off a little beyond the large vessel, as the opposite sides are not quite in harmony, one part being cold, the other extremely warm. There is a companion by Cuyp, which has been engraved for Forster's work, "A River Scene--Fishing under the Ice." It is very fine: if not quite so luminous as the former, it is in better tone altogether. We must move on to--
THE SOUTH ROOM
With the exception of two pictures of the modern German school, this room contains the works of English artists not living. Only one of the German school is a picture of any pretension, "Christ blessing the Little Children"--Professor Hesse. The reputation of this painter led us to expect something better. We must consider it apart from its German peculiarities, and with respect to what it gains or loses by them. As a design, the story is well and simply told. As a composition, it is a little too formal, lacking that easy flowing of lines into each other, which, though eschewed by the new school, is nevertheless a beauty. The expression in the heads is good generally, not so in the principal figure. There is throughout a character of purity and tenderness--it is a great point to attain this. But none of this character is assisted by the colouring, or the chiaroscuro. The colouring, though it has a gold background, is not rich, for the gold is pale, even to a straw colour, and the pattern on it rather gives it a straw texture. We presume it is meant to represent the dry Byzantine style of colouring, purposely avoiding the richer colours; as power is lost, by this adoption, it is impossible to give either the tones or colours of nature--there is no transparency. To preserve this old simplicity, softening and blending shadows are avoided, by which a positive unnaturalness offends the eye; hence the hands and feet not only look hard, but clumsy--they may not be, but they look, ill drawn. The figures, indeed, look like pasteboard figures stuck on; there is a leaden hue pervading all the flesh tints. It fails, too, in simplicity and antique air, which we suppose to be the objects of the school. For there is too much of art in the composition for the former, too little quaintness for the latter; and indeed its perfect newness of somewhat raw paint prevents the mind from going back to ancient time; and that failure makes the picture as a whole, a pretension. It does not, then, appear to gain what that old style is intended to bestow--and it loses nearly all the advantages of the after-improvements of art--of its extended means. It rejects the power of giving more intensity to feeling, of adding the grace of nature, the truth and variety of more perfect colouring, by the opaque and the transparent, and does not in any other way attain any thing which could not have been more perfectly attained without the sacrifice. The collection of the British school contains good and bad--few of the best of each master. West's best picture is among them, his "Death Of Wolfe"--everyone knows the print; the picture is good in colour and firmly painted, and contrasts with some others where we see the miserable effect of the megillups and varnishes which our painters were wont to mix with their colours. We should have been glad to have seen better specimens of Fuseli's genius--we suppose we must say that he had genius. The best piece of painting of his hand in the room is the boy in Harlowe's picture of the "Kemble Family;" a picture of considerable artistic merit, but ruined by the coarse vulgarity of a caricature of Mrs Siddons. How unlike the Lady Macbeth! The corpulent velvet dark mass and obtruding figure is most unpleasant. It is much to be regretted Mr. Harlowe did not redesign that principal figure. There are several landscapes of Gainsborough's, and one portrait--the latter excellent, the former poor. There is much vigour of colouring and handling in the "Horses at a Fountain;" but as usual, it is a poor composition, and of parts that ill agree. The mass of rock and foliage are quite out of character with the bit of tame village scene, and the hideous figures. Here, too, his "Girl and Pigs," for which he asked sixty guineas, and Sir Joshua gave him a hundred. We do not think the President had a bargain. There is not one of Wilson's best in this collection. The "Celadon and Amelia" is dingy, and poor in all respects. It verifies as it illustrates; for Thomson says,
"But who _can paint_ the lover as he stood?"
Very coarse is Opie's "Venus and Adonis." He had not grace for such a subject--nor for "Lavinia." We should have been glad to have seen some of his works where the subjects and handling agree. We are sorry to see Hogarth's "March to Finchley" so injured by some ignorant cleaner. His "Taste in High Life" is the perfection of caricature. We have not the slightest idea what Constable meant when he painted the "Opening of Waterloo Bridge." The poor "_Silver_ Thames" is converted into a smear of white lead and black. "Charles the First demanding the Five Members," surprised us by its power--its effect is good. Here is no slovenly painting, so common in Mr. Copley's day--the general colour too is good; and the painting of individual heads is much after the manner of Vandyck. There are some pictures on the walls which might have been judiciously omitted in an exhibition which must be considered as characteristic of English talent.
As the British Gallery is for a considerable period devoted to works of English art, and as so many other exhibitions offer them in such profusion, we would suggest that it would be more beneficial to art, and to the success and improvement of British painters, if the original intention of the governors of the institution were adhered to, of exhibiting annually the choicest works of the old schools.
MARSTON, OR, THE MEMOIRS OF A STATESMAN.
"Have I not in my time heard lions roar? Have I not heard the sea, puft up with wind, Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat? Have I not heard great ordnance in the field, And heaven's artillery thunder in the skies? Have I not in the pitched battle heard Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?"
The meeting was a singular and a melancholy one. The news from France had become hourly more fearful. Every packet brought accounts of new outrages. Paris was already in the power of the populace. The struggle continued, however hopelessly, in the provinces, just enough to swell the losses of noble life, and the conflagrations of noble property. To these wounds of feeling had now to be added sufferings of a still more pressing nature; their remittances had begun to fail. The property which they had left in the hands of their Parisian bankers had either become valueless by the issue of assignats, which no one would take, or confiscated in the general plunder of the banks, whose principals had been thrown into prison, on _suspicion_ of being worth robbing. All was bankruptcy.
The duchess made a slight attempt, evidently a painful one, to explain to us, as strangers, the purpose of their unusual meeting. It was simply, that "the emigrant noblesse, who had already experienced so much heroic hospitality from their English friends, thought that the time was come when they ought to be burdens on them no longer. The letters from France are dreadful," said she, "and it will be our duty to show, that as we have enjoyed prosperity, we can submit to suffering. We must prepare to earn our bread by those accomplishments which we acquired in happier times, and, as we once supposed, for happier times."
A general sigh seemed to break from every heart, and Mariamne hung on the hand of the duchess, and grew pale. There was a silence for a while; at length she resumed--"We must not return to our own country, at least until this horrid struggle is at an end; for we should only embarrass those who have sent us to the protection of this generous land, and for whose sake we live. Yet, we only do honour to them by avoiding to eat the bread of dependence, while we can labour for ourselves." Those words, few as they were, were uttered with many a pause, and in the low tone of a true mourner. She then called a beautiful girl towards her. The girl rose, hesitated, and sank again. "Clotilde, my love, here are none but friends; we must forget every thing but patience and our country." As she spoke, the duchess took her contribution from her hand; it was a drawing of some size, and of singular elegance--an Arcadian festival. It was sent round the room with universal admiration; and the ice thus once broken, a succession of proficients followed, bringing the produce of their talents; some, miniatures--some, sketches of French and Swiss scenery--some, illustrations of Racine and the French theatre; and, of course, many with embroidery, and the graceful works of the needle. Strangers are too apt to conceive that Paris is France and that the frivolity of life in the capital was always its model in the provinces. I here saw evidence to the contrary, and was not a little surprised to see performances so seldom to be found among the French arts, as admirable oil-paintings, carvings in ivory, marble busts, and bas-reliefs, casts of antique vases and groups, and even models of the chief temples and palaces of antiquity. The leisure of the chateau was often vividly, and even vigorously employed; and while the youths of the great families were solely directed to military prospects, the females often acquired solid and grave accomplishments. In short, we had among us as many artificers, not a few of them delicate and lovely, as could have furnished a Tower of Babel, if not built it; but _our_ fabric would have had one exception, it would have had no "confusion of tongues;" for tongues there were none to be heard among us--all was silence, but when some work of striking beauty, and this was not unfrequently the case, was handed round with a murmur of applause.
The harp and piano were then brought forward and this was the most trying part of all--not from any want of skill in the performers, for the majority were perfect on both instruments, but from the nature of the performances themselves. France is not renowned for native music, but neither Italian genius, nor German science, has produced more exquisite little snatches of melody than are to be found in some of the nooks and corners of the provinces. Paris is, like other capitals, an epitome of the world; but Languedoc, the wild country of Auvergne, the Vosges mountains, the hidden and quiet vales of Normandy, and even the melancholy sands of the Breton, have airs of singular and characteristic sweetness. Gretry and Rousseau were but their copyists. Sorrow, solitude, and love, are every where, and their inspiration is worth all the orchestras in the globe.
Those simple airs were more congenial to the depressed spirits of the whole assemblage than the most showy bravuras; and, sung by those handsome creatures--for beauty adds a charm to everything--retained me spell-bound. But, on the performers, and their circle of hearers, the effect was indescribable. All the world knows, that there is nothing which revives memories like music. Those were the airs which they had heard and sung from their infancy; the airs of their early companionships, hopes, and perhaps loves; sung in their gardens, their palaces, at their parents' knees, by the cradles of their children, at their firesides, every where combining with the heart. Sung now in their exile, they brought back to each heart some recollection of the happiest scenes and fondest ties of its existence. No power of poetry, nor even of the pencil, could have brought the past so deeply, so touchingly, with such living sensibility, before them. _There_ at least, was no acting, no display, no feigned feeling--their country, their friends, the perils of husband and brother in the field, the anguish, almost the agony, of woman's affection--and what can equal that affection?--was in the gestures and countenances of all before me. Some wept silently and abundantly; some buried their faces on their knees, and by the heaving of their bosoms alone, showed how they felt; some sat with their large eyes fixed on heaven, and their lips moving as in silent prayer; some almost knelt, with hands clasped and eyes bent down, in palpable supplication. Stranger as I was to them and theirs, it was painful even to me. I felt myself doubly an intruder, and was thinking how I might best glide away, when I saw Mariamne, in an attempt like my own, to move, suddenly fall at the feet of the duchess. She had fainted. I carried her into the open air, where she soon recovered. "Do you wish to return, Mariamne?" said I. She looked at me with amazement. "Return! It would kill me. Let us go home." I placed her on her horse, and we moved quietly and sadly away.
"That was a strange scene," said I, after a long interval of silence.
"Very," was the laconic reply.
"I am afraid it distressed you," I observed.
"I would not have seen it for any consideration, if I could have known what it was;" she answered with a new gush of tears. "Yet what must my feelings be to theirs? They lose every thing."
"But they bear the loss nobly. Still they have not lost all, when they can excite such sympathy in the mind of England. They have found at least an asylum; but what was the object of this singular meeting?"
"Oh, who can tell what they are dreaming of in their distraction?" she said with a deep sigh. "It was probably to turn their talents to some account; to send their works to London, and live by them--poor things, how little they know of London!--or, perhaps, to try their chance as teachers, and break their hearts in the trial. Revolutions are terrible things!" We lapsed into silence again.
"I pity most the more advanced in life," I resumed. "They have been so long accustomed to all the splendours of Paris, that living here must be felt with incurable humiliation. The young are more elastic, and bear misfortune by the mere spirit of youth; and the lovely find friends every where. Did you observe the noble air, the almost heroine look, of that incomparable girl who first showed her drawing?" Mariamne shot a quick glance at me.
"You have quite forgotten her name, I suppose?" said she, with a scrutinizing look.
"Not wholly. I think the duchess called her Clotilde."
"I shall set you at ease, sir, upon that point," said she smartly. "But of one thing I can assure you, and it is, that she is engaged to be married to her second cousin, the Marquis de Montrecour. So, you see, it is scarcely worth your while to enquire any thing more of her name, as she is about to change it so soon--but it is De Tourville, a descendant of the renowned admiral, who lost a renowned French fleet a hundred years ago, an event not unusual in French history. You observe, Mr Marston, I give you most willingly all the information in my power."
I have never presumed to have a master key to female hearts; but there was something half contemptuous, half piqued, in my fair companion's tone, and a rapid interchange of red and pale in her cheeks, which set me musing. She touched her horse with her fairy whip, and cantered a few paces before me. I followed, as became a faithful squire. She suddenly reined up, and said, in the voice of one determined that I should feel the full point of the sting--"Oh, I had forgot. I beg a thousand pardons. Yesterday the Marquis arrived in London. His proposal reached Madame la Comtesse this morning, the young lady's mother--your _heroine_, I think you called her. The _trousseau_ will probably be sent down from London in a week, unless she shall go to town to choose it, which is the more likely event, as among French ladies the trousseau is generally a more important matter than the gentleman; and then, I presume, you will be relieved from all _anxiety_ upon the subject."
I was all astonishment. The language would have been an impertinence in any one else; yet, in the pretty and piquant Mariamne, it was simply coquettish. At any other time or place I might have felt offended; but I was now embarrassed, wordless, and plunged in problems. Why should I be concerned in this news? What was the opinion of this butterfly to me? yet its sarcasm stung me: what was Clotilde to me? yet I involuntary wished the Marquis de Montrecour at the bottom of the Channel; or what knew I of French tastes, or cared about trousseaux? yet, at that moment, I peevishly determined to take no more rambles in the direction of the Emigrant cottages, and to return to town at once, and see what sort of absurdity a French marriage present looked at my first step in Bond Street.
But this was destined to be a day of adventures. I had led her a circuit through the Downs, in the hope of reviving her by the fresh air before we reached the villa; and we were moving slowly along over the velvet turf, and enjoying that most animating of all the breaths of sky or earth--the sea-breeze; when Mariamne's steed--one of the most highly _manèged_, and most beautiful of animals, began to show signs of restlessness, pricked up his ears, stopped suddenly, and began to snuff the gale with an inflated nostril. As if the animal had communicated its opinions to its fellow, both our horses set off at a smart trot, the trot became a canter, the canter a gallop. Mariamne was a capital horsewoman and the exercise put her in spirits again. After a quarter of an hour of this volunteer gallop, from the top of one of the Downs we saw the cause--the Sussex hunt, ranging the valley at our feet. Our horses were now irrestrainable, and both rushed down the hill together. The peril of such a descent instantly caught all eyes. A broad and high fence surrounded the foot of the hill, and, wildly as we flew down, saw that the whole hunt had stopped in evident alarm. In another moment we had reached the fence. Mariamne's horse, making a desperate spring, flew over it. Mine failed, and threw me into the middle of the hedge. I was stunned, the sight left my eyes; and, when I opened them again, a man of peculiarly striking countenance, and stately figure, was raising me from the ground, while an attendant was pouring brandy down my throat. My first thought was of my unfortunate companion. "Where is the lady? Is she safe? What has become of her?" were my first exclamations. "Are you much hurt," enquired the stranger. "No, no," I cried; "where is the lady?" "I hope by this time safe," said he; "some gentlemen of the party have followed her: her horse has run away with her; but they will doubtless overtake her in a few minutes." He ascended a small rising ground close to us, and stood gazing in the distance. "No, they are following her still. She keeps her seat. They are now taking a short cut to intercept her. They are close up.--No, that mad animal of a horse has thrown them all out again, he springs over every thing; yet she still holds on. What a capital horsewoman!" While he uttered those broken exclamations I rolled on the ground in torture. At length, after a pause, I heard him say, in a shuddering voice, "All's over! that way leads direct to the cliff."
At the words, though dizzy with pain, and scarcely able to see, I seized the bridle of the groom's horse, who had alighted to assist me; without a word sprang on his back, and dashing in the spur was gone like an arrow. The whole group soon followed.
From the first rising ground, I saw the frightful chase continued. Mariamne's hat had fallen off, and her hair and habit were flying in the wind. She was bending to the neck of her steed, whom the pursuit of the hunt, and the sight of their red coats, had evidently frightened. He was darting, rather than galloping along, by wild bounds, evidently growing feeble, but still distancing his pursuers. Half dead with pain and terror, I could scarcely hold the bridle, and was soon overtaken by the stranger. "Sir," said he, "you are exhausted, and will never be able to overtake the unfortunate lady in that direction. I know the country--follow me." Unable to answer, I followed; with my ears ringing with a thousand sounds, and my thoughts all confusion--I was awoke from this half stupor by a tremendous outcry.
On the brow of the hill before me, were the dozen jaded riders, forced to draw rein by the steepness of the declivity, and all pointing with vehement gestures below. In the next instant, through the ravine at its foot, and within a hundred yards of the cliff, came Marianne, still clinging to the horse, and flying like the wind. The look which she cast upon me, as she shot by, haunted me for years after, whenever an image of terror rose in my dreams. Her eyes were starting from their sockets, her lips gasping wide, her visage ghastliness itself. Another moment, and all must be over; for at the end of the valley was the cliff, a hundred and fifty feet high. I rushed after her. The sight of the sea had struck her at once. She uttered a scream, and fell with her forehead on the horse's neck. Even that movement probably checked him, for he reared, and before his feet touched the ground again I was close to him; with a frantic effort I caught his bridle, and swept his head round. Mariamne fell, voiceless, sightless, and breathless, into my arms. The spot where she was saved was within a single bound of the precipice.
The hunters now came round us, and all was congratulation. Our escape was pronounced to be "miraculous;" I was complimented on all kinds of heroism; and the stranger, evidently the chief personage of the circle, after giving the glance of a connoisseur at poor Mariamne's still pallid, yet expressive, countenance, thanked me, "for having allowed him to breathe at last, which he had not done, he believed, for some minutes, through terror." Nothing could exceed the graceful interest which he expressed in my companion's safety. His grooms were sent to look for assistance in all quarters, and it was not until a carriage had arrived from the next village, and he had seen Mariamne placed in it, that he could be persuaded to take his leave. Even in after life, when I saw him in the midst of the splendour of the world, himself its ruling star, and heard him so often quoted as
"The glass of fashion, and the mould of form,"
I thought that he never deserved the title more than when I saw him perform the duties of simple good-nature to two unknown individuals on a wild heath on the Sussex shore That stranger was the Prince of Wales!
This adventure, by all the laws of romance, should have made me fall in love with Mariamne, or Mariamne fall in love with me. But reality has laws of a different kind, and the good fortune of being just in time to save a lady's life, whether on horseback or on foot, whether in lake or river, whatever it might be in any other ages, is not necessarily a pledge of eternal constancy in our times. That she was grateful, I fully believe, for her nature was innocent and kind; but confession was out of the question, for neither during our rapid drive home, nor for some days after, was she capable of uttering one word. Alarm had reduced her to a state of exhaustion next to death. Her slight frame had been so shaken that she was as helpless as a child; and almost the only sin of consciousness which she gave, was her shrinking from the sight of the sea whenever she was led towards the window, and her hiding her head in her shawl at every sound of the surge.
It may be true, that if the choice depended on her father I should have been the possessor of her fair hand, and the heir to his half million, and equally true, that the event might have saved me a million of troubles. Even at this hour, I sometimes cannot help thinking how total a change must have been given to my anxious career--how many desperate struggles I should have escaped, if I had thus found my path covered, like an eastern potentate's, with cloth of gold! From my first step, how many privations, nay pangs, would have been utterly unknown to me in climbing up the steeps of life, if I had been lifted on the broad and easy pinions of opulence; how little I should have suffered from that reptilism which lurks in every thicket of public life, and every where with a sting; if I had gone through existence, like another Rasselas in his valley of imperishable summer, guarded from all the inclemencies of fortune, and surrounded with all the enjoyments of man!
And yet, who can tell that the very ease of such a destiny might not have wearied my heart, enervated my mind, and rendered me at once burdensome to myself and useless to the world? Is it not hunger that gives the true zest to the banquet, however exquisite, and labour that gives the true charm to the couch, however embroidered? Is not the noblest enjoyment of the noblest mind to be found it the consciousness that we have done something in our generation; that we have contributed a stone to the pyramid of the national renown, that our lips have swelled the echoes of imperial glory? What can reconcile the man of powerful intellect to the consciousness that he has passed through life a cipher, and left nothing behind him but a tomb?
I had now to undergo the temper of Mordecai. The sight of a post-chaise flying along the shore, with one of the royal grooms as outrider, had brought him and all the inmates of the villa to the door. From our furious haste it was evident to them all that some extraordinary circumstance had caused the long delay of their young mistress. From the entrance of the avenue I saw Mordecai standing, straight and silent as one of the pillars of his gate, with his arms folded, and his eye lowering under his huge brow, like one prepared for calamity. But when the carriage drove up to the door, and I raised his helpless and ashy-coloured daughter in my arms, he gazed for an instant on her, and with a howl like that of a wild animal pierced by bullet or steel, fell on his face on the ground. He evidently thought that she was dead.
Even when she opened her feeble eyelids, smiled, and took his hand, he could scarcely be persuaded that she was still alive. He raved, he tore his hair, he vowed deathless vengeance, and the vengeance of all his race, against the murderer of his child, "his beloved, the child of his soul, the last scion of his name, his angel Mariamne." Rage and tears followed each other in all the tempest of oriental fury. No explanation of mine would be listened to for a moment, and I at length gave up the attempt. The grooms had given the outline of the story; and Mordecai charged me with all kinds of rashness and folly. At one time rushing forward to the couch where she lay, faintly attempting to soothe him, he would fling himself on his knees beside her, kiss her forehead, and upbraid himself for all his fancied harshness to her in the course of his life. Then suddenly starting on his feet, with the spring of a tiger, he would bound towards me, his powerful features distended with rage, his deep eye flashing, and his bony hand clenched as if it grasped a dagger, cursing the hour "when I had first set my foot under his unhappy roof," or cast my "evil eye upon the only child of the undone Mordecai." Ever in all the scene, the thought struck me, of what would be the effect of a hundred thousand such men, sweeping with scymetar and lance over the fields of Palestine? The servants fled in terror, or lurked in different directions until the storm should be gone down. At length Mariamne, dreading an actual collision between us, rose with an effort, tottered across the room, and threw her arms around her father's neck. The old man was conquered at once; his countenance grew calm; he sat down upon the floor, and with his daughter hiding her face in his bosom, wept silently and long. When I saw him thus quieted, I left them together, and retired to my chamber, determined to leave the discovery of his error to his returning judgment; and reinforced in my intention to depart for London even at the earliest dawn.
I employed myself for a while in packing up my few equipments for the journey, but this was soon done, and the question was, how to get rid of the remainder of the evening. I was resolved to meet Mordecai no more; and the servant who announced that dinner was ready, was sent back with an answer, that a violent headach prevented my leaving my room. The headach was true; and I had a reluctance equally true to see the "human face divine" for that evening at least. There was one exception to that reluctance, for thoughts had begun to awake in me, from which I shrank with something little short of terror. There was one "human face divine" which I would have made a pilgrimage round the world to see--but it was not under the roof of Mordecai. It was in one of the little cottages on which I was then looking from my window, and yet which seemed placed by circumstances at an immeasurable distance from me. It was the countenance of a stranger--one with whom I had never exchanged a word, who was probably ignorant of my existence, whom I might never see again, and yet whom I had felt to be my fate. Such are the fantasies, the caprices of that most fantastic of things--the the unfledged mind. But I have not taken up my pen to write either the triflings or the tendernesses of the heart. I leave to others the _beau idéal_ of life. Mine has been the practical, and it has been stern and struggling. I have often been astonished at the softness in which other minds seem to have passed their day; the ripened pasture and clustering vineyards--the mental Arcadia--in which they describe themselves as having loitered from year to year. Can I have faith in this perpetual Claude Lorraine pencil--this undying verdure of the soil--this gold and purple suffusion of the sky--those pomps of the palace and the temple, with their pageants and nymphs, giving life to the landscape, while mine was a continual encounter with difficulty--a continual summons to self-control? My march was like that of the climber up the side of Ætna, every step through ruins, the vestiges of former conflagration--the ground I trode, rocks that had once been flame--every advance a new trial of my feelings or my fortitude--every stage of the ascent leading me, like the traveller, into a higher region of sand or ashes, until, at the highest, I stood in a circle of eternal frost, and with all the rich and human landscape below fading away in distance, or covered with clouds, looked down only on a gulf of fire.
* * * * *
As I sat at my window, gazing vaguely on the sea, then unruffled by a breath, and realizing all the images of evening serenity, a flight of curlews shot screaming by, and awoke me from my reverie. I took my gun, and followed them along the shore. My sportsmanship was never of the most zealous order, and my success on this occasion did not add much to the mortality of the curlews. But the fresh air revived me, I felt my elasticity of foot and frame return, and I followed for some miles along the windings of the shore. At last I had reached the pool where they, probably more aware of the weather than I was, seemed intending to take up their quarters for the night. I took my ground, and was preparing to attack them with both barrels; when a gust that swept with sudden violence between the hills nearly blew me down, and scattered all my prey, screaming and startled, on the wing far into the interior. I had now leisure to look to myself. The sea was rolling in huge billows to the shore. The sun had sunk as suddenly as if it had been drowned. The hills were visible but for a moment, gleamed ghastly in the last light, and were then covered with mist. One of those storms common in Autumn, and which brings all the violence of winter into the midst of the loveliest season of the year, had come on, and I was now to find shelter where I could in the wilderness.
I was vigorous and hardy, but my situation began to be sufficiently embarrassing; for I was at least half-a-dozen miles from home; and the fog, which wrapped every thing, soon rendered the whole face of the country one cloud. To move a single step now was hazardous. I could judge even of my nearness to the ocean only by its roar. The rain soon added to my perplexities, for it began to descend less in showers than in sheets. I tried the shelter of the solitary thicket in these wilds, but was quickly driven from my position. I next tried the hollow of a sand-hill, but there again I was beaten by the enemy; and before I had screened myself from the gust a quarter of an hour, a low rumbling sound, and the fall of pieces of the hill above, awoke me to the chance of being buried alive. I now disclaimed all shelter, and painfully gained the open country, with no other guide than my ear, which told me that I was leaving the sea further and further behind, but hearing the rush of many a rivulet turned into a river before me, and in no slight peril of finishing my history in the bed of some pool, or being swept on the surface of some overcharged ditch, to find my bed in the sea after all.
All vexations seem trifling when they are once over; but, for full two hours of this pelted pilgrimage, I felt sensations which might have cured me of solitary sporting for the rest of my existence.
At the end of those hours, which appeared to me ten times the length, I heard the barking of a dog, the usual announcement of peasant life; and rejoicing in it, as one of the most welcome of all possible sounds, I worked, felt, and waded, my way to the door of a building, at which, without ceremony, I asked for entrance. My application was for some time unanswered but I heard a rustling within which made me repeat my request in various ways. After trying my eloquence in vain, I offered a guinea for a bed. A window was now opened above, and showed a pair of heads, which in their night-gear strongly reminded me of the grandmother wolf in Little Red Riding hood--myself, of course, being the innocent victim. I now doubled my offer, my whole purse amounting to no more; and was let in.
My hosts were two, an old woman hideous with age and ferocity of feature, but the other a young one, with a handsome but bold countenance whose bronze had been borrowed as much from free living as from the sea breeze. The house was furnished in the parti-coloured style, which, showed me at once that it belonged to something above the peasant. The women at first were rather reluctant to enter into any conversation; but when, to make my reception welcome, I paid the two guineas down on the table, their hearts became thawed at once, and their tongues flowed. My wet clothes were exchanged for the fisherman's wardrobe, and a tolerable supper was put on the table. Some luxuries which I might not have found under roofs of more pretension, were produced one after the other; and I thus had Hamburg hung beef, Westphalia ham, and even St Petersburg caviare; preserved pine apple formed my desert, and a capital glass of claret "for the gentleman," of which the ladies, however, professed themselves incapable of discovering the merit, was followed by an equally capital bottle of brandy, which they evidently understood much better.
In the midst of our festivity, the dog sprang to the door, and a sound like that of a horn or conch shell, was heard through the roar of the gale. The women started from their seats in evident consternation, swept away the remnants of the supper, and conveyed me into an adjoining closet; where they begged of me to keep close, not to speak a syllable, let what would happen, and, as I valued my life and theirs, not to mention thereafter whatever I might see or hear. It was now plain that I was in the house of smugglers; and as those were notoriously people not to be trifled with, I made my promises of non-intervention with perfect sincerity.
I was scarcely in my nook when the party arrived. They were evidently six or seven--their conversation was the common bluster and boisterousness of their trade--and between their demands for supper, their coarse jokes, and their curses at the lubberliness or loitering of their associates from the other side of the Channel, (for, with all their accompliceship, they had the true John Bull contempt for the seamanship of Monsieur,) they kept the house in an uproar. They expected a cargo from Calais that right, and the idea of losing so favourable an opportunity as the tempest offered, rendered them especially indignant. Scouts were sent out from tine to time to look for signals, but nothing appeared. At length the brandy was beginning to take effect on their brains, and their rough jokes arose into quarrel. A charge of treachery produced the drawing of cutlasses, and I heard them slashing at each other; but the right Nantz which had inflamed the quarrel rendered it harmless, until one lost his balance, rolled headlong against my door, and burst it in. There stood I, visible to all, and the sight produced a yell, in which the epithets of "spy, exciseman, custom-house shark," and a whole vocabulary of others, all equally remote from panegyric, were showered upon me. I should have been cut down by some of the blades which flashed before me, but that I had taken the precaution of carrying my gun to my closet, and was evidently determined to fight it out. This produced a parley; when I told my tale, and as it was corroborated by the women, who came forward trembling at the sight of their savage masters, and who spoke with the sincerity of fear; it saved me further encounter, and I was merely enjoined to pledge myself, that I should not betray them.
The compromise was scarcely brought to a conclusion when the discharge of a pistol was heard outside; and as this was the signal, the whole party-prepared to leave the house. I now expected to be left to such slumbers as I could find in the midst of rocking roofs, and rattling doors and windows. But this was not to be. After a short consultation at the door, one of them returned, and desired me to throw on a fisherman's dreadnought which was smoking beside the fire; and follow him. Against this, however, I vehemently protested.
"Why, lookye, sir," said the fellow, smoothing his tone into something like civility, "there is no use in that thing there against about fifty of us; but you must come along."
I asked him, could he suppose, that I was any thing like a spy, or that, if I gave my word, I should not keep it?
"No," said the fellow. "I believe you to be a gentleman; but what a story shall we have for the captain if we tell him that we left a stranger behind us--and, begging your pardon, sir, we know more about you than what the women here told us--and that after he heard all our plans for the night's work, we left him to go off to the custom-house, with his story for the surveyor."
This seemed rational enough, but I still held my garrison. The fellow's face flushed, and, with something of an oath, he went to the door, gave a whistle, and returned next minute with a dozen powerful fellows, all armed. Contest was now useless, and I agreed to go with them until they met the "captain," who was then to settle the question of my liberty, The women curtseyed me to the door, as if they rather regretted the loss of their companion, and were at least not much pleased by being cut off from further inroads on a purse which had begun by paying so handsomely, not knowing, that it was utterly stript; and we marched to the point of waiting for the bark from Calais.
The storm had actually increased in violence, and the howling of the wind, and thunder of the billows on the shore, were tremendous. Not a word was spoken, and if it had been, the roar would have prevented it from being heard, the night was pitch dark, and the winding paths along which we rather slid than walked, would not have been easy to find during the day. But custom is every thing: my party strode along with the security of perfect knowledge. The country, too, seemed alive round us. The cottages, it is true, were all silent and shut up, as we hurried through; but many a light we saw from the lowly cottage, and many a whistle we heard over the wild heath. Cows' horns were also in evident requisition for trumpets, and in the intervals of the gusts I could often hear the creaking of cart-wheels in the distance. It is to be remembered that this was notoriously _the_ smuggling country of England, that those were the famous times of smuggling, and that the money made by evading the king's customs often amounted to a moderate fortune in the course of a simple speculation.
The whole country apparently had two existences, a day and a night one--a day and a night population--the clown and his tillage in the light, the smuggler and his trade in the dark; yet the same peasant frequently exhibiting a versatility for which John Bull seldom gets credit.--The man of the plough-tail and the spade, drudging and dull through one half of his being; the same man, after an hour or two of sleep, springing from his bed at midnight, handling the sail and helm, baffling his Majesty's cruisers at sea, and making a _mêlée_ with the officers of the customs on shore--active, quick, and bold, a first-rate seaman, brave as a lion, fleet as a hare, and generally having the best of it in the exercise of both qualities.
Our numbers had evidently grown as we advanced, and at length a whistle brought us to a dead stand. One of the party now touched my sleeve, and said,--"Sir, you must follow me." The cliff was so near, that thoughts not much to the credit of my companions came into my head. I drew back. The man observed it, and said, "The captain must see you, sir. If we wanted to do you any mischief, an ounce of lead might have settled the business an hour ago. But if we are free-traders, we are not bloodhounds. You may trust _me_; I served on board Rodney's ship."
Of course this was an appeal to my new friend's honour, which could not be refused without hurting his etiquette most grievously, and I followed. After two or three windings through an excavation in the cliff, we came in front of a blazing fire, screened from external eyes by a pile of ship timbers. Before the fire was a table with bottles, and at it a man busily writing. On raising his eyes the recognition was instant and mutual. I saw at once, in his strong features, my companion on the roof of the Royal Sussex stage, whose disappearance had been the subject of so much enquiry. He palpably knew a good deal more of me than I did of him, and, after a moment's embarrassment, and the thrusting of papers and pistols into the drawer of a table, he asked me to sit down; hurried to the mouth of the cavern, heard the story of my capture from the sailor, and returned, with his forehead rather smoothed.
"I am sorry, sir," said he, "that the absurdity of my people has given you a walk at this time of night; but they are rough fellows, and their orders are to be on the _qui vive_."
My answer was, "That I had been treated civilly; and, as circumstances had brought it about, I did not so much dislike the adventure after all."
"Well spoken, young gentleman," was his reply. "Circumstances rule every thing in this world, and one thing I shall tell you; you might be in worse hands, even in this country, than in ours. Pray," added he, with a peculiar look, "how did you leave my friend Mordecai?"
I laughed, and he followed my example. Tossing off a glass of wine and filling out a bumper for me--
"Well, then," said he, "suppose we drink the Jew's health. I gave you a rather strange character of him, I think. I called him the perfection of a rogue; true enough; but still I make a difference between a man who volunteers roguery; and a man on whom it is thrust by the world. Circumstances, you see, are my reason for every thing. Make a hard bargain with Mordecai, and ten to one but you are caught in his trap. Throw yourself on his mercy; and if the whim takes him, I have known him as generous as any other."
I replied, that his generosity or craft were now matters of very little importance to me, for I had determined to return to London by day-break. He expressed surprise, asked whether I was insensible to the charms of the fair Mariamne, and recommend my trying to make an impression there, if desired to have as much stock as would purchase the next loan. Our further conversation was interrupted by the sound of a gun from seaward, and we went out together.
The sight was now awful; the tide had risen, and the storm was at its height. We could scarcely keep our feet, except by clinging to the rocks. The bursts of wind came almost with the force of cannon shot, and the men, who now seemed to amount to several hundreds, were seen by the glare of the lightnings grasping each other in groups along the shore and the hills, the only mode in which they could save themselves from being swept away like chaff. The rain had now ceased its continual pour, but it burst in sharp, short showers, that smote us with the keenness of hail. The sea, to the horizon, was white with its own dashings, and every mountain surge that swept to the shore was edged with light--the whole, one magnificent sheet of phosphor and foam. Yet, awful as all was, all was so exciting that I actually enjoyed the scene. But the excitement grew stronger still, when the sudden report of two guns from seaward, the signal for the approach of the lugger, followed almost immediately by a broadside, told us that we were likely to see an action before her arrival. As she rose rapidly upon the horizon, her signals showed that she was chased by a Government cruiser, and one of double her size. Of the superior weight of metal in the pursuer we saw sufficient proofs in the unremitting fire. Except by superior manoeuvering there was clearly no chance for the lugger. But in the mean time all that could be done on shore was done. A huge fire sprang up instantly on the cliff, muskets were discharged, and shouts were given, to show that her friends were on the alert. The captain's countenance fell, and as he strode backwards and forwards along the shore, I could hear his wrath in continued grumblings.
"Fool and brute!" he cried, "this all comes of his being unable to hold his tongue. He has clearly blabbed, otherwise we should not have had any thing better than a row-boat in our wake. He will be captured to a certainty. Well, he will find the comfort of being a cabin-boy or a foremast-man on board the fleet for the rest of his days. I would not trust him with a Thames lighter, if ever he gets on shore again."
The cannonade began now to be returned by the lugger, and the captain's spirits revived. Coming up to me, he said, wiping the thick perspiration from his brow, "This, sir, is a bad night's job, I am afraid; but if the fellow in command of that lugger had only sea room, I doubt whether he would not give the revenue craft enough to do yet. If he would but stand off and try a fair run for it, but in this bay, in this beggarly nook, where a man cannot steer without rubbing his elbows upon either shore, he gives his seamanship no chance."
He now stood with his teeth firm set, and his night-glass to his eye, bluff against the storm. A broadside came rolling along.
"By Jove! one would think that he had heard me," he exclaimed. "Well done, Dick Longyarn! The Shark has got that in his teeth. He is leading the cruiser a dance. What sort of report will the revenue gentleman have to make to my Lords Commissioners to-morrow or the next day, I should wish to know?"
The crowd on shore followed the Manoeuvres with not less interest. Every glass was at the eye; and I constantly heard their grumblings and disapprovals, as some luckless turn of the helm exposed the lugger to the cruiser's fire. "She will be raked; she will lose her masts," was the general groan. As they neared the shore, the effect of every shot was visible. "There goes the mainsail all to ribands; the yards are shot in the slings." Then public opinion would change. "Fine fellow that! The Shark's main-top shakes like a whip." In this way all went on for nearly an hour, which, however, I scarcely felt to be more than a few minutes. "The skipper in command of that boat," said the captain at my side, "is one of the best seamen on the coast, as bold as a bull, and will fight any thing; but he is as leaky as a sieve; and when the wine gets into him, in a tavern at Calais or Dunkirk, if he had the secrets of the Privy Council, they would all be at the mercy of the first scoundrel who takes a bottle with him."
"But he fights his vessel well," I observed.
"So he does," was the reply; "but if he should have that lugger captured before a keg touches the sand, and if the whole goes into the custom-house before it reaches the cellars of the owners, it will be all his fault."
They were at length so near us that we could easily see the splinters flying from the sides of both, and the havoc made among the rigging was fearful; yet, except for the anxiety, nothing could be more beautiful than the manoeuvres of both. The doublings of the hare before the greyhound, the flight of the pigeon before the hawk, all the common images of pursuit and evasion were trifling to the doublings and turnings, the attempts to make fight, and the escape at the moment when capture seemed inevitable. The cruiser was gallantly commanded, and her masterly management upon a lee shore, often forced involuntary admiration even from the captain.
"A clever lad that revenue man, I must own," said he, "it is well worth his while, for if he catch that lugger he will have laid hold of twenty thousand pounds' worth of as hard-earned money as ever crossed the Channel. I myself have a thousand in silk on board."
"Then all is not brandy that she brings over?"
"Brandy!" said the captain, with a bitter smile. "They would be welcome to all the brandy she carries to-night, or to double the freight, if that were all. She has a cargo of French silks, French claret, ay, and French gold, that she must fight for while she has a stick standing."
At this moment, the sky, dark as it was before, grew tenfold darker, and a cloud, that gave me the exact image of a huge black velvet pall, suddenly dropped down and completely covered both vessels; no firing was heard for a time, even the yell of the gust had sunk; nothing was heard but the billow, as it groaned along the hollow shore. The same thought occurred to us both at once. "Those brave boys are all in their coffin together," slowly murmured my companion. There was neither shout nor even word among the crowd; while every eye and ear was strained, and the men began to run along the water's edge to find a fragment of the wrecks, or assist some struggler for life in the surge. But the cloud, which absolutely lay upon the water, suddenly burst open, with a roar of thunder, as if split from top to bottom by the bolt, and both were seen. A sheet of lightning, which, instead of the momentary flash, hung quivering from the zenith, showed both vessels with a lurid distinctness infinitely clearer than day. Every remaining shroud and rope, every wound of mast or yard, every shot-hole, nay, every rib and streak of the hulls, was as distinctly visible as if they had been illuminated from within. But their decks, as the heave of the surge threw them towards us, showed a fearful spectacle. The dying and the dead, flung along the gangways, the wounded clinging to the gun carriages or masts, a few still loading the guns, which neither had now hands enough to manoeuvre; yet both ships still flying on, shattered and torn, and looking, in the wild light, like two gigantic skeletons.
The lugger now fired a rocket, and sent up a striped flag, the signal of distress. A cry for "The boats!" was echoed along the shore, and eight or ten were speedily started from their hiding places and dragged down the shingle. Stout hearts and strong hands were in them without loss of time, and they dashed into the storm. But their efforts were wholly useless. No strength of oars could stand against such a gale. Some were swamped at once, the men hardly escaping with their lives. The rest were tossed like dust upon the wind, and dashed high on shore. All was hopeless. Another rocket went up, and by its ghastly blaze I caught a glimpse of the captain. He had been either forced from his hold on the rocks by the wind, or fallen through exhaustion. His bronzed face was was now as pale as the sand on which he lay; he was the very image of despair. Thinking that he had fainted, and fearing that, in this helpless state, he might be swept away by the next surge--for the spray was now bursting over us at every swell--I laid hold of his hand to drag him higher up the cliff after me. As if the grasp had given him a renewed life, he sprang on his feet, and saying, in a distracted tone, which I alone could hear, "Better be drowned than ruined!" he cried out with the voice of a maniac, "Boys, sink or swim, here I go! Five guineas for every man who gets on board." Tearing off his heavy coat, he rushed forward at the words, and plunged headlong into the billow. There was a general rush after him; some were thrown back on the sand, but about half the number were enabled to reach the lugger. We quickly saw the effect of even this reinforcement. At the very point of time when the cruiser was about to lay her on board, she came sharply round by the head, and discharged her broadside within pistol-shot. I could see the remaining mast of the cruiser stagger; it made two or three heaves, like a drunkard trying to recover his steps, then came a crash, and it went over the side. The vessel recoiled, and being now evidently unable to steer, the storm had her at its mercy; and the last we saw of her was a hull, rolling and staggering away down the Channel, firing guns of distress, and going headforemost toward the Bay of Biscay.
Need I say in what triumph the lugger was hauled up the sand, or how her bold commander and hardy crew were received? But while a carouse was preparing for them--and, it must be owned that if sailing and fighting were claims, they had earned their suppers--the business portion of the firm was in full activity. From the waggon down to the wheelbarrow, every country means of carriage was in motion without delay. I had been hitherto by no means aware of what Johnson would probably have called "the vehicular opulence" of the Sussex shore. Nor had I ever a more striking illustration of the proverbial lightness of the work of many hands; a process, which in his solemn lips would probably have been, "Sir, congregated thousands laugh at individual difficulty; delay vanishes before united labour; and time is an element of toil no more."
The clearance of the cargo would have put all the machinery of a royal dockyard to shame. As for the activity of the custom-house, it would have been the movement of a tortoise, to the rapidity of whatever is most rapid in unpacking or pilfering. But pilfering here we had none; we were all "men of honour;" and, undoubtedly, if any propensity to mistake the _tuum_ for the _meum_ had been exhibited, there were among us sufficient of the stamp of my old friend "who had served with Rodney," to have flung the culprit where men pilfer no more; whatever may be done by porpoises.
But as I had no wish to be a party to what, with all its gaiety and gallantry, I felt to be a rough infraction of the law; I now begged permission to make my way homewards. It was given at once, with even some expressions of gratitude for my having, as it was termed, stood by them to the last; and a guide was ordered for me as an additional civility. "You will have five miles to walk," said the captain, as he shook hands with me; "but Grapnel here will take you the shortest way and it will be light in an hour. You need say nothing of this business to Mordecai, who makes a point of being deaf and dumb when ever it suits him; though, between ourselves."--The captain's prudence here checked his overflow of confidence. "I merely mean to say, that if you drink any particularly fine claret, in a day or two, at his table, you will have to thank the lugger, La Belle Jeannette, for it. _Au revoir_."
My guide and I pushed on into the darkness. He was a bluff, open-hearted fellow, with all the smuggler's hatred of the magistracy, and taking great delight in telling how often they failed in their attempts to stop the "free trade," which he clearly regarded as the only trade worthy of a man. His account of the feats of his comrades; their escapes from the claws of the customs; their facetious tricks on the too vigilant among the magistrates; and the real luxury in which, with all their life of hardship, they found opportunities of indulging, would have edified a modern tour writer, and possibly relieved even the dreariness of a county historian. Among other matters too, he let out, that he paid me a prodigious compliment in accompanying me, as this night's smuggling was one of the grand exploits of the year; and casting a "longing, lingering look, behind," where a distant glimmer marked the scene of operations, he evidently halted between the two opinions, whether to go on, or return. "What a glorious night!" he exclaimed, as he turned his bald forehead to a sky black as Erebus, and roaring with whirlwind. "Talk of sunshine, or moonshine, compared with that!" Another burst of rain, or flash of lightning, would evidently have rendered the scene too captivating. Both came, and I must have lost my guide, when he stopped short, and in a half whisper, asked me, "whether I heard anything?" Before I could return a word, he had flung himself on the ground, with his ear to the sward, and after a moment's listening, said, "here they come!"
"Who come? There is neither sight nor sound between us and Brighton. Are you thinking of the custom-house officers?"
The look which I had the benefit of seeing by a blue blaze from the zenith, and the tone of infinite scorn, in which he slowly repeated the words, "custom-house officers," were incomparable. "Afraid of _them_!" said he, as he rose from the wet heather, "as much afraid as the cat is of the mice. No, those are the dragoons from Lewes."
"Well, what have we to care about them?"
"Care?" said he, with a mixture of frown and grin. "Only that you are the captain's friend, and I daresay, are going at this time of night to do a job for him in Brighton yourself--I should think, young gentleman, you were only laughing at Sam Grapnel. Better not! Why, you see, though the fellows with their pens behind their ears are no more than six-watered gin to us, the dragoons are another sort of thing. I must go back. So, young gentleman, I wish you a very good night."
The oddity of the wish in the midst of this elemental uproar, made me laugh, shivering as I was. Yet, to be left to find my own way at such a time, was startling. I offered him money.
"At another opportunity, sir," said he, rather pacified by the offer. "But, if they come upon the captain unawares, they will find every thing ready to their hands; all at sixes and sevens just now. It will take an hour or two before he can clear the cargo off the ground; and there goes the whole speculation. Don't you hear them? You have only to drop your ear to the ground, to know the whole affair. A lubber deserted from us a week ago, and no doubt he has laid the information."
I lay down, and clearly enough heard the trampling of horses, and in considerable numbers. My own situation was now somewhat embarrassing. They were evidently coming up in our direction; and, to be found past midnight, armed, (for my gun had been restored to me,) in company with an unquestionable smuggler, must have made appearances tell strongly against me. But my companion's mind was made up with the promptitude of a life which has no time to waste on thinking.
"I must go back this moment, or all our comrades will be taken in the fact. And, take my advice, you had better do the same; for go I will. The captain shan't have it to say that I let him be caught without warning."
I still hesitated, and he still urged.
"You can do no better, sir; for if you stand here five minutes longer, you will either be taken, or you will lose the number of your mess, by a carbine slug, or the slash of a sabre; while, if you turn back, you will have ten times the chance of escape along the shore."
I could now distinctly hear the clatter of hoofs, and the jingling of bridles. There was no time to deliberate; I certainly felt no inclination to be the means of the captain's ruin or death, and I followed my guide, who set off with the swiftness of a deer.
We soon reached the shore, where our intelligence struck considerable alarm. "I thought that it would be so," said the captain; "I had notice from a friend in the customs itself, that a spy was at work, and it was to this that we owed the chase of the lugger. For the revenue officers I care not a straw, but the dragoons are to be avoided when we can. We may fight upon occasion, it is true, but we choose our time for it. We have now only to get out of the way; and clever as they are, they may find us not so easily laid hold of."
Turning to me, he said, "I am sorry, Mr Marston, that you have been brought into all this bustle; but time and chance happen to us all. At all events, it will show you something of life, which you would scarcely have seen in the Jew's villa, though he, too, could show you a good deal. We shall see each other again, but let this night be forgotten, and now, good by once more." Then turning to my guide, he said, "This young gentleman must be seen safe along the cliff; stay with him until he sends you back again.
"Come, lads, all hands to work!" he now shouted to a group who stood at a little distance; "are the tar-barrels ready?" "Ay, ay," was the answer. They trundled three or four barrels along the shore, dragged them up the face of the cliff, and I had scarcely left them a hundred yards behind, when they were in a blaze. The trampling of the dragoons was now heard coming on at full speed.
"There," said Grapnel, "I'll engage that he tricks them at last; while they are moving up to the fire, the cargo is moving up to the store. He will leave half a dozen kegs for them to make prize of, while he is carrying away clear and clean as much silk as would make gowns for all the corporation of London, and as much claret as would give the gout to"----the gust choked the remainder of the comparison.
He had probably been accustomed to performances of this order, for his conjecture was exactly verified. From the spot where we stood, to get, as he called it, a last peep at "the free-traders bamboozling the dragoons," we could see cavalry rushing up to the blaze, evidently sure of having made a capture. A few carts in the ravine below next caught their eye. Another beacon on another hill soon threw up its flame, and a party galloped off to examine the new phenomenon. Two or thee more blazed in succession, and increased their perplexity.
"I must have one shot at them before I go," said Grapnel, "if I die for it;" and, before I could utter a word to prevent him, he discharged his pistol. This was an unlucky shot, as it drew the attention of a party of dragoons, whom we had not before seen, in the hollow beneath. After returning a shot or two, they darted down upon the rear of the last convoy, which was silently moving under the shadow of the cliffs, with the captain and some of its stoutest followers at its head. The business now began to be serious. The captain and his men, determined not to lose their venture, made a bold resistance. The dragoons came riding in from all quarters, but the ground was unfavourable for them, hemmed in as it was on all sides by the sea, and on the other by the cliff, besides the encumbrance of the carts and waggons, behind which the cutlasses of the smugglers were fully a match for the sabre.
If I could have thought of any thing but the hazard of those unfortunate fellows, the scene from the spot where I stood was sufficiently striking. The blaze from the tar-barrels showed a long extent of the Downs, with the troops scattered and galloping among them on all sides. Long ridges of light were thrown over the waters, while, immediately below me, the flashes of the smugglers' muskets and the soldiers' pistols were incessant. It was a battle on a minor scale.
But it is dangerous to be in the way of bullets even as an amateur; for, as I stood gazing down, I felt a sudden stroke like a shock of electricity. I staggered, and was on the point of rolling over the cliff, when Grapnel darted towards me. I just felt myself grasped by him, and lost all recollection.
On recovering my senses again, I was in Mordecai's villa, where I had been brought by some fishermen on the morning of the skirmish; and who, asking no questions, and being asked none, had deposited me, bandaged and bruised as I was, at the door of the villa. If I was not sensible of this service, it was, at least, a vast relief to the Jew, who had begun to think that his violence had urged me on some desperate course. As hasty in his repentance as in his wrath, he had no sooner become rational enough to hear his daughter's story, than he was eager to make me the _amende_ by all the means in his power. Perhaps he would have even lent me money, if I had met him in the penitential mood; but I was not to be found. The sight of my corded trunk convinced him that I had taken mortal offence, and he grew more uneasy still. As the night fell, a general enquiry was made amongst the fisherman's cabins; and as, on those occasions, no one ever desires to send away the enquirer without giving himself, at least, credit for an answer, every one gave an answer according to his fashion. Some thought that they had seen me in a skiff on the shore; where I was, of course, blown out to sea, and, by that time, probably carried to the chops of the Channel. Others were sure, that they had seen me on the outside of the London mail--an equally embarrassing conjecture; for it happened that the horses, startled by the lightening, had dashed the carriage to pieces a few miles off. Mordecai's own conception was, that the extravagance of his rage had driven me to the extravagance of despair; and that I was by this time making my bed below the surges which roared and thundered through the dusk; and some scraps of verse which had been found in my apartment--"Sonnets to an eyebrow," and reveries on subjects of which my host had as much knowledge as his own ledger, were set down by him for palpable proofs of that frenzy to which he assigned my demise. Thus, his night was a disturbed one, passed alternately in watching over his daughter's feeble signs of recovery, and hurrying to the window at every sound of every footstep which seemed to give a hope of my return. The sight of me in the morning, laid at his hall door, relieved his heart of a burden; and, though the silence and rapid retreat of my bearers gave him but too much the suspicion that I had somehow or other been involved in the desperate business of the last twelve hours; of whose particulars he had, by some means or other, become already acquainted; he determined to watch over, and, if need be, protect me, until I could leave his house in safety.
My recovery was slow. A ball had struck me on the forehead; and, though it had luckily glanced off, it had produced a contusion which long threatened dangerous consequences. For a month, I remained nearly insensible. At length I began to move, health returned, the sea-breeze gave me new sensations of life; and, but for one circumstance, I should have felt all the enjoyment of that most delightful of all contrasts--between the languor of a sick bed, and the renewed pouring of vitality through the frame.
On my first awaking, I found an accumulation of letters on my table. Some were the mere common-places of correspondence; some were from sporting friends in the neighbourhood of the castle, detailing with due exactness the achievements of their dogs and horses; three were from the Horse Guards at successive intervals of a week--the first announcing that my commission in the Guards had received the signatures of the proper authorities; the second, giving me a peremptory order to join immediately; and the third, formally announcing, that, as I had neither joined, nor assigned any reason for my absence, my commission had been cancelled!
This was an unexpected blow, and, in my state of weakness might have been a fatal one, but for my having found, at the bottom of the heap, a letter in the handwriting of Vincent. This excellent man, as if he had anticipated my vexations, wrote in a style singularly adapted to meet them at the moment. After slight and almost gay remarks on country occurrences, and some queries relative to my ideas of London; he touched on the difficulties which beset the commencement of every career, and the supreme necessity of patience, and a determination to be cheerful under all.
"One rule is absolutely essential," wrote he, "never to mourn over the past, or mope over the future. 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,' is a maxim of incomparable wisdom. Never think of the failures of yesterday, but to avoid them to-morrow, and never speculate on the failures of to-morrow, but to remember that you have outlived the failures of to-day. The French philosophers are now preaching around the world, that knowledge is power, and so it is, but only as gunpowder is power; a dangerous invention which blew up the inventor. It requires to be wisely managed. English experience will tell you, more to the purpose, that 'perseverance is power;' for with it, all things can be done, without it nothing. I remember, in the history of Tamerlane, an incident which, to me, has always had the force of an apothegm.
"In early life, and when reduced to the utmost distress, defeated in battle, and without a follower, he one day threw himself into the ruins of a Tartar caravansera, where he resolved to give up all further effort, and die. As he lay on the ground, sunk in despair, his eye was caught by the attempts of an ant to drag a grain of corn up to its nest in the wall. The load was too great for it, and the ant and the grain fell to the ground together. The trial was renewed, and both fell again. It was renewed ninety and nine times, and on the hundredth it succeeded, and the grain was carried into the nest. The thought instantly struck the prostrate chieftain, 'Shall an insect struggle ninety and nine times until it succeeds, while I, a man, and the descendant of heroes, give up all hope after a single battle?' He sprang from the ground, and found a troop of his followers outside, who had been looking for him through the wilderness. Scimitar in hand, he threw himself on his pursuers, swelled his troop into an army, his army into myriads, and finished by being the terror of Europe, the conqueror of Asia, and the wonder of the world." The letter finished with general enquiries into the things of the day, and all good wishes for my career.
It is astonishing what an effect is sometimes produced by advice, given at the exact moment when we want it. This letter was the "word in season" of which the "wisest of men" speaks; and I felt all its influence in my rescue from despondency. Its simplicity reached my heart more than the most laboured language, and its manliness seemed a direct summons to whatever was manly in my nature. I determined thenceforth, to try fortune to the utmost, to task my powers to the last, to regard difficulties as only the exercise that was intended to give me strength, and to render every success only a step to success higher still. That letter had pushed me another stage towards manhood.
With the Horse Guards' papers in my hand, and the letter of my old friend placed in a kind of boyish romance, in my bosom, I went to meet Mordecai and his daughter. The Jew shook his bushy brows over the rescript which seemed to put a perpetual extinguisher on my military hopes. But Mariamne was the gayest of the gay, on what she termed my "fortunate ill-fortune." She had now completely recovered; said she remembered nothing of her accident but "the heroism," as she expressed it, "on my part which had saved her to thank me;" and between her gratitude and her vivacity, might have given a spectator the idea that M. Lafontaine was rapidly losing ground with that creature of open lips and incessant smiles. Her harp was brought, she was an accomplished performer, and she surprised me by the taste and tenderness with which she sung a succession of native melodies, collected in her rambles from Hungary to the Hartz; and from the Mediterranean to the Alps and Pyrenees. One air struck me as so beautiful that I still remember the words. They were Garcilasso's:--
"De las casualidades Y las quimeras, Nacen felicidades Que no se esperano. Siempre se adviente Que donde esta la vida, Se halla la muerte."
Then with that quick turn of thought which forms so touching a feature of the love-poetry of Spain--
"Tus ojos a mis ojos, Miran atentos, Y callando se dicen Sus sentimientos. Cosa es bien rara, Que sin hablar se entienden Nuestras dos almas."
The Spaniard, in his own language, is inimitable. I cannot come nearer the soft Southern than these ballad lines--
"Alas,--how sweet, yet strange! Joy in the lap of woe! Love, all a change! Like roses laid on snow, Nipt by the cruel wind; Love, all unkind!
"Yet, close those eyes of thine, Else, though no accents fall, These stealing tears from mine Will tell thee all! Strange, that what lips deny, Is spoken by the telltale eye."
Whether the little seguidilla meant any thing in the lips of the songstress, I do not presume to say. But the hearts of women, perhaps I should say of all pretty women, expect admiration as naturally as an idol receives incense; and as a part of the incense now and then descends upon the worshippers themselves, the sentiment becomes in some degree mutual. However, with all my perceptions alive to her merits, and she had many; the cause of my gallant French friend was perfectly safe in my hands. I never had much vanity in these matters, and even if I had, the impression already made by another had made me impregnable, for the time, to the whole artillery of eyes.
Yet the evening which I thus spent, gave me the first genuine idea of domestic happiness which I had ever received. I had certainly seen but little of it at home. There all was either crowds, or solitude; the effort to seem delighted, or palpable discontent; extravagant festivity, or bitterness and frowns. My haughty father was scarcely approachable, unless when some lucky job shed a few drops of honey into his natural gall; and my gentle mother habitually took refuge in her chamber, with a feebleness of mind which only embittered her vexations. In short, the "family fireside" had become with me a name for every thing dull and discomforting; and a _tête-à-tête_ little less than an absolute terror.
But in this apartment I saw how perfectly possible it might be to make one's way through life, even with so small a share of that world as the woman before me. I had now spent some hours without a care, without a wish, or even a thought beyond the room in which we sat. My imagination had not flagged, no sense of weariness had touched me, our conversation had never wanted a topic; yet the Jew was one certainly of no peculiar charm of manner, though a man of an originally vigorous mind, and well acquainted with general life; and even his daughter was too foreign and fantastic to realize my _beau idéal_. Still with the one being of my choice, I felt that it would be possible to be happy on a desert island.
Our supper was as animated as our evening. My remarks on the passing world--a world of which I then knew not much more than the astronomer does of the inhabitants of the moon, by inspecting it
"With his glazed optic tube, At midnight from the top of Fesolé, Or in Val d'Arno, to descry new seas, Rivers, and mountains on her spotty globe"--
were received with an acquiescence, which showed that I had already gained some ground, even in the rough, though undoubtedly subtle and powerful mind of the Jew: as for Mariamne, she was all delight, and until she took her leave of us for the night, all smiles.
As she closed the door Mordecai laid his muscular hand on my shoulder. "A word with you, Mr Marston; you have rendered me the highest of services in saving that girl from a dreadful death. You have been of use to me in other matters also, unconsciously I aver--but we shall talk of that another time. To come to the point at once. If you can make yourself my daughter's choice, for I shall never control her, I shall not throw any obstacles in the way. What say you?"
I never felt more difficulty in an answer. My voice actually died within my lips. I experienced a feverish sensation which must have mounted to my face, and given me the look of a clown or a criminal, if the Jew had but looked at me: but he was waiting my reply with his eyes fixed on the ground. But the hesitation was soon over; I was almost pledged to Lafontaine, as a man of honour; I knew that Mariamne, however she might play the coquette for the day, was already bound in heart to the gallant Frenchman; and if neither impediment had existed, there was a chain, cold as ice, but strong as adamant--a chain of which she who had bound it was altogether ignorant, but which I had neither the power nor the will to sever. Still it was not for me to divulge Mariamne's secret, and I could not even touch upon my own. I escaped from the dilemma under cover of another reason, and also a true one.
Thanking him for his kindness and candour, I observed, "that I was nothing and had nothing, that to offer myself to the acceptance of one entitled to wed so opulently as his daughter, would be to pain my feelings, and place me in a humiliating point of view, in the presence of one whose respect I ought to deserve." Our conversation extended far into the night; and I freely entered into the disappointment which I had sustained in the unfortunate loss of my commission. I added, that I was determined not to lead a life of idleness, even if I had possessed the means; and that as the army was the profession which gave the fairest prospect of being known to the world, I must pursue it if possible.
The idea was fully approved of by my energetic hearer. "Right!" said he. "It is exactly the thing which I should have expected from you. You have been ill-treated, I own, but there is no use in kicking at power, unless you can kick it before you. The machinery of government is too huge for any one of us to resist, and unless we run along with it, our only wisdom is, to get out of its way. But you shall have a commission, ay, even if it cost a thousand guineas. Never refuse; I am not in the habit of throwing away my money; but you saved Mariamne's life, and I would not have lost my child for all the bullion in the Bank of England, or on the globe."
I was surprised by this burst of generosity, but it was real; and the Jew, as if to put his sincerity beyond all doubt, had torn a leaf out of his pocket-book, and was writing an order for the sum on his banker: he laid it on the table. I returned it to him at once, perhaps not less to his surprise than his offer had been to mine. But I reminded him, that I had still a balance at my banker's; and I told him besides that I had made up my mind to enter the regiment from which I had been so unceremoniously dismissed, or none. He stared. "If," said I, "I shall not be commissioned in the Coldstream, it will be utterly beyond my power to persuade even my own relatives, much less the world, that I have not been dismissed for some act of impropriety. Or, if men will not hazard saying this to my face, they will only be more likely to say it where I cannot defend myself."
"True!" said Mordecai, as if the opinion had cast a new light on him. "Perfectly to the point. This is a world of scandal; and, like the wolves, the whole pack fall on the wounded. You must recover your commission in the Coldstream; or be ready to tell your story every day of your life, and be only half believed after all. Yes, you must enter that very corps, or be sneered at as long as you live; and if you have a heart to be stung, it will be stung. Our people know that well."
"I should give my last shilling to be carrying its colours at this moment," said I, "but unfortunately money is useless there. The Guards are the favourite of royalty, and their commissions naturally go to men of rank and fortune."
"We must go to town and see what is to be done. When will you be ready?" asked my host.
"To-night--this moment--if possible, I should set out."
"No, no, Mr Marston, my movements cannot be quite so expeditious. I must wait for my London letters in the morning. On their arrival we may start, and, by taking four horses, reach town before the Horse Guards closes for the day."
At breakfast next morning Mariamne was not to be seen: she excused herself by a violent headach; and by the countenance of her Abigail, generally a tolerable reflexion of the temper of the female authority of a house, it was evident that I had fallen into disfavour. But how was this to be accounted for? Mordecai, from the lateness of the hour at which we parted, could not have seen her; even if she should condescend to take my matrimonial chillness as an offence. But the mystery was soon, cleared by her answer to the note which contained my farewell. It was simply the enclosure of a few hapless lines of verse, in which the name of Clotilde occurred, and which had been found in the clearance of my chamber preparatory to my journey. This was decisive. Mariamne was a sovereign, who, choose as she might her prime minister, would not suffer her royal attendance to be diminished by the loss of a single slave. I petitioned for a parting word, it was declined; and I had only to regret my poetic error, or my still greater error in not keeping my raptures under lock and key.
As the carriage drew up to the door, Mordecai casually asked me "have you left your card at the Steyne?"
"No," was the reply. "Was it necessary?"
"Absolutely so; the prince has sent frequently to enquire for you during your illness, and of course your leaving the neighbourhood without acknowledging the honour would be impossible."
"Then let us drive there at once," said I.
On reaching the prince's cottage--for cottage it was, and nothing more--the gentleman in waiting who received my card, told me that his Royal highness had desired that whenever I called he should be apprized of my coming, "as he wished to hear the history of the accident from myself." The prince's fondness for hearing every thing out of the common course, was well known; and I had only to obey. I had the honour of an introduction accordingly; was received with all the customary graces of his manner, and even with what attracts still more--with kindness. He enquired into the circumstances, and was evidently taking an interest in such parts of the narrative as I chose to give, when he was interrupted by the arrival of a courier from London. The letters happened to be of importance, and must be answered immediately. "But," said he, with his irresistible smile, "I must not lose your story; we dine at seven. You will probably meet some whom you would be gratified by seeing. Adieu--remember, seven."
This was equivalent to a command, and there was no resource, but to defer my journey for twelve hours more. Mordecai was not unwilling to exchange a dreary drive in which he had no immediate concern, for the comforts of his own home; or perhaps the honour among his neighbours of having for an inmate a guest of the heir-apparent, qualified the delay. Mariamne at our approach fled from the drawing-room like a frightened doe. And at the appointed hour I was at the pretty trellised porch of the prince's residence.
THE DEVIL'S FRILLS.
A DUTCH ILLUSTRATION OF THE WATER CURE.
A stranger who visits Haarlem is not a little astonished to see, hung out from various houses, little frames coquettishly ornamented with squares of the finest lace. His curiosity will lead him to ask the reason of so strange a proceeding. But, however he may push his questions--however persevering he may be in getting at the bottom of the mystery--if he examine and cross-examine fifty different persons, he will get no other answer than--
"These are the devil's frills."
The frills of the devil! Horrible! What possible connexion can there be between those beautiful Valenciennes, those splendid Mechlins, those exquisite Brussels points, and his cloven-footed majesty? Is Haarlem a city of idolaters? Are all these gossamer oblations an offering to Beelzebub?
And are we to believe, in spite of well-authenticated tale and history, that instead of horns and claws, the gentleman in black sports frills and ruffles, as if he were a young dandy in Bond Street?
"These are the devil's frills."
It is my own private opinion that these mystic words contain some prodigiously recondite meaning; or, perhaps, arise from one of those awful incidents, of which Hoffman encountered so many among the ghost-seeing, all-believing Germans. But don't take it on my simple assertion, but judge for yourself. I shall tell you, word for word, the story as it was told to me, and as it is believed by multitudes of people, who believe nothing else, in the good town of Haarlem.
Yes,--one other thing everybody in Haarlem believes--and that is, that Guttenberg, and Werner, and Faust, in pretending that they were the discoverers of the art of printing, were egregious specimens of the art of lying; for that that noble discovery was made by no human being save and except an illustrious citizen of Haarlem, and an undeniable proof of it exists in the fact, that his statue is still to be seen in front of the great church. He rejoiced, while living, in the name of Laurentius Castero; and, however much you may be surprised at the claims advanced in his favour, you are hereby strictly cautioned to offer no contradiction to the boastings of his overjoyed compatriots--they are prouder of his glory than of their beer. But his merits did not stop short at casting types. In addition to his enormous learning and profound information, he possessed an almost miraculous mastery of the fiddle. He was a Dutch Paganini, and drew such notes from his instrument, that the burgomaster, in smoking his pipe and listening to the sounds, thought it had a close resemblance to the music of the spheres.
There was only one man in all Haarlem, in all Holland, who did not yield the palm at fiddle-playing to Castero. That one man was no other than Frederick Katwingen, the son of a rich brewer, whom his admirers--more numerous than those of his rival--had called the Dutch Orpheus.
If the laurels of Miltiades disturbed the sleep of Themistocles; if the exploits of Macedonia's madman interfered with the comfort of Julius Cæsar, the glory of Katwingen would not let Castero get a wink of sleep.
What! a man of genius--a philosopher like the _doctus_ Laurentius, not be contented with his fame as discoverer of the art of printing; but to leave his manuscripts, and pica, and pie, to strive for a contemptible triumph, to look with an eye of envy on a competitor for the applauses of a music room! Alas! too true. Who is the man, let me ask you, who can put bounds to his pretensions? Who is the man that does not feel as if the praises of his neighbour were an injury to himself? And if I must speak the whole truth, I am bound to confess that these jealous sentiments were equally entertained by both the musicians. Yes,--if Castero would acknowledge no master, Frederick could not bear that any one should consider himself his rival, and insisted at any rate in treating with him on equal terms. Laurentius, therefore, and the son of the brewer were declared enemies; and the inhabitants of Haarlem were divided into two parties, each ruled over with unlimited power by the fiddlestick of its chief.
It was announced one morning that the Stadtholder would pass through the town in the course of the day. The burgomaster determine to receive the illustrious personage in proper style, and ordered the two rivals to hold themselves in readiness. Here, then, was a contest worthy of them an opportunity of bringing the great question to issue of which of them played the first fiddle in Holland--perhaps in Europe. It fell to Frederick's chance to perform first--in itself a sort of triumph over Laurentius. The Stadtholder entered by the Amsterdam road, attended by his suite--they passed along the street, and stopped under a triumphal arch which had been hastily prepared. The burgomaster made a speech very much like the speeches of burgomasters before and since on similar tremendous occasions; and Frederick finally advanced and made his salaam to the chief magistrate of the United Provinces. The performer knew that the Stadtholder was a judge of music, and this gave him courage to do his best. He began without more ado, and every thing went on at first as he could wish; fountains of harmony gushed out from under his bow. There seemed a soul at the end of each of his fingers, and the countenance of the chief magistrate showed how enchanted he was with his powers. His triumph was on the point of being complete; a few more bars of a movement composed for the occasion--a few magnificent flourishes to show his mastery of the instrument, and Castero will be driven to despair by the superiority of his rival;--but crash! crash!--at the very moment when his melody is steeping the senses of the Stadtholder in Elysium, a string breaks with hideous sound, and the whole effect of his composition is destroyed. A smile jumped instantaneously to the protruding lip of the learned Laurentius, and mocked his mishap: the son of the brewer observed the impertinent smile, and anger gave him courage--the broken string is instantly replaced. The artist rushes full speed into the allegretto--and under the pressure of his hands, burning with rage and genius, the chord breaks again! The fiddle must be bewitched--Frederick became deadly pale--he trembled from head to foot--he was nearly wild.
But the piece he had composed was admirable; he knew it--for in a moment of inspiration he had breathed it into existence from the recesses of his soul. And was he doomed never to play this cherished work to the governor of his country?--An approving motion from that august individual encouraged him to proceed, and he fitted a string for the third time.
Alas, alas! the result is the same--the chord is too much tightened, and breaks in the middle of a note! Humbled and ashamed, Frederick gives up his allegretto. He retires, abashed and heartbroken, and Castero takes his place. Mixed up in the crowd, his eyes swam in tears of rage and disappointment when the frantic applauses of the assemblage--to whom the Stadtholder had set the example--announced to him the triumph of his rival. He is vanquished--vanquished without having had the power to fight--oh, grief! oh, shame! oh, despair!
His friends tried in vain to console him in promising him a brilliant revenge. The son of the brever believed himself eternally disgraced. He rushed into his room, double locked the door and would see nobody. He required solitude--but the wo of the _artiste_ had not yet reached its height. He must drink the cup of humiliation to the dregs. Suddenly innumerable voices penetrated the thick walls of the brewery, and reached the chamber of the defeated candidate. Those voices--Frederick recognized them too well--were those of the faction which acknowledged Castero for their chief. A triumphal march, performed by twenty instruments, in honour of his rival, succeeded in overturning the reason of the unhappy youth. His fiddle was before him on the table--that fiddle which had disappointed his hopes. Exasperated, out of his senses, the brewer's son seized the instrument--a moment he held it aloft at the corner of the chimney, and yielding to the rage that gnawed his soul, he dashed it into a thousand pieces. Faults, like misfortunes, never come single. "Blood calls for blood," says Machiavel--"ruin for ruin."--By that fatal tendency of the human mind never to stop when once we have gone wrong, but to go on from bad to worse, instead of blushing at our folly--Frederick, after that act of vandalism, dashed like a madman out of the brewery. The sight of his instrument in a thousand fragments had completed the business--life was a torment to him. He hurried towards the lake of Haarlem, determined to seek in its gloomy depths a refuge from disgrace.--Poor Frederick!
After a quarter of an hour's run across the fields, he arrived at last at the side of the lake, with the sounds of his rival's triumphal march for ever sounding in his ears. The evening breeze, the air from the sea, "the wandering harmonies of earth and sky," were all unable to bring rest to the perturbed spirit of the musician. He was no longer conscious of the sinful act he was about to commit. He shut his eyes--he was just going to throw himself into the water when he felt a hand laid upon his left shoulder. Frederick turned quickly round. He saw at his side a tall man wrapped up in large cloak--in spite of the hot weather--which hid every part of him but his face. His expression was hard, almost repulsive. His eyes shot sinister glances on the youth from beneath the thick eyebrows that overshadowed them. The brewer's son, who had been on the point of facing death without a tremour, grew pale and trembled. He wished to fly, but an irresistible power nailed him to the spot. He was fascinated by the look of the Unknown.
"Madman!" said the stranger in a hollow voice--"madman who cannot resist the first impulse of anger and false shame!"
"Leave me," answered Frederick in his turn; "I am disgraced, and have no resource but to die."
"The triumph of Castero, then--the triumph he owes to luck--has cowed you so that you are afraid to challenge him to another trial?"--rejoined the stranger in an angry tone.
"Every thing is lost," said Frederick, "don't you hear those sounds?" he added, holding his hands out towards the city--"my courage cannot bear up against such mockery--_væ victis_!--my doom is sealed."
"But you do not yet know the full extent of your rival's victory. There is a young girl who was to have been your wife--a girl who loves you--"
"Maïna!"--cried Frederick, to whom these words restored his recollection.
"Yes, Maïna, the daughter of Jansen Pyl, the burgomaster of Haarlem. Well, encouraged by his success, Castero went to the house, and demanded the hand of her you love."
"What?--what do I hear?"--said Frederick, and looked once more towards the lake.
"The burgomaster never liked you very well, as you are aware. In consenting to receive you as his son-in-law, he yielded more to the wishes of his daughter, to her prayers and tears, than to his preference of you over the other adorers of the Beauty of Haarlem. Castero's fame had long predisposed him in his favour; and the triumph he obtained to-day has entirely won the old man's heart."
"He has promised her?" enquired Frederick in a voice almost inaudible from anxiety.
"To-morrow he will decide between you. You are ignorant of the arrangement entered into; and, yielding to a cowardly impulse, you give up the happiness of your life at the moment it is in your grasp. Listen. The Stadtholder, who did not intend to remain at Haarlem, has accepted the invitation of the burgomaster, and will not leave the city till to-morrow afternoon. That illustrious personage has expressed a wish to hear again the two performers who pleased him so much, and his patronage is promised to the successful candidate in the next trial. He is a judge of music--he perceived the fineness of your touch, and saw that it was a mere accident which was the cause of your failure. Do you understand me now? Maïna will be the wife of the protégé of the Stadtholder--and you give up your affianced bride if you refuse to measure your strength once more against Castero."
The explanation brought tears into Frederick's eyes. In his agony as a musician he had forgotten the object of his love--the fair young girl whose heart was all his own. Absorbed in the one bitter thought of his defeat--of the disgrace he had endured--he had never cast a recollection on the being who, next to his art, was dearer to him than all the world. The fair maid of Haarlem occupied but the second place in the musician's heart; but not less true is it, that to kiss off a tear from the white eyelid of the beautiful Maïna, he would have sacrificed his life. And now to hear that she was about to be carried off by his rival--by Castero--that Castero whom he hated so much--that Maïna was to be the prize of the conqueror! His courage revived. Hope played once more round his heart--he felt conscious of his superiority; but--oh misery!--his fiddle--his Straduarius, which could alone insure his victory--it was lying in a million pieces on his floor!
The Unknown divined what was passing in his mind; a smile of strange meaning stole to his lip. He went close up to Frederick, whose agitated features betrayed the struggle that was going on within. "Maïna will be the reward of the protégé of the Stadtholder, and Castero will be the happy man if you do not contest the prize," he whispered in poor Frederick's ear.
"Alas! my fate is settled--I have no arms to fight with," he answered in a broken voice.
"Does your soul pant for glory?" enquired the stranger.
"More than for life--more than for love--more than for--"
"More than for my eternal salvation!" exclaimed the youth in his despair.
A slight tremour went through the stranger as he heard these words.
"Glory!" he cried, fixing his sparkling eyes on the young man's face "glory, the passion of noble souls--of exalted natures--of superior beings!--Go home to your room, you will find your fiddle restored," he added in a softer tone.
"My fiddle?" repeated Frederick.
"The fiddle of which the wreck bestrewed your chamber when you left it," replied the stranger.
"But who are you?" said Frederick amazed. "You who know what passes in my heart--you whose glances chill me with horror--you, who promise me a miracle which only omnipotence can accomplish. Who are you?"
"Your master," answered the man in the mantle, in an altered voice. "Recollect the words you used a minute or two ago, 'Glory is dearer to me than life--than love--than eternal salvation!' That is quite enough for me; and we must understand each other. Adieu. Your favourite instrument is again whole and entire, and sweeter toned than ever. You will find it on the table in your room. Castero, your rival, will be vanquished in this second trial, and Maïna will be yours--for you are the protégé of a greater than the Stadtholder. Adieu--we shall meet again." On finishing this speech the Unknown advanced to the lake. Immediately the waves bubbled up, and rose in vast billows; and opening with dreadful noise, exposed an unfathomable abyss. At the same moment thunder growled in the sky, the moon hid herself behind a veil of clouds, and the brewer's son, half choked with the smell of brimstone, fell insensible on the ground.
When Frederick came to his senses he found himself in his chamber, seated on the same sofa of Utrecht brocade which he had watered with his tears two hours before. On the table before him lay the fiddle which he had dashed to atoms against the corner of the chimney. On seeing the object of his affection, the enraptured musician, the rival of Castero, rushed towards it with a cry of joyful surprise. He took the instrument in his hands--he devoured it with his eyes, and then, at the summit of his felicity, he clasped it to his bosom. The instrument was perfectly uninjured, without even a mark of the absurd injustice of its owner. Not a crack, not a fissure, only the two gracefully shaped § § to give vent to the double stream of sound. But is he not the victim of some trick--has no other fiddle been substituted for the broken Straduarius? No!--'tis his own well-known fiddle, outside and in--the same delicate proportions, the same elegant neck, and the same swelling rotundity of contour that might have made it a model for the Praxiteles of violins. He placed the instrument against his shoulder and seized the bow. But all of a sudden he paused--a cold perspiration bedewed his face--his limbs could scarcely support him. What if the proof deceives him. What if--; but incertitude was intolerable, and he passed the bow over the strings. Oh blessedness! Frederick recognized the unequalled tones of his instrument--he recognized its voice, so clear, so melting, and yet so thrilling and profound,
"The charm is done, Life to the dead returns at last, And to the corpse a soul has past."
Now, then, with his fiddle once more restored to him, with love in his heart, and hatred also lending its invigorating energies, he felt that the future was still before him, and that Castero should pay dearly for his triumph of the former day.
When these transports had a little subsided, Frederick could reflect on the causes which gave this new turn to his thoughts. The defeat he had sustained--his insane anger against his Straduarius--his attempt at suicide--his meeting with the stranger, and his extraordinary disappearance amidst the waves of the lake.
But, with the exception of the first of these incidents, had any of them really happened? He could not believe it. Was it not rather the sport of a deceitful dream? His fiddle--he held it in his hands--he never _could_ have broken it. In fact, the beginning of it all was his despair at being beaten, and he was indebted to his excited imagination for the rest--the suicide, the lake, and the mysterious Unknown.
"That must be it," he cried at last, delighted at finding a solution to the mystery, and walking joyously up and down his chamber. "I have had a horrible dream--a dream with my eyes open; that is all."
Two gentle taps at the door made him start; but the visitor was only one of the brewery boys, who gave him a letter from the burgomaster.
"Yoran, did you see me go out about two hours ago?" asked Frederick anxiously.
"No, meinheer," said the boy.
"And you did not see me come in?"
"That's all right," said the youth, signing for Yoran to retire. "Now, then," he said, "there can be no doubt whatever that it was all a dream." Opening the burgomaster's letter, he ran through it in haste. The first magistrate of Haarlem informed Frederick Katwingen that he had an important communication to make to him, and requested him to come to his house.
The musician again placed his lips on his instrument, and again pressed it gratefully to his heart; and then placed it with the utmost care within its beautiful case, which he covered with a rich cloth. Locking the case, and looking at it as a mother might look at the cradle of her new-born baby, he betook himself to the mansion of Jansen Pyl.
That stately gentleman was luxuriously reposing in an immense armchair, covered with Hungary leather. His two elbows rested on the arms and enabled him to support in his hands the largest, the reddest, the fattest face that had ever ornamented the configuration of a Dutch functionary before. Mr Jansen Pyl wore at that moment the radiant look of satisfaction which only a magistrate can assume who feels conscious that he is in the full sunshine of the approbation of his sovereign. His whole manner betrayed it--the smile upon his lip, the fidgety motion of his feet, and the look which he darted from time to time around the room, as if to satisfy himself that his happiness was "not a sham but a reality." But his happiness seemed far from contagious. On his right hand there was a lovely creature, seated on a footstool, who did not partake his enjoyment. There was something so sweet and so harmonious in her expression, that you felt sure at once she was as good as she was beautiful. There was poetry also in her dejected attitude, and in the long lashes that shadowed her blue eyes; nor was the charm diminished by the marble neck bent lowly down, and covered with long flowing locks of the richest brown. And the poetry was, perhaps, increased by the contrast offered by the sorrowing countenance of the girl to the radiant visage of the plethoric individual in the chair. Whilst the ambitious thoughts of the burgomaster rose to the regions inhabited by the Stadtholder, the poor girl's miserable reflections returned upon herself. Her eyes were dimmed with tears. It was easy to see that that had long been their occupation, and that some secret sorrow preyed upon the repose of the fair maid of Haarlem.
It was Maïna, the betrothed of Frederick. On the left of the burgomaster, negligently leaning on the back of the magistrate's chair, was a man still young in years, but so wrinkled and careworn, from study or bad health, that he might have passed for old. The man's expression was cold and severe; his look proud and fiery; his language rough and harsh. On analysing his features you could easily make out that he had prodigious powers of mind, a character imperious and jealous, and such indomitable pride that he might do a mischief to any rival who might be bold enough to cross his path.
Now, we are aware of one at least who ran the risk; for the man was Laurentius Castero. Frederick Katwingen started back on entering the burgomaster's room. His eye encountered the glance of Castero, and in the look then interchanged, they felt that they were enemies between whom no reconciliation could take place. From Laurentius, Frederick turned his eye to Maïna. The sorrowful attitude of the maiden would have revealed to him all that had happened, if the self-satisfied look of his rival had left any thing to be learned. The conqueror brow-beat the vanquished.
"Mr Katwingen," said the burgomaster, deliberately weighing every word, "you are aware of the high compliment paid by the Stadtholder to our city."
"My dream comes true," thought Frederick as he bowed affirmatively to the magistrate's enquiry.
"And you are also aware," pursued the burgomaster, "of the Stadtholder's wishes as far as you are personally concerned?"
Frederick bowed again.
"Thanks to my humble supplications," continued Jansen Pyl, raising his enormous head with an air of dignity, "our gracious governor has condescended to honour our good town with his august presence for twenty-four hours longer. But what ought to fill you with eternal gratitude is this: that he has determined to hear you a second time when he returns to-morrow from inspecting the works at Shravnag. I hope you will redouble your efforts, and do all you can to please your illustrious auditor; and, if any thing is required to stimulate your ambition, and add to your endeavours to excel, I will add this--the hand of Maïna will be bestowed on the conqueror at this second trial."
"But, father!----" said the maiden.
"It is all settled," interrupted the burgomaster, looking astonished at the girl's audacity; "you are the reward I offer to the protégé of the Stadtholder. You hear what I say, gentlemen?" he added, turning to the rivals.
"I shall certainly not miss the appointment," said Castero, throwing back his head proudly. "If to-morrow is not as glorious to me as to-day has been, I will break my violin, and never touch a bow again as long as I live."
"As for me," said Frederick, "if I do not make up for the check I unluckily met to-day by a glorious victory, I swear I will renounce the flattering name my countrymen have given me, and will hide my shame in some foreign land. The Orpheus of his country must have no rival of his fame."
"To-morrow, then," said the burgomaster.
"To-morrow!" repeated the rivals, casting on each other looks of proud defiance.
"To-morrow!" whispered Maïna and buried her face in her hands.
I shall not attempt to describe the strange sensations of Frederick on returning from the burgomaster's house It will have been seen from the glimpses we have had of him already, that he was of a quick and sensitive disposition, and that the chance of defeat in the approaching struggle would sting him into madness. He pictured to himself the ferocious joy of Castero on being declared the victor--the agony of Maïna--the misery of his own degradation; and there is no doubt if the mysterious Unknown, whose appearance he now felt certain was nothing but a dream, had visited him in _propriâ personâ_, that he would have accepted his terms--his soul for triumph over his enemy, for the possession of the girl he loved.
The morrow rose clear and cloudless. At the appointed hour Frederick took his violin, and prepared to set out. But just when he was opening the door, the man in the mantle--the same he had seen the day before--stood before him.
"You did not expect to see me," said the Unknown, following Frederick to the end of the room, where he had retreated. "I told you, nevertheless, that we should meet again," he added, placing himself face to face with the son of the brewer.
"Then it was no dream," murmured the youth, who appeared to have lost all his resolution.
"Certainly not," returned the stranger, looking sarcastically at Frederick from head to foot. "I promised you yesterday, on the banks of the lake, that you would find your fiddle unharmed, and that I would enable you to conquer your rival. But I don't feel that I am bound to do any thing of the kind for nothing; generosity was never my forte, and I have lived long enough among the burghers of Holland to insist on being well paid for every thing I do."
"Who are you, then; and what is it you want?" enquired the Dutch Orpheus, in an agitated voice.
"Who am I!" answered the man in the mantle, with all the muscles of his face in violent convulsions--"Who am I!--I thought I had told you yesterday when you asked me--I am your master. What do I want? I will tell you. But why do you tremble so? you were bold enough when we met. I saw the thought in your heart--if Satan should rise before me, and promise me victory over my rival at the price of my soul, I would agree to the condition!"
"Satan!--you are Satan!" shrieked Frederick, and closed his eyes in horror.
"Didn't you find me out on the side of the lake, when you told me you would exchange your salvation for years of love and glory. Yes, I am that King of Darkness--_your_ master! and that of a great part of mankind. But, come; the hour is at hand--the Burgomaster and the Stadtholder await us. Do you accept the offer I make you?"
After a minute's hesitation, during which his features betrayed the force of the internal contest, the musician made his choice. He had not power to speak, but he raised his hand, and was on the point of making the cross upon his forehead, to guard him from the tempter, when Satan perceived his intention, and seized his arm.
"Think a little before you discard me entirely," he said, raising again in the soul of the musician all the clouds of pride and ambition that had given him power over it at first; "look into the box where your violin is laid, and decide for the last time."
Frederick obeyed his tempter, and opened the case, but uttered a cry of desperation when he saw his Straduarius in the same state of utter ruin to which he had reduced it before. The neck separated from the body; both faces shivered to fragments--the ebony rests, the gold-headed stops, the bridge, the sides--all a confused mass of wreck and destruction.
"Frederick! Frederick!" cried a voice from the brewery--it was his father's.
"Frederick! Frederick!" repeated a hundred voices under the windows--"Come down, come down, the Stadtholder is impatient! Castero swears you are afraid to face him."
They were his friends who were urging him to make haste.
"Well?" enquired Satan.
"I accept the bargain. I give you my soul!" said Frederick, while his cheek grew pale, and his eye flashed.
"_Your_ soul!" replied Satan, with a shrug of infinite disdain. "Do you think I would have hindered you from jumping into the lake, if I had wished to get it? Do you think that suicides are not mine already?--mine by their own act, without the formality of a bargain?--_Your_ soul!" repeated the Prince of Darkness, with a sneer; "I don't want it, I assure you: at least not to-day--I feel sure of it whenever I require it!"
"My soul, then, belongs to you--my fate is settled beforehand?" enquired Frederick.
"You are an _artiste_," answered Satan, with a chuckling laugh, "and therefore are vain, jealous, proud, and full of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. You perceive I shall lose nothing by waiting. No, no; 'tis not your own soul I want--but that of your first-born, that you must make over to me this hour!"
"What do you want me to do!"
"Here is the deed," said Satan, pulling a parchment from under his cloak, on which strange characters were drawn, and letters in an unknown language. "In putting your name to this, you bind and oblige yourself to let me know when Maïna is about to become a mother; and before the baptismal water shall touch the infant's brow, you shall hang from the window a piece of lace which shall have been worn by Maïna at her wedding. One of my satellites will be on the watch; he will come and tell me when the signal is made and--the rest is my own affair! You will find this agreement in your fiddle-case."
"Frederick! Frederick! be quick be quick!" again shouted the father.
"Frederick! Frederick! Castero is boasting about your absence!" cried the chorus of impatient friends.
"I agree!" cried the _artiste_, and affixed his name. While he was signing, the stranger muttered some words of mysterious sound, of which he did not know the meaning; and immediately the pieces of the broken instrument united themselves--rests, bridge, stops, faces, and sides, all took their proper places, and the soul of the noble violin re-entered its musical prison, at the moment when that of the future baby of Maïna was sold to the enemy of mankind!
"Now, then," said Satan, as he sank beneath the floor, "go where glory waits thee."
What need is there to tell the success of Frederick Katwingen--how he triumphed over Castero, captivated the Stadtholder, and was the pride of his native town? The Stadtholder attached him to his person, settled a pension on him of fifteen thousand florins, and treated him as the most cherished of his friends. The burgomaster was delighted to gain so illustrious a son-in-law, and hurried forward the marriage with all his might. On the day of the wedding, when Frederick was leading the bride to church, at the moment when the party was crossing the market-place, a voice whispered in his ear--"A piece of the lace she will wear at the ball this evening." Frederick recognised the voice, though no one else heard it. He turned, but saw nobody. After the ceremony, the burgomaster handed the contract to the bridegroom, to which the Stadtholder had affixed his signature. A present of a hundred thousand florins from the governor of the United Provinces, proved the sincerity of that illustrious personage's friendship, and that his favour had by no means fallen off. The burgomaster was emulous of so much generosity, and introduced a clause in the contract, settling his whole fortune on his son-in-law, in case of Maïna's death.
Behold, then, the _artiste_ praised--fêted--and happy. Possessed of the wife he loved--rich--honoured--what more had he to hope than that those advantages should be continued him? Castero was true to his word--reduced his violin to powder, acknowledged Frederick's superiority, and betook himself to higher pursuits, which ended in the great discovery of printing.
The Dutch Orpheus is freed from the annoyance of a rival. He reigns by the divine right of his violin, the undisturbed monarch of his native plains. His name is pronounced with enthusiasm from one flat end of Holland to the other. In the splendour of his triumphal condition, he has forgotten his compact with Beelzebub; but Maïna reminded him of it one day, when she told him he was about to become a father.
A father!--ha!--Frederick! That word which brings such rapture to the newly married couple--which presents such radiant visions of the future--that word freezes the heart of the _artiste_ and stops the blood in his veins.
It is only now when Maïna is so happy that he knows the enormity of his fault.
He is about to be a father--and he--beforehand--basely, cowardly--has sold the soul of his son who is yet unborn--before it can shake off the taint of original sin. Shame! shame! on the proud in heart who has yielded to the voice of the tempter--to the wretch who, for a little miserable glory, has shut the gates of mercy on his own child--shame! shame!
If Satan would consent to an exchange--if--but no--'tis impossible. The "archangel fallen" had explained himself too clearly--no hope! no hope! From that hour there was no rest, no happiness for the protégé of the Stadtholder--sleep fled from his eyelids, he was pursued by perpetual remorse, and in the agonies of his heart deserted the nuptial bed: while light dreams settled on Maïna's spirit, and wove bright chaplets for the future, he wandered into the midnight fields--across the canals--any where, in short, where he fancied he could procure forgetfulness; but solitude made him only feel his misery the more. How often he thought of going to the gloomy lake where he had first encountered the Unknown! How often he determined to complete the resolution he had formed on the day of Castero's triumph! But Satan had said to him, "The suicide is condemned--irrevocably condemned;" and the condemnation of which _he_ would be sure, would not bring a ransom for his first-born.
The fatal time draws on--in a few minutes more Maïna will be a mother. Frederick, by some invisible impulse, has chosen from among the laces of his wife a rich Mechlin, which she wore round her neck on her wedding-day. It is now to be the diabolic standard, and he goes with it towards the door of his house, pensive and sad. When he got to the threshold he stopped--he raised his eyes to heaven, and from his heart and from his lips, there gushed out prayers, warm, deep, sincere--the first for many years. A ray of light has rushed into his soul. He uttered a cry of joy, he dashed across the street into the neighbouring church; he dipped the lace into the basin of consecrated water, and returned immediately to hang it at the door of his apartment.
At that moment Maïna gave birth to a son, and Satan rushed impatiently to claim his expected prey. But the tempter was unprepared for the trap that was laid for him. On placing his foot on the first step of the stair, he found himself pushed back by a superior power. The Mechlin, dripping with holy water, had amazing effect. It was guardian of the house and protected the entrance against the fallen angel. Satan strove again and again; but was always repulsed. There rises now an impenetrable barrier between him and the innocent being he had destined for his victim. Forced by the pious stratagem of Frederick Katwingen to give up his purpose, he roamed all night round the house like a roaring lion, bellowing in a most awful manner.
In the morning, when they wrapt up the babe in the precious lace to carry him to be baptized, they perceived that it had been torn in several places. The holes showed the determination with which Satan had tried to force a passage. The enemy of mankind had not retreated without leaving the mark of his talons on the lace.
On coming back from church, Frederick ran to his fiddle; and found in a corner of the case the deed of compact he had signed. With what joy he tossed it into the fire, and heard it go crackling up the chimney!
All was over now; Satan was completely floored. He confessed, by giving up the contract, that he had no further right on the soul of the newly born, when once it had been purified by the waters of baptism. The father had recovered the soul which the musician had bartered away! Since that time, whenever a young woman in Haarlem is about to become a mother, the husband never fails to hang at the door the richest pieces of lace he can find in her trousseau. That standard bids defiance to the evil one, and recalls the noble victory won over the prince of darkness by Frederick Katwingen, surnamed the Dutch Orpheus. And that is the reason that, in passing through Haarlem, the visitor sees little frames suspended from certain houses, ornamented with squares of Mechlin, or Valenciennes, or Brussels point. And that is the reason that, when he asks an explanation of the singular custom, he gets only the one short, unvarying answer--"These are the Devil's Frills!"
ADVENTURES IN LOUISIANA.
Supper over, and clenched by a pull at Nathan's whisky flask, we prepared for departure. The Americans threw the choicest parts of the buck over their shoulders, and the old squatter again taking the lead, we resumed our march. The way led us first across a prairie, then through a wood, which was succeeded by a sort of thicket, upon the branches and thorny shrubs of which we left numerous fragments of our dress. We had walked several miles almost in silence, when Nathan suddenly made a pause, and let the but-end of his rifle fall heavily on the ground. I took the opportunity to ask him where we were.
"In Louisiana," replied he, "between the Red River, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mississippi; on French ground, and yet in a country where French power is worth little. Do you see that?" added he suddenly, seizing my arm, and pulling me a few paces aside, while he pointed to a dark object, that at the distance and in the moonlight, had the appearance of an earthen wall. "Do you know what that is?" repeated the squatter.
"An Indian grave, perhaps," replied I.
"A grave it is," was the answer; "but not of the Redskins. As brave a backwoodsman as ever crossed the Mississippi lies buried there. You are not altogether wrong, though. I believe it was once an Indian mound."
While he spoke we were walking on, and I now distinguished a hillock or mound of earth, with nearly perpendicular sides, on which was erected a blockhouse, formed of unhewn cypress trunks, of a solidity and thickness upon which four-and-twenty pounders would have had some difficulty in making an impression. Its roof rose about ten feet above a palisade enclosing the building, and consisting of stout saplings sharpened at the top, and stuck in the ground at a very short distance from each other, being moreover strengthened and bound together with wattles and branches. The building had evidently been constructed more for a refuge and place of defence than an habitual residence.
A ladder was now lowered, by which we ascended to the top of the mound. There was a small door in the palisades, which Nathan opened and passed through, we following.
The blockhouse was of equal length and breadth, about forty feet square. On entering it we found nothing but the bare walls, with the exception of a wide chimney of sun-baked brick, and in one corner a large wooden slab partly imbedded in the ground.
"Don't tread upon that board," said the old man solemnly, as we approached the slab to examine it; "it is holy ground."
"How holy ground?"
"There lies under it as brave a fellow as ever handled axe or rifle. He it was built this blockhouse, and christened it the Bloody Blockhouse--and bloody it proved to be to him. But you shall hear more of it if you like. You shall hear how six American rifles were too many for ninety French and Spanish muskets."
Carleton and I shook our heads incredulously. The Yankee took us both by the arm, led us out of the blockhouse, and through the stockade to a grassy projection of the hillock.
"Ninety French and Spanish muskets," repeated he in a firm voice, and weighing on each word. "Opposed to them were Asa Nolins, with his three brothers, his brother-in-law, a cousin, and their wives. He fell like a brave American as he was, but not alone, for the dead bodies of thirty foes were lying round the blockhouse when he died. They are buried there," added he, pointing to a row of cotton-trees a short distance off, that in the pale moonlight might have been taken for the spectres of the departed; "under those cotton-trees they fell, and there they are buried."
The old squatter remained for a short space in his favourite attitude, his hands crossed on his rifle, and his chin resting on them. He seemed to be calling together the recollections of a time long gone by. We did not care to interrupt him. The stillness of the night, the light of the moon and stars, that gave the prairie lying before us the appearance of a silvery sea, the sombre forest on either side of the blockhouse, of which the edges only were lighted up by the moonbeams, the vague allusions our guide had made to some fearful scene of strife and slaughter that had been enacted in this now peaceful glade--all these circumstances combined, worked upon our imaginations, and we felt unwilling to break the stillness which added to the impressive beauty of the forest scene.
"Did you ever float down the Mississippi?" asked Nathan abruptly. As he spoke he sat down upon the bank, and made sign to us to sit beside him.
"Did you ever float down the Mississippi?"
"No; we came up it from New Orleans hither."
"That is nothing; the stream is not half so dangerous there as above Natchez." _We_ came down, six men, four women, and twice as many children, all the way from the mouths of the Ohio to the Red River; and bad work we had of it, in a crazy old boat, to pass the rapids and avoid the sand-banks, and snakes, and sawyers, and whatever the devil they call them, that are met with. I calculate we weren't sorry when we left the river and took to dry land again. The first thing we did was to make a wigwam, Injun fashion, with branches of trees. This was to shelter the women and children. Two men remained to protect them, and the other four divided into two parties, and set off, one south and t'other west, to look for a good place for a settlement. I and Righteous, one of Asa's brothers, took the southerly track.
It was no pleasuring party that journey, but a right-down hard and dangerous expedition, through cypress swamps, where snapping turtles were plenty as mosquitoes, and at every step the congo and mocassin snakes twisted themselves round our ankles. We persevered, however. We had a few handfuls of corn in our hunting-pouches, and our calabashes well filled with whisky. With that and our rifles we did not want for provender.
At length, on the fourth day, we came to an upland, or rolling prairie as we call it, from the top of which we had a view that made our hearts leap for joy. A lovely strip of land lay before us, bounded at the further end by a forest of evergreen oaks, honey locusts, and catalpas. Towards the north was a good ten mile of prairie; on the right hand a wood of cotton-trees, and on the left the forest in which you now are. We decided at once that we should find no better place than this to fix ourselves; and we went back to tell Asa and the others of our discovery, and to show them the way to it. Asa and one of his brothers returned with us, bringing part of our traps. They were as pleased with the place as we were, and we went back again to fetch the rest. But it was no easy matter to bring our plunder and the women and children through the forests and swamps. We had to cut paths through the thickets, and to make bridges and rafts to cross the creeks and marshes. After ten days' labour, however, and with the help of our axes, we were at our journey's end.
We began directly clearing and cutting down trees, and in three weeks we had built a loghouse, and were able to lie down to rest without fear of being disturbed by the wolves or catamounts. We built two more houses, so as to have one for each two families and then set to work to clear the land. We had soon shaped out a couple of fields, a ten-acre one for maize, and another half the size for tobacco. These we began to dig and hoe; but the ground was hard, and though we all worked like slaves, we saw there was nothing to be made of it without ploughing. A ploughshare we had, and a plough was easily made--but horses were wanting: so Asa and I took fifty dollars, which was all the money we had amongst us, and set out to explore the country forty miles round, and endeavour to meet with somebody who would sell us a couple of horses, and two or three cows. Not a clearing or settlement did we find, however, and at last we returned discouraged, and again began digging. On the very first day after our return, as we were toiling away in the field, a trampling of horses was heard, and four men mounted, and followed by a couple of wolf-hounds, came cantering over the prairie. It struck us that this would be a famous chance for buying a pair of horses, and Asa went to meet them, and invited them to alight and refresh themselves. At the same time we took our rifles, which were always lying beside us when we worked in the fields, and advanced towards the strangers. But when they saw our guns, they put spurs to their horses and rode off to a greater distance. Asa called out to them not to fear, for our rifles were to use against bears and wolves and Redskins, and not against Christian men. Upon this, down they came again; we brought out a calabash of real Monongahela; and after they had taken a dram, they got off their horses, and came in and ate some venison, which the women set before them. They were Creoles, half Spanish, half French, with a streak of the Injun; and they spoke a sort of gibberish not easy to understand. But Asa, who had served in Lafayette's division in the time of the war, knew French well; and when they had eaten and drunk, he began to make a bargain with them for two of their horses.
It was easy to see they were not the sort of men with whom decent folk could trade. First they would, then they wouldn't: which horses did we want, and what would we give. We offered them thirty-five dollars for their two best horses--and a heavy price it was, for at that time money was scarce in the settlements. They wanted forty, but at last took the thirty-five; and after getting three parts drunk upon taffia, which they asked for to wet the bargain as they said, they mounted two upon each of the remaining horses and rode away.
We now got on famously with our fields, and soon sowed fifteen acres of maize and tobacco, and then began clearing another ten-acre field. We were one day hard at work at this, when one of my boys came running to us, crying out, "Father! Father! The Redskins!" We snatched up our rifles and hastened to the top of the little rising ground on which our houses were built, and thence we saw, not Injuns, but fourteen or fifteen Creoles, galloping towards our clearing, halloing and huzzaing like mad. When they were within fifty yards of us, Asa stepped forward to meet them. As soon as they saw him one of them called out, "There is the thief! There is the man who stole my brown horse!" Asa made no answer to this, but waited till they came nearer, when one of them rode up to him and asked who was the chief in the settlement. "There is no chief here," answered Asa; "we are all equals and free citizens."
"You have stolen a horse from our friend Monsieur Croupier," replied the other. "You must give it up."
"Is that all?" said Asa quietly.
"No: you must show us by what right you hunt on this territory."
"Yes," cried half a dozen others, "we'll have no strangers on our hunting-grounds; the bears and caguars are getting scarcer than ever, and as for buffaloes, they are clean exterminated." And all the time they were talking, they kept leaping and galloping about like madmen.
"The sooner the bears and caguars are killed the better," said Asa. "The land is not for dumb brutes, but for men."
The Creoles, however, persisted that we had no right to hunt where we were, and swore we should go away. Then Asa asked them what right they had to send us away. This seemed to embarrass them, and they muttered and talked together; so that it was easy to see there was no magistrate or person in authority amongst them, but that they were a party of fellows who had come in hopes to frighten us. At last they said they should inform the governor, and the commandant at Natchitoches, and the Lord knows who besides, that we had come and squatted ourselves down here, and built houses, and cleared fields, and all without right or permission; and that then we might look out. So Asa began to lose patience, and told them they might all go to the devil, and that, if they were not off soon, he should be apt to hasten their movements.
"I must have my horse back," screamed the Creole whom they called Croupier.
"You shall," replied Asa, "both of them, if you return the five-and-thirty dollars."
"It was only fifteen dollars," cried the lying Creole.
Upon this Asa called to us, and we stepped out from amongst the cotton-trees, behind which we had been standing all the while; and when the Creoles saw us, each with his rifle on his arm, they seemed rather confused, and drew back a little.
"Here are my comrades," said Asa, "who will all bear witness, that the horses were sold at the prices of twenty dollars for the one and fifteen for the other. And if any one says the contrary, he says that which is not true."
"_Larifari!_" roared Croupier. "You shan't stop here to call us liars, and spoil our hunting-ground, and build houses on our land. His excellency the governor shall be told of it, and the commandant at Natchitoches, and you shall be driven away." And the other Creoles, who, while Asa was speaking, appeared to be getting more quiet and reasonable, now became madder than ever, and shrieked, and swore, and galloped backwards and forwards, brandishing their fowling-pieces like wild Injuns, and screaming out that we should leave the country, the game wasn't too plenty for them, and suchlike. At length Asa and the rest of us got angry, and called out to them to take themselves off or they would be sorry for it; and when they saw us bringing our rifles to our shoulders, they put spurs to their horses, and galloped away to a distance of some five hundred yards. There they halted, and set up such a screeching as almost deafened us, fired off some of their old rusty guns, and then rode away. We all laughed at their bragging and cowardice, except Asa, who looked thoughtful.
"I fear some harm will come of this," said he. "Those fellows will go talking about us in their own country; and if it gets to the ears of the governors or commanding-officers that we have settled down on their territory, they will be sending troops to dislodge us."
Asa's words made us reflect, and we held counsel together as to what was best to be done. I proposed that we should build a blockhouse on the Indian mound to defend ourselves in if we were attacked.
"Yes," said Asa; but we are only six, and they may send hundreds against us.
"Very true," said I; "but if we have a strong blockhouse on the top of the mound, that is as good as sixty, and we could hold out against a hundred Spanish musketeers. And it's my notion, that if we give up such a handsome bit of ground as we have cleared here without firing a shot, we deserve to have our rifles broken before our faces."
Asa, however, did not seem altogether satisfied. It was easy to see he was thinking of the women and children. Then said Asa's wife, Rachel, "I calculate," said she, "that Nathan, although he is my brother, and I oughtn't to say it, has spoke like the son of his father, who would have let himself be scalped ten times over before he would have given up such an almighty beautiful piece of land. And what's more, Asa, I for one won't go back up the omnipotent dirty Mississippi; and that's a fact."
"But if a hundred Spanish soldiers come," said Asa, "and I reckon they will come?"
"Build the blockhouse, man, to defend yourselves; and when our people up at Salt River and Cumberland hear that the Spaniards are quarreling with us, I guess they won't keep their hands crossed before them."
So, seeing us all, even the women, so determined, Asa gave in to our way of thinking, and the very same day we began the blockhouse you see before you. The walls were all of young cypress-trees, and we would fain have roofed it with the same wood; but the smallest of the cypresses were five or six feet thick, and it was no easy matter to split them. So we were obliged to use fir, which, when it is dried by a few days' sun, burns like tinder. But we little thought when we did so, what sorrow those cursed fir planks would bring us.
When all was ready, well and solidly nailed and hammered together, we made a chimney, so that the women might cook if necessary, and then laid in a good store of hams and dried bear's flesh, filled the meal and whisky tubs, and the water-casks, and brought our plough and what we had most valuable into the blockhouse. We then planted the palisades, securing them strongly in the ground, and to each other, so that it might not be easy to tear them up. We left, as you see, a space of five yards between the stockade and the house, so that we might have room to move about in. It would be necessary for an enemy to take the palisades before he could do any injury to the house itself, and we reckoned that with six good rifles in such hands as ours, it would require a pretty many Spanish musketeers to drive us from our outer defences.
In six weeks all was ready; all our tools and rations, except what we wanted for daily use, carried into the fort, and we stood contemplating the work of our hands with much satisfaction. Asa was the only one who seemed cast down.
"I've a notion," said he, "this blockhouse will be a bloody one before long; and what's more, I guess it will be the blood of one of us that'll redden it. I've a sort of feelin' of it, and of who it'll be."
"Pho! Asa, what notions be these! Keep a light heart, man."
And Asa seemed to cheer up again, and the next day we returned to working in the fields; but as we were not using the horses, one of us went every morning to patrol ten or twelve miles backwards and forwards, just for precaution's sake. At night two of us kept watch, relieving one another, and patrolling about the neighbourhood of our clearing.
One morning we were working in the bush and circling trees, when Righteous rode up full gallop.
"They're coming!" cried he; "a hundred of them at least."
"Are they far off?" said Asa, quite quietly, and as if he had been talking of a herd of deer.
"They are coming over the prairie. In less than half an hour they will be here."
"How are they marching? With van and rear guard? In what order?"
"No order at all, but all of a heap together."
"Good!" said Asa; "they can know little about bush-fighting or soldiering of any kind. Now then, the women into the blockhouse."
Righteous galloped up to our fort, to be there first in case the enemy should find it out. The women soon followed, carrying what they could with them. When we were all in the blockhouse, we pulled up the ladder, made the gate fast, and there we were.
We felt strange at first when we found ourselves shut up inside the palisades, and only able to look out through the slits we had left for our rifles. We weren't used to be confined in a place, and it made us right-down wolfish. There we remained, however, as still as mice. Scarce a whisper was to be heard. Rachel tore up old shirts and greased them, for wadding for the guns; we changed our flints, and fixed every thing about the rifles properly, while the women sharpened our knives and axes all in silence.
Nearly an hour had passed in this way when we heard a shouting and screaming, and a few musket-shots; and we saw through our loopholes some Spanish soldiers running backwards and forwards on the crest of the slope on which our houses stood. Suddenly a great pillar of smoke arose, then a second, then a third.
"God be good to us!" cried Rachel, "they are burning our houses." We were all trembling and quite pale with rage. Harkye, stranger, when men have been slaving and sweating for four or five months to build houses for their wives and for the poor worms of children, and then a parcel of devils from hell come and burn them down like maize-stalks in a stubble-field, it is no wonder that their teeth should grind together, and their fists clench of themselves. So it was with us; but we said nothing, for our rage would not let us speak. But presently as we strained our eyes through the loopholes, the Spaniards showed themselves at the opening of the forest yonder, coming towards the blockhouse. We tried to count them, but at first it was impossible, for they came on in a crowd without any order. They thought lightly enough of those they were seeking, or they would have been more prudent. However, when they came within five hundred paces, they formed ranks, and we were able to count them. There were eighty-two foot soldiers with muskets and carbines, and three officers on horseback, with drawn swords in their hands. The latter dismounted, and their example was followed by seven other horsemen, amongst whom we recognised three of the rascally Creoles who had brought all this trouble upon us. He they called Croupier was among them. The other four were also Creoles, Acadians or Canadians, a race whom we had already met with on the Upper Mississippi, fine hunters, but wild, drunken, debauched barbarians.
The Acadians were coming on in front, and they set up a whoop when they saw the blockhouse and stockade; but finding that we were prepared to receive them, they retreated upon the main body. We saw them speaking to the officers as if advising them; but the latter shook their heads, and the soldiers continued moving on. They were in uniforms of all colours, blue, white, and brown, but each man dirtier than his neighbour. They marched in good order, nevertheless, the captain and officers coming on in front, and the Acadians keeping on the flanks. The latter, however, edged gradually off towards the cotton-trees, and presently disappeared amongst them.
"Those are the first men to frick off," said Asa, when he saw this manoeuvre of the Creoles. "They have steady hands and sharp eyes; but if we once get rid of them we need not mind the others."
The Spaniards were now within an hundred yards of us.
"Shall I let fly at the thieving incendiaries?" said Righteous.
"God forbid!" replied Asa. "We will defend ourselves like men; but let us wait till we are attacked, and the blood that is shed will lie at the door of the aggressors."
The Spaniards now saw plainly that they would have to take the stockade before they could get at us, and the officers seemed consulting together.
"Halt!" cried Asa, suddenly.
"Messieurs les Americains," said the captain, looking up at our loopholes.
"What's your pleasure?" demanded Asa.
Upon this the captain stuck a dirty pocket-handkerchief upon the point of his sword, and laughing with his officers, moved some twenty paces forward, followed by the troops. Thereupon Asa again shouted to him to halt.
"This is not according to the customs of war," said he. "The flag of truce may advance, but if it is accompanied, we fire."
It was evident that the Spaniards never dreamed of our attempting to resist them; for there they stood in line before us, and, if we had fired, every shot must have told. The Acadians, who kept themselves all this time snug behind the cotton-trees, called more than once to the captain to withdraw his men into the wood; but he only shook his head contemptuously. When, however, he heard Asa threaten to fire, he looked puzzled, and as if he thought it just possible we might do as we said. He ordered his men to halt, and called out to us not to fire till he had explained what they cane for.
"Then cut it short," cried Asa sternly. "You'd have done better to explain before you burned down our houses, like a pack of Mohawks on the war path."
As he spoke, three bullets whistled from the edge of the forest, and struck the stockades within a few inches of the loophole at which he stood. They were fired by the Creoles, who, although they could not possibly distinguish Asa, had probably seen his rifle barrel or one of his buttons glitter through the opening. As soon as they had fired, they sprang behind their trees again, craning their heads forward to hear if there was a groan or a cry. They'd have done better to have kept quiet; for Righteous and I caught a sight of them, and let fly at the same moment. Two of them fell and rolled from behind the trees, and we saw that they were the Creole called Croupier, and another of our horse-dealing friends.
When the Spanish officer heard the shots, he ran back to his men, and shouted out "Forward! To the assault!" They came on like mad a distance of thirty paces, and then, as if they thought we were wild-geese to be frightened by their noise, they fired a volley against the blockhouse.
"Now then!" cried Asa, "are you loaded, Nathan and Righteous? I take the captain--you, Nathan, the lieutenant--Righteous, the third officer--James, the sergeant. Mark your men, and waste no powder."
The Spaniards were still some sixty yards off, but we were sure of our mark at a hundred and sixty, and that if they had been squirrels instead of men. We fired: the captain and lieutenant, the third officer, two sergeants, and another man writhed for an instant upon the grass. The next moment they stretched themselves out--dead.
All was now confusion among the musketeers, who ran in every direction. Most of them took to the wood, but about a dozen remained and lifted up their officers to see if there was any spark of life left in them.
"Load again, quick!" said Asa in a low voice. We did so, and six more Spaniards tumbled over. Those who still kept their legs now ran off as if the soles of their shoes had been of red-hot iron.
We set to work to pick out our touchholes and clean our rifles, knowing that we might not have time later, and that a single miss-fire might cost us all our lives. We then loaded, and began to calculate what the Spaniards would do next. It is true they had lost their officers; but there were five Acadians with them, and those were the men we had most cause to fear. Meantime the vultures and turkey-buzzards had already begun to assemble, and presently hundreds of them were circling and hovering over the carcasses, which they as yet, however, feared to touch.
Just then Righteous, who had the sharpest eye amongst us all, pointed to the corner of the wood, yonder where it joins the brushwood thicket. I made a sign to Asa, and we all looked and saw there was something creeping and moving through the underwood. Presently we distinguished two Acadians heading a score of Spaniards, and endeavouring, under cover of the bushes, to steal across the open ground to the east side of the forest.
"The Acadians for you, Nathan and Righteous, the Spaniards for us," said Asa. The next moment two Acadians and four Spaniards lay bleeding in the brushwood. But the bullets were scarce out of our rifles when a third Acadian, whom we had not seen, started up. "Now's the time," shouted he, "before they have loaded again. Follow me! we will have their blockhouse yet." And he sprang across followed by the Spaniards. We gnashed our teeth with rage at not having seen the Acadian.
There were still three of these fellows alive, who had now taken command of the Spaniards. Although we had shot a score of our enemies, those who remained were more than ten to one of us, and we were even worse off than at first, for then they were all together, and now we had them on each side of us. But we did not let ourselves be discouraged, although we could not help feeling that the odds against us were fearfully great.
We now had to keep a sharp look-out; for if one of us showed himself at a loophole, a dozen bullets rattled about his ears. There were many shot-holes through the palisades, which were covered with white streaks where the splinters had been torn off by the lead. The musketeers had spread themselves all along the edge of the forest, and had learned by experience to keep close to their cover. We now and then got a shot at them and killed four or five, but it was slow work, and the time seemed very long.
Suddenly the Spaniards set up a loud shout. At first we could not make out what was the matter, but presently we heard a hissing and crackling on the roof of the blockhouse. They had wrapped tow round their cartridges, and one of the shots had set light to the fir-boards. Just as we found it out, they gave three more hurras, and we saw the dry planks beginning to flame, and the fire to spread.
"We must put that out and at once," said Asa, "if we don't wish to be roasted alive. Some one must get up the chimney with a bucket of water. I'll go myself."
"Let me go, Asa," said Righteous.
"You stop here. It don't matter who goes. The thing will be done in a minute."
He put a chair on a table and got upon it, and then seizing a bar which was fixed across the chimney to hang hams upon, he drew himself up by his arms, and Rachel handed him a pail of water. All this time the flame was burning brighter, and the Spaniards getting louder in their rejoicing and hurras. Asa stood upon the bar, and raising the pail above his head, poured the water out of the chimney upon the roof.
"More to the left, Asa," said Righteous; "the fire is strongest more to the left."
"Tarnation seize it!" cried Asa, "I can't see. Hand me up another pailful."
We did so; and when he had got it, he put his head out at the top of the chimney to see where the fire was, and threw the water over the exact spot. But at the very moment that he did so the report of a dozen muskets was heard.
"Ha!" cried Asa in an altered voice, "I have it." And the hams and bucket came tumbling down the chimney, and Asa after them all covered with blood.
"In God's name, man, are you hurt?" cried Rachel.
"Hush! wife," replied Asa; "keep quiet. I have enough for the rest of my life, which will not be long: but never mind, lads; defend yourselves well, and don't fire two at the same man. Save your lead, for you will want it all. Promise me that."
"Asa! my beloved Asa!" shrieked Rachel; "if you die, I shall die too."
"Silence! foolish woman; and our child, and the one yet unborn! Hark! I hear the Spaniards! Defend yourselves, and, Nathan, be a father to my children."
I had barely time to press his hand and make him the promise he wished. The Spaniards, who had doubtless guessed our loss, rushed like mad wolves up to the mound, twenty on one side, and upwards of thirty on the other.
"Steady!" cried I. "Righteous, here with me; and you, Rachel, show yourself worthy to be Hiram Strong's daughter, and Asa's wife; load this rifle for me while I fire my own."
"O God! O God!" cried Rachel, "the hellhounds have murdered my Asa!"
She clasped her husband's body in her arms, and there was no getting her away. I felt sad enough myself, but there was scanty time for grieving; for a party of Spaniards, headed by one of the Acadians, was close up to the mound on the side which I was defending. I shot the Acadian; but another, the sixth, and last but one, took his place. "Rachel!" cried I, "the rifle, for God's sake, the rifle! a single bullet may save all our lives."
But no Rachel came, and the Acadian and Spaniards, who, from the cessation of our fire, guessed that we were either unloaded, or had expended our ammunition, now sprang forward, and by climbing, and scrambling, and getting on one another's shoulders, managed to scale the side of the mound, almost perpendicular as you see it is. And in a minute the Acadian and half a dozen Spaniards, with axes, were chopping away at the palisades, and severing the wattles which bound them together. To give the devil his due, if there had been only three like that Acadian, it would have been all up with us. He handled his axe like a real backwoodsman; but the Spaniards wanted either the skill or the strength of arm, and they made little impression. There were only Righteous and myself to oppose them; for, on the other side, a dozen more soldiers, with the seventh of those cursed Acadians, were attacking the stockade.
Righteous shot down one of the Spaniards; but just as he had done so the Acadian tore up a palisade by the roots, (how he did it I know not to this hour, there must have been a stump remaining on it,) held it with the wattles and branches hanging round it like a shield before him, guarding off a blow I aimed at him, then hurled it against me with such force that I staggered backwards, and he sprang past me. I thought it was all over with us. It is true that Righteous, with the butt of his rifle, split the skull of the first Spaniard who entered, and drove his hunting-knife into the next; but the Acadian alone was man enough to give us abundant occupation, now he had got in our rear. Just then there was a crack of a rifle, the Acadian gave a leap into the air and fell dead, and at the same moment my son Godsend, a boy of ten years old, sprang forward, Asa's rifle in his hand still smoking from muzzle and touchhole. The glorious boy had loaded the piece when he saw that Rachel did not do it, and in the very nick of time had shot the Acadian through the heart. This brought me to myself again, and with axe in one hand and knife in the other, I rushed in among the Spaniards, hacking and hewing right and left. It was a real butchery, which lasted a good quarter of an hour; but then the Spaniards got sick of it, and would have done so sooner had they known that their leader was shot. At last they jumped off the mound and ran away, such of them as could. Righteous and I put the palisade in its place again, securing it as well as we could, and then, telling my boy to keep watch, ran over to the other side, where a desperate fight was going on.
"Three of our party, assisted by the women, were defending the stockade against a score of Spaniards, who kept poking their bayonets between the palisades, till all our people were wounded and bleeding. But Rachel had now recovered from her first grief at her husband's death, or rather it had turned to a feeling of revenge, and there she was, like a raging tigress, seizing the bayonets as they were thrust through the stockade, and wrenching them off the muskets, and sometimes pulling the muskets themselves out of the soldiers' hands. But all this struggling had loosened the palisades, and there were one or two openings in them through which the thin-bodied Spaniards, pushed on by their comrades, were able to pass. Just as we came up, two of these copper-coloured Dons had squeezed themselves through, without their muskets, but with their short sabres in their hands. They are active dangerous fellows those Spaniards in a hand-to-hand tussle. One of them sprang at me, and if it had not been for my hunting-knife, I was done for, for I had no room to swing my axe; but as he came on I hit him a blow with my fist, which knocked him down, and then ran my knife into him, and jumping over his body snatched a musket out of Rachel's hand, and began laying about me with the but-end of it. I was sorry not to have my rifle, which was handier than those heavy Spanish muskets. The women were now in the way--we hadn't room for so many--so I called out to them to get into the blockhouse and load the rifles. There was still another Acadian alive, and I knew that the fight wouldn't end till he was done for. But while we were fighting, Godsend and the women loaded the rifles, and brought them out, and firing through the stockade, killed three or four, and, as luck would have it, the Acadian was amongst them. So when the Spaniards, who are just like hounds, and only come on if led and encouraged, saw that their leader had fallen, they sprang off the mound, with a 'Carajo! Malditos!' and ran away as if a shell had burst amongst them."
The old squatter paused and drew a deep breath. He had forgotten his usual drawl and deliberation, and had become animated and eager while describing the stirring incidents in which he had borne so active a part. When he had taken breath, he continued.
"I couldn't say how long the fight lasted; it seemed short, we were so busy, and yet long, deadly long. It is no joke to have to defend one's life, and the lives of those one loves best, against fourscore bloodthirsty Spaniards, and that with only half a dozen rifles for arms, and a few palisades for shelter. When it was over we were so dog-tired that we fell down where we were, like overdriven oxen, and without minding the blood which lay like water on the ground. Seven Spaniards and two Acadians were lying dead within the stockade. We ourselves were all wounded and hacked about, some with knife-stabs and sabre-cuts, others with musket-shots; ugly wounds enough, some of them, but none mortal. If the Spaniards had returned to the attack they would have made short work of us; for as soon as we left off fighting and our blood cooled, we became stiff and helpless. But now came the women with rags and bandages, and washed our wounds and bound them up, and we dragged ourselves into the blockhouse, and lay down upon our mattresses of dry leaves. And Godsend loaded the rifles and a dozen Spanish muskets that were lying about, to be in readiness for another attack, and the women kept watch while we slept. But the Spaniards had had enough, and we saw no more of them. Only the next morning, when Jonas went down the ladder to reconnoitre, he found thirty dead and several others dying, and a few wounded, who begged hard for a drink of water, for that their comrades had deserted them. We got them up into the blockhouse, and had their wounds dressed, and after a time they were cured and left us."
"And were you never after attacked again?" said I. "I wonder at your courage in remaining here after becoming aware of the dangers you were exposed to."
"We reckoned we had more right than ever to the land after all the blood it had cost us, and then the news of the fight had got carried into the settlements, and up as far as Salt River; and some of our friends and kinsfolk came down to join us, and there were soon enough of us not to care for twice as many Spaniards as we had beaten off before."
While he was speaking the old squatter descended the ladder, and led us out of the forest and over the ridge of a low hill, on the side of which stood a dozen loghouses, which cast their black shadows on the moonlit slope. We found a rough but kind welcome--few words, but plenty of good cheer--and we made acquaintance with the heroes and heroines of the blockhouse siege, and with their sons and daughters, buxom strapping damsels and fine manly lads, Yankees though they were. I have often enjoyed a softer bed, but never a sounder sleep than that night.
The next day our horses were brought round from the swamp, and we took our departure; but as hardships, however painful to endure, are pleasant to look back upon, so have I often thought with pleasure of our adventures in the prairies, and recurred with the strongest interest to old Nathan's thrilling narrative of the Bloody Blockhouse.
The land absolutely groans under over-material-production of every sort and degree, as on all hands is now acknowledged. The foundations of Manchester tremble under the ponderous piles of Cobden's calicoes, in Cobden's warerooms, ever, like the liver of Prometheus, undiminished, though daily devoured by the vulture of consumption. The sight of the Pelion upon Ossa, accumulated masses of pig upon bar iron, immovable as the cloud-capped Waen and Dowlais of Merthyr Tydvil themselves, should almost generate burning fever, intense enough, among the unfortunate though too sanguine producers, to smelt all the ironstone in the bowels of South Wales, without the aid of furnace or hot blast. Broad cloths, though encumbering cloth halls, are ceasing all over the earth--so say, at least, the Leeds anti-corn-law sages. Loads of linens, as Marshall proclaims, are sinking his mammoth mills; not to lengthen the lamentable list with the sorrows of silks, of cutlery, crockery, and all other commodities, the created or impelled of the mighty steam power that by turns prospers and prostrates us. As the crowning point, the monster grievance of all, comes the cramming over-production of food, farinaceous and animal, under which the overfed stomach of the country is afflicted with nightmare, as we learn on the unimpeachable authority of that wisest and most infallible of all one-idea'd nostrummongers, the immortal Cobden himself.[I]
Vast and overwhelming, however, as the ills which follow in the train of over producing power, in the world material and manufacturing, they sink into utter insignificance--for magnitude, they are as Highgate Hill to sky-enveloped Chimborazo of eternal snow--in comparison with that crowding crush, that prodigious overflow, of charlatanic genius, in the world physical and spiritual, which blocks up every highway and byway, swarms in every circle, roars in every market-place, or thunders in each senate of the realm. There is not one ill which flesh is heir to, which this race original cannot kill or cure. Whilst bleeding the patient to death, Sangrado like, and sacking the fees, they will greet him right courteously with _Viva V. milanos_--live a thousand years, and not one less of the allotted number. Whilst drenching the body politic with Reform purge, or, with slashing tomahawk, inflicting Repeal gashes, they bid the prostrate and panting state subject rejoice over the wondrous dispatch with which its parts can be dismembered, the arithmetical accuracy with which its financial plethora can be depleted. Eccentric in its motions and universal in its aspirations, for the genius of this age no conception is too mean, no subject too intricate, no enterprise too rash, no object too sacred. It will condescend with equal readiness upon torturing a pauper, fleecing the farmer, robbing a church, or undertaking "the command of the Channel fleet at a moment's notice." With Mr Secretary Chadwick, schooled in police courts, it will metamorphose workhouse asylums for the destitute into parish prisons, with "locks, bolts, and bars," for the safe keeping of unfortunate outcasts found guilty of the felony of pauperism. With Dr Kay Shuttleworth and the privy council, when the masses want bread, it will invite to the "whistle belly" feast of roaring in _andante_, or dissolving in _piano_, in full choral concert mobs at Exeter Hall; it will induct into the new gipsy jargon scheme of education at Norwood, where the scholar is introduced to the process of analysation before he has learned to read and almost to articulate; or the miserables initiated into the elements of the linear, the curve, and the perspective in drawing, whose eyeballs are glaring in quest of the perspective of a loaf. Oh! genius profound, and forecasting of privy council philanthropy and utilitarian wisdom; more exquisite of refinement than Nero, who only fiddled when Rome was blazing and wretches roasting, thou, with the wizen wand of Cockney Hullah charmed with Wilhem's incantations, canst teach piping voices how to stay craving stomachs; how Kay upon Jacotot may analytically demonstrate that fast and feasting are both but synonymes of one common termination, the difference squared by time alone, and meaning ten or threescore and ten as the case may be. Misery is but a mockery of language after all; for have I not heard it rampant with lungs, and hoarse with disciplined harmony in Exeter Hall, as Hullah cut capers with his tiny truncheon, with Royalty itself, heroic field-marshals, and grave ministers of state, in seeming ecstasy at the sleight of hand? Just as I have heard and seen in the _barracones_ of Bozal negroes for sale, when, at the crack of the black negro-driver's whip, and not unfrequent application of the lash, the flagging gang of exhausted slavery has ever and again set up that chant of revelry, run mad, and danced that dance of desperation, which was to persuade the atrocious dealers in human flesh how sound of wind and limb they were, and the bystanders how happy.
Think not that charlatanic genius rests content with triumphs even so transcendent as these. It disports itself also in "self-supporting" colonization; it runs riot in the ruin of "penny-postage;" it would be gloriously self-suicidal in abolition of corn-laws and free trade. Nay, as--
"Great genius to great madness is allied."
the genius of these days looks even to St Luke's, like Oxford, as a berth in _dernier ressort_, where a sinecurist may enjoy bed and board at the cost of the state, and as a fair _honorario_ for the trouble of concocting a new scheme for raising the wind, or getting a living. The time may come, and sooth to say, seems drawing near, when Gibbon Wakefield, seated on the woolsack, shall be charged specially with the guardianship of all the fair wards in Chancery. Wo to infant heiress kidnappers, when a chancellor, more experienced than Rhadamanthus, more sanguineous than Draco, shall have the care of the innocent fold, and come to deal with abduction! In womanly lore, his practice and experience are undoubted; for has he not had the active superintendence, and the arduous task, of transportation of all the womankind, virgin, and matronly as well, exported to New Zealand on account, with other goods and chattels, of that moral corporation, the New Zealand trading and emigration company, which so liberally salaries him with L.600 per annum for the use of his "principle?" Again, who so fitted as the renowned Rowland Hill, the very prig pragmatic of pretension, for the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer, or First Lord of the Treasury if you will? A man who could contrive a scheme for annihilating some two millions of post-office revenue at one stroke, must be qualified beyond all other pretenders for dealing with a bankrupt treasury; for upon the homoeopathic principle, the physic which kills is that alone which should cure. The scientific discovery, indeed, is not of the modern date exactly which is assumed; for the poet of ancient Greece, his "eyes in a fine frenzy rolling," must have had homoeopathy in view when he sang--
"So Telephus, renown'd of yore, can tell How cured the fatal spear by which he fell."
The disinterestedness of Rowland (not he of Roncesvalles, nor even of the honest Macassar oil) need not be doubted, because he claims a large reward for a penny-post scheme, ruinous as it is, utterly unavailable and impracticable, even if as excellent as notoriously prejudicial, but for the really ingenious discovery of the pre-paying stamp system, by a party preferring no title to remuneration, and through which alone, unfortunately, the pretentious project could be practically placed in operation.
Dismissing minor worthies, such as Benjamin Hawes, junior, of the Commission of Fine Arts, selected probably and appropriately from the consideration that home-produced _savonnerie_ may lead to clean ideas of taste, and who, in his own interest, would be a capital Commissioner of Excise; and Bowring, so well qualified to be chairman of a general board of Commissioner Tourists, from his multifarious practice--come we at last to Cobden, of corn and colonial fame, fiercely struggling with gaunt O'Connell himself for stentorian supremacy--
"Linguæ centum sunt, oraque centum, Ferrea vox."
Cobden and the colonies! The conjunction is euphoniously alliterative at least, if not a consistent consequence; yet who more fit to perform at the funeral as the undertaker who alone has got the hearse and mules all ready for the job? Cobden, who has denounced--more still, has passed sentence upon--the colonies, should be the executioner. All hail, therefore, to the Right Hon. Alderman Richard Cobden, M.P., Secretary of State for the Colonial Department--worthy compeer of the Cabinet, where sit Lord Chancellor Gibbon Wakefield, and First Lord of the Treasury Rowland Hill! Rare will be the labours of the trio; the "self-supporting" supported on either hand by a destroying angel.
In the prospective cabinet of _Charlatanerie_, composed _inter aliis_, moreover, in addition to the Haweses, the Bowrings, the Brights, the R. R. R. (why does not the man write the names out in full, as Raving, Roaring, Rory) O'Moores, there is, however, already a "split;" the members are each and all at sixes and sevens, for as each has his own sovereign conceit, so each would rule sovereign over the rest, and bear no rival near the throne. All would be kings, but not in turn. That powerful and sarcastic writer, Paul Louis Courier, depicts the same regiphobia as raging among the Parisian _Charlatanerie_ of his day; and with an anxious care for his own reputation and respectability, thus purges himself from contact or connexion with it:--"_Ce qui me distingue de mes contemporains et fait de moi un homme rare dans le siècle où nous vivons, c'est que je ne veux pas être roi, et que j'évite soigneusement tout ce qui pourrait me mener là._" Chadwick and Cobden are agreed upon pauperizing the whole kingdom; but the former insists upon keeping the paupers in bastiles, whilst the latter requires them in cotton manufactories; both are agreed upon the propriety of reducing the labouring classes to diet less of quantity and coarser of quality, by which the rates of wages are, and are to be, ground down: but Chadwick naturally insists, that to new poor-laws the post of honour should be assigned in the work of desolation; whilst Cobden, though acknowledging their efficient co-operation as a means to an end, and their priority as first in the field, fiercely contends for the greater aristocratical pretensions and more thoroughgoing operation of corn-law abolition. The Wakefield "self-supporting" colonial specific comes into collision, moreover, with Cobden's "perish all colonies." Kay Shuttleworth vaunts the superiority above all of his analytical schemes for training little children at Norwood to construe, for after age,--
"The days that we went gipsying a long time ago;"
whilst Hullah simpers forth, in softest accents of Cockaigne, the superlative claim of choral shows in Exeter Hall--
"That roar again, it had a dying fall. Oh! it came o'er my ear like the rude north, That bursts upon a bank of violets."
Bowring and Hume did, certes, pull together once in the matter of Greek scrip; but, _Arcades ambo_ no longer, the worthy doctor turned anti-slavery monger, whilst Joseph, more honest in the main, cares not two straws whether his sugar be slave-grown or free, excepting as to the greater cheapness of the one or the other. So also with Hawes, never yet pardoned by the financiering economist of "cheese parings and candle ends" for the splendid Thames tunnel job, and £200,000 of the public money at one fell swoop. These people range under the generic head _Charlatanerie_, as of the distinct species classified as _farceurs_ according to the French nomenclature. For other species, and diversities of species, of a lower scale, but of capacity to ascend into the higher order with time and opportunity, the daily papers may be usefully consulted under the headings devoted to the "pill" specific line--_pildoras para en contrar perros_, as the Spanish _saynete_ has it.
Happily the country need never despair of salvation, even should the cabinet prospective of _farceurs_ fall to pieces, for there yet remain two species of a genus taking higher rank in the social system; species that really have a root, a name, and pretensions hereditary or legitimately acquired. These each affect philosophy, and represent it too; they of the caste hereditary in _grande tenue,_ they of the new men with much pompous parade of words, and all the Delphic mystics of the schools. They are none of your journeymen--your everyday spouters--in the Commons or common places. They exhibit only on state occasions, after solemn midnight preparation made; their intended movements are duly heralded beforehand; their approach announced with a flourish of trumpets. They carry on a vast wordy traffic in "great principles;" they condescend upon nothing less than the overthrow or manufacture of "constitutions"--in talk. The big swagger about "great principles" eventuates, however, in denouncing by speech from the throne repeal as high treason, and O'Connell the repealer as a traitor to the state; and next, with cap in hand, and most mendicant meanness, supplicating the said traitor--denounced--repealing O'Connell, to deign acceptance of one of the highest offices in the realm. Their practice in the "constitution" line consists in annihilating rotten borough A because it is Tory; in conserving rotten borough B because it is Whig. The grand characteristic of each species is--_vox et preterea nihil._ Need I further proclaim them and their titles? In the order of Parisian organization they stand as _faiseurs_ and _phraseurs._ You can make no mistake about the personality ranged under each banner; they are as perfectly distinguishable each from the other, though even knit in close and indissoluble alliance, as Grand Crosses of the Bath from Knights of the Garter. At the head of the _faiseurs_ you have Lord John Russell, Lord Viscount Palmerston, and Lord Viscount Howick. You have only to see them rise in the House of Commons--Lord John, to wit--
"Pride in his port, defiance in his eye"--
to be led into the belief that
--"Now is the day Big with the fate of Cato and of Rome."
The physical swell of conscious consequence--the eye-distended "wide awake" insinuation of the inconceivable, unutterable things--the grand sentiments about to be outpoured--hold you in silent wonderment and expectation. You conceive nothing less, than either that the world is about to come to an end, or the _millennium_ declared to be the "order of the day." You imagine that the orator will lose self and party in his country. Nothing of all this follows, however. You have some common-places, perhaps common truisms, some undefined, mean-all-or-nothing, declamation about "constitution" and "principles," by way of exordium; for the rest, Rome is sunk as if it existed not, down to the peroration it is all about Cato himself, and his little Whig party about him.
--"Parturiunt montes, Nascitur ridiculus mus."
Chief of the _phraseurs_ stand Mr Babington Macaulay and Mr Lalor Shiel, the peculiarity of whose craft--a profitable craft of late years--consists in furbishing up old ideas into new and euphonious forms of speech. Of the one it may be said, that
--"He could not ope His mouth, but out there flew a trope."
The other more finished leader of the class mystifies you with metaphysics, half conned and unmastered by himself--more anxious still to make his points than to please his party; and, of the two, would rather sink his country than his climax. He is a rhetorician, a dealer in set phraseology, an ingenious gatherer and polisher of "other men's stuff." Of the _faiseurs,_ may be repeated what Marshal Marmont, in his _Voyage en Hongrie, en Transylvanie,_ &c., says of the _faiseurs_ of Paris--"_Subjugués par le gout et cette manie d'uniformité absolue, qui est la maladie de l'époque, et qui resulte de principes abstraits, dont l'application est presque toujours funeste aux peuples qui l'éprouvent, ils ignoraient combien il est dans la nature des choses et dans le bien des nations de modifier l'organization sociale suivant le temps, les lieux, suivant le plus on moins grana degré de civilization, et d'après mille circonstances, qui ne peuvent être prévues d'avance, mais que le legislateur capable apprecie au moment où il est appélé à fonder la société."_ On the cession of the Illyrian provinces, by Austria, after the battle of Wagram, the _faiseurs_, or abstract principle men, of Paris, were prompt with their plans, not for "constitutions"--Bonaparte had put an end to that branch of their _métier_--but for reorganizing the laws, administration, &c., of Transylvania _de fond en comble_, without knowing any thing of the people or country, without having seen either the one or the other. Marmont, appointed governor of the ceded provinces, who had studied on the spot the institutions established by Austria, found these so perfect and well adapted to the genius and inclination of the population, and the purposes of government, that he opposed the _faiseurs_ with success, and, by his representations, induced Bonaparte to confirm and act upon what existed.
This immense agglomeration, this monstrous over-production of the tribes of _farceurs_, _faiseurs_, and _phraseurs_ is a misfortune of the first magnitude--a pest worse than that of the locusts which lay waste the land of Egypt, as here the substance of the people is devoured. Conflagrations may, and do, occasionally diminish the number of cotton-mills, and lighten the warehoused accumulation of cottons, or other inert matter; but no lucky plague, pestilence, or cholera, comes to thin the crowded phalanx, and rid this empire of some portion of the interminable brood of mongers of all shapes and sizes. As Horace says--
"'Tis hard, but patience must endure And bear the woes it cannot cure."
And now, leaving this discursive preliminary sketch, the length of which was unpremeditated, of the leading influences which are fast hurrying to social disorganization, it is time that once more we stand face to face with the one disorganizing doctrine of _one-sided free trade_; with the banner on which the _phraseurs_ and _farceurs_ have inscribed the cabalistic devices, in flaming characters--"Leave the imports alone, the exports will take care of themselves;" and, "A fixed duty is a fixed injustice." One might be tempted to believe the first borrowed from the armorial bearings of Lord Huntingtower's "bill" friends, whose motto is, or should be--"Leave the fools alone, and the knaves will take care of themselves;" the second is clearly no better than a petty-larceny paraphrase of Newgate felony, in whose code of duties it stands decreed, from all time, that "a fixed law is a fixed despotism."
The history of industry and commerce in every country, from the most ancient down to modern times, gives the lie to these pertly pretending truisms; for there is scarcely one branch of manufacture to be named which does not owe its rise, progress, and perfection, to the protective or financial, or both combined, control exercised over imports. If we look at home only, where, we ask, would the woollen manufacture be now, but for the early laws restrictive of the importation of foreign woollens, nay more, restrictive of the export of British fleeces with which the manufactories of Belgium were alimented? Where the cotton trade, even with all Arkwright and Crompton's inventions of mule and throstle frames, and the steam-engine wonders of Watt, but for the importation tax of 87 per cent with which the cotton manufactures of India were weighted and finally crushed? Where the British iron mines and the iron trade, now so pre-eminent over all the world, but for the heavy import duties with which the iron of Swedish, Russian, or other foreign origin was loaded? And so also, may it be asked, in respect to almost all industry and production. If, as contended, the woollen, cotton, and iron industries would not only have been created, but much more largely have flourished, without the aids and appliances of friendly tariffs, the one-sided free traders are, at least, bound to something more potential than mere assertion and idle declamation in support of the vague allegation. They have the evidence of facts patent and abundant to confront and gainsay them; they shall have more; but is there to be no reciprocation of facts counter? Is the evidence and the argument to remain all on one side, and on the other nothing but wordy nothingness--
"Dat inania verba, Dat sine mente sonum."
Where are the unknown lands of factories and furnaces, of puddling and power looms, of steam-engines and blowing machines, all self-created and "self-supporting," scorning the crutches of patronage, and high-mounted on the stilts of free, or one-sided free trade? Either they exist in the shape of matter tangible and substantial; or they exist not except as _chateaux en Espagne_ are dreamt of, or as bubbles blown and chased by idle urchins--modern philosophers in petticoats. This bubble-blowing has been, indeed, converted into something of a mine of industry of late years, most successfully _exploité_ by all the _chevaliers d'industrie_ of the race of _farceurs_ before referred to. Let us not forget, however, that one of the most indefatigable of the class, after various and many voyages by sea, and travels by land, in quest of the picturesque in political economy, did, indeed--or says so, and has compiled a book to prove it--light on this long-sought, never-before discovered land, in whose Arcadian bowers sits enthroned the very genius of trade, free and unfettered as the eagle in his eyry on the crowning crest of St Gotthard. Would you know this thrice-blest region--"Go climb the Alps," as the Roman satirist bids--it is Switzerland snugly ensconced in their bosom.
Nevertheless, before the title of Switzerland Felix be fully conceded, the legitimacy of its derivation remains to be investigated. The concession can only be registered upon three conditions fulfilled. It must be shown, _firstly_, that manufacturing industry was not fostered in its early stages by the governing power; _secondly_, that if it had attained a large development unprotected, the proportions of such development shall have been at the least equal, as upon the theory of free trade they should be superior, to the ratio of progression manifested in other countries where protection has been the ruling principle; _thirdly_, that free trade was not a necessity imposed by circumstances and position, not the result of a barter of value for value, but of free and spontaneous choice, and as the result of the profound conviction of the superior excellency and adaptability of the abstract principle. We shall deal briefly with the subject, because it has been discussed more at length heretofore in those special articles in which we have treated of the rise and progress of the cotton manufacture in this and other countries. In regard to the first condition, it was established on a former occasion, that the ruling powers of one or more of the Cantons, did advance large capitals, and offered more, in order to encourage and assist in the establishment of cotton-spinning mills, with machinery of the most perfect construction, under the superintendence, and with a share in the profits, of persons duly skilled from England. Happily, one of the individuals to whom such offers (on the basis of a £100,000 capital) were made, and by whom declined, then and subsequently one of the largest exporting merchants of Lancashire to Switzerland, and the Continent generally, still lives, and we have had the statement confirmed by himself within the last two or three years. This was somewhere between 1795 and 1800, further our memory does not serve for the precise date at present, nor is it indispensable. A manufacture thus, as may be said, artificially created and bolstered up, we do not say unwisely, does not assuredly answer the first condition required. With respect to the measure of the manufacturing development, the data are unfortunately wanting for precise verification; for Switzerland possesses no returns of foreign trade at all, nor can any satisfactory approximation be arrived at from inspection of the official tables of the foreign and transit commerce now before us of Holland, Belgium, and France, through which all the transmarine intercourse of Switzerland must necessarily pass. The exports and imports of Holland, by the Rhine, are not so classed as to show what proportion appertains to Germany and what to Switzerland, as both stand under the one head of Germany and the Rhine. In the Belgian tables, Switzerland does not enter at all until 1841, therefore they can afford no materials for the comparison with former years. From the French tables, more scientifically constructed, correct information may be gathered, so far as the commerce with and through France. But we are wanting nearly altogether in materials for estimating the land traffic of Switzerland with Germany and Italy. Taking the French tables alone, it may be collected, however, that the commerce of Switzerland has been considerably on the increase with and through France. In the cotton trade, for example, the imports of raw cotton in transit through Havre, for Switzerland, had already augmented from 2,973,159 kilogrammes in 1830, to 6,446,703 kilogrammes in 1836; and again, from the latter term, to 104,842 metrical quintals in 1840, which declined to 77,534 in 1841. Our returns do not enable us to state with exactitude whether the whole, or what portion, of the transit of cotton for the two latter years was destined for Switzerland, because our French tables do not, as up to 1836, embrace the details of the separate transit trade to each country, but only the total quantities. The increase of imports by way of France must not, however, be taken to all the extent as an absolute increase, nor can we conclude, with any assurance, that it was an increase upon the whole. For, in consequence of some important reductions in the dues agreed to by France in order to favour and attract the entire transit trade of Switzerland through its territory, the cottons formerly passed to Switzerland through Rotterdam and Antwerp by the Rhine, have been sent by way of Havre. Thus, on consulting Mr Porter's Tables of Trade, we find that the twenty-one millions of lbs. of cotton re-exported to Holland and Belgium in 1837, had decreased, in 1840, to little more than twelve millions. What proportion of the twenty-one millions was destined for Switzerland, there are no means of ascertaining, except from the returns in detail of the Rhine navigation, the existence of which, in any available shape, may be doubted. Assuming that the whole of the cotton passing in transit through France was for Switzerland, we find a quantity equal to about seventeen millions of pounds, in 1841, as required for the supply of the cotton manufacture; or say, on a rough average of 1840 and 1841, nineteen and a half millions of pounds. Now, considering that the cotton manufacture has been established in Switzerland above a century, these figures certainly demonstrate any thing but an extraordinary rate of progress. The cotton manufacture of Russia does not number half the years of existence, and yet the average consumption of raw cotton, in 1840 and 1841, was nearly thirteen millions of pounds, and of cotton yarn, rendered into cotton,[J] about twenty-three millions more. It must be noted, moreover, that whereas subsequently to the inventions of Arkwright and Crompton, Switzerland drew nearly the whole of her yarns for making into cloths from England, not possessing herself any spinning machinery until the commencement of the present century, and then but to a trivial extent, with scarcely any augmentation of importance, until some years after the general peace of 1815; yet that, within the last twenty years, the use of machinery has been extensively introduced, cotton factories have spread on all sides, for working which water-power in abundance afforded every facility, so that she now spins nearly all the yarns necessary for her fabrics, and imports from England but a very slender quantity of the higher counts still required for her finest muslins. Those imports do not perhaps exceed, if they reach to, one million pounds per annum. Of many merchants in Manchester, thirty or forty years ago, extensively engaged in furnishing that supply, but one or two at present are to be found. It remains, therefore, doubtful whether there has been any material progress in the cotton manufactures of Switzerland, so far as the quantities of fabrics produced, and the weight of cotton consumed, for many years past. Through the commercial arrangements before referred to, her special trade with France in all commodities has been on the increase; but, as the usual result of the commercial treaties of France, all to the advantage of France. Thus, for 1841, the imports (special trade of internal consumption) of France from Switzerland are stated at twenty-two millions of francs only, whilst the exports of France to Switzerland amounted to thirty-nine millions. This, be it observed, is the result of _one-sided free trade_, which opens its gates to all, whilst partially favoured only in return, when at all. Switzerland, for example, is free to the import of French cottons; France hermetically sealed against those of Switzerland. The general trade, that is, inclusive of transit and special, had also materially improved; the aggregate imports representing eighty-three millions of imports into, against eighty-nine millions of exports from Switzerland; or that the general trade with France had rather more than doubled since 1832, imports and exports together. The transit portion of this general trade, representing all the transmarine movement of Switzerland, is that rather, it may be said, carried on with the United States Spanish America, Brazil, &c., in which the greatest improvement of her foreign trade had taken place. She has, on the contrary, very largely lost ground in Germany, where she enjoyed marts for her manufactures, before the establishment of the Commercial Union, of an extensive and profitable description, from the advantages of her geographical position; and it is probable, that from the same cause she will have lost no inconsiderable portion of the share her merchants had in the supply of Turkey, Persia, and other countries on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. With Holland and Belgium, her commercial relations would seem to have been sensibly on the decline, so far as the returns, available and comparative, enable us to form an opinion. Upon a balance, therefore, of increase, upon one side, and decrease on the other, there is reasonable ground to question any progress in Switzerland, at all commensurate with the general accelerated movement in manufactures and commerce of other industrial countries about her, and beyond the seas; in exemplification of which, we have on other occasions presented, as we shall continue to present, evidence which may not be questioned.
Therefore, it results, that the second condition in proof of the superiority of the free, or one-sided free trade principle, as represented in Switzerland, the embodied _beau idéal_ of the theory, is not fulfilled. It were easy, indeed, to show the absurdity of a pretension to the rigorous reign of a principle, in a country where, though the federal government levies are merely nominal duties on imported commodities, for other than which it is and must ever be powerless, whatever the will, yet in the separate cantons or chief towns with barriers, scarcely any article enters and escapes without payment of an octroi impost, equal to a moderate state duty on importation at the ports or frontiers of other states. What would be said in this country, if wool, cotton, or any commodity entering free, or at merely nominal rates, at London or Liverpool, were to be taxed on arrival at Leeds or Manchester, for purposes of local revenue or local protection?
We may afford to dismiss the third condition in the smallest space. Free trade in Switzerland, such as it is, is not an affair of principle, of conviction, therefore of choice, as ridiculously pretended, but a necessity arising out of her geographical position. On all sides she is surrounded _enclavée_, amidst states which hold the gates of ingress and egress. Close the Rhine and the Seine against her, and she must surrender commercially at discretion, as she politically does, to such terms as may be dictated. A heavy _péage_ upon river or land transit, ruins her manufactories, her industry, root and branch. She is too happy only, therefore, to be tolerated with a passage to the sea, on the hard terms of surrendering the just rights of her own industry to the free invasion of foreign competing products; she makes, _ex necessitate_, the sacrifice of a large portion, in order to save the remainder. Would you have the commentary? Read it in the miserable fare, the low wages, the toil unremitting and uncompensated, of the operative masses; in the depressed rate of profits, the strict, painful, but indispensable frugality of master manufacturers and capitalists, when perchance capitalists may be found, of Switzerland surnamed Felix, over-borne by foreign competition, as depicted in the Report of that romance writer, Mr John Bowring himself, who, of all men, in his own particular case, would be the last to advocate short commons, shabby salaries, or petty profits. Switzerland, therefore, answers none of the conditions required for the demonstration of the free trade theory upon the greatest profit, or even upon the greatest happiness principle, the _verba ardentia_ of anti-corn-law declaimers, and utilitarian poetasters, notwithstanding. But if the case of the free and one-sided trade theory breaks down in its one only deceptive personification, the proofs are strong and abundant in behalf the cause of the legitimate principle of protection to industry, or of the reciprocity principle well understood, which involves essentially the principle of protection. Let us discursively range over Europe, in further addition to the evidence, which, in respect of Russia, has already been assigned; and, as with regard to Spain, and Russia as well, we shall not hesitate to signalize the abuse of a righteous principle, where in practice it degenerates into the Japanese barbarism of almost absolute prohibition and isolation. A comparison betwixt Switzerland and Japan, two nearly stationary states, where all around is in progress in the industrial sense, ruled upon economical principles so opposite and conflicting, would be a labour both amusing and profitable; but unfortunately the adequate materials are wanting in the one case as in the other; state-books of account and custom-house returns, are as rare and unheard of in Nangasaki as in Helvetia. Fiscal exactions, however, are not unknown in either, the difference being, that the despotic majesty of Japan undertakes them upon his own account, whilst the people of the Alps, as intractable, with better right, impose and levy for their own use and behoof. Withal, to the one-idea'd philosophy of your absolute theory, systematic, uniformity men of the present day, it should seem an extraordinary paradox, putting all speculation to rout, that despotic Japan should be as prosperous, more powerful, more free from intestine convulsion, although more ancient of standing, therefore to be presumed enjoying at least as much happiness as free and unfettered Switzerland, rioting betimes in all the freaks of liberty and revolution.
We do not propose to extend our enquiries into the history of industrial progress in other lands further on the present occasion, than to such external demonstrations, as measured by imports and exports, as may with most convenient brevity and fidelity answer the purpose in view. The possession of authentic documents in ample degree, expository of the past and present conditions of social and material interests in almost all the civilized states of the world, would enable us to follow out, in minute detail, the rise, the career, the vicissitudes of each; but although, on future and suitable occasions, we may be induced to resume and pursue the task already commenced in former numbers, it is not necessary now, and would far outstrip any possible space at our disposal. Commencing with Austria, it may be shown, that even with an ill-considered economical _régime_ of, until of late years, general prohibitions and restrictions, with the incessant and ill-judged policy of forcing manufacturing industry, for the hasty development of which the natural foundations were not previously laid, whilst neglecting the cultivation and encouragement of those varied agricultural and mining treasures, with which, through the length and breadth of her territory, she is so abundantly stored, the advance of Austria, commercial and manufacturing, need not assuredly fear comparison with that of free-trading Switzerland. The following are the returns of the foreign trade of the Austrian empire, excepting for Hungary and Transylvania, which will be found hereafter for the years cited. Other documents are in our possession, bringing the information down to 1840, but as not entirely complete in respect of a portion of the traffic by the land frontiers, whilst in results they differ little from the last year of the table here given, it is not worth while to make the addition.
Imports. Exports. Total. 1829 By sea & land 95,321,861 florins. 107,254,048 202,575,909 1830 ... 99,545,289 ... 110,587,974 210,133 263 1831 ... 94,116,471 ... 98,937,022 193,053,493 1832 ... 107,825,991 ... 115,007,352 222,833,343 1833 ... 106,270,012 ... 116,624,202 222,894,214 1834 ... 107,781,409 ... 111,092,942 218,874,351 1835 ... 121,482,876 ... 115,217,804 236,700,680 1836 ... 130,865,339 ... 122,284,173 253,149,512 1837 ... 120,897,761 ... 119,721,758 240,619,519 1838 ... 127,445,295 ... 134,908,064 262,353,359
The florin is equal to 2s. 0d. 4-10 sterling. The increase under the head of importations within the ten years was equal, therefore, to nearly 33 per cent, and on exportations about 24 per cent. Amongst the imports may be remarked raw cotton to the value of about L.1,273,000; among the exports, raw silk, for about L.2,400,000; linens, for about L.770,000; woollens, for L.2,268,000; glass and earthen-ware, L.584,000; round numbers all. A mean value, imports and exports together, from 1835 to 1838 inclusive, of about twenty-five millions sterling annually, does not certainly represent a commercial movement so large as might be expected in an empire of the territorial extent, numerous population, and rich natural products of Austria. But, as appears, its progression is onwards; and seeing that, in 1836, she entered on the laudable undertaking of revising and reforming her prohibitory and restrictive system; that, in 1838, another not inconsiderable step in advance was taken by further relaxations of the tariff; and that she is at the present moment occupied with, and may shortly announce, fiscal improvements and tariff reductions of a more wisely liberal spirit still, it is not to be doubted that, with the accompanying extension of agricultural and mining industry, Austria is destined to take a much higher rank in the commercial world than she has yet attained.
The values of the external relations of Hungary and Transylvania with foreign nations direct, are of little importance. The bulk of the traffic with them doubtless passes through the Austrian dominions, properly so called. Thus their joint foreign traffic direct, was in--
1830, no more than 14,000,000 florins 1834, decreased to 11,511,000 ... 1837, ... 12,616,000 ...
The imports, only once, in 1836, surpassed those of 1830, within the eight years. The foreign exports were, in
1830, to the amount of ... 9,574,800 florins. 1837, the yearly amount had increased to 11,213,400 ...
But the commercial relations of Hungary and Transylvania, with the other provinces of the Austrian monarchy, were, on the contrary, satisfactorily extending. The returns before us, never before published here, it is believed, do not date further back than 1835, and exhibit the following results:--
Florins. Florins. 1835, Imports from Austria, 79,678,051 Exports to, 46,408,290 1836, ... 96,057,019 ... 53,876,115 1837, ... 90,404,555 ... 47,878,424 1838, ... 101,396,470 ... 61,684,111
The value of manufactured cottons alone, imported from the other Austrian provinces, amounted, in 1838, to the almost incredible sum of sixty-four millions of florins, or say not far short of six and a half millions sterling; of woollens, the import was nearly to the value of eighteen millions of florins. It is difficult to conceive that such a mass of cottons could be destined for internal consumption alone; and therefore the suggestion naturally occurs, that a considerable portion at least must pass only in transit to the ports for re-exportation to the coasts of the Black Sea and the Levant; but on reference to the exports, we find cottons entered only for 31,296 florins. The proportions in which the different leading articles of importation and exportation enter into the total amounts of each may be thus stated:--
Imports Cottons for 62 per cent. Woollens, 17 ... Linen and hempen fabrics, 4º7 ... Silks, 1º7
Exports Wool for 45.6 per cent. Grains and fruits, 19 ... Cattle, 12 ... Various raw products, 5º7 ...
The great bulk of this commerce with Hungary and Transylvania is carried on with the three great provinces of the empire--Lower Austria, which alone absorbs about two-thirds of the total; Moravia and Austrian Silesia, one-fourth; and Gallicia and Austrian Poland, the imports from whence represent above one-tenth, and the exports to which form one-twentieth of the whole.
Such has been the progress of the Austrian empire even under the unwisely strained _régime_ of prohibition and restriction. The absolute theory men will not gain much certainly by its comparison with the free trading elysium of Switzerland, although the most favourable for the latter which could well be selected, inasmuch as representing a principle carried to a prejudicial extreme.
We have not, however, done with our absolutists of the one-sided free-trade theory yet. We must traverse Belgium with them, but at railway speed; Belgium, of commercial system less restricted than Austria, yet more exclusive than England, where, however, some approach towards the _juste milieu_ of the equitable principles of reciprocity, may be observed in progress. How then has she fared in the general _mêlée_ of industrial strife, and what are her prospects for the future in despite of her stubborn resistance to the new lights? Let the figures which follow answer for her. The imports and exports by land and sea, were in--
Imports. Exports. 1834, for 192,909,426 francs. 135,790,426 francs. 1838, ... 238,052,659 ... 193,579,520 ... 1842, ... 288,387,663 ... 201,970,588 ...
For commerce special, that is, of internal production and consumption alone, the returns show, in--
Imports. Exports. 1834, for 182,057,851 francs. 118,540,917 francs. 1838, ... 201,204,381 ... 156,851,054 ... 1842, ... 234,247,281 ... 142,069,162 ...
The commerce general comprises as well the imports and exports of the special commerce as the transit and deliveries in entrepot of foreign merchandise. From 1834 to 1842 the increase of imports and exports, combined under the special head, was equal to more than three millions sterling. Under the general head, the increase was nearly equal to six and a half millions sterling. The comparatively large and disadvantageous inequality betwixt the exports and imports, under both heads, results mainly from the loss of those markets in the Dutch colonies, and in Holland also, of which, during her connexion with Holland and under the rule of the same sovereign, Belgium was almost exclusively in possession. The formation of the German Commercial Union cannot have failed also to damage her intercourse with Germany, to the markets of which her contiguity afforded so easy and advantageous an access.
It was our intention to have reviewed at some length the progress of the German Customs Confederation since its complete formation, with some inconsiderable accessions subsequently in 1834; but space forbids. In brief, but conclusive, evidence of that progress under the rule of protection, we may afford, however, to cite the following returns of revenue accruing under the poundage system, representing, of course, the growing quantities imported. The alternate years only are given, to avoid the needless multiplication of figures:--
Gross sum. Net sum. 1834, 14,382,066 Thalers. 12,020,340 Thalers. 1836, 18,192,313 ... 15,509,758 ... 1838, 20,110,404 ... 17,801,113 ... 1840, 21,293,232 ... 19,019,738 ... 1842, 23,394,831 ... 21,059,441 ...
The Prussian thaler is 2s. 10-3/4d. sterling.
Year by year the rise has been uninterrupted; and with the growth of imported commodities thus represented by the revenue, have indigenous products multiplied, and native manufactures flourished and extended more rapidly and widely still.
In a review of protected nations it is impossible that France should be lost sight of. More rigorously protective than Belgium, prohibitive even in some essential parts of her system, whilst stimulating by bounties in others, the results of a policy so artificial and complicated can hardly fail to confound your dabblers in first principles and rigid uniformity. In the sense economical France has not hesitated to violate outrageously all these first principles, all that perfect theory, in the worship and application of which, politically and socially, her philosophers were wont to run raging mad, and her legislators, like frantic bacchanals, were in such sanguinary "haste to destroy." Singular as it may seem, and audaciously heretical as the consummation in defiance of the order inevitable of first causes and consequences invariable, the comparative freedom of commercial principles in the old _régime_ of France allied with political despotism, was, however, ruthlessly condemned to the guillotine, along with the head of the Capets, never to be replaced by the ferocious spirit of democracy, revelling in the realization of all other visionary abstractions of perfect liberty, equality, levelling of distinctions and monopolies. With the reign of the rights of man was established, in the body politic, that of prohibition and restriction over the body industrial--gradually sobered down, as we find it now, to a system singularly made up of prohibition, restriction, protective, and stimulant, since the last great revolution of July. It is in vain to deny that, under the reign of that system, France has prospered and progressed beyond all former example; that whether freer Switzerland may have stood still or not, France, at least, has never retrograded one step, nor ceased to advance for one year, as thus may be concisely exemplified in the citation of three terms of her commercial career, faithfully indicative of the annual consecutive movement of the whole series:--
Imports.--General Commerce, Exports. 1831 512,825,551 francs, 618,169,911 1836 905,575,359 ... 961,284,756 1841 1,122,000,000 ... 1,065,000,000
Thus the imports in ten years had more than doubled, whilst the exports had advanced 400 millions in official value; say upwards of twenty millions sterling per annum for imports, and sixteen millions for exports. The special commerce of France, representing exports of indigenous and manufactured products, and imports for consumption, and, therefore, significative of the march of domestic industry, presents the following movement:--
Imports.--Special Commerce. Exports. 1831 374,188,000 455,574,000 1836 504,391,000 628,957,000 1841 805,000,000 761,000,000
The imports, therefore, for consumption, that is, duty paid upon and consumed, had multiplied twofold in the ten years; and the exports of the products of the soil and manufactures, at the rate of 300 millions of francs or twelve millions sterling.
Thus flourish, wherever we turn our eyes, the interests of industry, where defended and encouraged by that protection to which so righteously entitled at home. The abolition of all protection, in the economical sense, would be policy just as sane as, politically, to dismantle the royal navy, start the guns overboard, and leave the hulls of the men-of-war to sink or swim, in harbour or out, as they might. Conscious of the inherent rottenness or insanity of such a destructive principle of action, its advocates would now persuade us, that, although inimical to protective imposts, they are by no means averse from the imposition of such fiscal burdens as might be necessary for raising the amount of revenue required for State exigencies. The difference between one sort of impost and the other, would seem little more than a change of name--a flimsy juggle of words--"a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;" and, to the consumer, it matters little whether the tax he pay is levied for protection or finance, the sum being equal. It is, and it has been objected against various protective duties, that, as revenue, they are little productive; but, in fact, they were not originally or generally laid on with a view to revenue direct, but with the intent of protecting those growing or established interests, which are productive of revenue indirectly, by enabling protected producers to consume largely of taxed commodities, or to contribute, by direct taxation, their quota towards general revenue. If, by reciprocal agreement and stipulations with foreign states which are, or might become, consumers of the products of national industry, equitable equivalents can be found for the sacrifice of a certain amount of home protection, that may be a question deserving of consideration; but a very different question from the one-sided suicidal abolition of all protection. It may pass under review hereafter. In the mean time, let us hope that neither Government nor Legislature will be insidiously betrayed, or openly bullied, into any unsafe tampering with, or rash experiments upon, a sound and rational principle.
[Footnote I: See _Morning Chronicle's_ report of an anti-corn-law farce called by himself at Uxbridge or Aylesbury, or elsewhere, which is not important, as the fact is vouched for. In answer to a query from a worthy farmer, "to what cause he attributed the present depressed state of agriculture?" Cobden unhesitatingly replied, "to over-production." Cross-questioning of this kind would speedily prove the emptiness and ignorance of the man.]
[Footnote J: _Vide_ Blackwood, 1843.]
JOLLY FATHER JOE
A TALE FROM "THE GOLDEN LEGEND," IN HONOUR OF THE B.V.M., TO BE READ ESPECIALLY ON THE 15TH OF AUGUST, BEING THE FESTIVAL OF HER ASSUMPTION.
In olden times, when monks and friars, and priests of all degrees, About the land were cluster'd thick as swarms of summer bees, And, like the bees on sunny days, were wont abroad to roam, To gather, as they went along, sweet provender for home,
Bright blazed the abbey's kitchen fire, the larder well was stored, And merrily the beards wagg'd round the refectorial board. What layman dare declare that they led not a life divine, Who sat in state to dine off plate, and quaff the rosy wine?
Good men, and true as bricks were they, to every Church decree; Because as kings were called "The State,"[K] they said "the Church are we;" And then all men believed "The Church" could pardon every sin; And foul as was the outward stain, wash white the soul within.
No marvel that they prosper'd so, for then, as in our times, Sins ever were most plentiful--their traffic was in crimes; And as each man who pardon sought, became the Church's debtor, Each wicked deed their store would feed, the worse it was the better.
For they'd a regular tariff, as we've Sir Robert Peel's, Stating so much for him who "lies, swears, murders, stabs, or steals;" And p'rhaps a thousand items more, as "not attending mass," "Ogling the girls," "neglecting shrift," and others we'll let pass.
However, all a duty paid for priestly absolution, According to the culprit's sex, rank, purse, or constitution. Such was the pleasant state of things, some centuries ago, With holy men throughout the land and jolly Father Joe.
"A round, fat, oily man of God," as ever sang a psalm, Or closed a penitential fee devoutly in his palm, Was Father Joe; and he also, when psalms and prayers were done, In festive scene, with smile serene, aye cheerfully made one.
Fond of a jest, he'd do his best good-humour to provoke, Fill up his glass, extol some lass, and crack some convent joke; Nor heed the frown or looks cast down of atrabilious friars, Till his gills grew red, and his laughing head look'd a rose amid the briers.
Right well he knew each roast and stew, and chose the choicest dishes, And the bill of fare, as well as prayer, with its venison, game, and fishes; Were he living now he might, I vow, with his culinary knowledge, Have writ a book, or been a cook, or fellow of a college.
In those old days the wealthy knew such qualities to prize, And our good priest much favour found in lords' and ladies' eyes; For seldom in their ancient halls a sumptuous feast was dressing, But Father Joe that way would go thereon to "ask a blessing."
When lords and ladies bade their guests to castles, halls, and towers, Though every thing beside was good they seldom kept good hours; Course after course slow marshall'd in with dignity and state, Their prime repasts were apt to last sometimes till rather late.
And Father Joe esteem'd it rude to break a party up, Indeed, it was his usual plan, where'er he dined to sup; And then to take what modern rakes sometimes "a nightcap" call-- That is, a friendly parting glass, a sort of "over-all."
He used to say it kept at bay the night-air, cold, and damp, And cheer'd him on his journey home as though it were a lamp; Nought cared he then how black the clouds might gather overhead, His heart felt brave as he humm'd a stave and boldly onward sped.
So Father Joe his course pursued--a pleasant mode of living; Alternately at prayers and feasts--now taking, now forgiving; But dark or light, by day or night, the great thing to be said is, Where'er he went he ne'er forgot due homage to the ladies.
By this it is not meant that he knelt down to living beauty-- A deed forbidden and eschew'd by priests who mind their duty; His were not walking, breathing belles, to monkish rules contrary, But images of wood and wax, dress'd like the Virgin Mary.
He seldom pass'd by one of these without a genuflexion, Beseeching that she'd condescend to grant him her protection; Or if in too much haste to pray, he always bow'd politely Before her shrine, as heretics to damsels fair and sprightly.
But such a holy, jolly man could scarce escape the eye Of Satan, who, if all be true that legends testify, Was then allow'd great liberty, and took, of course, much more, Playing his pranks among all ranks, till he was "quite a bore."
Go where one might, some ugly sprite of his long-tail'd police Was ever on the dodge to break, instead of keep, the peace; And he himself at times appears to have appear'd where he, By rules canonical forbid, no business had to be.
Much he alarm'd the laity, while reverend men of grace, Like Father Joe, we're told, might snap their fingers in his face, Or order him to take a dip all in the sea so red; Wherefore, when holy men he saw, he turn'd about and fled.
Yet not the less watch'd he their steps, but set his imps to mark The paths they trode, in hopes to catch them stumbling in the dark; And one dark night--ah me! it is a grievous tale to tell-- In coming home past twelve o'clock, our jolly father fell.
He fell--and fell into a stream that ran both deep and strong; No pain felt he, but seem'd to be as borne in sleep along; His head contused, or else confused, allow'd him not to swim, And Satan swore, with joyous roar, "At least, I'm sure of him!"
Crowding along the river's banks, his imps all eager ran, Each striving to be first to catch the fallen holy man; And when at length they fish'd him up, and laid him on the ground, 'Twas plain an inquest's verdict must have been brought in "found drown'd."
But twelve grave men were not there then, the case was graver far; An evil set, as black as jet, all gabble, grin, and jar, Claim'd Father Joe as lawful prize, and Satan said, "No doubt! Angels and saints abandon him, or they'd have pulled him out:
"So bear him off!" But as he spake a sudden gleam of light Broke forth, nor ceased, but still increased, till all around was bright; And then appear'd what most he fear'd, in white and wing'd array, A company of angels come to take from him his prey.
"We claim all holy men," said one who seem'd to be their chief; "I don't dispute that," Satan cried; "but really, to be brief, This friar or monk died reeling drunk, without or shrift or prayer; So yours can't be, but comes to me. I only want what's fair."
The bright one look'd, of course, surprised, and then observed, that he Could not conceive nor yet believe that such a thing could be; So Satan call'd his witnesses, who swore through thick and thin, That Father Joe couldn't stand or go before he tumbled in.
Now though the angel knew that imps were never over nice In swearing at their master's call to prop each foul device, He felt perplex'd, because the case look'd really rather shady, And so declared, "I daren't decide till I consult Our Lady."
While thus he spake, a sudden quake ran through the dingy crowd, And, as in votive paintings seen, encircled by a cloud, With 'broider'd coat and lace-frill'd throat, and jewels rich and rare, The Virgin Queen, with smiles serene, came sailing through the air.
The angels with an "Ave!" hail'd the lady to the place, The impish band, each with his hand conceal'd his ugly face, And Satan stared as though ensnared, but speedily regain'd His wonted air of confidence, and still his claim maintain'd.
Said he, "I'm sure your ladyship could never stoop to own Acquaintance with a libertine, to drunkenness so prone; A gormandizer too you see, as full as any sack," And here he gave poor Joe a kick, and turn'd him on his back.
The lady started with surprise, and cried, "That face I know: Oh yes! 'Tis he! I plainly see! Dear jolly Father Joe! I do not say but perhaps he may, be somewhat over fat, But there's no rule why sage or fool should go to you for that.
"His appetite was always good, a fact that makes it clear He was no heavy-headed sot, be-stupefied with beer, Nor spoil'd his dinners with hot lunch, but kept his palate clean, And sat down cheerfully to dine--and that's no sin, I ween.
"And as for drink, I really think a man who weighs twelve score, May be allow'd an extra pint, or p'rhaps a bottle more, Than folks who're slim, or gaunt and grim, like some that I could name, Who, when in company, are wish'd safe back to whence they came."
Here the black prince was seen to wince, the lady waved her hand, And then resumed, "But now I'll speak of what I understand A trifle better than you all--I mean of what is due To ladies from all gentlemen. Of course I don't mean you.
"I mean all those whom folks suppose, or who themselves believe, To be entitled to the name, (although I oft perceive That many are mistaken quite,) should keep on the alert In ladies' company, lest they our tender feelings hurt.
"A word or look that men may brook, may give a lady pain, Wherefore from all that's coarse and rude, real gentlemen refrain; Their manners gentle as their name, when they a lady greet, A pleasant thing enough it is such gentlemen to meet.
"And such a man was Father Joe. He never pass'd me by In disrespectful haste, although there might be no one nigh; Nor duck'd his head, or look'd askance, like some rude people now, Who seem to chuckle as they pass, to cheat one of a bow."
"But may it please your ladyship!" exclaimed the dusky wight, "A man may be a precious rogue, though perfectly polite." "I don't know that," the lady said, "but grant that now and then Some fellows may appear polite who really are rude men,
"'Tis not the simple smirk or bow that makes the gentleman, But constant care to please the fair in every way he can; And this good father never miss'd whene'er my shrine he pass'd, To kneel or bow, extremely low, up to the very last.
"Therefore I don't, because I won't, believe a word you say Against him in his present plight, which, happen how it may, Was doubtless accidental quite--at all events my will Must be obey'd, and I command, you'll let him lie there still."
The dark one scowl'd and mutter'd low, about "a losing game," And being "done clean out of one," "done brown," and "burning shame," Then hung his head, and slank away, and all his dirty crew Dispersed themselves about the land fresh mischief to pursue.
The lady then, in accents kind, accosted Jolly Joe, "They're gone! You're safe! Come! Rouse yourself! You are not dead, I know; But in a swoon that very soon away like dreams will pass, Much sooner than the cold you'll catch by sleeping on the grass.
"Go quickly home and get to bed--don't stop to thank me now, But come to-morrow to my shrine and make a solemn vow, That when for friends or fellowship henceforth abroad you roam, You'll never take a drop more wine than you can carry home."
She spake and vanish'd, and again the night was dark and drear; Joe gave a grunt and shook himself, then shook again with fear, For though his body lay inert, to all appearance dead, It seems his mind was quite awake to what pass'd overhead.
Such near escape from such a scrape was certainly enough To shake the stoutest nerves, and his were not by nature tough; He got upon his legs, and then went down upon his knees, Gave thanks, and said, "Dear Lady, pray do with me what you please."
Then up he rose and shook his clothes, and dripping by the way, Straight homeward sped, and went to bed, where long he sleepless lay; But natheless at the peep of dawn rose up again alert, And as beseem'd a penitent put on a hairy shirt.
With humble air he then repair'd unto the Lady's shrine, And took the vow, as she advised, concerning taking wine; And thenceforth, as the legend runs, was never after found In such a plight as on the night when he was nearly drown'd.
Here ends the tale. May it prevail this moral to impress On good men all, who're apt to fall at times into excess, To seek the ladies' company when sins or wine entice, And strive not only for their smiles, but follow their advice.
Now prosper long our lovely Queen, and Albert whom she loves; And may they, though at eagles' height, live lovingly as doves, From youthful prime till father Time may change their locks to gray, While all their Royal progeny "love, honour, and obey!"
May peace long smile on Britain's isle! may Blackwood's Magazine, If possible, be better still than it hath ever been; May every thing that's good increase, and what to goodness tends; And may the writer always have the ladies for his friends!
[Footnote K: "L'Etat. C'est moi!" Quoth some French Roi; but which of the "most Christian" set it was, I do not now recollect, and being from home at this present writing, have no means of reference.]
THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN.
BY ELIZABETH B. BARRET.
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers! Ere the sorrow comes with years? They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, And _that_ cannot stop their tears. The young lambs are bleating in the meadows, The young birds are chirping in the nest, The young fawns are playing with the shadows, The young flowers are blowing from the west; But the young young children, O my brothers! They are weeping bitterly! They are weeping in the playtime of the others-- In the country of the free.
Do you question the young children in the sorrow, Why their tears are falling so? The old man may weep for his to-morrow Which is lost in long ago. The old tree is leafless in the forest-- The old year is ending in the frost; The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest-- The old hope is hardest to be lost! But the young young children, O my brothers! Do ye ask them why they stand Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers, In our happy fatherland?
They look up with their pale and sunken faces, And their looks are sad to see; For the man's grief untimely draws and presses Down the cheeks of infancy. "Your old earth," they say, "is very dreary-- Our young feet," they say, "are very weak! Few paces have we taken, yet are weary-- Our grave-rest is very far to seek! Ask the old why they weep, and not the children; For the outside earth is cold-- And we young ones stand without, in our bewild'ring, And the graves are for the old.
"True," say the young children, "it may happen That we die before our time! Little Alice died last year--the grave is shapen Like a snowball, in the rime. We look'd into the pit prepared to take her-- Was no room for any work in the close clay! From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her, Crying--'Get up, little Alice, it is day!' If you listen by that grave in sun and shower, With your ear down, little Alice never cries; Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her, For the new smile which has grown within her eyes. For merry go her moments, lull'd and still'd in The shroud, by the kirk-chime! It is good when it happens," say the children, "That we die before our time!"
Alas, the young children! they are seeking Death in life, as best to have! They are binding up their hearts away from breaking, With a cerement from the grave. Go out, children, from the mine and from the city-- Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do! Pluck your handfuls of the meadow cowslips pretty-- Laugh aloud to feel your fingers let them through! But the children say--"Are cowslips of the meadows Like the weeds anear the mine?[L] Leave us quiet in the dark of our coal-shadows, From your pleasures fair and fine.
"For oh!" say the children, "we are weary-- And we cannot run or leap: If we cared for any meadows, it were merely To drop down in them and sleep. Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping-- We fall upon our face, trying to go; And underneath our heavy eyelids drooping, The reddest flower would look as pale as snow. For, all day, we drag our burden tiring, Through the coal-dark underground-- Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron In the factories, round and round.
"All day long, the wheels are droning, turning-- Their wind comes in our faces! Till our hearts turn, and our heads with pulses burning, And the walls turn in their places! Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling-- Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall-- Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling-- All are turning all the day, and we with all! All day long, the iron wheels are droning-- And sometimes we could pray-- 'O ye wheels' (breaking off in a mad moaning) Stop! be silent for to-day!'"
Ay! be silent! let them hear each other breathing, For a moment, mouth to mouth; Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing Of their tender human youth; Let them feel that this cold metallic motion Is not all the life God giveth them to use; Let them prove their inward souls against the notion That they live in you, or under you, O wheels! Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward, As if Fate in each were stark! And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward, Spin on blindly in the dark.
Now, tell the weary children, O my brothers! That they look to Him, and pray For the blessed One, who blesseth all the others, To bless _them_ another day. They answer, "Who is God that he should hear us, While this rushing of the iron wheels is stirr'd? When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us Pass unhearing--at least, answer not a word; And _we_ hear not (for the wheels in their resounding) Strangers speaking at the door. Is it likely God, with angels singing round him, Hears our weeping any more?
"Two words, indeed, of praying we remember; And, at midnight's hour of harm, _Our Father_, looking upward in the chamber, We say softly for a charm.[M] We say no other words except _our Father!_ And we think that, in some pause of angels' song, He may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather, And hold both within his right hand, which is strong. _Our Father!_ If he heard us, he would surely (For they call him good and mild) Answer--smiling down the steep world very purely-- 'Come and rest with me, my child.'
"But no," say the children, weeping faster; "He is silent as a stone, And they tell us, of his image is the master Who commands us to work on. Go to!" say the children; "up in heaven, Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find! Do not mock us! we are atheists in our grieving-- We look up for HIM--but tears have made us blind." Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving, O my brothers, what ye teach? For God's possible is taught by his world's loving-- And the children doubt of each!
And well may the children weep before ye-- They are weary ere they run! They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory Which is brighter than the sun! They know the grief of men, but not the wisdom-- They sink in the despair, with hope at calm-- Are slaves, without the liberty in christdom-- Are martyrs by the pang without the palm! Are worn as if with age; yet unretrievingly No joy of memory keep-- Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly-- Let them weep--let them weep!
They look up with their pale and sunken faces, And their look is dread to see; For you think you see their angels in their places, With eyes meant for Deity. "How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation! Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart, Trample down with a mail'd heel its palpitation, And tread onward to your throne amid the mart? Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants! And your purple shows your path-- But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence, Than the strong man in his wrath!"
[Footnote L: A commissioner mentions the fact of weeds being thus confounded with the idea of flowers.]
[Footnote M: The report of the commissioners represents instances of children, whose religious devotion is confined to the repetition of the two first words of the Lord's Prayer.]
LETTER TO CHRISTOPHER NORTH, ESQ.
As an appendage to the "_Whippiad_," so happily rescued from the fate designed for it by its author, to be embalmed in the never-dying pages of Maga, the following _jeu d'esprit_, connected with its hero, may not be unacceptable, especially as both productions were generally attributed to the same pen. A note on the line--
"And cuckoo mingle with the thoughts of Bell,"
towards the end of the first canto, alludes to "a young lady of singular elegance and personal accomplishments," to whom Dr Toe's attentions were supposed not to have been unacceptable. This elegant and accomplished young lady, however, (a certain Miss Bell H----,) is said to have eventually jilted the Doctor, and married her footman; a circumstance which gave rise to the following stanzas:--
'Twixt footman John and Dr Toe A rivalship befell, Which of the two should be the Beau To bear away the _Belle_!
The Footman won the Lady's heart, And who can blame her?--No man. The _whole_ prevail'd against the _part:_ 'Twas _Foot_-man _versus Toe_-man.
By the way, Christopher, your compositor has "misused the queen's press most damnably" in the quotation from Coriolanus prefixed to the second canto, where he converts the "Great _Toe_ of the Assembly" into its "Great _Foe_." Rap his knuckles with your crutch, old Gentleman; and tell him, too, that the "Shawstone's party" he speaks of was a very jolly _symposium_, given by a very hearty fellow of the name of "Rawstorne," whose _cognomen_ stands _sic in orig._
My dear Christopher,
BRAZENOSE QUAD., _July_ 15, 1843.
THE REPEAL AGITATION.
No popularity does, or can exist which is not liable to collapses. Two-fold infirmity, alike for him who judges, and for him who suffers judgment, will not allow it to be otherwise. Sir Robert Peel, a minister more popular by his tenure of office than any whom this generation will perhaps again behold, has not been able to escape that ordinary trial of human prosperity. Suddenly a great cloud of public danger has gathered around him: upon every path there were seen to lie secret snares: no wisdom could make an election amongst them absolutely safe: he made that election which comparison of the cases and private information seemed to warrant: and immediately, of his own supporters many are offended. We believe it to be a truth, one amongst those new truths whose aspiring heads are even now rising above our horizon, that the office of first minister, either for France or England, is becoming rapidly more trying by the quality of its duties. We talk of energy: we invoke the memories of Pitt and of Chatham: "oh, for one hour," we exclaim, of those great _executive_ statesmen--who "trampled upon impossibilities," or glorified themselves in a "vigour beyond the law!" Looking backwards, we are right: in our gratitude we do not err. But those times are past. For Sir Robert Peel no similar course is open. Changes in the temper of the age, changes in the constitution of public bodies, absolute revolutions in the _kind_ of responsibilities by which a minister is now fettered, forbid us to imagine that any raptures of national sympathy will ever crowd forward to the support of extreme or summary measures, such as once might have been boldly employed. That style of aspiring action presumes some approach to unity in public opinion. But such unity we shall hardly witness again, were a hostile invader even landed on our shores.
Meantime it will add weight to any thing we can offer in behalf of the Irish policy now formally avowed by Government, if we acknowledge ingenuously that for some weeks we ourselves shared in the doubts upon its wisdom, not timidly expressed by weighty Conservatives. We believe it, indeed, natural and honourable that the first movement of feeling upon cases such as those now proceeding in Ireland, should be one of mere summary indignation. Not that scurrility and the basest of personalities from Mr O'Connell are either novelties, or difficult to bear. To hear an old man, a man whose own approach to the period of physical decay, is the one great hope and consolation of all good subjects in Ireland, scoffing at grey hairs in the Duke of Wellington--calling, and permitting his creatures to call, by the name of "vagabonds" or "miscreants," the most eminent leaders of a sister nation, who are also the chosen servants of that mistress whom he professes to honour: this might have been shocking in any man who had not long since squandered his own ability to shock. As it is, these things move only laughter or silent disgust, according to the temper of readers. And we are sure that not merely the priests, or men of education amongst Mr O'Connell's followers, but even the peasantry, must in their hearts perceive how indispensable is a _general_ habit of self-restraint and abstinence from abusive language to the effect of any individual insult These were _not_ the causes of public indignation. Not what Mr O'Connell said, but what he did, kindled the general wrath. To see him marching and countermarching armies, to find him bandying menaces with the Government of this great nation, and proclaiming (openly or covertly) that he would not be the party to strike the first blow, but that assuredly he would strike the second--thinking it little to speak as a traitor, unless also he spoke as an European potentate; this was the spectacle before which the self-control of so many melted away, and which raised the clamour for vindictive justice. It quickened the irritation to know, that hostile foreigners were looking on with deep interest, and every where misinterpreting the true readings of the case. Weeks passed before we could thoroughly reconcile our own feelings to the passive toleration, or apparent apathy, of the Government. Our sense of prudence took the alarm, not less than our feelings. And finally, if both could have acquiesced, our sense of consistency was revolted by what met the public eye; since, if the weak were to be punished, why should the strong be connived at? Magistrates, to the amount of three score, had been dismissed for giving their countenance to the Repeal meetings; and yet the meetings themselves, which had furnished the very principle of the reproach, and the ground of punishment, were neither dispersed nor denounced.
Rarely, however, in politics, has any man final occasion to repent of forbearance. There may be a tempest of provocation towards the policy of rigour; that policy may justify itself to the moral sense of men; modes even of prudence may be won over to sanction it; and yet, after all the largest spirit of civil prudence, such as all of us would approve in any historical case removed from the passions of the times, will suggest a much nobler promise of success through a steady adherence to the counsels of peace, than any which could attend the most efficient prosecution of a hostile intervention. The exceeding weight of the crisis has forced us into a closer comparison than usual of the consequences probably awaiting either course. Usually in such cases, we are content to abide the solutions of time; the rapid motion of events settling but too hastily all doubts, and dispensing with the trouble of investigation. Here, however, the coincidence of feelings, heavily mortified on our own part, with the serious remonstrances in the way of argument from journals friendly to Sir Robert Peel's government, would not suffer us to rest in the uneasy condition of dissatisfied suspense. We found ourselves almost coerced into pursuing the two rival policies, down to their separate issues; and the result has satisfied ourselves, that the minister is right. We shall make an effort for bringing over the reader to our own convictions. Sir Robert, we shall endeavour to show, has _not_ been deficient in proper energy; his forbearance, where it has been most conspicuous, is either absolute--in which case it will be found to justify itself, even at present, to the considerate--or it is but provisional, and waiting for contingencies--in which case it will soon unmask itself more terrifically than either friend or enemy, perhaps, anticipates.
The Minster's defence is best pursued through the turns of his own admirable speech in the recent debates on the grievances of Ireland. But, previously, let us weigh for a moment Mr O'Connell's present position, and the chances that seem likely to have attended any attempt to deal with him by blank resistance. It had been always understood, by watchful politicians, that the Repeal agitation slumbered only until the reinstalment of a Conservative administration. The Whigs were notoriously in collusion at all times, more or less openly, with this "foul conspiracy:"[N] a crime which, in them, was trebly scandalous; for they it was, in times past, who had denounced the conspiracy to the nation as ruinous; in _that_ they were right: but they also it was, who had pointed out the leading conspirator as an individual to national indignation in a royal speech; and in _that_ they degraded, without a precedent, the majesty of that high state-document. Descending thus abjectly, as regarded the traitor, the Whigs were not unwilling to benefit by the treason. They did so. They adulterated with treason during their term of power: the compact being, that Mr O'Connell should guide for the Government their exercise of Irish patronage so long as he guaranteed to them an immunity from the distraction of Irish insubordination. When the Tories succeeded to power, this armistice--this treasonable capitulation with treason--of necessity fell to the ground; and once again Mr O'Connell prepared for war. _Cessante mercede cessat opera_. How he has conducted this war of late, we all know. And such being the brief history of its origin, embittered to him by the silent expression of defiance, unavoidably couched in any withdrawal of the guilty commerce, we all guess in what spirit he will wish to conduct it for the future. But _there_ presents itself the question of his ability--of his possible resources--for persevering in his one mode of hostility. He would continue his array of mobs, but _can_ he? We believe not. Already the hours of his sorceries are numbered: and now he stands in the situation of an officer on some forlorn outpost, before a superior enemy, and finding himself reduced to half a dozen rounds of ammunition. In such a situation, whatever countenance he may put on of alacrity and confidence, however rapidly he may affect to sustain his fire in the hope of duping his antagonist into a retreat, he cannot surmount or much delay the catastrophe which faces him. More and more reluctantly Mr O'Connell will tell off the few lingering counters on his beadroll: but at length comes the last; after which he is left absolutely without resources for keeping the agitation alive, or producing any effect whatever.
Many fancy _not_. They suppose it possible that these parades or field-days may be repeated. But let us consider. Already it impresses a character of childishness on these gatherings of peasants; and it is a feeling which begins to resound throughout Ireland, that there is absolutely no business to be transacted--not even any forms to be gone through--and, therefore, no rational object by which such parades can be redeemed from mockery. Were there a petition to be subscribed, a vote to be taken, or any ostensible business to furnish an excuse for the meeting--once, but once only, in each district, it might avail. As it is, we have the old nursery case before us--
"The king of France march'd up the hill, With twenty thousand men,"
followed by his most Christian majesty's successful countermarch. The very children in the streets would follow them with hootings, if these fooleries were reiterated. But, if that attempt were made, and in some instances should even succeed, so much the worse for the interests of Repeal. The effect would be fatal. No device could be found more excellent for killing the enthusiasm which has called out such assemblies, than the evidence thus forced upon the general mind--that they were inoperative, and without object, either confessed or concealed. Hitherto the toil and exhaustion of the day had been supported, doubtless, under a belief that a muster of insurrectionary forces was desired, with a view to some decisive course of action, when all should be found prepared. The cautionary order issued for total abstinence from violence had been looked upon, of course, as a momentary or _interim_ restraint. But if once it were understood that this order was absolute, or of indefinite application, the chill to the national confidence would be that of death. For we are not to suppose that the faith and love of the peasantry _can_ have been given, either personally to Mr O'Connell, or to Repeal, as a cause for itself. Both these names represent, indirectly, weightier and dearer objects, which are supposed to stand behind: even Repeal is not valued as an end--but simply as a means to something beyond. But let that idea once give way, let the present hope languish, let it be thrown back to a period distant or unassigned--and the ruin of the cause is sealed. The rural population of Ireland has, it is true, been manoeuvred and exhibited merely as a threatening show to England; but, assuredly, on that same day when the Irish peasants, either from their own sagacity, or from newspapers, discover that they have been used as a property by Mr O'Connell, for purposes in which their own interest is hard to be deciphered, indifference and torpor will succeed. For this once, the nationality of Ireland has been too frantically stimulated for the toleration of new delays. Mr O'Connell is at last the martyr of his own success. Should the priestly order refuse to advance further on a road nominally national, but from which, at any moment, the leader may turn off, by secret compromise, into a by-road, leading only to family objects, universal mutiny must _now_ follow. The general will of the priesthood has thus far quelled and overruled the individual will; but that indignant recusants amongst that order _are_ muttering and brooding we know, as well from the necessities of human nature, as from actual letters already beginning to appear in the journals. Under all these circumstances, a crisis is to be dreaded by the central body of Repealers, which body is doubtless exceedingly small. And what will hasten this crisis is the inevitable result from a fact noticed as yet only for ostentation. It is this. The weekly contributions in money, and their sudden overflow, have occasioned some comments in the House of Lords; on the one side with a view to the dishonesty apparent in the management of this money, and to the dark purposes which it may be supposed to mask--on the other, with a view to the increasing heartiness in the service, which it seems to express. It is, however, a much more reasonable comment upon this momentary increase, so _occasional_ and timed to meet the sudden resurrection of energy in the general movement, that the money has flowed so freely altogether under that sane persuasion which also has drawn the peasantry to the meetings--viz. the fixed anticipation of an immediate explosion. Multitudes in the belief, suddenly awakened and propagated through Ireland--that now at length, all further excuses laid aside, the one great national enterprize, so long nursed in darkness, had ripened for execution, and would at last begin to move--have exerted themselves to do what, under other circumstances, they would not have done. Even simple delay would now irritate these men beyond control. They will call for an account. This will be refused, and cannot _but_ be refused. The particular feeling of these men, that they have been hoaxed and swindled, concurring with the popular rage on finding that this storm also, like all before it, is to blow over--if there be faith in human nature, will do more to shake the Repeal speculation than any possible course of direct English resistance. All frauds would be forgiven in an hour of plausible success, or even in a moment of undeniable preparation. But disappointment coming in the rear of extravagant hopes will be fatal, and strike a frost to the heart of the conspiracy. For it cannot be doubted that none of these extra services, whether in money or personal attendance, would have been rendered without express assurances from high quarters, and not _merely_ from fond imaginations founded on appearances, that the pretended regeneration for Ireland was at land.
Now let us see how these natural sequences, from the very nature of the showy demonstrations recently organized, and from the very promises by which they must have been echoed, will operate in relation to the measures of the Government; either those which have been adopted, or those which have been declined. Had the resolution (a fatal resolution, as we _now_ think) been adopted in the cabinet to disperse the meetings by force, blood would have flowed; and a plea, though fraudulent in virtue, would have been established for O'Connell--such as we may suppose to be built upon a fact so liable to perversion. His hands would have been prodigiously strengthened. The bloodshed would have been kept before the eyes of the people for ever, and would have taken innumerable forms. But the worst, ultimately the ruinous, operation of this official intervention would have lain in the plenary excuse from his engagements furnished to Mr O'Connell, and in the natural solution of all those embarrassments which for himself he _cannot_ solve. At present he is at his wits' end to devise any probable scheme for tranquillizing the universal disappointment, for facing the relapse from infinite excitement, and for propitiating the particular fury of those who will now hold themselves to have been defrauded of their money. Leave this tempest to itself, and it will go near to overwhelm the man: or if the local separation of the parties most injured should be so managed as to intercept that result, assuredly it will overwhelm the cause. In the estimate, therefore, of O'Connell, we may rely upon it--that a battalion of foot, or a squadron of horse, appearing in aid of the police to clear the ground at Mallow or at Donnybrook, would have seemed the least questionable godsend that has ever illuminated his experience. "O _jubilate_ for a providential deliverance!" that would have been his cry. "Henceforward be all my difficulties on the heads of my opponents!" But at least, it is argued, the _fact_ would have been against him; the dispersion would have disarmed him, whatever colouring he might have caused it to bear. Not at all. We doubt if one meeting the less would have been held. Ready at all times for such emergencies, the leader would not suffer himself to be found without every conceivable legal quillet, sharpened and retouched, against the official orders. He would have had an interview with the authorities: he would have shown a flaw in the wording of the instructions: he would have rebaptized his assembly, and, where no business goes on, any name will answer: he would have called his mob "a tea-party," or "an agricultural association;" the sole real object concerned, which is the exhibition of vast numbers trained and amenable to instant restraint, would have proceeded under new names. This would no longer have languished when Government had supplied the failing impulse: and in the mean time to have urged that, merely by its numbers, combined with its perilous tendencies, the gathering was unlawful--would have availed nothing: for the law authorities in parliament, right or wrong, have affected doubts upon that doctrine; and, when parliament will not eventually support him, it matters little that a minister of these days would, for the moment, assume the responsibility of a strong measure. Or, if parliament were to legislate anew for this special case, the Repealer would then split his large mobs into many small ones: he would lecture, he would preach, he would sing, in default of other excuses for meeting. No law, he would observe coolly to the magistrate, against innumerable prayer-meetings or infinite concerts. The items would still be reported to one central office: the _facit_ would be the same; and it would tell for the same cause.
Thus it appears that no fact would have resulted against the Repealers, had the Government taken a severe course. Still, may it not be said that a _fact_, and a strong one, survives on the other side, viz. against the Government, under this forbearing course which they really have taken? What fact? Is it the organization of all Ireland? Doubtless that bears an ominous sound: but it must be considered--that if the leader cannot wield this vast organization for any purposes of his own, and plainly he cannot so long as he acquires no fresh impulses or openings to action from the indiscretion of his opponents, but on the contrary must be ruined--cause and leader, party and partisan chief, by the very 'lock' (or as in America is said, the 'fix') into which he has brought himself, by the pledge which he cannot redeem--far less can that organization be used by others or for any other purpose. It is an organization not secret; not bound by oaths; loose and careless in its cohesion; not being good for its proper object, it is good for no other, and we hear of no one attribute by which it threatens the public peace beyond its numerical extent.
But is _that_ true? Is it numerically so potent as it is represented? We hardly need to say, that the exaggerations upon this point have been too monstrous to call for any pointed exposures. With respect to one of the southern meetings--that at Cork, we believe--by way of applying some scale or measurement to the exaggerations, we may mention that a military man, actually measured the ground after the retirement of the crowd. He ascertained that the ground could barely accommodate twenty-five thousand men standing in regimental order. What was the report of the newspaper? Four to five hundred thousand, as usual. Indeed, we may complain of our English Conservative Journals as, in this point, faithfully reflecting the wildest statements of the Repeal organs. So much strength was apparently given, for the moment, to the Repeal interest by these outrageous fictions, that we, for our own parts, (whilst hesitating as to other points of the Government policy,) did not scruple to tax the Home Minister and the Queen's Lieutenant with some neglect of duty[O] in not sending experienced officers of the army to reconnoitre the meetings in every instance, and authentically to make returns of the numbers present. Since reading the minister's speech, however, we are disposed to think that this neglect was not altogether without design. It appears that Sir Robert relies in part upon these frightful falsehoods for effecting a national service by rousing the fears of the Roman Catholic landholders. In this there is no false refinement; for, having very early done all the mischief they could as incendiary proclamations of power to the working classes, the exaggerations are now, probably, operating with even more effect in an opposite direction upon the great body of the Catholic gentry. Cordially to unite this body with the government of Ireland would, by much, overbalance the fickle support of the peasantry, given for the moment to the cause of disaffection. That disaffection, under its present form, is already, perhaps, on the point of unlocking its union. It _cannot_ be permanent as an organization; for, without hope, no combination can sustain itself, and a disaffection, founded purely upon _social_ causes, can be healed by no Government whatever. But if the Catholic gentry, treated as they now are with fraternal equality, should heartily coalesce with the party promoting a closer _British_ connexion, that would be a permanent gain.
The Irish policy, therefore, the immediate facts of the policy, pursued by the Government, if we distinguish it from the general theory and principles of their policy as laid down in the speech of the Premier, has not been what it is said to have been. Summing up the heads, let us say that we are _not_ resigned negligently to the perils of civil war; those perils, though as great as Mr O'Connell could make them, are not by any means as great as Mr O'Connell describes them; the popular arrays are ridiculously below the amounts reported to us: in some instances they have been multiplied by 20, probably in all by 15; the rumour and the terror of these arrays have operated both ways; _for_ us more permanently than against us. Lastly, it is not true that the Government has proceeded only by negative steps; the army has been increased in Ireland, the garrisons have been better arranged; military stations have been strengthened, and seditious magistrates have been dismissed.
Upon this last point, one word: we have seen nothing more grossly factious in the conduct of the Whigs, than the assertion, that these magistrates ought _not_ to have been dismissed. Well might the Chancellor say, that the discussion had been conducted by petty lawyerlike quibbles. The case stands thus: there are two principles concerned in the tenure of the magistrate's office--theoretic amenability to the letter of the law, and practical serviceableness for his duties. Either furnishes a ground of dismissal. To be scandalously indecorous, to be a patron of gambling in public places, would offer no _legal_ objection to a magistrate; but he would be dismissed as a person unsuitable by his habits to the gravity of the commission. If you hire a watchman to protect your premises, and you discharge him upon the ground that he has been found drinking with reputed burglars, no man will hold the watchman to have been hardly used, because the burglars had not been convicted judicially. That allegation amounts to this: that he has not committed any offence known to the laws. What will you reply? "I know it," you say: "I grant it; and therefore I charge you with no offence. But I dismiss you on a principle of expedience. You have violated no law; but you have shown yourself to be a man disqualified for the very urgent duties of the post--much more disqualified than you would have been by sickness, blindness, or any other physical infirmity."
Mr O'Connell now threatens to pursue his career, by repeating that same absurd misdemeanour of summoning a mock parliament, which, some twenty and odd years ago, a Staffordshire baronet expiated by the penalties of fine and imprisonment. At that crisis we shall see the tranquil minister unmask his artillery. But could it be reasonable to look for a faithful discharge of painful duties, arising in these later stages of the Repeal cause (and duties applying probably to the cases of gentlemen, neighbours, fellow partisans,) from one who had already promoted that cause, in its previous stages, to the extent of sedition and conspiracy? He who has already signalized to the nation his readiness to co-operate in so open a mischief as dismemberment of the empire, wherefore should he shrink from violating an obscure rule of the common law, or a black letter statute?
But enough of the policy which _has_ been pursued. _That_, by its nature is limited, and of necessity, in many points of recent application, is a policy of watching and negation. Now, let us turn to the general policy, as it is reviewed in the very comprehensive speech of the Prime Minister. This applies equally to the past and the future. The French journals, and in particular the _Débats_, complain that it is crowded with details. How should this be otherwise? Can there be an answer given to charges whose vice is their vagueness, otherwise than by _circumstantial_ exposures of their falsehood? Ireland, for instance, has been unfairly treated as to taxes, partition of indulgences, pecuniary advances. That is the charge. Can it be met with another answer than by absolute arithmetic, tax-office proofs, or returns from the Exchequer? "But in these a foreigner takes no interest." Doubtless! and _that_ should be an argument with the foreigner for his declining to judge upon the question. Want of understanding is not at all a worse disqualification for acting as a judge than want of interest in the subject. We mention this pointedly; because it is not to foreigners chiefly that this maxim applies: a profound injustice continually operates in this way amongst the parliamentary foes of Government. Often in private life we witness the unprincipled case--that, upon suspecting a man's vindication to be established by any investigation, men will decline to look into it, as really possessing too little interest for themselves; though these same people had not found any want of interest in the allegations--nay, had mastered all the details--so long as the charges pointed to some disgraceful issue, and the verdict threatened to be unfavourable. An instance of this baseness, truly shocking to the moral sense, is found in the ridiculous charge against the ministers, founded upon the mail-coach contract. This was not at all too petty to be pressed with rancour. However, it was answered. The answer, on the principle of the case, and coupled with the illustrations from parallel cases, is decisive. And then the taunt is--"But why fasten upon charges so minute and frivolous?" Minute and frivolous, we grant; but not so in that degree which prevented you gentlemen in opposition from dwelling on then with genial spite, as being odious in proportion to their pettiness. "You, you, it was," says Sir Robert, "that pressed the case!" Certainly: and they it was who would never have withdrawn the case had they not found it untenable. It is thus easy for two men to concert a collusive attack which shall succeed either way, and be dishonest both ways. "Do you," says the one, "_try on_ this particular case for harassing the minister. If it tells, if it sticks, then we both pitch into him. If it fails, then rise I and say:--'How shameful in an official person to throw dust in the eyes of the House by detaining it upon a miserable trifle, whilst the criminal gravities of his conduct are skulking in the rear under this artifice for misleading the public attention!'"
With this prefatory explanation, called for, perhaps, by the unequal importance of the points reviewed, we shall now rehearse the heads of this speech. It is a speech that, by anticipation, we may call memorable, looking before and after; good, as a history for half a century gone by since our union with Ireland; good, we venture to hope, as a rule and as a prophecy for the spirit of our whole future connexion with that important island. We shall move rapidly; for our rehearsal will best attain the object we have in view by its brevity and condensation.
I.--Mr Roebuck had insisted that Ireland was made the victim of our English parsimony; not once and away, but systematically. This happens to be a charge peculiarly irritating to all parties--to the authors of the parsimony, and to its objects. And, says Sir Robert, I am told to avoid it as secondary; but observe, it is quite substantial enough, as others say, to justify "an impeachment." This is the honourable barrister's word; and a "soft" impeachment it will turn out.
_a._ By the Act of Union, it was provided that, in voting the civil estimates for Ireland, whatever sum it should appear that Ireland had averaged for six years before the Union, in her own votes for a particular purpose, annually that same sum should be voted for a period prescribed by the United Parliament. The purpose was, internal improvement in Ireland, and any national uses, whether pious or charitable. What, then, had been the extent of the Irish vote? We neglect small fractions, and state that it had averaged seventy-three thousand a year. For the first twenty years, therefore, the obligation upon the Imperial Parliament had been, to vote twenty times that sum, or L. 1,460,000. This was the contract. What was the performance? Five millions, three hundred and forty-eight thousand pounds, or three and a half times the amount of the promise.
_b._ Another extraordinary vote in the Irish Parliament, previous to the Union, had been upon the miscellaneous estimates. This vote, when averaged on the same principle, had produced annually one hundred and twenty-eight thousand pounds. To the same sum the United Parliament stood pledged for the first period of twenty-eight years succeeding the Union. The reader will see at once that the result ought to have been little more than three and a half millions. That was the debt. What was the payment? Something beyond five millions.
_c._ Upon another comparison, viz. between Scotland and Ireland, as to another class of _extras_ and contingencies, it turns out--that, during the last period of seven years, to Scotland had been voted six hundred and sixty thousand pounds, to Ireland two million, two hundred, and sixty thousand; to Scotland, that is, less than _one_ hundred thousand _per annum_; to Ireland, more than _three_ hundred thousand.
In the same category stands the relative taxation. Ireland was to pay two-seventeenths of the whole imperial burden. That was the bargain, which we are not called on to reopen. But, as _extras_, as a liberal _bonus_ upon this bargain, Ireland has been excused from paying for windows--for assessed taxes--for soap. At this moment, in addition to these liberal discounts, she has no _national_ share, _as_ Ireland,[P] in the Income Tax: and she may be said, in one sense, to receive her letters gratuitously, for the postage yields nothing to Government, all being absorbed by the Irish post office. It is little, after this, to start possibilities of unequal contribution as regards the indirect taxation: this could not be separately apportioned to the three great limbs of the empire without disturbing the great currents of commerce. It is enough that by exemptions upon the direct taxes, so far as concerns three of them--window, assessed, and income--Ireland receives a large indemnity.
II. Connected with the last head is the reproach made to Great Britain upon the subject of railway encouragement. What encouragement? By money? Yes, says Lord John Russell, whose experience in office (as one of a cabinet plagued in the way that all cabinets are by projectors and scheming capitalists) ought to have taught him better. Have we given any money to our own railways? No: but England is rich. True: and Ireland is not suffered to be _so_ rich as she might be by her Irish "friends." But rich or not rich, is no question here. If schemes of profit are not profitable in this country, we do not encourage them. If they _are_ profitable, they want no encouragement. Still, it is said, might it not be prudent to feed the railroads in Ireland, not with any view to the scheme for itself but considered as a means of development for the circumjacent country? No, replies Sir Robert, that is an error: railways may benefit _by_ the country: but the country through which they race, is rarely affected by _them_ more than the atmosphere aloft by the balloons. The great towns on the route, or at the extremities, doubtless benefit; but in too small a degree, unless they are manufacturing towns, to warrant the least thoughtful of ministers in assisting them. However, to make a beginning, and as a topic to be borne in mind, how much would be wanted? A matter of _ten millions_, says Lord John. _Olli subridens_, replies the minister, "What! only that?" But, returning to business, he reminds the house--that, even for so small a sum as ten millions sterling, the nation would perhaps expect security. Who is to give it? Are the counties traversed to be assessed? But they will disown the benefit arising. And, says Sir Robert, take a miniature case--a sum little more than one-tenth of ten millions was advanced by this country on account of the Irish work-houses, and for a time there was some advantage gained to the industry of the land. But that soon passed away, and then two evils arose at once. The money was to be repaid, and the employment was at an end. But this latter evil was worse than it seemed, for it did not act as a simple privation of so much good; the _extra_ stimulation of the national industry, as invariably happens, and as at this moment we see in England upon the cessation of a ten years' demand for iron, on account of our own railways, brought about a corresponding, exhaustion for the new Poor Law, tending violently to civil tumults. The repayment of that advance will yet cost Ireland many a groan.
III. If Ireland, then, is not ill-treated as to her taxation, or her public improvements, is it true that she is ill-treated in the persons of her children? That also has been said; but Sir Robert disperses that fancy by facts which are as conclusive as they are really little needed at this day. Sculptors had been appointed by members of the cabinet, police commissioners, &c.; and, as will easily be believed, with no question ever mooted as to their birth, whether English, Scotch, or Irish. Subsequently, however, it had turned out as a blind fact, which is useful in showing the entire indifference to such a point in the minds of public men, that the larger proportion of successful candidates were Irish. This was an accident certainly, but an accident irreconcilable with the least shadow of prejudice pointing in that direction.
IV. Of social grievances, grievances connected with the state of society, there are but too many in Ireland: relations between landlord and tenant for instance; but these are so little caused or aggravated by Parliament, that they cannot even be lightened by Parliament. What little is possible, however, says Sir Robert, we will attempt. The elective franchise is another case; yet, if that is now too much narrowed, why is it so? Let Ireland thank herself, and the growing indisposition amongst Irish landlords to grant leases. Might we not, then, transfer to Ireland our English franchise? But _that_, applied to Irish institutions and arrangements, would narrow the electoral basis still further than it is narrowed. Not, therefore, _against_ the Irish, but in their behalf, we withhold our own unsuitable privileges. It is a separate question, besides, whether the _moral_ civilization of Ireland is equal to the exercise of our English franchise. Education of the people again, if there is an obstacle at this time to its movement in Ireland, where does it originate? We all know the great schism upon that subject existing amongst the Irish Protestants, and how embarrassing the Government has found that fend--how intractable and embittered, for the very reason that it rested upon no personal jealousies which might have relaxed or been overruled, but (for one side at least) upon deep conscientious scruples. Reverence those scruples we must; but still the Irish are not entitled to charge upon ministers a public evil of their own creation. In all these calamities, or others of the same nature, oppressing the state of society in Ireland, and derived as an inheritance from ancient times, the blame too notoriously, in no part of it, rests with the English ministers; and the proof is evident in this fact--that, except by one monstrous anti-social proposal from a very few of the opposition members, as a remedy for the land-occupancy complaints--a proposal strongly disavowed by the leaders of the party, no _practical_ flaw was detected, either of omission or commission, as affecting the ministerial policy. The objections were pure generalities; and even Lord John Russell, who adopted the usual complaint against the minister, that he brought forward no definite plan, and whose own field of choice was therefore left all the wider, offered nothing more specific than the following mysterious suggestion, which is probably a Theban hieroglyphic--that, like as the "celebrated" Cromwell, in times past, did appoint Sir Matthew Hale to the presiding seat on the bench of justice, even so ought Sir Robert Peel to----. But there the revelation ceased. What are we to suppose the suppressed _apodosis_ of the proposition? Was it to disarm Mr O'Connell, by making him an archbishop? Little propensity have we to treat a great national crisis with levity; but surely every man is entitled to feel indignant, that when the burden of attack upon Government, is for their silence with regard to specific measures, (which, to be effectual, must often be secret,) those who have the good fortune to be under no such restraints of secrecy, find themselves able to suggest absolutely nothing. National resources were not locked up in the treasury--the particular choice may be secret, but the resources themselves lie open to the whole world--to us, to Lord John Russell, who have no power, quite as much as to Sir Robert Peel, who wields the thunder. And we cannot but remind the reader, that one reason, beyond the policy of concealment, which made it hard for Government to offer suggestions absolutely new, was the simple fact, that such as were fit to be published they had already _acted_ on. The remodeling of arrangements for the army, the bill for intercepting the means of arming a rebel force, and the suppression of insurrectionary magistrates--these three measures were clearly the first steps to be taken. One only of the three is still lingering; whom, have we to thank for _that_? A ministry to which the Duke of Wellington belongs, is not likely to talk first and act afterwards. By the time it became necessary to talk, their work, _for the present_, had been done. But some few significant words there were from leaders in both Houses, which convince us, that, upon any important _change_ of movements on the part of the Repealers, the silent menaces of Government will begin to speak in a tone such as no man can misunderstand.
V. _Patronage_.--Has that great instrument of government been abused by Sir Robert Peel in the management of Ireland? This question might have arranged itself under either of the two first heads; but we choose to bring it forward in an insulated form. For we believe that no administration of any day has ever made the avowal, or had it in their power to make the avowal, which Sir Robert Peel made to the House of Commons in the speech we are now reviewing. He read two separate extracts from his own official instructions to Lord De Grey, which actually announced his resolution (unfettered by the slightest reserve) to renounce the entire church patronage of Ireland as an instrument of administration. The Lord-Lieutenant was authorized to dispense this patronage with one solitary view to merit, professional merit, and the highest interests of Ireland. So noble an act as this, and one so unprecedented in its nobility, needs no praise of ours. It speaks for itself. And it would be injurious to spend words in emblazonry of _that_ which, by a spontaneous movement, _both_ sides of the House received with volleying cheers. That kind of applause is as rare and as significant as the act itself.
VI. and VII. Finally, however, all other questions connected with this great crisis, sink in importance by the side of the one great interest at stake upon the Union--is _that_ to be maintained? And, as the Union could not possibly survive the destruction of the Protestant Establishment, is _that_ to be protected? Are we to receive, at the hands of traitors, a new model for our glorious empire? and, without condescending to pause for one instant in discussing consequences, are we to drink of this cup of indignity--that the constitution and settlement of our state, which one hundred and fifty five years ago required the deliberations of two ancient nations, England and Scotland, collected in their representatives, to effect, now at this day are to be put into the furnace anew by obscure conspirators, and traitors long since due to the gallows. Say not, with Sir James Graham, "that this all-conquering England would perish by the consequences." If that were endured, already she _has_ perished: and the glory of Israel has departed. The mere possibility that, by a knot of conspirators, our arch of empire could be dismembered, that by a bare shout of treason it could be thrown down for ever like the battlements of Jericho at the blast of trumpets, would proclaim, as in that Judean tragedy, that we stood under a curse of wrath divine. The dismemberment itself would be less fatal than the ignominy of its mode. Better to court the hostility of foreign nations, better to lay open our realms to a free movement of that wrath against us which is so deeply founded in their envy, than to perish by the hands of poltroons, of thieves, of conspirators. But this fate is not ours. Many times our Government have repeated that assurance. But, as in the expressions of our affection to the Sovereign, this assurance is rightly renewed from time to time, and occasions are sought for renewing it, let the ministers be assured--that, on this point, we are all sound at heart. All of us are with them from shore to shore. In this island there will be no faltering. It is shocking, undoubtedly: it is awful, and _at such a moment_, to hear three lords of old official standing--Lords Palmerston, Howick, and John Russell, taking occasion to propound ridiculous and senseless modifications of a plan essentially rebellious, the plan of partial confiscation, or of partial degradation, for the Protestant Church. Patience hardly can keep pace with the deliberate consideration of the contradictions which would follow--whether from tampering with the Church, or with the political settlement of our nations. Sir R. Peel has traced both. From the one case _must_ follow an independent army, for Ireland an independent government, an independent war as often as the popular will should speak loudly. From a participation of Protestant property, or Protestant dignities with the Roman Catholics, would follow instantly the transfer of Protestant churches, already few enough, the translation of Popish priests (that is, of selected traitors) to our senate. The very hint is a monument to the disgrace of these noble lords; fatal to all pretences of _earnest_ patriotism; but still in _them_ accounted for, and perhaps a little palliated, by the known necessities of party. As respects the _general_ mind, there is no such imbecility abroad; no such disposition to traffic or go halves, temporize or capitulate with treason. One only error is prevalent: it has been noticed by Sir R. Peel, who indeed overlooked nothing; but it may be well to put the refutation into another form. The caballing for dissolution of the Union, why should that be treasonable? Is the Act of Union more than an Act of Parliament? Is not every act of Parliament open to objection, petition, annulment? No. It is dismemberment, says Sir Robert Peel, of the state. We add this--How, and in virtue of what law, does the house of Brunswick reign? By the Act of Settlement--an act of Parliament--an act about a hundred and fifty years old. That is but an act of Parliament. Is it open, then, to any of us, or all of us, to call a meeting for rescinding the Act of Settlement? But all will now advance to a rapid consummation; Mr O'Connell pursues only his old movement--then he is lost by the decay of the enthusiasm. He adopts a new one--that which he has obscurely announced. Then we are as sure as we are of day and night, of _his_ treason, as of British power to crush it, that the suspended thunderbolt, now raised aloft by the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, will put an end to him for ever.
[Footnote N: We use the words of the Chancellor; words, therefore, technically legal, in the debate of July, on Lord Clanricarde's motion for a vote of censure upon Sir E. Sugden.]
[Footnote O: A more striking neglect is chargeable upon _some_ administration in suffering the Repealers quietly to receive military training. We no more understand how this seditious act could have been overlooked at the time, than we understand the process by which modest assemblies of Orangemen have come to be viewed as illegal, pending a state of law, which, upon the whole, justifies the much larger assemblies of "foul conspirators."]
[Footnote P: People in Ireland, under various heads, as officers of the different services, &c., pay, but not in quality of Irishmen, when by accident they are such.]