Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 62, No. 382, August 1847 by Various
generously made available by The Internet Library of Early Journals.)
NO. CCCLXXXII. AUGUST, 1847. VOL. LXII.
GROTE'S HISTORY OF GREECE. 129 BEN NEVIS AND BEN MUICH DHUI. 149 LETTERS ON THE TRUTHS CONTAINED IN POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.--LETTER VII 166 HISTORY OF THE CAPTIVITY OF NAPOLEON AT ST HELENA. 178 JUANCHO THE BULL-FIGHTER. 197 THE EMERALD STUDS. 214 CÆSAR. 235 REID AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF COMMON SENSE. 239
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GROTE'S HISTORY OF GREECE.
The appearance of a new history of Greece, of the pretensions, and the just pretensions, of this of Mr Grote, is an event in literature which must not pass by without some note or comment. Never were historical studies pursued with so much success, or in so philosophical a spirit, as in the present day, and that by the whole corps of European scholarship, whether German, or French, or English; and it is saying much, when we say of the work before us, that it is equal to the demands of the critical age in which it appears, and that in just estimate of historical testimony, and in true appreciation of the spirit of past times, it is as superior to its predecessors as, in these very points, the nineteenth century is in advance of all preceding centuries.
The progress made in this department of study is very perceptible in the several histories we possess of Greece. Mitford, notwithstanding his acknowledged imperfections and demerits, has had the tribute of applause paid to him, and deservedly, of having been the first to break through that icy timidity with which the moderns were wont to write the annals of ancient Greece. They seemed to be afraid of applying the knowledge which time and science had brought them, to the events and writings of a classical age and country, lest this should imply the presumption that they were wiser than the ancients. They sat down to their task like young scholars who are _construing_, not interpreting, their author. Little discrimination was made between the learned writings before them. If it was not, as it has been wittily observed, "all Greek, and therefore all true," at least every thing that was Greek had a mysterious air of learning which protected it from profane examination; and incongruities and futilities, absurdities of reasoning, and improbabilities of narrative, were veiled or half concealed under the charm of Grecian typography. Mitford set aside this too great reverence for the ancient literati. As he saw men, and not moving statues, in the heroes of Grecian history, so he was persuaded that the writers of that history were also men, fallible and prejudiced, like those who were living and writing about him. But Mitford overcame one set of prejudices by the force which prejudices of another kind had endowed him with. He saw how party spirit had raged in modern as well as ancient times, but he detected it with that proverbial readiness with which the thief detects the thief; he wrote himself with the energy and penetration, the want of candour and generosity, which at all times will distinguish the advocate. Moreover, the scholarship of Europe has since his time assumed so lofty a port, and taken such rapid strides, that on many subjects he has been left lagging in the rear.
The history of Greece by Dr Thirlwall is a great improvement on its predecessor. It is written with profounder learning, and a more equitable spirit; and is indeed pre-eminently distinguished by the calmness, candour, and judge-like serenity that pervades it. In a style always lucid in disquisition, and always elegant in narrative, he appears to be solely anxious to communicate the fair result, whatever it may be, to which his extensive reading has conducted him. But, unfortunately, Dr Thirlwall wrote his history in one of those _transition states_ of mind which render impossible the accomplishment of an enduring work. He saw the futility of much that had been relied on as basis of historical belief; he was not disposed to credulity, nor at all likely to accept fable, in its own simple and gross form, for truth. But he had not taught himself to forego the vain attempt to extract history out of fable; he could not relinquish that habit of "learned conjecture," so dear to the scholar, so fatal to the historian. In the earlier portion of his work, he constructs his narrative under the singular disadvantage of one who sees perpetually the weakness of his own superstructure, yet continues to build on; and thus, with much show of scaffolding, and after much putting up and pulling down, he leaves at last but little standing on the soil. He had not laid down for himself a previous rule for determining what should be admitted as historical evidence, or the rules he had prescribed for himself were of an uncertain, fluctuating character. Neither do we discover in Dr Thirlwall the faculty, existing at least in any eminent degree, of realising to himself, or vividly representing to others, the intellectual condition of a nascent people, far removed from ourselves in habits of thought, and trained under quite different institutions, religious and political. In short, we note a deficiency--(to adopt the phraseology of Bacon)--in what we may be allowed to describe, as the more philosophical qualifications of the historian.
Precisely in these lies the peculiar strength of Mr Grote. With scholarship as extensive as that of his predecessors, he has united a stricter discipline of mind, and habits of closer reasoning; and he manifests a truer perception of the nature of past modes of thinking--of the intellectual life of unlettered and Pagan ages. He has passed through that _transition state_ in which Dr Thirlwall unfortunately found himself, and has drawn with a firm hand the boundaries between history and fable. Not only has he drawn the line, and determined the principle on which the limits of the historical world should be marked out, but he has had the fortitude to adhere to his own principles, and has not allowed himself, in pursuit of some fragment of historic truth, (many of which doubtless lie in a half-discovered state beyond the circle he has drawn,) to transgress the boundary he has wisely prescribed to himself. The history is not far enough advanced to enable us to judge whether Mr Grote will preserve himself from a political bias, the opposite of that which has been so much censured in Mitford. A sufficient portion however, is published, to authorise us in saying that it is not in point of _narrative_ that the present author will obtain any advantage over his predecessors. It is in disquisition that he rejoices, and succeeds; it is the argumentative matter which excites and sustains him. His style seems to languish when the effort of ratiocination gives place to the task of the narrator. We fancy we see him resume the pen with listlessness, when nothing remains for the historian but to tell his story.
Neither can we congratulate Mr Grote on possessing the art of arrangement or compression, on the knowing when to abbreviate, or how to omit. His subject has in itself this unavoidable disadvantage, that the history of Greece lies scattered and broken up amongst many independent cities and communities: this disadvantage our author's voluminous and discursive manner does nothing to remedy, does much to aggravate. One would almost suspect that Mr Grote had entertained the idea that it belonged to the history of Greece to give us an account of all that the Greeks knew of history. It seems sufficient that a subject has been mentioned by Herodotus to entitle it to a place in his pages. This fulness of matter, it may be said, will enrich the work. Very true. But what if, in this process of enriching, the work be made unreadable? What if the treasures be so piled up and heaped together that to get at them may be little less difficult than to extract the precious metals originally from the mine? If the work advance on the plan hitherto pursued, it will be found that, "A History of Greece" is far too restricted a title, and that it should rather have been called a history of the ancient world during the times when the Greeks rose and flourished;--so well disposed does the author appear to wander over to Phoenicia and Assyria, to Babylon and Egypt. Mr Alison might as well have entitled his great historical work simply a history of the French Revolution. It is true, there is no reason to be given why Mr Grote should not do for ancient Europe during the period of the development of the Greeks, what Mr Alison has done for modern Europe during the great drama enacted by the people of France. Unhappily, however, Mr Grote does not possess those descriptive powers which, in the work of Mr Alison, render the parts which are most episodical, invariably the most interesting; so that, however important and eventful the main stream of his narrative may be, a reader of Alison always delights to find the author starting afresh from some remote era, on some distant soil, and call willingly quit even Paris and her Revolution, to revisit with him the rustic republics of Switzerland, or to build up Holland again from the sea, or to call to life the people of Poland, and fill the plains again with their strange military diet of a hundred thousand mounted senators.
There is much of the philosopher, little of the artist, in Mr. Grote; nor are the charms of style those which he has sedulously cultivated, or by which he is anxious to obtain attention. He writes in a manly, straightforward manner, and expresses his meaning with sufficient force and perspicuity: but there is no sustained elegance of diction; there is often all apparent disdain of it. At least we meet occasionally with quite conversational expressions, introduced--not, be it remarked, with that dexterous ease and felicitous taste which render them so effective in compositions of the highest order--but bluntly, carelessly, as if they were verily the first that came to hand, and the author did not think it worth his while to look for others. It should be mentioned, however, that this inequality of style is partly the effect of a desire to keep as close as possible in his narrative to the original Greek, so that it is the crudeness of _translation_ we sometimes encounter. We raise no quarrel with him ourselves on this point; his language, in general, is all that is requisite; but a critic disposed to be severe on the minor delinquencies of style, might justify his censure by extracting many a hasty and neglected sentence, and many all uncouth expression. In fine, we accept of the present work as a valuable contribution to the history of Greece, and to the science itself of history; we accept it as a manifest improvement upon its predecessors in some of the highest and most important elements of historical composition; but we by no means accept it as _the_ History of Greece, as the final narrative of the people of Athens and Sparta. For this it is too polemical, diffuse, incondite. On the ground which this writer and others have been obliged to contend for, which they have conquered and cleared, our posterity will one day, it is to be hoped, see a structure arise--grand, and simple, and yet ornate. For if the fitness of things be a rule for our expectation, we may safely prophesy that some future age will possess a History of Greece which will be to all other histories what the Grecian temple is to all other temples; which shall be itself a temple worthy of the memory of the most extraordinary people that have yet appeared upon the earth.
Mr Grote has done in the history of Greece what Dr Arnold did in that of Rome: he has at once excluded the early legends entirely from the class of historical records. The outcry which we sometimes hear against that scepticism which has resulted from later and more severe investigations into the nature of historical evidence, and the loss thereby sustained of many a popular tale, is--need we insist upon it?--mere childishness. It is never found that we lose any thing by truth, and certainly not here. The popular tale, legend, or myth, may be displaced entirely from the records of the past, (for what it contains, or may be supposed to contain, of fact or event;) but it remains with us in its true character of fable, as the offspring of the teeming invention and the ready faith of an unlettered generation; and, in this character, is more thoroughly understood by our present race of thinkers, and more vividly appreciated, than it ever was before. But shall we believe _nothing_ of it?--surely something, must be true,--is the whole legend to be lost? To such exclamations we answer, that the whole legend, instead of being lost, is regained, is restored to us. While you doubt of its true nature, and strive to make it speak the language of history, you can never see the legend itself,--never clearly understand it,--never gather from it the curious knowledge it is able to reveal of our own species. If, instead of looking askance at the bold inventions of past times, with a half faith and a half denial, busied with tricks of interpretation, and teased with ever-recurring incredulity, you embrace it cordially as the genuine product of an imaginative age, redolent of the marvellous, you will, as such, gather from it a far higher and more profitable instruction than could be extracted from some supposed historic fact which it is thought to conceal, and which is received as credible on the very ground that it resembles a host of similar facts already well established.
We heartily approve and applaud the resolute abstinence with which Mr Grote has refrained from seeking for some supposed historical basis in mere legend and fable; we believe that his work, in this point of view, is calculated to have an excellent influence, not only on all future historians of Greece, but on all who shall undertake to write the early history of any people whatever. With the exception of Dr Arnold's History of Rome, we know of no work where there is the same true appreciation shown of the real value, and proper use, of legendary traditions. Certainly amongst the great scholars of Germany, whatever their undoubted merits in other respects, there is very little of this wise reticence, this philosophical forbearance; and if the two English historians, whom we have named together, be surpassed in critical knowledge by the learned men of Germany, or in brilliant narrative by the writers of France, they are superior to their contemporaries in both countries in the sound application of learning to ancient history, and their attachment to the sobriety of truth. With much less show of philosophic _system_, they have more of philosophy.
"The times which I have thus set apart," writes Mr Grote, in his preface, "from the region of history, are discernible only through a different atmosphere--that of epic poetry and legend. To confound together these disparate matters is, in my judgment, essentially unphilosophical. I describe the earlier times by themselves, as conceived by the faith and feeling of the first Greek, and known only through their legends,--without presuming to measure how much or how little of historical matter these legends may contain. If the reader blame me for not assisting him to determine this,--if he ask me why I do not undraw the curtain and disclose the picture,--I reply in the words of the painter Zeuxis, when the same question was addressed to him, on exhibiting his master-piece of imitative art--'The curtain _is_ the picture.' What we now read as poetry and legend was once accredited history, and the only genuine history which the first Greeks could conceive or relish of their past time: the curtain conceals nothing behind, and cannot by any ingenuity be withdrawn. I undertake only to show it as it stands,--not to efface, still less to repaint it."
A simple uninstructed age believes its own legend; it asks no question upon the point of credibility; with such an age, to hear, is to believe. Originally, indeed, with all of us, to have a conception of any thing is tantamount to believing that it exists, or has existed: belief is no separate act of mind, but is itself included in the perception or the thought; it is experience and reflection which have to ingraft their _disbelief_, and teach us that every thing we _think_ is not equally _true_. An ignorant people are all children, and with them there is but one rule of faith: the more vivid the impression, the stronger the belief,--the more marvellous the story, the less possibility of doubting it. And consider this--that we, owing to our scientific habits of thought, and the long record of the by-gone world which lies open to us, entertain it as a general law, that the past has, in certain essentials, resembled the present; but our unlettered people, looking out into the blank foretime, would have no such law to regulate or restrain their belief. On the contrary, their impression would naturally be, that the past was, essentially different from the present, or why was it _past_? Why all this change and transiency, if the same things were to be repeated? All people that have had no records have filled up the void with beings and events as unlike as possible to those they were familiar with. They had a prevailing impression that that blank space was the region of the wonderful; and the day-dreamer, the imaginative man, who was, naturally enough, proclaimed to be inspired, since none could tell how his knowledge came, was generally at hand to fill up the blank space with appropriate picture.
An age of awakening criticism begins to find the legend doubtful--cannot entirely believe, cannot entirely dismiss the old familiar story,--begins to interpret it as allegory, or to separate the probable incidents from the improbable, receiving the first, rejecting the second. A new rule of faith has been introduced; not what is most captivating and strange, but what best harmonises with the common occurrences of life, is to be the most readily believed. The exuberant legend is therefore pruned down and mutilated, or it is represented as the fantastic shadow of some quite natural circumstance,--strange shadow for such substance!--and in this state it is admitted to a certain credence. But who sees not that this is no separation of history from fable, but merely a reduction of the fable into something we can pronounce to be probable? But the probability of this residue is no sufficient ground for our belief; no one, surely, supposes that imagination deals in nothing but impossibilities. The utmost effort, the wildest flight of fancy, could not always keep clear of probability; and it would be strange indeed if the romantic fiction could claim our faith at every point where, by chance, it had touched the earth. One might as well sift, in the same manner, a fiction of the Arabian Nights; and, setting aside the supernatural, admit whatever is natural to be true. The wonderful properties of Aladdin's lamp shall be given up; but that Aladdin had an old lamp, and that his wife sold it when he was out of the way, this shall remain admissible.
A third age, however, arrives, still more critical, more justly and profoundly analytic. It recognises that, by the process just described, a dead residuum of little value and doubtful reality is the utmost that can be obtained, While the real value of the subject of this untutored chemistry has been lost in the experiment. It returns to the legend--contemplates it in its entire, and genuine form. It sees that the legend is the true history of the minds that created and believed it--a very important history--but of little or nothing else. Seen in this light, there is, indeed, no comparison between the value of the poetic fable as a contribution to the history of mankind, and the value of the prosaic and ordinary fact which a half critical age (if sure of its _guess_) would extract from it. Think for a moment of all the marvels of the Argonautic expedition; that vessel, itself sentient and intelligent, having its prophet as well as pilot on board, darting through rocks which move and join together, like huge pincers, to crush the passing ship; think of the wondrous Medea who conducted the homeward voyage, and reflect upon the sort of people who created and credited all these marvels. Then turn to the semi-critical version of Strabo, where the whole expedition resolves itself into an invasion of some unknown king, of some unknown country, whose wealth stands typified in the golden fleece. Such writers as Strabo commit a two-fold error. They corrupt history, and they destroy the legend. They write an unauthorised narrative, and explain the nature and genius of the fable in a manner equally unauthorised.
Or take an instance still more familiar. The legend tells us that Romulus--as was thought befitting the founder of Rome--died in no ordinary manner, but was translated to the skies. He had called the people together on the field of Mars, "when," in the simple language which Dr Arnold has appropriated to these legendary stories--"when all on a sudden there arose a dreadful storm, and all was dark as night; and the rain, and the thunder, and the lightning, were so terrible that all the people fled from the field, and ran to their homes. At last the storm was over, and they came back to the field of Mars, but Romulus was nowhere to be found, for Mars, his father, had carried him up to heaven in his chariot." Dionysius the Greek found, in this mysterious disappearance, a proof of the assassination of Romulus by certain of his nobles, who stabbed him and conveyed him away in the thunder-storm. And our own Hooke thought himself equally sagacious, in his day, when he adopted this interpretation. But what is it that we have here? Not history certainly; and as little an intelligent view of the fable.
What Hooke did, in his day, occasionally, and in an empirical manner, some German literati have attempted in a quite systematic, _a priori_ fashion. They first determine that the myth or legend has been composed by a certain play of the imagination--as the representing the history of a people, or a tribe, under the personal adventures of an imaginary being; and then they hope to unravel this work of the fancy, and get back again the raw material of plain truth. If they are partially correct in describing this to have been _one_ course the imagination pursued--which is all that can be admitted--still the attempt is utterly hopeless to recover, in its first shape, what has been confessedly disguised and distorted. The naturalists of Laputa were justified in supposing that the light of the sun had much to do with the growth of gerkins, but it does not follow that they would succeed in their project of "extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers."
For the _briefest_ illustration we can call to mind of this philosophical ingenuity, we will refer the reader to Michelet's preface to his History of Rome. We see the absurdity none the worse for it being presented through the transparent medium of the French writer. He thus explains the discovery of the learned Germans whom he follows:--"Ce qu'il y a de plus original, c'est d'avoir prouvé que ces fictions historiques étaient une necéssité de notre nature. L'humanité d'abord matérielle et grossière, ne pouvait dans les langues encore toutes concrètes, exprimer la pensée abstraite, qu'en la réalisant, en lui donnant un corps, une personalité humaine, un nom propre. Le même besoin do simplification, si naturel à la faiblesse, fit aussi désigner une collection d'individus par un nom d'homme. Cet homme mythique, ce fils de la pensée populaire, exprima à la fois le peuple et l'idée du peuple. Romulus c'était la force, et le peuple de la force; Juda, l'élection divine et le peuple élu."
Having thus expounded the theory of the construction of a myth, he afterwards tries his hand upon the resolution of one into its constituent elements. The fourth chapter of his introduction commences thus:--"Circé, dit Hésiode, (_Theog._ v. 1111, 1115) eut d'Ulysse deux fils, Latinos et Agrios (le barbare,) qui au fond des saintes îles gouvenèrent la race célèbre des Tyrséniens. J'enterprèterais volontiers ce passage de la manière suivante: Des Pelasges, navigateurs et magiciens, (c'est-à-dire, industrieux) sortirent les deux grandes sociétés Italiennes--les _Osci_, (dont les Latins sont une tribu,) et les Tusci ou Etrusques. Circé, fille du soleil, a tous les caractères d'une Telchine Pélasgique. Le poete nous la montre près d'un grand feu, rarement utile dans un pays chaud, si ce n'est pour un but industriel; elle file la toile, ou prépare de puissants breuvages."
The theory and the application, it will be seen, are worthy of each other. All comment would be superfluous. We have preferred to retain the original language for this, amongst other reasons, that we should have found it difficult to represent in honest English the exact degree of affirmation to which the Frenchman pledges himself by his "j'enterpreterais volontiers." It is something less than conviction, and something more than guess;--it certainly should be, or it ought to have no place in history.
It is not by mangling the legend, or by predicating of it fantastic modes of construction, that the few grains of sober fact concealed about it are to be secured; but by studying honestly the laws of imagination under which all fabulous narratives are constructed. However wildly the fancy may range in the main events of a fable, there will be always a certain portion of the details gathered from real life; and the manners and morals of an age may be depicted in fictions, the substance of which is altogether supernatural. The heroes fight like gods, but they dine and dress like ordinary mortals. Achilles drags the body of Hector three times round the walls of Troy, both armies looking on the while. Such sight the earth never beheld. But the ear of the warrior and the harness of his steeds resembled such as had been seen or heard of. The poet invents a centaur, but not the bow and arrow he puts into his hands. His hero scales the sky, but carries with him the sandal on his foot which was made in the village below.
"Three-fourths of the two volumes now presented to the public," continues Mr Grote in his preface, "are destined to elucidate this age of historical faith as distinguished from the later age of historical reason: to exhibit its basis in the human mind--an omnipresent religious and personal interpretation of nature; to illustrate it by comparison with the like mental habit in early modern Europe; to show its immense abundance and variety of narrative matter, with little care for consistency between one story and another; lastly, to set forth the causes which overgrew, and partially supplanted the old epical sentiment, and introduced, in the room of literal faith, a variety of compromises and interpretations." This is the just application of the legends of Greece, forming, as they do, the very best description of the people whose exploits and career the author is about to narrate. This is a truer commencement of the history than that which appears at first sight more strictly historical--namely, an investigation into the obscure tribes which inhabited the same country prior to that people who are known to us as Greeks--an investigation that is to be carried on by strained interpretations of these very legends. We congratulate both author and reader on this escape from the fruitless entanglement of the Pelasgian controversy. Mr Grote seems to have taken due warning from the difficulties and embarrassments in which his predecessor has here involved himself. Dr Thirlwall is a judicious, a succinct, and lucid writer, and yet a more tedious, confused, and utterly unsatisfactory piece of history no man can read than the account he gives us, in his opening volume, of the Pelasgians. The subject is clearly hopeless. From the first sentence to the last of that account, a painful confusion attends upon the reader--not the fault, we are ready to believe, of the historian, unless it be a fault to attempt a statement of facts where the materials for such a statement do not exist. "The people"--Dr Thirlwall thus commences--"whom we call Greeks--the Hellenes--were not, _at least under this name_, the first inhabitants of Greece. Many names have been recorded of races that preceded them there, which they in later times considered barbarous, or foreign in language and manners to themselves." Here the very first sentence proclaims a doubt how far the change was one of race or only of name, and this doubt pursues us throughout the whole inquiry. It is never solved by the author, but is sometimes _forgotten_ by him; for he occasionally proceeds with the discussion as if he had left no such doubt behind him undetermined. At one time he states distinctly, "we find that though in early times Thessaly, and the north of Greece in general, was the scene of frequent migrations and revolutions so that its ancient inhabitants may here and there have been completely displaced by new tribes, Attica appears never to have undergone such a change; and Peloponnesus lost no considerable part of its original population till long after the whole had become Hellenic." (P. 54.) Herodotus had said that certain Pelasgians living in his time spoke a language different from the Greeks. Dr Thirlwall puts the passage of Herodotus upon the rack to extract from it a confession that the difference was not greater than between one dialect of Greek from another. Yet, as the narrative proceeds--if narrative it can be called--we have the Pelasgians and the Greeks represented as essentially distinct people; and we hear of the difficulty of determining "the precise point of civilisation to which the Pelasgians had advanced, before the Greeks overtook and outstripped them." The whole treatise, notwithstanding the air of decision now and then assumed, is but an amplification of the doubt implied in the very first sentence of it.
The legends which fill up the dark space with _eponymous_ heroes, as they have been called--heroes who take the name of a tribe in order to bestow it back upon the tribe; for it was the Greek mode of thinking at these early periods to presume that every tribe, or _gens_, had a common progenitor from whom it took its title and origin,--these legends are at one time treated with the due suspicion which should attend upon them; yet, at another, if a fortunate congruity, some lucky "dovetailing," can be observed amongst them, they are raised into the rank of historical evidence. The mode of interpretation which we have described as characterising the first and undisciplined age of critical inquiry, is not laid aside. Such personages as Danaus and Aeolus are still referred to on emergency; and Dr Thirlwall still speaks of the Centaurs as "a fabulous race, which, however, may be supposed to represent the earlier and ruder inhabitants of the land." If we must call in the Centaurs to our assistance, we may safely conclude with Mr Grote that the ancient Pelasgians are "not knowable."
"Whoever," writes our author, when the course of his narrative brings him to speak of the anti-Hellenic tribes--"Whoever has examined the many conflicting systems respecting the Pelasgi--from the literal belief of Clavier, Larcher, and Raoul Rochette, (which appears to me at least the most consistent way of proceeding,) to the interpretative and half-incredulous processes applied by abler men--such as Niebuhr, or O. Müller, or Dr Thirlwall--will not be displeased with my resolution to decline so insoluble a problem. No attested facts are now present to us--none were present to Herodotus and Thucydides even in their age, on which to build trustworthy affirmations respecting the anti-Hellenic Pelasgians; and where such is the case we may without impropriety apply the remark of Herodotus respecting one of the theories which he had heard for explaining the inundation of the Nile by a supposed connexion with the ocean--that the man who carries up his story into the invisible world, passes out of the range of criticism." And he adds the following pithy note:--"Niebuhr puts together all the mythical and genealogical traces, many of them in the highest degree vague and equivocal, of the existence of Pelasgi in various localities; and then, summing up their cumulative effect, asserts, 'not as an hypothesis, but with full historical conviction, that there was a time when the Pelasgians, perhaps the most extended people in all Europe, were spread from the Po and the Arno to the Rhyndakus,' (near Cyzicus,) with only an interruption in Thrace. What is perhaps the most remarkable of all, is the contrast between his feeling of disgust, despair, and aversion to the subject when he begins the inquiry:--'the name Pelasgi,' he says, 'is odious to the historian, who hates the spurious philology out of which the pretences to knowledge on the subject of such extinct people arise;' and the full confidence and satisfaction with which he concludes it."
Amongst these legends which Mr Grote thus relates for the simple purpose of showing what filled the minds of the Greek people when we first become historically acquainted with them, is one conspicuous above all others, and to which most men still cling tenaciously, finding it impossible to resign _all_ of it to the region of fable--we mean "the divine tale of Troy." Many who relinquish without effort the Argonautic expedition, and as an historical problem are glad to be rid of it,--who resign all attempt to extract a prosaic truth out of the exploits of Theseus or the labours of Hercules, and who smile at mention of the race of Amazons--a race so well accredited in ancient times that neither the sceptical Arrian nor Julius Cæsar himself ventured to doubt of their existence--would yet shrink from surrendering the tale of Troy, with all its military details, and all its hosts, and all its kings and chieftains, entirely to the domain of fiction. What! No part of it true?--no Agamemnon?--no Ulysses?--no Troy taken?--no battles on that plain where the traveller still traces the position of the hostile forces? "Those old kings," they might exclaim in the language of Milton, when writing in his history of that fabulous line of English monarchs which sprang from Brute the Trojan--in his time still lingering in men's faith, now suffered to sleep unvexed by the keenest historical research,--"Those old and inborn kings, never any to have been real persons, or done in their lives at least some part of what so long hath been remembered--_it cannot be thought_, without too strict incredulity."
Nevertheless the whole narrative, were it not for the familiarity we early acquire with the persons and exploits of this famous legend, would be seen at once to have all the characteristics of poetic fiction. And it is curious to trace, with our author, how, after having long stood its ground as veritable history amongst the people of Greece, it sustained attack after attack, first from ancient then from modern criticism, and has been gradually denuded of all its glorious circumstance, till now, even for those who are most willing to believe, there remains the driest, scantiest residue imaginable of what may be pronounced to be probable fact. Herodotus, with all his veneration for Homer, could not assent to attribute the Trojan war to the cause popularly assigned: he seems to have been of the opinion of our Payne Knight, that the Greeks and Trojans could not have been so mad as to incur so dire calamities "for one little woman." We confess that, for ourselves, this is not the part of the story which would have first staggered us. The immediate cause may be very trifling that brings two angry rivals into conflict, and, the war once commenced, they fight on for victory; the first object of the strife is forgotten in the strife itself, and each opponent thinks only how to destroy his enemy. Herodotus, however, had heard another account from the priests of Egypt, which made him still more disposed to dispute the popular tradition. According to this account, Helen was in fact detained in Egypt during the whole term of the siege. Paris, it seems, in sailing from Sparta, had been driven thither by a storm; and the king of Egypt, hearing of the wrong he had committed towards Menelaus, had sent him out of the country, and detained Helen till her lawful husband should appear to claim her. The misfortune was, that when the Greeks before Troy demanded Helen, and were told that she neither was, nor had been in the town, they would not believe the story, but continued to thunder at the gates. "For if Helen had really been in Troy," says Herodotus, "she would certainly have been given up, even if she had been mistress of Priam himself instead of Paris: the Trojan king, with all his family and all his subjects, would never knowingly have incurred utter and irretrievable destruction for the purpose of retaining her; their misfortune was, that while they did not possess, and therefore could not restore her, they yet found it impossible to convince the Greeks that such was the fact."
Pausanias, a reasoning man, starts at the Trojan horse: he converts it into a battering-ram, as he cannot believe the Trojans to have been deceived by so childish a trick.
Thucydides, a man who knew something of campaigning, is astonished at the length of the siege; and perhaps his patriotism was put a little to the blush at the idea that the assembled forces of Greece should be occupied ten years before a town of very inconsiderable magnitude; for no town of Ilium, we may remark in passing, ever existed that could present a worthy object of attack to so great a power, or was at all commensurate with the vast enterprise said to have been directed against it. He concluded, therefore, without hesitation, "that the Greeks were less numerous than the poets have represented, and that being, moreover, very poor, they were unable to procure adequate and constant provisions: hence they were compelled to disperse their army, and to employ a part of it in cultivating the Chersonese, and a part in marauding expeditions over the neighbourhood. Could the whole army have been employed against Troy at once, the siege would have been much more speedily and easily concluded." As Mr Grote justly observes, the critical historian might, with equal authority, have proceeded by a shorter method, and at once abridged the length of the siege.
"Though literally believed," he continues, speaking of the Trojan war, "though reverentially cherished, and numbered among the gigantic phenomena of the past, by the Grecian public, it is in the eyes of modern inquiry essentially a legend, and nothing more. If we are asked if it be not a legend embodying portions of historical matter, and raised upon a basis of truth,--whether there may not really have occurred at the foot of the hill of Ilium a war purely human and political, without gods, without heroes, without Helen, without Amazons, without Ethiopians under the beautiful son of Eos, without the wooden horse, without the characteristic and expressive features of the old epical war--like the mutilated trunk of Deïphobus in the under-world--if we are asked whether there was not really some such historical Trojan war as this, our answer must be, that as the possibility of it cannot be denied, so neither can the reality of it be affirmed. We possess nothing but the ancient epic itself, without any independent evidence: had it been an age of records, indeed, the Homeric epic, in its exquisite and unsuspecting simplicity, would probably never have come into existence. Whoever, therefore, ventures to dissect Homer, Arctinus, and Lesches, and to pick out certain portions as matters of fact, while he sets aside the rest as fiction, must do so in full reliance on his own powers of historical divination, without any means either of proving or verifying his conclusions."
Take Helen from Troy, and Achilles son of Thetis from the camp, and say there was _a_ siege--this is a result which few, perhaps, would care to contend about. It is the only result for which Dr Thirlwall contends, who on this subject approximates as nearly as possible to the opinion of Mr Grote. That there was a siege, however, Dr Thirlwall maintains with considerable pertinacity; but it happens, curiously enough, that his argument precisely supplies the last link that was wanting to complete the sceptical view of the subject. Most persons, we apprehend, are disposed to adhere to the belief that some famous siege must have taken place, or why should the poet's imagination take this direction?--why should he cluster his heroes and his exploits round the walls of Troy? Now, the effect of Dr Thirlwall's line of argument is to show how the poet's imagination was likely to take this direction, and yet there have been no siege of Troy, none at least by Agamemnon and his allies, none at the epoch which Homer assigns to it.
"We conceive it necessary," says Dr Thirlwall, "to admit the reality of the Trojan war as a general fact; but beyond this we scarcely venture to proceed a single step." He finds it impossible to adopt the poetical story of its origin, partly from its inherent improbability, and partly "because we are convinced that Helen is a merely mythological person. It would be sufficient," he says, "to raise a strong suspicion of her fabulous nature to observe that she is classed by Herodotus with Io, and Europa, and Medea--all of them persons who, on distinct grounds, must clearly be referred to the domain of mythology. This suspicion is confirmed by all the particulars of her legend; by her birth, (the daughter of Jupiter, according to Homer;) by her relation to the divine Twins, whose worship seems to have been one of the most ancient forms of religion in Peloponnesus, and especially in Laconia; and by the divine honours paid to her in Laconia and elsewhere."
Compelled to reject the cause of the war assigned by Homer, and finding Helen a merely mythological person, "we are driven," he continues, "to conjecture to discover the true cause; yet not so as to be wholly without traces to direct us." He then refers to the legend which, numbering Hercules among the Argonauts, supposes him, on the voyage, to have rendered a service to the Trojan king Laomedon, who afterwards defrauded him of his stipulated recompense. Whereupon Hercules, coming with some seven ships, is said to have taken and sacked Troy; an event which is alluded to and recognised by Homer. "And thus we see," adds the author, "Troy already provoking the enmity or tempting the cupidity of the Greeks, in the generation before the celebrated war; and it may be easily conceived that if its power and opulence revived after this blow, it might again excite the same feelings."
Very easily conceived, but not rendered a jot more easy by aid of this legend of Hercules. The story of him of the Twelve Labours, who had been cheated of the divine mares for which he had bargained, and had mere earthly mares given to him, and who therefore, in revenge, had sacked the town of Troy, is, in the first place, so interpreted as to show "that the opulence of that city had in former times tempted the cupidity of the Greeks;" and then this interpretation is made a ground for supposing that a similar motive had led to the expedition of Agamemnon and his chiefs. As well, surely, have said at once of the second war, what is said of the first, that it was an ordinary case of plunder and violence. It is hard to understand how the earlier legend can assist in giving an historical character to the later.
But the elder legend may assist in explaining how a siege of Troy became the great subject of the Homeric poems; and thus, whatever there was of actual siege may be carried altogether into that remote anterior epoch which is shadowed forth, if you will, under the exploits of Hercules. For with that charming candour by which he often contrives to neutralise the errors of his conjectural method of writing history, Dr Thirlwall himself adds:--"This expedition of Hercules may indeed suggest a doubt _whether it was not an earlier and simpler form of the same tradition, which grew at length into the argument of the Iliad_; for there is a striking resemblance between the two wars, not only in the events, but in the principal actors. As the prominent figures in the second siege are Agamemnon and Achilles, who represent the royal house of Mycenae, and that of the Aeacids; so in the first the Argive Hercules is accompanied by the Aeacid Telamon; and even the quarrel and reconciliation of the allied chiefs are features common to both traditions."
The disquisition on the legend of Troy naturally leads the historian, and will naturally suggest to our own readers, the mooted question of the authorship of the Homeric poems. Some of them be happy to learn that the opinion of Mr Grote is not of so sceptical a nature as they may have been prepared to expect. The Wolfian hypothesis he by no means adopts--namely, that before the time of Pisistratus, there was no such thing in existence as an extended and entire epic, but that the two great epics we now possess were then constructed by stringing together a number of detached poems, the separate chants of the old Greek bards or rhapsodists. Mr Grote sees in the _Odyssey_ all the marks of unity of design, and of what he rather quaintly calls "single-headed authorship." With regard to the _Iliad_, he admits that there is not the same stringent evidence of an original plan according to which the whole poem has been written, and he detects here the signs of interpolation and addition. According to his view, there is in the poem, as we possess it, an original whole, which he calls the Achilleïs, to which additions have been made from other sources, converting the Achilleïs into an Iliad. But our readers would prefer to have the words themselves of the author; and the following passage will present them with a very intelligent view of this famous controversy:--
"That the _Iliad_ is not so essentially one piece as the _Odyssey_, every man agrees. It includes a much greater multiplicity of events, and what is yet more important, a greater multiplicity of prominent personages: the very indefinite title which it bears, as contrasted with the speciality of the name _Odyssey_, marks the difference at once. The parts stand out more conspicuously from the whole, and admit more readily of being felt and appreciated in detached recitation. We may also add, that it is of more unequal execution than the _Odyssey-_-often rising to a far higher pitch of grandeur, but also occasionally tamer: the story does not move on continually; incidents occur without plausible motive, nor can we shut our eyes to evidences of incoherence and contradiction.
"To a certain extent, the _Iliad_ is open to all these remarks, though Wolf and W. Müller, and above all, Lachmann, exaggerate the case in degree. And from hence has been deduced the hypothesis which treats the part in their original state as separate integers, independent of, and unconnected with each other, and forced into unity only by the afterthought of a subsequent age; or sometimes not even themselves as integers, but as aggregates grouped together out of fragments still smaller--short epics formed by the coalescence of still shorter songs. Now there is some plausibility in these reasonings, so long as the _discrepancies_ are looked upon as the whole of the case. But in point of fact they are not the whole of the case; for it is not less true that there are large portions of the _Iliad_, which present positive and undeniable evidences of _coherence_, as antecedent and consequent, though we are occasionally perplexed by inconsistencies of detail. To deal with these latter, is a portion of the duties of a critic; but he is not to treat the _Iliad_ as if inconsistency prevailed every where throughout its parts; for coherence of parts--symmetrical antecedence and consequence--is discernible throughout the larger half of the poem.
"Now the Wolfian theory explains the gaps and contradictions throughout the narrative, but it explains nothing else. If (as Lachmann thinks) the _Iliad_ originally consisted of sixteen songs or little substantive epics, not only composed by different authors, but by each without any view to conjunction with the rest--we have then no right to expect any intrinsic continuity between them; and all that continuity which we now find must be of extraneous origin. Where are we to look for the origin? Lachmann follows Wolf in ascribing the whole constructive process to Peisistratus and his associates, at the period when the creative epical faculty is admitted to have died out. But upon this supposition, Peisistratus (or his associate) must have done much more than omit, transpose, and interpolate, here and there; he must have gone far to re-write the whole poem. A great poet might have re-cast pre-existing separate songs into one comprehensive whole, but no mere arrangers or compilers would be competent to do so; and we are thus left without any means of accounting for that degree of continuity and consistency which runs through so large a portion of the _Iliad_, though not through the whole. The idea that the poem as we read it grew out of atoms, not originally designed for the places which they now occupy, involves us in new and inextricable difficulties when we seek to elucidate either the mode of coalescence or the degree of existing unity.
"Admitting, then, premeditated adaptation of parts to a certain extent as essential to the _Iliad_, we may yet inquire whether it was produced all at once or gradually enlarged--whether by one author or by several; and, if the parts be of different age, which is the primitive kernel, and which are the additions?
"Welcker, Lange, and Nitzeh, treat the Homeric poems as representing a second step in advance in the progress of popular poetry: First comes the age of short narrative songs; next, when these have become numerous, there arise constructive minds who re-cast and blend together many of them into a larger aggregate, conceived upon some scheme of their own. The age of the epos is followed by that of the epopee: short spontaneous effusions prepare the way, and furnish materials for the architectonic genius of the poet. It is farther presumed by the above-mentioned authors that the pre-Homeric epic included a great abundance of such smaller songs--a fact which admits of no proof, but which seems countenanced by some passages in Homer, and is in itself no way improbable. But the transition from such songs, assuming them to be ever so numerous, to a combined and continuous poem, forms an epoch in the intellectual history of a nation, implying mental qualities of a higher order than those upon which the songs themselves depend. Nor is it at all to be imagined that the materials pass unaltered from their first state of combination: they must of necessity be re-cast, and undergo an adapting process, in which the genius of the organising poet consists; and we cannot hope, by simply knowing them as they exist in the second stage, ever to divine how they stood in the first. Such, in my judgment, is the right conception of the Homeric epoch--an organising poetical mind, still preserving that freshness of observation and vivacity of details which constitutes the charm of the ballad.
"Nothing is gained by studying the Iliad as a congeries of fragments once independent of each other: no portion of the poem can be shown to have ever been so, and the supposition introduces difficulties greater than those which it removes. But it is not necessary to affirm that the whole poem, as we now read it, belonged to the original and preconceived plan. In this respect the _Iliad_ produces upon my mind an impression totally different from the _Odyssey._ In the latter poem the characters and incidents are fewer; the whole plot appears of one projection, from the beginning down to the death of the suitors: none of the parts look as if they had been composed separately, and inserted by way of addition into a pre-existing smaller poem. But the _Iliad_, on the contrary, presents the appearance of a house built upon a plan comparatively narrow, and subsequently enlarged by successive additions. The first book, together with the eighth, and the books from the eleventh to the twenty-second inclusive, seem to form the primary organisation of the poem, then properly an _Achilleïs_: the twenty-third and twenty-fourth books are additions at the tail of this primitive poem, which still leave it nothing more than an enlarged _Achilleïs_: but the books from the second to the seventh inclusive, together with the tenth, are of a wider and more comprehensive character, and convert the poem from an _Achilleïs_ into an _Iliad_. The primitive frontispiece, inscribed with the anger of Achilles and its direct consequences, yet remains, after it has ceased to be co-extensive with the poems. The parts added, however, are not necessarily inferior in merit to the original poem: so far is this from being the case, that amongst them are comprehended some of the noblest efforts of the Grecian epic."--(Vol. ii. p. 230.)
To many persons the undisputed fact that the Homeric poems were composed to be recited, not read, has appeared a convincing proof that they could not have originally assumed the form in which they are known to us. For setting aside the difficulty of preserving by the aid only of memory, and the still greater difficulty of _composing_ a long poem without help of the manuscript, to keep _secure_ the part already completed, what motive, it has been said, could induce the poet to undertake so great and so superfluous a labour? Why indite a poem so much longer than could be recited on any one occasion, and which, _as a whole_, could never be appreciated? But we would suggest that it is not necessary to suppose that the poet commenced his labours with the project in view of writing a long epic, in order to believe that we possess these two great poems very nearly in the original form in which they were composed. If it were the task of the poet or poets to supply a number of songs on the adventures of a popular hero, or the achievements of some famous war, such number of songs _must_ assume a certain consecutive order, the one will necessarily grow out of the other. Let any one reflect for a moment how the work of composition proceeds, and he will perceive that it would be impossible for a poet to take any one such subject as the siege of Troy, or the return of Ulysses, as the theme for a number of separate poems, and not find that he was writing, with more or less continuity, one long entire poem. This continuity would be improved and especially attended to, when a certain _order_ came to be preserved (as we know it was) in the recitation of the several poems. We have no difficulty, therefore, in believing that, in the time of Pisistratus, the _editors_ of Homer might have had very little to do to give them that degree of completeness and unity which they at present display. A number of consecutive songs upon the same subject would naturally grow into an epic.
No decisive argument, we submit, can be drawn from the absence or limited application of the art of writing at the era assigned for the composition of these poems. There is nothing left for us but to examine the poems themselves, to determine what degree of unity of plan or of authorship may be attributed to them. Unfortunately the critical perception of scholars, equally eminent, leads to such different results, that the controversy appears to be hopeless. Where one sees with the utmost distinctness the difference of workmanship, another sees with equal clearness the traces of the same genius and manner. And in controversies of this nature, there is unhappily a most perverse combination of the strongest conviction with an utter impotence to force that conviction upon another. Between these two, a man is generally driven into a passion; and thus we often find a bitter, acrid mood infused into literary discussions, which, lying as they do apart from the selfish and conflicting interests of men, would seem to be the theatre for no such display. The controversy rages still in Germany, and, it seems, with considerable heat. Lachmann, after dissecting a certain portion of the Iliad into four songs, "in the highest degree different in their spirit," tells us that whoever thinks the difference of spirit inconsiderable--whoever does not feel it at once when pointed out--whoever can believe that the parts as they stand now belong to one artistically constructed epos, "will do well not to trouble himself any more either with my criticisms, or with epic poetry, because he is too weak to understand any thing about it--("_weil er zu schwach ist etwas darin zu verstehen._") On the contrary, Ulrici, after having shown (or tried to show) that the composition of Homer satisfies perfectly, in the main, all the exigencies of an artistic epic, adds, that this will make itself at once evident to all those who have any sense of artistical symmetry, but that to those to whom that sense is wanting, no conclusive demonstration call be given. He warns the latter, however, they are not to deny the existence of that which their short-sighted vision cannot distinguish, for every thing cannot be made clear to children, which the mature man sees through at a glance! Mr Grote, from whom we quote these instances, adds that he has the misfortune to dissent both from Lachmann and Ulrici; for to him it appears a mistake to put (as Ulrici and others have done) the Iliad and the Odyssey on the same footing. The sort of compromise which Mr Grote offers seems very fair; but, for our part, we beg _to reserve the point_; we will not commit ourselves on so delicate a subject, by a hasty assent. But we promise to read our Homer again with an especial regard to these boundaries he has pointed out between the _Achilleïs_ and the _Iliad_.
Who Homer himself may have been, and if the blind bard ever existed, is a question, of course, very different from the degree of unity to be traced in the two great poems which have descended to us under his name. On this subject Mr Grote gives us an hypothesis which, as far as we are aware, is new and original. It has not, however, won our conviction--and we had intended to offer some objections against it. But we have already dwelt so long on this legendary period, that unless we break from it at once, we shall have no space left to give any idea whatever of the manner in which Mr Grote treats the more historical periods of his history. We must be allowed, therefore, to make a bold and abrupt transition; and, as every one in a history of Greece turns his eye first toward Athens, we shall, at one single bound, light upon the city of Minerva as she appeared in the age of Solon and Pisistratus.
A fidelity to the spirit of the epoch upon which he is engaged, as well as to the text of his authorities, we have already remarked, is a distinguishing merit of Mr Grote. Of this, his chapters upon the age of Solon might be cited as an illustration. We are persuaded that a reader of many a history of Greece, unless himself observant, and on the watch to detect, as he passes, the signs of the times, might proceed from the age of Pisistratus to that of Pericles, and not be made aware how very great the advancement, during that period, of the intellectual condition of the people of Athens. He has been in Athens all the time, but how very different have the Athenians become! And unless he were under the guidance of some more powerful thinker than ordinarily wields the pen of history, he might be little aware of the change. Mr Grote points it out with great distinctness.
At the first of these epochs, it is but a barbarous people, with qualities which bode something better--that bear the name of Athenians. Amongst the laws of Solon, is one which forbids "the sale of daughters or sisters into slavery by fathers or brothers!" A law is enacted against the exportation of all produce of the soil of Attica except olive oil, and to enforce this commercial or non-commercial regulation, "the archon was bound, on pain of forfeiting a hundred drachms, to pronounce solemn curses against every offender!" The superstitious or religious feelings, if we must honour them by the latter name, are rude and violent in the extreme--give rise to frenzy amongst the people,--the women especially,--and call for or admit of human sacrifice. _Both_ the artifices by which Pisistratus on two several occasions succeeded in obtaining the tyranny, indicate a people in the very first stages of civilisation. But what shall be said of the second or grosser of these artifices?--his entrance into Athens in a chariot with a tall damsel by his side, personating Minerva, _visibly_ under the protection of the goddess.
It is worth observing, that the same class of historians who are given to extract with an unauthorised boldness a prosaic fact from a poetic legend, are also the slowest and most reluctant in understanding the more startling facts which meet them on historic ground, in their simple and full significance. They are bold before the fable, they are timid before the fact. Nor is this surprising. In both cases they are on the search for incidents analogous to those which the ordinary course of life or of history has made familiar to their imagination. They see these with an exuberant faith where they do not exist, and will see nothing _but_ these when something of a far different nature is actually put before them. Mr Grote, who refused to tread at all on the insecure ground of the legend, meets this narrative of the second entry of Pisistratus into Athens upon the level ground of history, and sees it in its simple form, and sees the people in it. Dr Thirlwall, on the contrary, who would read the history of a people's wars and emigrations in the fabulous exploits of fabulous persons, is staggered at the story--converts it all into a holiday pageant! It was some show or procession, and all the world knew as well as Pisistratus that it was the damsel Phyê, and not Minerva, who stood in the chariot.
"This story would indeed be singular," writes Dr Thirlwall, "if we consider the expedient in the light of a stratagem, on which the confederates relied for overcoming the resistance which they might otherwise have expected from their adversaries. But it seems quite as possible that the pageant was only designed to add extraordinary solemnity to the entrance of Pisistratus, and to suggest the reflection that it was by the special favour of Heaven he had been so unexpectedly restored."--(Vol. ii. p. 67.)
If this story stood alone in spirit and character, and there were no other contemporary events to occasion us the same kind of surprise, some such interpretation might not be unreasonable. But other facts which the historian himself relates with their unabated and literal significance, testify equally to the gross apprehension of the Athenian people at this epoch. What shall we say, of the visit of Epimenides to purify the city? The guilt, it seems, of sacrilege had, some time past, been incurred by Megacles and his associates, who had put to death certain of their enemies within the precincts of the temple of Minerva, whither they had fled for refuge. Megacles might have starved them there, but was scrupulous to bring this defilement upon the temple. He therefore promised to spare their lives if they would quit the sanctuary. Upon this they came forth, holding however, as an additional safeguard, a rope in their hands which was fastened to the statue of Minerva. Better not have trusted to the rope, for it broke. Megacles, seeing this, pronounced aloud that the goddess had evidently withdrawn her protection, and ordered them to be put to death. For this sacrilege--not for the promise-breaking or bloodshed--a curse hung over the city. Superstitious terrors haunted the inhabitants; the scarcity, the sickness, every evil that afflicted them, was attributed to this cause; and the women especially, gave themselves up to frantic demonstrations of fear and piety.
There was a man of Crete, born of a nymph, fed by the nymphs, if indeed he was fed at all, for no one saw him eat. In his youth, this marvellous Cretan had been sent by his father to bring home some stray sheep, and turning aside into a cave for shelter from the noontide heat, had fallen asleep. He slept on for fifty years. Either supernatural knowledge comes in sleep, or Epimenides invented this fable to stop all inquiries as to where, or how, he had passed the early period of his life. He attained the age of one hundred and fifty-four--some say three hundred years.
This remarkable person, supposed to know by what means the anger of the gods might be propitiated, was called to Athens. What means he devised for this purpose may easily be conjectured. After the performance of certain religious ceremonies, the foundation of a new temple, and the sacrifice of a human victim, the Athenians were restored to their usual tranquillity.
"The religious mission of Epimenides to Athens," observes Mr Grote, "and its efficacious as well as healing influence on the public mind, deserve notice as characteristics of the age in which they occurred. If we transport ourselves two centuries forward to the Peloponnesian war, when rational influences and positive habits of thought had acquired a durable hold upon the superior minds, and when practical discussion on political and judicial matters were familiar to every Athenian citizen, no such uncontrollable religious misery could well have subdued the entire public; and if it had, no living man could have drawn to himself such universal veneration as to be capable of effecting a cure. Plato, admitting the real healing influence of rites and ceremonies, fully believed in Epimenides as an inspired prophet during the past, but towards those who preferred claims to supernatural power in his own day, he was not so easy of faith: he, as well as Euripides and Theophrastus, treated with indifference, and even with contempt, the Orpheotelestae of the later times, who advertised themselves as possessing the same patent knowledge of ceremonial rites, and the same means of guiding the will of the gods, as Epimenides had wielded before them.... Had Epimenides himself come to Athens in those days, his visit would probably have been as much inoperative to all public purposes as a repetition of the stratagem of Phyê, clothed and equipped as the goddess Athena, which had succeeded so completely in the days of Peisistratus--a stratagem which even Herodotus treats as incredibly absurd, although a century before his time both the city of Athens and the Demas of Attica had obeyed, as a divine mandate, the orders of this magnificent and stately woman to restore Peisistratus."--(Vol. iii. p. 116.)
There is nothing to which we are more averse than the converting ancient history into a field for the discussion of modern _party politics_. We are fully persuaded that the most thorough English Conservative may admire the Athenian republic; so far at least admire as to admit that it is impossible to conceive how, under any other form of government, the peculiar glories of Athens could have shone forth. And, indeed, an Athenian democracy differs so entirely from any political institution which the world sees at present, or will ever see again, that to carry the strife of our politics back into those times, in other than a quite general manner, is as futile as it is tasteless and vexatious. After this avowal, we shall not be thought disposed to enter into any needless cavil, upon this topic, with Mr Grote; we shall not, certainly, be upon the watch to detect the too liberal politician in the historian of Greece. An interest in the working of popular institutions is a qualification the more for his task; and the historian himself must have felt that it was no mean advantage he had acquired by having taken his seat in our house of parliament, and mingled personally in the affairs of a popular government. What the future volumes of the history may disclose, we will not venture to prognosticate; but, hitherto, we have met with nothing which deserves the opprobrium of being attributed to party spirit. There is a certain _tone_ in some of his political observations which, as may be supposed, we should not altogether adopt; but many of them are excellent and instructive. Nothing could be better than the following remarks on the necessity of a "constitutional morality." He is speaking of the reforms of Cleisthenes.
"It was necessary to create in the multitude, and through them to force upon the leading ambitious men, that rare and difficult sentiment which we may term a constitutional morality,--a paramount reverence for the forms of the constitution, enforcing obedience to the authorities acting under and within those forms, yet combined with the habit of open speech, of action, subject only to definite legal control, and unrestrained censure of those very authorities as to all their public acts,--combined, too, with the perfect confidence in the bosom of every citizen, amidst the bitterness of party contest, that the forms of the constitution will not be less sacred in the eyes of his opponents than in his own. This co-existence of freedom and self-imposed restraint--of obedience to authority with unmeasured censure of the persons exercising it--may be found in the aristocracy of England, (since about 1688,) as well as in the democracy of the American United States; and, because we are familiar with it, we are apt to suppose it a natural sentiment; though there seem to be few sentiments more difficult to establish and diffuse among a community, judging by the experience of history. We may see how imperfectly it exists, at this day, in the Swiss cantons; and the many violences of the French Revolution illustrate, amongst various other lessons, the fatal effects arising from its absence, even among a people high in the scale of intelligence. Yet the diffusion of such constitutional morality, not merely among the majority of any community, but throughout the whole, is the indispensable condition of a government at once free and peaceable; since even any powerful and obstinate minority may render the working of free institutions impracticable, without being strong enough to conquer ascendency for themselves."--Vol. iv. p. 205.
Then follow, close on the extract we have just made, some observations upon the famous law of Ostracism, which are well deserving of attention, and which we would willingly quote did our space allow of it. Perhaps it would be difficult, in following out the several applications of this law, to show that it had exactly the beneficial operation which--arguing on the theory of the institution,--is here assigned to it. But, at the very lowest, this much may be said of the law of Ostracism, that it gives to the stronger of two factions a means of deciding the contest without appeal to force, before the contest rose to its maximum of bitterness, and without necessity or excuse for those wholesale banishments which afflicted the republics of Italy. If such an institution had existed in the Florentine republic, we should not have heard of those cruel banishments that Guelph and Ghibelline, Bianchi and Neri, inflicted upon each other; such banishments as that, for instance, in which its great poet Dante was involved.
Of one remarkable event, characterising the working of the Athenian government, we do not assent to the view presented to us by Mr Grote. His last published volume brings down the affairs of Greece to the battle of Marathon and the death of Miltiades. In the sentence passed on the hero of Marathon, the operation of a popular government has been often disadvantageously traced; the Athenians have been accused of fickleness and ingratitude. Mr Grote repels the charge. With some observations upon this defence, which forms the conclusion of the fourth and last of the published volumes, we shall bring our own notice to a close.
_Ingratitude_, we readily admit, is not the proper word to be used on such an occasion. A citizen serves the state, and is honoured; if he commits a crime against the state he is not, on this account, to go unpunished. His previous services invest him with no privilege to break the laws, or act criminally. What man, capable of doing, a patriotic action, would wish for such a privilege, or dream of laying claim to it?
Not gratitude or ingratitude--but justice or injustice--is the issue to be tried between Miltiades and the Athenian assembly. And although Mr Grote is supported, in some measure, by Dr Thirlwall in the judgment he gives on this transaction, we prefer to side here with the opinion expressed by the earlier historian, Mr Mitford: we view the sentence passed on Miltiades not as the triumph of law or justice, but of mere party-spirit, the triumph of a faction gained through the unreasonable anger of the people.
Though the extract is rather long, we must, in justice, give the narrative of Mr Grote in his own language.
"His reputation (that of Miltiades) had been great before the battle (of Marathon), and after it the admiration and confidence of his countrymen knew no bounds; it appears indeed to have reached such a pitch, that his head was turned, and he lost both his patriotism and his prudence. He proposed to his countrymen to incur the cost of equipping an armament of seventy ships, with an adequate armed force, and to place it altogether at his discretion; giving them no intimation whither he intended to go, but merely assuring them that if they would follow him, he would conduct them to a land where gold was abundant, and thus enrich them. Such a promise, from the lips of the recent victor of Marathon, was sufficient, and the armament was granted; no man except Miltiades knowing what was its destination. He sailed immediately to the island of Paros, laid siege to the town, and sent in a herald to require from the inhabitants a contribution of one hundred talents, on pain of entire destruction. His pretence for this attack was, that the Parians had furnished a trireme to Datis for the Persian fleet at Marathon; but his real motive (so Herodotus assures us) was vindictive animosity against a Parian citizen named Lysagoras, who had exasperated the Persian general Hydarnes against him. The Parians amused him at first with evasions, until they had procured a little delay to repair the defective portions of their wall, after which they set him at defiance; and Miltiades in vain prosecuted hostilities against them for the space of twenty-six days: he ravaged the island, but his attacks made no impression on the town. Beginning to despair of success in his military operations, he entered into some negotiation (such at least was the tale of the Parians themselves,) with a Parian woman named Timô, priestess or attendant in the temple of Demeter (Ceres) near the town-gates; this woman, promising to reveal to him a secret which would place Paros in his power, induced him to visit by night a temple to which no male person was admissible. He leaped the exterior fence and approached the sanctuary; but on coming near was seized with a panic terror and ran away, almost out of his senses; on leaping the same fence to get back, he strained or bruised his thigh badly, and became utterly disabled. In this melancholy state he was placed on ship-board; the siege being raised, and the whole armament returning to Athens."
"Vehement was the indignation both of the armament and the remaining Athenians against Miltiades on his return; and Zanthippus, father of the great Perikles, became the spokesman of this feeling. He impeached Miltiades before the popular judicature as having been guilty of deceiving the people, and so having deserved the penalty of death. The accused himself, disabled by his injured thigh, which even began to show symptoms of gangrene, was unable to stand or to say a word in his own defence; he lay on his couch before the assembled judges, while his friends made the best case they could in his behalf. Defence, it appears, there was none; all they could do was to appeal to his previous services; they reminded the people largely and emphatically of the inestimable exploit of Marathon, coming in addition to his previous conquest of Lemnos. The assembled dikasts or jurors showed their sense of these powerful appeals, by rejecting the proposition of his accuser to condemn him to death; but they imposed on him the penalty of fifty talents 'for his iniquity.'" (Vol. iv. p. 488.)
He died shortly after from his wound.
On this narrative we must make one or two observations. The turn of expression which the writer has selected for conveying the meaning of the original Greek text of his authority, might lead us to imply that when the Athenians placed a force of seventy ships at the command of Miltiades they did not know on what _kind_ of expedition he was about to employ them. "He would conduct them to a land where gold was abundant, and thus enrich them." Surely no one had an idea that it was a voyage of discovery, in search after some El Dorado that Miltiades was about to undertake. Every one in Athens knew that the fleet was to be directed against some of their neighbours: although, for very manifest reasons,--the advantage of taking their victim by surprise, and of leaving their general unfettered, to act according to circumstances,--the objects of attack were not revealed, and on this a perfect secrecy was allowed to be maintained. It should be also _added_ to this account, that Zanthippes, father of Pericles, who made himself spokesman for the angry feeling of the Athenians, was also, as Dr Thirwall tells us, "the son of Ariphron, the chief of the rival house of the Alcmaonids," who were little pleased with the sudden rise of Miltiades.
From the same authority we may also learn, that "Paros was at this time one of the most flourishing amongst the Cyclades." Miltiades directed the expedition against Paros from personal motives, from vindictive animosity against a Parian citizen; but Paros was rich, and could therefore pay a ransom--the very object of the expedition; and the pretext under which alone Athens could extort a ransom or a tribute from its neighbours, that they had assisted the Persians, or failed in bringing aid to the common cause against them, applied to Paros; it had furnished, or was accused of having furnished, a trireme to Datis. Whatever baseness Miltiades betrayed in using a public force for his own private revenge, there is nothing to make it appear that the selection of Paros for the object of his attack was not in perfect consistency with the real public purpose of the enterprise.
What crime in all this had Miltiades committed against the _Athenians_? The injustice of the expedition they shared; for it would be childishness to suppose that they sent their general out with seventy ships, and had no idea that he would attack any one. The personal motives which led him to direct it against Paros, however mean and unworthy of him, are not shown to have been at variance with the professed objects of the expedition. Nor can any one doubt for a moment that if he had succeeded in extorting from the Parians, and others, a large sum of money, the Athenians would have welcomed him back with applause, as loud as the censure they bestowed on their defeated generals, who, instead of plunder, brought them back only the disgrace of having tried to plunder. There were those at hand ready to take advantage of the public irritation; they accused him, and obtained his condemnation. We are not claiming for Miltiades the praise of virtue; nor should we make any pathetic appeal in his behalf. He was not free from a moral delinquency; but, so far as the Athenians were concerned, his substantial offence was failure in his enterprise.
That his friends urged no other defence but that of his previous services, is no proof that other grounds for acquittal were not present to their minds. They were pleading before angry and irresponsible judges, whom it, was their object to soothe and propitiate. Would the strain of inculpatory observations that we have been making, have answered their purpose? To tell an angry man that he is angry, because he is disappointed, is not the way to abate his passion. That Miltiades _had_ disappointed them was certain; undoubtedly the best method of defence was to remind them of the great services that he had formerly rendered them. It was not the demands of judicial reason his advocates had to satisfy: they were pleading before judges whose feelings of the moment were to be the law of the moment.
"Thus closed the life of the conqueror of Marathon. The last act of it," continues Mr Grote, "produces an impression so mournful, and even shocking--his descent from the pinnacle of glory, to defeat, mean tampering with a temple-servant, mortal bodily hurt, undefended ignominy, and death under a sentence of heavy fine, is so abrupt and unprepared--that readers, ancient and modern, have not been satisfied without finding some one to blame for it: we must except Herodotus, our original authority, who recounts the transaction without dropping a single hint of blame against any one. To speak ill of the people, as Machiavel has long ago observed, is a strain in which every one at all times, even under a democratical government indulges with impunity and without provoking any opponent to reply; and in this case the hard fate of Miltiades has been imputed to the vices of the Athenians and their democracy--it has been cited in proof partly of their fickleness, partly of their ingratitude. But however such blame may serve to lighten the mental sadness arising from a series of painful facts, it will not be found justified if we apply to those facts a reasonable criticism."
He thus vindicates the Athenians from the charge of _fickleness_, on the ground that it was not they, but Miltiades who had changed. The fugitive from Paros, and the victor of Marathon, were two very different persons. As any remarkable instance of fickleness we should certainly not be disposed to cite the case. The charge of _ingratitude_, we have admitted, is, presuming that he was guilty, entirely displaced. But when Mr Grote in his final summary says, "The fate of Miltiades thus, so far from illustrating either the fickleness or the ingratitude of his countrymen, attests their just appreciation of deserts," we must indeed demur. No, no: this was not the triumph of justice over the finer sensibilities of our nature, as Mr Grote would seem to imply. On the fairest review we can give to the whole of the circumstances, we find on the sentence passed upon Miltiades a gross instance of that old notorious injustice which pronounces an enterprise meritorious or criminal according to its success. The enterprise was altogether a disgraceful affair. But the Athenians must be supposed cognisant of the nature of the expedition for which they fitted out their seventy ships:--_against them_, we repeat, the only substantial offence committed was his failure; nor can we doubt that his welcome back to Athens would have been quite different had there been a different issue to the adventure. Justice there was none; unless it be justice for three freebooters to pass sentence upon the fourth.
Before concluding, we ought, perhaps, to take, some notice of the reform in our orthography of Greek words which Mr Grote is desirous of introducing, in order to assimilate the English to the Greek pronunciation. The principal of these is the substitution of K for C. Our own K, he justly observes, precisely coincides with the Greek K, while a C may be either K or S. He writes Perikles, Alkibiades. To this approximation of the English pronunciation to the Greek we can see nothing to object. A reader of Greek finds it a mere annoyance, and sort of barbarism, to be obliged to pronounce the same name one way while reading Greek, and another when speaking or reading English; and to the English reader it must be immaterial which pronunciation he _finally_ adopts. Meanwhile, it must be allowed that the first changing of an old familiar name is a disagreeable operation. We must leave the popular and the learned taste to arrange it how they can together. Mr Grote has wisely left some names--as Thucydides--in the old English form; in matters of this kind nothing is gained by too rigid a consistency. It is not improbable that his orthography will be adopted, in the first place, by the more learned writers, and will from their pages find its way into popular use. Mr Grote also, in speaking of the Greek deities, calls them by their Greek names, and not by the Latin equivalents--As _Zeus_ for Jupiter--_Athene_ for Minerva.
 _A History of Greece._ BY GEORGE GROTE, ESQ.
 Vol. ii. p. 346.
 _Grote_: vol. i, p. 641, where the quotation is very effectively introduced.
 Vol. i. p. 434.
 _Dr Thirlwall's Hist._ vol. i. p. 152.
 _Thirlwall_, vol. i. p. 154. On the subject of the Trojan war we quote the following passage from the same historian, as an instance of the extremely slender thread which a conjectural writer will think it worth his while to weave in amongst his arguments for the support of some dubious fact. "One inevitable result," he says, "of such an event as the Trojan war, must have been to diffuse amongst the Greeks a more general knowledge of the isles and coasts of the Aegean, and to leave a lively recollection of the beauty and fertility of the region in which their battles had been fought. This would direct the attention of future emigrants in search of new homes toward the same quarter; and the fact that the tide of migration really set in this direction first, when the state of Greece became unsettled, _may not unreasonably be thought to confirm the reality of the Trojan war_." (P. 250.) Little need, one would think, of a Trojan war to direct the tide of emigration to the opposite coasts of Asia Minor.
BEN NEVIS AND BEN MUICH DHUI.
It was on a bright, hot day of July, which threw the first gleam of sunshine across a long tract of soaking, foggy, dreary, hopeless weather, that we ascended Ben Nevis. The act was unpremeditated. The wet and fog of weeks had entered into our soul; and we had resolved, in the spirit of indignant resignation, that we would _not_ attempt the hill. Accordingly we were stalking lazily along General Wade's road: we had left Fort William, and thought there might be a probability of reaching Fort Augustus to dinner,--when we were not ungratefully surprised to see the clouds tucking themselves up the side of the mountain in a peculiar manner, which gives the experienced wanderer of the hills the firm assurance of a glorious day. Soon afterwards, the great mountain became visible from summit to base, and its round head and broad shoulders stood dark against the bright blue sky. A sagacious-looking old Highlander, who was passing, protested that the hill had never looked so hopeful during the whole summer: the temptation was irresistible, so we turned our steps towards the right, and commenced the ascent.
It is one among the prevailing fallacies of the times, that to mount a Highland hill is a very difficult operation, and that one should hire a guide on the occasion. We lately witnessed a very distressing instance of the alarming prevalence of this notion, in a young Chancery barrister, fresh from Brick Court Temple, who asked us in a very solemn tone of voice, if we could recommend him to "a steady guide to the top of Arthur Seat." When matters have come to such a crisis, it is time to speak out; and we are able, on the ground of long experience, to say, that if the proper day be chosen, and the right method adopted, the ascent of our grandest mountains is one of the simplest operations in all pedestrianism. True, if people take it in the way in which pigs run up all manner of streets, and go straight forward, looking neither to the right nor to the left, they will run their heads against nature's stone walls, which are at least as formidable as man's. But let any one study the disposal of the ground, calculating the gradients and summit levels as if he were a railway-engineer for the time being--let him observe where the moss lies deep, and precipices rise too steep to be scrambled over; and he will be very obtuse indeed, if he is not able to chalk out for himself precisely the best way to the top. It is a good general rule to keep by the side of a stream. That if you do so when you are at the top of a hill, you will somehow or other find your way to the bottom, is, we are convinced, a proposition as sound as Newton's theory of gravitation. But in the ascent, the stream is often far better than a human guide. It has no interest to lead you to the top of some episodical hill and down again, and to make you scramble over an occasional dangerous pass, to show you how impossible it is that you could have found the way yourself, and how fortunate you are in having secured the services of an intelligent and intrepid guide. On the contrary, as long as you keep by the side of the stream you are always gaining ground and making your way towards the higher levels, while you avoid bogs: for the edge of a stream is generally the dryest part of a mountain.
Choosing the broadest and deepest scaur that is scratched down the abrupt side of the lower range of the mountain, we find it, as we anticipated, the channel of a clear dancing stream, which amuses us with its babble for several hundred feet of the ascent. Some time ere we had reached the base of the hill we had lost sight of the summit, and there was before us only the broad steep bank, with its surface of alternate stone and heather, and a few birch-trees peeping timidly forth from crevices in the rock. After a considerable period of good hard climbing, accompanied by nothing worthy of note either in the variations of the scenery or in the incidents encountered, we are at the top of this rampart; and behold! on the other side of a slight depression, in which sleeps a small inky lake, the bold summit of the mountain rises clear and abrupt and close, as one might see the dome of a cathedral from the parapet on the roof. Here we linger to take a last look of the objects at the foot of the hill, for ere we resume the ascent we shall lose sight of them. Already Fort William looks like a collection of rabbit-houses. The steam-boat on the lake is like a boy's Christmas toy. The waters have assumed that hard burnished metallic appearance which they convey to the eye raised far above them in a hot summer day. The far-stretching moss, with one or two ghastly white stones standing erect out of its blackness like druidical remains, carries the eye along its surface to the dusky and mysterious ruins of Inverlochy Castle, which has so sadly puzzled antiquaries to divine how its princely round towers and broad barbican could have been erected in that wild and remote region, where they stand patiently in their ruined grandeur, waiting till our friend Billings shall, with his incomparable pencil, make each tower and arch and moulding as familiar to the public eye as if the old ruin stood in Fleet Street.
Off we start with the lake to the left, taking care to keep the level we have gained. A short interval of walking in a horizontal direction, and again we must begin to climb. On this side the porphyry dome is round and comparatively smooth--scarcely so abrupt as the outer range of hill which we have just ascended. But wending north-eastwardly when near the summit, we came suddenly to a spot where a huge fragment of the dome had, as it were, been broken off, leaving a ghastly rent--how deep it were difficult for the eye to fix, but the usual authorities tell us that the precipices here are 1500 feet high. When we reached their edge, we found that the clouds, which had been completely lifted up from the smoother parts of the mountain, still lingered as if they had difficulty in getting clear of the ragged edges of the cavernous opening, and moving about restlessly like evil spirits, hither and thither, afforded but partial glimpses of the deep vale below. Though Ben Nevis was at this time rather deficient in his snowy honours, considerable patches lay in the unsunned crevices of the precipice. It was a fine thing to occupy one's-self in tilting over huge boulders, and to see them gradually approach the edge of the gulf, and then leap thundering into the mist.
Turning our eyes from the terrible fascinations of the precipice to the apex of the hill now in full view, a strange sight there met our eyes--a sight so strange that we venture to say the reader no more anticipates it than we did, at the moment when we looked from the yawning precipice to what we expected to be a solitary mountain-top. "Pooh!" the reader will say, "it was an eagle looking at the sun, or a red-deer snuffing with his expanded nostrils the tainted air." We shake our heads. "Well, then, it was a waterspout--or, perhaps, a beautiful rainbow--or something electric, or a phenomenon of some sort." Utterly wrong. It was neither more nor less, reader, than a crowd of soldiers, occupying nearly the whole table-land of the summit! Yes, there they were, British troops, with their red coats, dark gray trousers, and fatigue caps, as distinctly as we ever saw them in Marshall's panoramas! We were reminded of the fine description which Scott gives of the Highland girl who was gazing indolently along the solitary glen of Gortuleg on the day of the battle of Culloden, when it became suddenly peopled by the Jacobite fugitives. "Impressed with the belief that they were fairies--who, according to Highland tradition, are visible to men only from one twinkle of the eyelid to another--she strove to refrain from the vibration, which she believed would occasion the strange and magnificent apparition to become invisible." But whether the eye winked or not, there they were--substantial able-bodied fellows; what could it mean? Had Colonel Mitchell discovered a new system for protecting the country by fortifying the tops of mountains which an enemy never comes near? Could it be some awkward squad sent to be drilled on this remote spot that it might escape the observation of the sarcastic public? Such were the theories as suddenly rejected as they were suggested. It was vain to speculate. No solution we could devise made the slightest approach to probability; and our only prospect of speedy relief was in pushing rapidly forward. A very short sentence from the good-humoured looking young fellow who received our first breathless and perplexed inquiry, solved the mystery,--"did you never hear of the Ordnance Survey?" Yes, indeed, we had heard of it; but our impression of it was as of something like a mathematical line, with neither breadth nor thickness; but here it was in substantial operation. The party were occupied in erecting a sort of dwelling for themselves--half tent, half hut. Though in fatigue dresses, and far from being very trim, it was easy to see that they were not common soldiers. They belong, we believe, to the educated corps of sappers and miners; and a short conversation with them showed that the reputation of intelligence and civility long enjoyed by that distinguished body has not been unjustly earned. Though not blind to the magnificence of the panorama of mountain, lake, and distant far-stretching forest-land that lay beneath our feet as we conversed, they did not conceal their consciousness that the prospect of passing some months on such a spot was not particularly cheering to round-cheeked comfortable Englishmen, accustomed at Sandhurst and Addiscombe to comforts even superior to those of the Saut Market. The air was unexceptionably pure and abundant--yet the Bedford level might have been preferable as a permanent residence. Many were the reflections that occurred to us of the feelings of a set of men thus cut off from the earth, down on which they looked, like so many Jacks on a huge bean-stalk. What a place to encounter the first burst of the November storm in, beneath the frail covering of a tent! How did their friends address letters to them? Would a cover addressed "Mr Abel Thompson of the Royal engineers, Top of Ben Nevis," be a document to which the post-office would pay any more regard than to a letter addressed to one of the fixed stars? Could they ask a friend to step up to dinner, or exchange courtesies with the garrison of Fort William, into whose windows they might peep with their telescopes?
In the course of conversation with our new friends, we alighted on a subject in which we have long taken an interest. They had already conducted some operations on Ben Muich Dhui, and they were now commencing such surveys on Ben Nevis, as would enable them finally to decide which of these mountains has the honour of being the highest land in the United Kingdom. Competition has of late run very close between them; and the last accounts had shown Ben Muich Dhui only some twenty feet or so a-head. We freely confess that we back Ben Muich Dhui in this contest. It is true that Ben Nevis is in all respects a highly meritorious hill. We must do justice to his manly civility and good humour. We have found many a crabbed little crag more difficult of access; and, for his height, we scarcely know another mountain, of which it is so easy to reach the top. He stands majestic and alone, his own spurs more nearly rivalling him than any of the neighbouring hills. Rising straight from the sea, his whole height and magnificent proportions are before us at once, and the view from the summit has an unrivalled expanse. Still there are stronger charms about the great centre of the Cairngorm range. Surrounded by his peers, he stands apart from the every-day world in mysterious grandeur. The depth and remoteness of the solitude, the huge mural precipices, the deep chasms between the rocks, the waterfalls of unknown height, the hoary remains of the primeval forest, the fields of snow, and the deep black lakes at the foot of the precipices, are full of such associations of awe, and grandeur, and mystery, as no other scenery in Britain is capable of arousing. The recollections of these things inclined us still to favour Ben Muich Dhui; and before separating from these hermits of her Majesty's ordnance, we earnestly requested, if they had any influence in the matter, that they would "find" for our favourite, to which we shall now introduce our readers.
Our public are certainly not amenable to the charge of neglecting what is worth seeing, because it is distant and inaccessible. On the top of the Righi, where people go to behold the sun rise over the Alps, we have seen the English congregated in crowds on the wooden bench erected for that purpose, making it look like a race-course stand, and carrying on a bang-up sort of conversation--
Right against the eastern gate Where the great sun begins his state,--
as if it were a starting-post, and they were laying bets on the events of the day. The Schwartzwald, the Saxon Schweitz, nay, even the wild Norrska Fiellen, swarm with British tourists; and we are credibly informed that loud cries of "boots" and "waiter," with expostulations against the quality of the bottled porter and the airing of the beds, may be heard not far from Mount Sinai. Yet, in the centre of our own island there is a group of scenery, as unlike the rest of the country as if we had travelled to another hemisphere to see it--as grand and beautiful as the objects which our tourists cross half the globe to behold--which is scarcely known to those who profess to say that they have visited every thing that is worth seeing in their own country. The answer to this will probably be, that railway travelling has brought the extremities of Europe together--that Switzerland is but four days from London--that it is as easy to get to Chamouni as to Braemar--and that the scenery of the Alps _must_ be finer than any thing to be seen in Scotland. Even this broad proposition may be questioned. It was with no small pride that one night, after a hard walk from Martigny to Chamouni, we heard a distinguished Englishman, who has been able to compare with each other the finest things both physical and mental which the world has produced, and whose friendly face greeted us as we emerged from the dark valley into a brilliantly lighted hotel--stand up for old Scotland, and question if there were any thing, even in the gorgeous vale of Chamouni itself, to excel our purple mountains and narrow glens. But if we should be disposed to give the preference to the Alps, on that principle of politeness, which actuated an Aberdeen fisherman, who had found his way under the dome of St Paul's, to exclaim--"Weel, that jist maks a perfect feel o' the Kirk o' Fitty"--we think there is something inexpressibly interesting in beholding, in the middle of this busy island of steam-engines and railways, of printing machines and spinning jennies, one wide district where nature is still as supremely lord of all--where man feels as much separated from all traces of the workmanship of his fellows, as in the forests of Missouri, or the upper gorges of the Himalayas. But it is not true that the Cairngorm range of mountains is a distant place to tourists. It is in the very centre of their haunts. They swarm in the valleys of the Spey and the Tay, at Laggan, Blair Athol, and Braemar, and want but enterprise or originality enough to direct their steps out of the beaten paths which have formed, since Scottish touring became fashionable forty years ago, the regular circles in which these creatures revolve. They care not in general to imbibe the glories and the delights of scenery, but confine themselves to the established Lions, which it is good for a man to be able in society to _say_ that he has seen. "Well, I can say I have seen it," says your routine tourist--whereby, if he knew the meaning of his own words, he would be aware that he conveyed to mankind a testimony to his folly in having made any effort to look at that which has produced no impression whatever on his mind, and in looking at which he would not be aware that he saw any thing remarkable, unless the guide-book and the waiter at the inn had certified that it was an object of interest. It is true, that to see our friends the Cairngorm hills, one must walk, and that somewhat stiffly--but this is seldom an obstacle in any place where pedestrianism is not unfashionable. In the Oberland of Switzerland, we have seen green-spectacled, fat, plethoric, gentlemen, fresh from 'Change, wearing blouses and broad straw hats, carrying haversacks on their shoulders, and tall alpenstocks in their hands to facilitate the leaping of the chasms in the glaciers--looking all the time as if the whole were some disagreeable dream, from which they hoped to awaken in their easy-chair in the back office in Crane Alley. No! when personages of this kind adopt the pilgrim's staff, we may be sure that there is a good fund of pedestrianism still unexhausted, could the means of stimulating it be found. But it is high time that we should point out the way to our favourite land of precipices, cataracts, and snow.
We shall suppose the traveller to be at Braemar, which he may have reached by the Deeside road from Aberdeen, or in the direction of Spital of Glenshee through the pass of the Vhrich-vhruich, (have the goodness, reader, to pronounce that aloud,) or from the basin of the Tay by the ancient Highland road through Glen Tilt, and the Ault-Shiloch-Vran. Even the scenery round Braemar is in every way worthy of respect. The hills are fine, there are noble forests of pine and birch, and some good foaming waterfalls; while over all preside in majesty the precipices and snow of Lochin-ye-gair. Still it is farther into the wilderness, at the place where the three counties of Aberdeen, Inverness, and Banff meet, that the traveller must look for the higher class of scenery of which we are sending him in search. As Braemar, however, contains the latest inn that will greet him in his journey, he must remember here to victual himself for the voyage; and, partial as we are to pedestrianism, we think he may as well take a vehicle or a Highland poney as far on his route as either of them can go: it will not long encumber him. The linn of Dee, where the river rushes furiously between two narrow rocks, is generally the most remote object visited by the tourist on Dee-side. There is little apparent inducement to farther progress. He sees before him, about a mile farther on, the last human habitation--a shepherd's cabin, without an inch of cultivated land about it; and he is told that all beyond that is barrenness and desolation, until he reach the valley of the Spey. The pine-trees at the same time decrease in number, the hills become less craggy and abrupt, and the country in general assumes a bleak, bare, windy, bog-and-moor appearance, that is apt to make, one uncomfortable.
Of the various methods of approaching Ben Muich Dhui, the most striking, in our opinion, is one with which we never found any other person so well acquainted as to exchange opinions with us about it. We did once, it is true, coax a friend to attempt that route; he had come so far with us as the edge of the Dee, but disliked crossing it. In the superabundance of our zeal, we offered to carry him over on our shoulders; but when we came to the middle of the stream, it so happened that a foot tripped against a stone, and our friend was very neatly tilted over our head into the water, without our receiving any considerable damage, in our own proper person. He thereafter looked upon us, according to an old Scottish proverb, as "not to ride the water with;" and perhaps he was right. So we proceeded on our journey alone. Our method was to cross right over the line of hills which here bound the edge of the river. Though not precipitous, this bank is very high--certainly not less than a thousand feet. When you reach the top, if the day be clear, the whole Cairngorm range is before you on the other side of the valley, from summit to base, as you may see Mont Blanc from the Col de Balm, or the Jungfrau from the Wengern Alp. From this bird's-eye view, you at once understand that peculiar structure of the group, which makes the valleys so much deeper and narrower, and the precipices so much more frightful, than those of any other of the Scottish mountains. Here there are five summits springing from one root, and all more than four thousand feet above the level of the sea. The circumference of the whole group is as that of one mountain. We can imagine it to have been a huge, wide, rounded hill, Ben Muich Dhui being the highest part, and the whole as smooth and gentle as some of the Ural range, where you might have a fixed engine, and "an incline," without levelling or embanking. But at some time or other the whole mass had got a jerk; and so it is split from top to bottom, and shivered, and shaken, and disturbed into all shapes and positions, showing here and there such chasms as the splitting in two of mountains some three thousand feet or so in direct height must necessarily create. Having to his satisfaction contemplated the group from this elevation, the traveller may descend into Glen Lui Beg, as we shall presently describe it.
Returning to the Dee,--about a mile below the Linn, the stream of the Lui forces a passage through the steep banks and joins the river. We enter the glen from which this stream flows by a narrow rocky pass, through which the trees of the Mar forest struggle upwards. As we proceed, the trees gradually become more scarce, the rocky barrier is left behind us, and we are in a long grassy glen shut out from the world. This is Glen Lui. A better introduction to the savage scenery beyond, for the sake of contrast, there could not be. Every thing here is peace and softness. Banks lofty, but round and smooth, intervene to hide the summits of the mountains. The stream is not stagnant, but it flows on with a gentle current, sometimes through sedge or between grassy banks; elsewhere edged by a beach of the finest yellow sand. The water is beautifully transparent, and even where it is deepest you may count the shining pebbles below. A few weeping birches here and there hang their graceful disconsolate ringlets almost into the stream; the grass is as smooth as a shaven lawn, and much softer; and where a few stones protrude through it, they are covered with a cushion of many-coloured mosses. But with all its softness and beauty, the extreme loneliness of the scene fills the mind with a sense of awe. It surely must have been in such a spot that Wordsworth stood, or of such a scene that he dreamed, when he gave that picture of perfect rest which he professed to apply to a far different spot, Glen Almon--a rough, rocky glen, with a turbulent brook running through it, where there never was or can be silence:
"A convent--even a hermit's cell Would break the silence of this dell-- It is not quiet--is not ease, But something deeper far than these. The separation that is here Is of the grave, and of austere And happy feelings of the dead."
Nor in Glen Lui can one feel inclined to join in the charge of mysticism which has been raised against this last simile. Its echoes in the heart at once associate themselves with a few strange, mysterious, round mounds, of the smoothest turf, and of the most regular, oval, or circular construction, which rise here and there from the flat floor of the valley. It needs no archaeological inquiry to tell us what they are: we feel that they cover and have covered--who call tell how many hundred years?--the remains of some ancient people, with whom history cannot make us acquainted, and who have not even the benefit of tradition; for how can there be traditions in places where no human beings dwell?
"A noble race, but they are gone! With their old forests wide and deep; And we have fed our flocks upon Hills where their generations sleep. Their fountains slake our thirst at noon, Upon their fields our harvest waves; Our shepherds woo beneath their moon-- Ah, let us spare at least their graves!"
"Stop!" says a voice, "the quotation is utterly inappropriate--how can there be flocks where not even a single sheep feeds--how can shepherds woo beneath the moon where there are no damsels to woo?" Granted; but the lines are pretty--they were the most appropriate that we could find, and they blend in with one's feelings on this spot; for, if it be a strange and melancholy sight in the Far West, beyond the Atlantic, to alight upon the graves of a tribe of Indians whose history has become extinct, is it not more strange still to look, in the centre of this busy island, which has lived in history eighteen hundred years, on these vestiges of an old extinct race, not turned up by the plough, or found in digging the foundation of a cotton mill, but remaining there beneath the open sky, as they were left of old, no successors of the aboriginal race coming to touch them? Standing in Glen Lui, and remembering how fast we are peopling Australia and the Oregon, one's mind becomes confused about the laws of emigration and colonisation. Yet how soon may all this be changed. Perhaps the glen may turn out to be a good trunk level--the granite of Ben Muich Dhui peculiarly well adapted for tunnelling, and the traffic something of an unknown and indescribable extent: and some day soon the silence may be awakened with the fierce whistle of the train, and the bell may ring, and passengers may be ordered to be ready to take their places, and first, second, and third class tickets may be stamped with the rapidity of button-making--who knows? Nobody should prophesy in this age what may _not_ be done. We once met a woful instance of a character for great sagacity utterly lost at one blow, in consequence of such a prediction. The man had engaged to eat the first locomotive that ever came to Manchester by steam from Liverpool. On the day when this marvel was accomplished, he received a polite note enclosing a piece of leather cut from the machinery, with an intimation that when he had digested _that_, the rest of the engine would be at his service. But the reader is getting tired of Glen Lui, and insists on being led into more exciting scenery.
After being for a few miles such as we have tried to describe it, the glen becomes narrower, and the scenery rougher. Granite masses crop out here and there. The pretty dejected weeping birches become mixed with stern, stiff, surly pines, which look as if they could "do any thing but weep," and not unnaturally suggest the notion that their harsh conduct may be the cause of the tears of their gentler companions. At last a mountain thrusts a spur into the glen, and divides it into two: we are here at the foot of Cairngorm of Derrie, or the lesser Cairngorm. The valley opening to the left is Glen Lui Beg, or Glen Luithe Little--containing the shortest and best path to the top of Ben Muich Dhui. The other to the right is Glen Derrie--one of the passes towards Loch A'an or Avon, and the basin of the Spey. Both these glens are alike in character. The precipitous sides of the great mountains between which they run, frown over them and fill them with gloom. The two streams of which the united waters lead so peaceful a wedded life in calm Glen Lui, are thundering torrents, chafing among rocks, and now and then starting unexpectedly at our feet down into deep black pools, making cataracts which, in the regular touring districts, would be visited by thousands. But the marked feature of these glens is the ancient forest. Somewhere we believe in Glen Derrie there are the remains of a saw-mill, showing that an attempt had been at one time made to apply the forest to civilised purposes; but it was a vain attempt, and neither the Baltic timber duties, nor the demand for railway sleepers, has brought the axe to the root of the tree beneath the shadow of Ben Muich Dhui. There are noble trees in the neighbouring forest of Braemar, but it is not in a state of nature. The flat stump occurs here and there, showing that commerce has made her selection, and destroyed the ancient unity of the forest. In Glen Derrie, the tree lives to its destined old age, and whether falling from decay, or swept to the ground by the tempest, lies and rots, stopping perhaps the course of some small stream, and by solution in the intercepted waters forming a petty peat-bog, which, after a succession of generations, becomes hardened and encrusted with lichens. Near such a mass of vegetable corruption and reorganisation, lies the new-fallen tree with its twigs still full of sap. Around them stand the hoary fathers of the forest, whose fate will come next. They bear the scars and contortions of many a hard-fought battle with the storms that often sweep the narrow glen. Some are bent double, with their heads nearly touching the earth; and among other fantastic forms it is not unusual to see the trunk of some aged warrior twisted round and round, its outer surface resembling the strands of a rope. A due proportion of the forest is still in its manly prime--tall, stout, straight trees, lifting their huge branches on high, and bearing aloft the solemn canopy of dark green that distinguishes "the scarcely waving pine." We are tempted to have recourse to poetry again--we promise it shall be the last time on this occasion: there are, however, some lines by Campbell "on leaving a scene in Bavaria," which describe such a region of grandeur, loneliness, and desolation, with a vigour and melody that have been seldom equalled. They were first published not many years before his death, and it seemed as if the ancient harp had been re-strung to more than its old compass and power--but, alas! when we spoke of these verses to himself, we found that, like all of his that were fitted for immortality, they had been the fruit of his younger and better days, and that a diffidence of their merit had retarded their publication. Let the reader commit these two stanzas to memory, and repeat them as he nears the base of Ben Muich Dhui.
"Yes! I have loved thy wild abode, Unknown, unploughed, untrodden shore; Where scarce the woodman finds a road, And scarce the fisher plies an oar; For man's neglect I love thee more; That art nor avarice intrude,-- To tame thy torrents' thunder-shock, Or prune thy vintage of the rock, Magnificently rude.
Unheeded spreads thy blossomed bud Its milky bosom to the bee; Unheeded falls along the flood Thy desolate and aged tree. Forsaken scene! how like to thee The fate of unbefriended worth! Like thine, her fruit unhonoured falls-- Like thee, in solitude she calls A thousand treasures forth."
It is after proceeding through Glen Lui Beg, perhaps about three or four miles from the opening of the glen, that we begin to mount Ben Muich Dhui. At first we clamber over the roots and fallen trunks of trees; but by degrees we leave the forest girdle behind, and precipices and snow, with a scant growth of heather, become our sole companions. Keeping the track where the slope of the hill is gentlest, we pass on the right Loch Etichan, lying like a drop of ink at the base of a huge dark mural precipice--yet it is not so small when seen near at hand. This little tarn, with its back-ground of dark rocks interspersed with patches of snow, might strongly remind the Alpine traveller of the lake near the Hospice of the Grimsel. The two scenes are alike hard and leafless and frozen-like--but the Alpine pass is one of the highways of Europe, and thus one seldom crosses it without encountering a pilgrim here and there. But few are the travellers that pass the edge of Loch Etichan, and if the adventurous tourist desires company, he had better try to find an eagle--not even the red-deer, we should suppose, when driven to his utmost need, seeks such a shelter, and as for foxes and wild-cats they know too well the value of comfortable quarters in snug glens, to expose themselves to catch cold in so Greenland-like a region.
The climber will know that he is at the top of Ben Muich Dhui, when he has to scramble no longer over scaurs or ledges of rock, but walking on a gentle ascent of turf, finds a cairn at its highest part. When he stands on this cairn, he is entitled to consider himself the most elevated personage in the United Kingdom. Around it is spread something like a table-land, and one can go round the edges of the table, and look down on the floor, where the Dee, the Avon, the Lui, and many other streams, are seen like silver threads, while their forest banks resemble beds of mignionette or young boxwood. There are at several points prodigious precipices, from which one may contemplate the scene below; but we recommend caution to the adventurer, as ugly blasts sometimes sweep along the top.
When a mountain is the chief of a district, we generally see from the top a wide expanse of country. Other mountains are seen, but wide valleys intervene, and thus they are carried to a graceful distance. Probably, more summits are seen from Ben Nevis, than from any other height in Scotland, but none of them press so closely on the monarch as even to tread upon his spurs. The whole view is distant and panoramic. It is quite otherwise with Ben Muich Dhui. Separated from it only by narrow valleys, which some might call mere clefts, are Cairn Toul, Brae Riach, Cairn Gorm, Ben Avon, and Ben-y-Bourd--all, we believe, ascending more than four thousand feet above the level of the sea--along with several other mountains which very closely approach that fine round number. The vicinity of some of these summits to Ben Muich Dhui has something frightful in it. Standing on the western shoulder of the hill, you imagine that you might throw a stone to the top of Brae Riach--we have been so much deceived by distance as to have seriously made the attempt, we shall not venture to say how many years ago. Yet, between these two summits rolls the river Dee; and Brae Riach presents right opposite to the hill on which we stand, a mural precipice, said to be two thousand feet high--an estimate which no one who looks on it will be inclined to doubt. Brae Riach, indeed, is unlike any thing else in Scotland. It is not properly a hill, but a long wall of precipice, extending several miles along the valley of the Dee. Even in the sunniest weather it is black as midnight, but in a few inequalities on its smooth surface, the snow lies perpetually. Seldom is the cleft between the two great summits free of clouds, which flit hither and thither, adding somewhat to the mysterious awfulness of the gulf, and seeming in their motions to cause certain deep but faint murmurs, which are in reality the mingled sounds of the many torrents which course through the glens, far, far below.
Having had a satisfactory gaze at Brae Riach,--looking across the street, as it were, to the interesting and mysterious house on the opposite side,--the traveller may probably be reflecting on the best method of descending. There is little hope, we may as well inform him, of his return to Braemar to-night, unless he be a person of more than ordinary pedestrian acquirements. For such a consummation, he may have prepared himself according to his own peculiar ideas. If he be a tea-totaller, he will have brought with him a large bottle of lemonade and some oranges--we wish him much satisfaction in the consumption of them, and hope they will keep his outer and inner man warm after the dews of eve have descended. Perhaps his most prudent course (we consider ourselves bound to give discreet advice, for perhaps we may have led some heedless person into a scrape) will be to get down to Loch Avon, and sleep under the Stone of Shelter. Proceeding along the table-land of the hill, in a direction opposite to that by which he has ascended, the traveller comes to a slight depression. If he descend, and then ascend the bank towards the north-east, he will find himself on the top of a precipice the foot of which is washed by the Loch. But this is a dangerous windy spot: the ledge projects far out, and there is so little shelter near it, that, from beneath, it has the appearance of overhanging the waters. It is not an essential part of the route we are about to suggest, and we would rather decline the responsibility of recommending it to the attention of any one who is not a practised cragsman. In the depression we have just mentioned will be found, unless the elements have lately changed their arrangements and operations, the largest of those fields of snow which, even in the heat of summer, dispute with the heath and turf the pre-eminence on the upper ranges of Ben Muich Dhui. If we were desirous of using high-sounding expressions, we would call this field a glacier, but it must be at once admitted that it does not possess the qualities that have lately made these frigid regions a matter of ardent scientific inquiry. There are no icebergs or fissures; and the mysterious principle of motion which keeps these congealed oceans in a state of perpetual restlessness is unknown in the smooth snow-fields of Ben Muich Dhui. But there are some features common to both. The snow-field, like the glacier, is hardened by pressure into a consistence resembling that of ice. A curious thing it is to topple a huge stone down from a neighbouring precipice on one of these snow-fields, and see how it hits the snow without sinking in it, and bounds along, leaving no scratch on the hardened surface. A stream issues from the field we are now alluding to, formed like the glacier streams from the ceaseless melting of the snow. It passes forth beneath a diminutive arch, such as the source of the Rhine might appear through a diminishing glass; and looking through this arch to the interior of the hardened snow, we see exemplified the sole pleasing peculiarity of the glacier--the deep blue tint that it assumes in the interior of the fissures, and on the tops of the arches whence the waters issue. This field of snow, which we believe has never been known to perspire so much in the hottest season as to evaporate altogether, constitutes the main source of the Avon. The little stream, cold and leafless though it be, is not without its beauties. Rarely have we seen such brilliant mosses as those which cluster round its source: their extreme freshness may probably be accounted for by remembering that every summer day deducts so much from the extent of the snow-field, and that the turf in its immediate neighbourhood has just been uncovered, and, relieved from prison, is enjoying the first fresh burst of spring in July or August. For our own part we think this region of fresh moss is quite worthy of comparison with the far-famed _Jardin of the Talèfre_, which we find described in Murray's hand-book as "an oasis in the desert, an island in the ice--a rock which is covered with a beautiful herbage, and enamelled in August with flowers. This is the Jardin of this palace of nature, and nothing can exceed the beauty of such a spot, amidst the overwhelming sublimity of the surrounding objects, the Aiguilles of Charmoz, Bletière, and the Géant," &c. "Herbage," "flowers"!! Why, the jardin is merely a rock protruding out of the glacier, and covered with lichens; but, after all, was it reasonable to expect a better flower-show ten thousand feet above the level of the sea, and some nine thousand or so above all horticultural societies and prize exhibitions?
As we follow the course of the little stream, it becomes gradually enlarged by contributions from subsidiary snow streams; and winds along for some distance not inconsiderable in the volume of its waters, passing through a beautiful channel of fine sand, probably formed of the _detritus_ of the granite rocks, swept along by the floods, caused by the melting of the snow in spring. The water is exquisitely clear--a feature which at once deprives it of all right to be considered glacier-born; for filth is the peculiarity of the streams claiming this high origin, and none can have seen without regretting it, the Rhone, after having washed itself clean in the Lake Leman, and come forth a sapphire blue, becoming afterwards as dirty as ever, because it happens to fall in company with an old companion, the Arve, which, having never seen good society, or had an opportunity of making itself respectable, by the mere force of its native character, brings its reformed brother back to his original mire, and accompanies him in that plight through the respectable city of Lyons, till both plunge together into the great ocean, where all the rivers of the earth, be they blue or yellow, clear or boggy, classical or obscure, become alike indistinguishable.
Perhaps our traveller is becoming tired of this small pleasant stream running along a mere declivity of the table-land of Ben Muich Dhui. But he will not be long distressed by its peaceful monotony. Presently, as he comes in sight of the valley below, and Loch Avon lying in a small pool at the base of the dizzy height, the stream leaps at once from the edge of the hill, and disappears for a time, reappearing again far down in a narrow thread, as white as the snow from which it has issued. Down the wide channel, which the stream occupies in its moments of fulness and pride--moments when it is all too terrible to be approached by mortal footsteps--the traveller must find his way; and, if he understand his business, he may, by judiciously adapting to his purpose the many ledges and fractures caused by the furious bursts of the flooded stream, and by a judicious system of zig-zagging, convert the channel, so far as he is himself concerned, into a sort of rough staircase, some two thousand feet or so in length. The torrent itself takes a more direct course; and he who has descended by the ravine may well look up with wonder at what has the appearance of a continuous cataract, which, falling a large mass of waters at his feet, seems as if it diminished and disappeared in the heavens. The Staubbach, or Fall of Dust, in Lauter Brunen, is beyond question a fine object. The water is thrown sheer off the edge of a perpendicular rock, and reaches the ground in a massive shower nine hundred feet high. But with all respect for this wonder of the world, we are scarcely disposed to admit that it is a grander fall than this rumbling, irregular, unmeasured cataract which tumbles through the cleft between Ben Muich Dhui and Ben Avon. We should not omit, by the way, for the benefit of those who are better acquainted with Scottish than with Continental scenery, to notice the resemblance of this torrent to the Gray Mare's Tail in Moffat-dale. In the character both of the stream itself and in the immediate scenery there are many points of resemblance, every thing connected with the Avon being of course on the larger scale.
Our wanderer has perhaps indulged himself in the belief that he has been traversing these solitudes quite alone--how will he feel if he shall discover that he has been accompanied in every step and motion by a shadowy figure of huge proportions and savage mien, flourishing in his band a great pine-tree, in ghastly parallel with all the motions of the traveller's staff? Such are the spirits of the air haunting this howling wilderness, where the pale sheeted phantom of the burial vault or the deserted cloister would lose all his terrors and feel himself utterly insignificant. Sometimes the phantom's head is large and his body small, then he receives the name of Fahin. James Hogg has asserted, not only poetically, but in sober prose, that, he was acquainted with a man who
"Beheld the fahin glide o'er the fell."
For ourselves, are bound to confess that we never had the honour of meeting with this megacephalous gentleman, nor did we ever encounter any one who professed to have seen him, otherwise we would certainly have reported the case to the Phrenological Society. But we no more doubt his existence than that of the spectre of the Brocken. Sometimes the shadowy spectre of Ben Muich Dhui is a gigantic exaggeration of the ordinary human form seen stalking in a line with the traveller's route, striding from mountain-top to mountain-top as _he_ steps from stone to stone, and imitating on an enlarged scale all his gestures. The spectre has an excellent excuse for all this unpolite mimicry--in fact, he cannot help it, as the reader may infer from the following account, of one of his appearances on a reduced scale. The description is given by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, who, along with Mr Grant of Ballindalloch, had ascended Ben Muich Dhui:--"On descending from the top, at about half-past three, P.M., an interesting optical appearance presented itself to our view. We had turned towards the east, and the sun shone on our backs, when we saw a very bright rainbow described on the mist before us. The bow, of beautifully distinct prismatic colours, formed about two-thirds of a circle, the extremities of which appeared to rest on the lower portion of the mountain. In the centre of this incomplete circle, there was described a luminous disc, surrounded by the prismatic colours displayed in concentric rings. On the disc itself, each of the party (three in number) as they stood at about fifty yards apart, saw his own figure most distinctly delineated, although those of the other two were invisible to him. The representation appeared of the natural size, and the outline of the whole person of the spectator was most correctly portrayed. To prove that the shadow seen by each individual was that of himself, we resorted to various gestures, such as waving our hats, flapping our plaids, &c., all which motions were exactly followed by the airy figure. We then collected together, and stood as close to one another as possible, when each could see three shadows in the disc; his own, as distinctly as before, while those of his two companions were but faintly discernible."
We are now at the upper extremity of Loch Avon, or, as it is pronounced, Loch A'an, and beside the far-famed Stone of Shelter. We had a standing feud with James Hogg about the extent of Loch Avon, ever since the day of that celebrated encampment on Dee-side. Let us see. Thirty years have now rolled by since that unmatched gathering of choice spirits--nay, seventeen have passed and gone since we made regretful allusion, when commemorating the Moray floods, to the history and fortunes of those who were then assembled. Five years later, the Shepherd was himself gathered to the dust; but he stuck to his principles to the last, and in a discussion of the subject not many months before his death, after he had just remarked that he had "a blessed constitution," he reiterated his old statement, that Loch Avon exceeded twenty miles in length. His views on this subject were indeed a sort of gauge of the Shepherd's spirits. In his sombre moments he appeared to doubt if he were quite correct in insisting that the length was twenty miles; when he was in high spirits he would not abate one inch of the thirty. Now, when one man maintains that a lake is thirty miles long, and another that it is but a tenth part of that length, it is not always taken for granted that the moderate man is in the right; but on the contrary, paradoxical people are apt to abet his opponent, and it was provoking that we could never find any better authority against the Shepherd than his own very suspicious way of recording his experience at Loch Avon in a note to the _Queen's Wake_: "I spent a summer day in visiting it. The hills were clear of mist, yet the heavens were extremely dark--the effect upon the scene exceeded all description. My mind during the whole day experienced the same sort of sensation as if I had been in a dream." But if our departed friend has left any disciples, we are now able to adduce against them the highest parochial authority. We are told in the new Statistical Account that--"Loch Avon lies in the southern extremity of the parish, in the bosom of the Grampian mountain. It is estimated at _three miles long_ and a mile broad. The scenery around it is particularly wild and magnificent. The towering sides of Ben-y-Bourd, Ben Muich Dhui, and Ben Bainac, rise all around it, and their rugged bases skirt its edges, except at the narrow outlet of the Avon at its eastern extremity. Its water is quite luminous, and of great depth, especially along its northern side. It abounds in trout of a black colour and slender shape, differing much in appearance from the trout found in the limpid stream of the Avon which issues from it. At the west end of the lake is the famous Clach Dhian or Shelter Stone. This stone is an immense block of granite, which seems to have fallen from a projecting rock above it, rising to the height of several hundred feet, and forming the broad shoulder of Ben Muich Dhui. The stone rests on two other blocks imbedded in a mass of rubbish, and thus forms a cave sufficient to contain twelve or fifteen men. Here the visitor to the scenery of Loch Avon takes up his abode for the night, and makes himself as comfortable as he can where 'the Queen of the Storm sits,' and at a distance of fifteen or twenty miles from all human abode."
At the eastern end of the lake, we stop to take a glance at the whole scene. Right before us stands the broad top and the mural precipices of Ben Avon, severing us from the north-western world. On the right, the scarcely less craggy sides of Ben-y-Bourd and Ben Bainac wall up the waters of the lake. The other side is conspicuous by a sharp peak of Ben Muich Dhui--the same which we already mentioned as seeming to hang (and it certainly does so seem from this point) over the edge of the water. We never saw the sun shining on Loch Avon; we suspect its waters, so beautifully transparent in themselves, are seldom visited by even a midsummer gleam. Hence arises a prevailing and striking feature of the scene--the abundant snows that fill the hollows in the banks, and sometimes, even in midsummer, cover the slopes of the mountains.
We incline to the belief that tourists in general would consider Loch Avon the finest feature of the whole group of scenery which we have undertaken to describe. For our own part we must admit that we prefer the source of the Dee, to which the reader shall be presently introduced, as more peculiar and original. Loch Avon is like a fragment of the Alps imported and set down in Scotland. Our recollections of it invariably become intertwined and confused with the features of the scenery of the upper passes. The resemblance was particularly marked on the first of August 1836: it was a late season, and every portion of the mountains that did not consist of perpendicular rock appeared to be covered with snow. The peak of Ben Muich Dhui shot forth from the snow as like the Aiguilles of Mont Blanc, as one needle is like another. That was on the whole an adventurous day with us. We had set off from Braemar very early in the morning, taking a vehicle as far as it would penetrate through Glen Lui. The day was scarcely promising, but we had so long been baffled by the weather that we felt inclined at last to put it at defiance, or at least treat it with no respect. In Glen Lui every thing was calm and solemn. As we passed through Glen Derrie, the rain began to fall, and the wind roared among the old trees. The higher we ascended, the more fierce and relentless became the blast; and when we came within sight of Loch Avon, the interstices in the tempest-driven clouds only showed us a dreary, winter, Greenland-like chaos of snow and rocks and torrents. It taxed our full philosophy, both of the existence of the _ego_ and the _non-ego_, to preserve the belief that we were still in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and that it was the first of August. Our indefinite projects had gradually been contracting themselves within a narrow compass. To reach the Stone of Shelter was now our utmost object of ambition, but it was clear that that was impracticable--so we looked about for some place of refuge, and with little difficulty discovered a stone about the size of a parish church lying like a pebble at the foot of a mountain, with a projecting ledge on the lee side, sufficiently large to protect our party. Some dry furze happened, by a singular accident, to lie heaped in a corner of this natural shed. With a little judicious management it was ignited, and burned so well as to overcome the wetness of a mass of thick heather roots, which we added to it. We were in the possession of some raw venison;--do not open your eyes so, reader; it was most unromantically and honestly come by, being duly entered in the bill at worthy Mrs Clarke's inn, at Braemar. Having brought certain conjuring utensils with us, we proceeded to cook our food and make ourselves comfortable. Water was easily obtained in the neighbourhood, and being in possession of the other essential elements of conviviality, we resolved that, as the weather was determined to make it winter outside, we should have the joys of winter within; the shrieks of the blast were drowned in our convivial shouts--
"The storm without might rair and rustle, Tam didna mind the storm a whistle."
Another adventure we remember in the same place, but that was long, long ago; in fact, it was when in boyhood we had first entered into that awful wilderness. We had reached the top of Ben Muich Dhui early in the day. Our little wallet of provisions we had left on a tuft of heather where we had lain down to rest, and we could not afterwards find the spot. Somewhat tired, and faint with hunger, we descended the rocks by the side of the cataract, believing that Loch Avon, seemingly so small from the summit of the mountain, was the little Tarn of Etichan, which had been passed in the ascent from Dee-side. It was alarming to find the lake extending its bulk as we approached, and to see the glens looking so different from any of those we were acquainted with on Dee-side; but to have returned up the mountain would have been insanity, and by pursuing the track of a stream, one is sure in the end--at least in this country--to reach inhabited land; so we followed the waters of the Avon, so deep and transparent, that many miles down, where they join the Spey, their deceptious character is embodied in the proverb--
"The water o' A'an, it rins sae clear, 'Twould beguile a man o' a hunder year."
A few miles below the exit of the stream from the loch, as the extreme dimness of the valley showed that sunset was approaching, we met a drover who had gone up into the wilderness in search of stray black cattle. He could speak little English, but was able to give us the startling intelligence that by what was merely a slight divergence at first, we had gone down towards the strath of the Spey instead of that of the Dee; and that we were some thirty miles from the home we had expected to reach that evening. Our new friend took us under his charge, and conducted us to a bothy, made of the bent roots of the pine-tree, found in the neighbouring mosses, and covered with turf. It was so low, that we could not stand upright in it, and a traveller might have walked over it without observing that it was an edifice made with human hands. The sole article of furniture, of which it could boast was a trough, in which our new friend hospitably presented us with a supper of oatmeal and water--our first nourishment for the day. The supply was liberal, whatever might be thought of the quality of the repast. The floor of the bothy was strewed with heather, somewhat coarse and stumpy, on which we lay down and slept. Conscious of a confused noise and a sort of jostling, it was with some surprise that we perceived that no less than ten men had crowded themselves into that little hut and had lighted a fire. It was like a realisation of some of Cooper's romantic incidents, where, after a silent desert has been described, it somehow or other becomes suddenly full of people and fertile in adventure. Our new companions were not of the most agreeable cast: they were rough and surly, hiding, we thought, a desire to avoid communication under the pretence of inability to speak any thing but Gaelic; while, in the midst of their Celtic communications with each other, they swore profusely in the Scottish vernacular. What their pursuits were, or what occasion they had to be in that wild region, was to us a complete mystery, opened up slightly by reflecting on the two great lawless pursuits, smuggling and poaching; of the fruit of neither of which, however, did we see any symptom. Our position was not for many reasons, great and small, to be envied: however, it was the best policy to make one of themselves for the time being, so far as their somewhat repulsive manners would permit. It was not, however, with much regret, that, after having been packed for some hours with them on the hard stumps of heather, we left them in full snore at sunrise on a clear morning, and ascended the hill dividing the waters that run into the Spey from those which feed the Dee. The dews lay heavy on the moss and heather, and, as we neared the top of the ridge, glittered brightly in the new-risen sun; while here and there the mists, forming themselves into round balls, gradually rolled up the sides of the hills, and, mounting like balloons, disappeared in the blue sky. As we passed down through the broken forest-land on the other side, we could see, on the top of the gentler elevations, the slender-branched horns of the red-deer between us and the sky. Even on our near approach the beautiful animals showed no signs of panic,--perhaps they knew our innocence; and they gazed idly as we passed, only tossing their heads in the air, and scampering off disdainfully when we approached offensively close. We reached the Dee by following the stream of the Quoich, which, like the Lui, passes through the remains of an ancient forest. It derives its convivial name from a peculiar cataract often visited by tourists from Braemar. Here the stone is hollowed by the action of the water into circular cavities like those of the Caldron Linn; and in one of these the guides will have the audacity to tell you that a bacchanalian party once made grog by tossing in a few ankers of brandy, and that they consumed the whole on the premises.
We must now tell our pilgrim how he is to find his way by the more direct route from Loch Avon to Braemar, and we may at the same time afford a hint to the reader who desires to proceed towards the lake without crossing Ben Muich Dhui. Near where the stream of the Avon issues, it is necessary to turn to the right, and to keep rather ascending than descending. In a few miles the brow of the hill shuts us out from the wintry wild, and in a hollow are seen two small lakes called the Dhu Lochan, with nothing about them to attract notice but their dreariness and their blackness. The course of a burn which feeds them marks the way to the water-shier between the Spey and the Dee, whence a slight descent leads down to Glen Derrie, the position of which has been already described.
We now propose another excursion--our last on the present occasion--to the sources of the Dee. We place our wanderer again at the Linn of Dee. As he proceeds up the stream, the banks become flatter, and the valleys wider and less interesting, until after some miles--we really cannot say how many--the river turns somewhat northwards, and the banks become more close and rocky. At this spot there is a fine waterfall, which, in the midst of a desert, has contrived to surround itself with a not unbecoming clump of trees. The waters are divided into two; the Geusachan burn joining the stream from the west. At last the conical peak of Cairn Toul appears over-topping all the surrounding heights; and then, a rent intervening, we approach and soon walk under the great mural precipice of Brae Riach, which we have already surveyed to so much advantage from the top of Ben Muich Dhui. We are here in the spot which to us, of all this group of scenery, appears to be the most remarkable, as being so unlike any other part of Scotland, or any place we have seen elsewhere. The narrowness of the glen and the height of its walled sides are felt in the constrained attitude in which we look up on either side to the top, as if we were surveying some object of interest in a tenth story window of our own High Street. This same narrowness imparts a sensation as if one could not breathe freely. If we compare this defile to another of the grandest mountain passes in Scotland--to Glencoe, we find a marked difference between them. The scene of the great tragedy, grand and impressive as it is, has no such narrow walled defiles. The mountains are high, but they are of the sugar-loaf shape--abrupt, but never one mass of precipice from top to bottom. Cairn Toul resembles these hills, though it is considerably more precipitous: but Brae Riach is as unlike them as a tower is distinct from a dome. In this narrow glen we could tell of sunsets and sunrises, not accompanied by such disagreeable associations as those we have recorded in Glen Avon. Picture the very hottest day of a hot year. The journey in the wide burning glen up from the Linn of Dee has been accomplished only with the aid of sundry plunges in the deep, cold pools, which the stream has filled with water fresh from the inner chambers of the mountains. The moment we enter the narrow part of the glen, though the sun is still pretty far up in the heavens, we are in twilight gloom. We have no notice of his leaving the earth, save the gradual darkening of all things around us. Then the moon is up, but we have no further consciousness of his presence, save that the sharp peak of Cairn Toul shows its outline more clearly even than by daylight; and a lovely roof of light-blue, faintly studded with stars, contrasts with the dark sides of our rocky chamber. In such a time, when one has mounted so far above the level of the waters that they only make a distant murmur--when there is not a breath of wind stirring any thing--it is strange with how many mysterious voices the mountain yet speaks. Sometimes there is a monotonous and continuous rumble as if some huge stone, many miles off, were loosened from its position, and tumbling from rock to rock. Then comes a loud distinct report as if a rock had been split; and faint echoes of strange wailings touch the ear, as if this solemn desert were frequented at night by animals as little known to the inhabitants of our island as the uncouth wilds in which they live. But let not the wanderer indulge in thoughts of this description beyond the bounds of a pleasant imaginativeness. Let him take it for granted, that neither cayman nor rattlesnake will disturb his rest; and having pitched on a dry spot, let him pluck a large quantity of heather, making up a portion of it in bundles, and setting them on end closely packed together with the flower uppermost, while he reserves the rest to heap over himself. It is such a bed as a prince has seldom the good fortune to take his rest on; and if the wanderer have a good conscience, and the night be fine, he will sleep far more soundly than if he were packed on the floor of a bothy, with ten Highlanders who every now and then are giving their shoulders nervous jerks against the heather stumps, or scratching the very skin off their wrists. When he awakens, he finds himself nearer to the top of Ben Muich Dhui than he had probably supposed, and the ascent is straight and simple. He may be there to see the sun rise, a sight which has its own peculiar glories, though most people prefer seeing the event from some solitary hill, which, like Ben Nevis, Shehallion, or the Righi, stands alone, and looks round on a distant panorama of mountains.
To return to the Dee.--The river divides again, one stream coming tumbling down through the cleft between Cairn Toul and Brae Riach, called the Garchary Burn. The other, less precipitously inclined, comes from between Brae Riach and Ben Mulch Dhul, and is called the Larig. Like the Nile and the Niger, the Dee is a river of a disputed source. As we shall presently find, the right of the Garchary to that distinction is strongly maintained by pretty high authority; but we are ourselves inclined to adopt the Larig, not only because it appeared to us to contain a greater volume of water, but because it is more in the line of the glen, and, though rough enough, is not so desperately flighty as the Garchary, and does not join it in those great leaps which, however surprising and worthy of admiration they may be in themselves, are not quite consistent with the calm dignity of a river destined to pass close to two universities. Following then the Larig over rocks and rough stones, among which it chafes and foams, we reach a sort of barrier of stones laid together by the hand of nature with the regularity of an artificial breakwater. As we pass over this barrier, a hollow rumbling is heard beneath; for the stream, at least at ordinary times, finds its way in many rills deep down among the stones. When we reach the top of the bank we are on the edge of a circular basin, abrupt and deep, but full of water so exquisitely clear that the pebbly bottom is every where visible. Here the various springs, passing by their own peculiar conduit-pipes from the centre of the mountain, meet together, and east up their waters into the round basin--one can see the surface disturbed by the force of their gushing. Soon after passing these "wells of Dee," we are at the head of the pass of Cairngorm, and join the waters which run to the Spey. A path leads through the woods of Rothiemurchus to Aviemore, on which the nearest house is, or used to be, that of a widow named Mackenzie, who in that wide solitude extends her hospitality to the wayfarer. Blessings on her! may her stoup never be dry, or her aumry empty. It is needless to tell the traveller, that by this route he may approach the scenery of the Cairngorm hills from Laggan, Rannoch, and other places near Spey side.
The claims of the Garchary to the leadership are supported by that respectable topographer Dr Skene Keith--probably on account of his own adventurous ascent of that turbulent stream, which we shall give in his own words, merely premising that we suspect he was mistaken in his discovery that the well he saw is called "Well Dee."
"At two o'clock P.M. we set out to climb the mountain, still keeping in sight of the river. In a few minutes we came to the foot of a cataract, whose height we found to be one thousand feet, and which contained about a fourth part of the water of which the Garchary was now composed. In about half an hour after, we perceived that the cataract came from a lake in the ridge of the mountain of Cairn Toul, and that the summit of the mountain was another thousand feet above the loch, which is called Loch na Youn, or the Blue Lake. A short time after we saw the Dee (here called the Garchary from this rocky bed, which signifies in Gaelic _the rugged quarry_) tumbling in great majesty over the mountain down another cataract; or as we afterwards found it, a chain of natural cascades, above thirteen hundred feet high. It was in flood at this time from the melting of the snow, and the late rains; and what was most remarkable, an arch of snow covered the narrow glen from which it tumbled over the rocks. We approached so near to the cataract as to know that there was no other lake or stream; and then we had to climb among huge rocks, varying from one to ten tons, and to catch hold of the stones or fragments that projected, while we ascended in an angle of seventy or eighty degrees. A little before four o'clock we got to the top of the mountain, which I knew to be Brae Riach, or the speckled mountain. Here we found the highest well, which we afterwards learned was called Well Dee, and other five copious fountains, which make a considerable stream before they fall over the precipice. We sat down completely exhausted, at four o'clock P.M. and drank of the highest well, which we found to be four thousand and sixty feet above the level of the sea; and whose fountain was only thirty-five degrees of heat on the 17th of July, or three degrees above the freezing point. We mixed some good whisky with this water, and recruited our strength [a very judicious proceeding.] Then we poured as a libation into the fountain a little of the excellent whisky which our landlord had brought along with him [a very foolish proceeding.] After resting half an hour, we ascended to the top of Brae Riach at five P.M., and found it to be four thousand two hundred and eighty feet above the level of the sea."
We must not bid farewell to this mountain desert without asking attention to a peculiar feature in the hills connected with a disastrous history. In many places the declivities are seamed with trenches some forty or fifty feet deep, appearing as if they were made by a gigantic plough-share which, instead of sand, casts up huge masses of rock on either side, in parallel mounds, like the morains of a glacier. There are many of these furrows on the side of Ben Muich Dhui, nearest to the Dee. Though we had long noticed them, it was not until we happened to be in that district, immediately after the great floods of 1829, that we were forcibly told of the peculiar cause of this appearance. The old furrows were as they had been before--the stones, gray, weather-beaten, and covered with lichen, while heather and wildflowers grew in the interstices. But among them were new scaurs, still like fresh wounds, with the stones showing the sharpness of late fracture, and no herbage covering the blood-red colour of the sand. It was clear from the venerable appearance of the older scaurs, that only at long intervals do the elements produce this formidable effect--at least many years had passed since the last instance before 1829 had occurred. The theory of the phenomenon appeared to be pretty simple. Each spring is a sort of stone cistern, which, through its peculiar duct, sends forth to one part of the surface of the earth the water it receives from another. If, through inordinately heavy falls of rain, there be a great volume of water pressing on the entrance tubes, the expansive force of the water in the cistern increases in that accumulating ratio which is practically exemplified in the hydraulic press, and the whole mass of water bursts forth from the side of the mountain, as if it were a staved barrel, rending rocks, and scattering their shattered fragments around like dust. Hence we may presume arose these fierce pulsations which made the rivers descend wave on wave. What a sight, to have been remembered and thought on ever after, would it have been, had one been present in this workshop of the storm while the work was going on!
Now, reader, before we have done, let us confess that there are many elements that we like to meet with in such things, wherein this little contribution to the knowledge of British local scenery is deficient. Fain would we have given it a more hospitable tone, telling of the excellent cookery at this inn, and the good wines at the next, and the general civility experienced at the third; but we cast ourselves, O generous reader! on your mercy. How could we describe the comforts and luxuries of inns, in a place where there is not a single house--a place which, like the Irish milestone, is "fifteen miles from inny where"?
As to the frequented methods of approach towards the border of the wilderness which we have taken under our especial patronage, we profess not to discuss them, leaving the public in the very competent hands of the Messrs Anderson, whose "Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland" is, in relation to the inhabited districts, and the usual tourists' routes, all-sufficient for its purpose.
 _Edinburgh New Philosophic Journal_, 1831, p. 165.
 _New Statistical Account of Scotland--Banffshire_, p. 298.
 _Dr Skene Keith's Surrey of Aberdeenshire_, p. 644.
LETTERS ON THE TRUTHS CONTAINED IN POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.
LETTER VII--OBJECTS TO BE GAINED THROUGH THE ARTIFICIAL INDUCTION OF TRANCE.
DEAR ARCHY,--I am tempted to write you a letter more than I had originally intended,--a supplementary and final one.
The powers which we have seen employed to shake the nerves and unsettle the mind in the service of superstition,--can they be turned to no useful purpose?
To answer this question, I will give you a brief account of the two most vigorous attempts which have been made to turn the elements we have been considering to a profitable end. I have in my thoughts the invention of ether-inhalation and the induction of trance in mesmerism. The witch narcotised her pupils in order to produce in them delusive visions; the surgeon stupifies his patient to prevent the pain of an operation being felt. The fanatic preacher excites convulsions and trance in his auditory to persuade them that they are visited by the Holy Spirit; Mesmer produced the same effects as a means of curing disease.
Let us first look into the simpler problem of ether-inhalation.
It occurred to Mr Jackson, a chemist in the United States, that it might be possible, and unattended with risk, so to stupify a patient with the vapour of sulphuric ether that he might undergo a surgical operation without suffering. He communicated the idea to Mr Morton, a dentist, who carried it into execution with the happiest results. The patient became unconscious,--a tooth was extracted;--no sign of pain escaped at the time;--there was no recollection of suffering afterwards. Led by the report of this success, in the course of the autumn of 1846, Messrs Bigelow, Warren, and Heywood ventured to employ the same means in surgical operations of a more serious description. The results obtained on these occasions were not less satisfactory than the first had been. Since then, in England, France, and Germany, this interesting experiment has been repeated in numberless cases, and its general success may be considered to be established.
The effects produced by the inhalation of the vapour of sulphuric ether, present a superficial resemblance to those produced by exposure to carbonic acid; but they are more closely analogous to the effects of inhaling nitrous oxide; and they may be compared and contrasted with those of opium and alcoholic liquors. But the patient is neither in the state of asphyxia, nor is he narcotised, nor drunk. The effects produced are peculiar, and deserve a name of their own.
To give you a distinct idea of the ordinary phenomena of etherisation, I will cite three or four instances from a report on this subject by Dr Heyfelder, Knight, professor of medicine, and director of the surgical clinic at Erlangen.
Dr Heyfelder himself, a strong and healthy man, after inhaling the vapour of ether for a minute, experienced an agreeable warmth in his whole person; after the second minute, he felt a disposition to cough, and diminution of ordinary sensibility. Then an impression supervened that some great change was about to take place within him. At the expiration of the third minute, he _lost sensibility and consciousness_. In this state he remained two minutes. The pulse was unaffected. Upon coming to himself, he felt a general sense of exhaustion, with weakness of the back and knees. For the remainder of the day he walked unsteadily, and his mind was confused.
A. T., aged thirty-six, a tall strong servant-maid, after inhaling for seventeen minutes, became unconscious, and appeared not to feel a trifling wound with a surgical needle. In a minute consciousness returned. She laughed immoderately, spoke of an agreeable feeling of warmth, and said she had had pleasant dreams. The pulse was slower, the breathing deeper, during the inhalation. The same person upon inhaling, on another occasion, with a better apparatus, became insensible after two minutes. The eyes appeared red and suffused; a carious tooth was then extracted, which caused her to moan slightly. On returning to herself she complained of giddiness, but said she had experienced none but agreeable feelings. She had no idea that the tooth had been extracted.
K. A., aged twenty-nine, upon beginning the inhalation, showed signs of excitement, but in nine minutes lay relaxed like a corpse. A tooth was extracted. Two minutes afterwards she awoke, moaning and disturbed. She stated that she _had not felt the extraction of the tooth, but she had heard it_.
C. S., aged twenty-two, a strong and healthy young man, a student of surgery, on commencing the inhalation, coughed, and there was a flow of saliva and of tears. In three and a half minutes the skin appeared insensible to pain. Consciousness remained perfect and undisturbed. The skin was warm; the eyes were open; the hearing as usual; the speech, however, was difficult. This state continued eighteen minutes, during which, at _his request_, two teeth with large fangs were extracted. He held himself perfectly still. He said, afterwards, that _he felt the application of the instrument, but was sensible of no pain_, during the extraction of the teeth.
W. S., aged nineteen, a strong and healthy young man, a law-student, after inhaling the ether-vapour a minute, began to move his arms about, struck his knees, stamped with his feet, laughed. In three minutes the laughter and excitement had increased. The eyes rolled, he sprang up, talked volubly; the pulse was strong and frequent. In seven minutes he breathed deeply, the eyelids closed, the pulse sank. In eight minutes he began to snore, but heard when called to. In nine minutes the eyes were suffused; the optic axes were directed upwards and outwards. At the end of twelve minutes a tooth was extracted, when he uttered an exclamation and laughed. On his return to himself, he said that he had _felt the laceration, or tear, but had experienced no pain_. He thought he had been at a carousal.
If I add to these sketches that the patient sometimes becomes pale, sometimes flushed,--that the pupils of the eyes are generally dilated and fixed, sometimes natural and fixed, sometimes contracted,--that violent excitement sometimes manifests itself attended with the persistence or even exaltation of the ordinary sensibility,--that sometimes hysteric fits are brought on; sometimes a state resembling common intoxication,--you will have had the means of forming a sufficiently exact and comprehensive idea of the features of etherisation.
Then, if we exclude the cases in which excitement, instead of collapse, is induced, and, in general, cases complicated with disorder of the head or chest, it appears that the inhalation of ether is not attended with questionable or injurious consequences; and that it places the patient in a condition in which the performance of a surgical operation may be prudently contemplated. If the operation require any length of time,--from thirty to forty minutes, for instance,--the state of insensibility may be safely maintained, by causing the inhalation to be resumed as often as its effects begin to wear off. In minor cases of surgery, in which union of the wound _by adhesion_ is necessary to the success of the operation--in harelip, for instance--an exacter comparison is, perhaps, requisite than has yet been made of the relative results obtained on etherised and non-etherised patients. In graver cases, some of which always end fatally, symptoms, again, may occasionally supervene, or continue from the time of the operation, which are directly attributable to the etherisation. But, in all probability, the entire proportion of recoveries in etherised cases will be found to be increased, through the injurious effects being averted which are produced by fear and suffering. There is every reason to expect that a saving of human life will be thus realised,--an advantage over and above the deliverance from pain and terror.
So the invention of etherisation deserves to be rated as a signal benefit to humanity. Nor is it to be lost sight of, that the invention is quite in its infancy; and that any sound objections which may, at present, be raised against it, are not unlikely to be obviated through the modifications and improvements of which it is no doubt susceptible. The amount of success already obtained, may further be deemed sufficient to make us secure that the object of extinguishing the sufferings of surgery will never _again_ be lost sight of by the medical profession and the public. One item, partial indeed, but a tolerably severe one, in the catalogue of the physical ills to which flesh is heir, is thus so far in a fair way of being got rid of.
The method of Mesmer was an attempt to cure bodily disease by making a forcible impression on the nerves. And no doubt can be entertained that many of his patients were the better for the violent succussion of the system which his developed practice put them through.
But mesmerism contained two things,--a bold empirical practice and a mystical theory. Mesmer strove, by the latter, to explain the effects which his practice produced. An odd fate his method and his theory will have had. His method was considered, by many of his contemporaries, as of solid importance; his theory was for the most part ridiculed as that of a half-crazed enthusiast and impostor. Now, no reasonable person can regard his practice in any other light than as a rough and hazardous experiment. But his theory, in the mean time, is ceasing to be absurd; for it admits of being represented as a very respectable anticipation of Von Reichenbach's recent discoveries.
Mesmer, a native of Switzerland, was born in 1734. He became a student at Vienna, where his turn for the mystical led him to the studies of alchemy and astrology. In the year 1766, he published a treatise on the influence of the planets upon the human frame. It contains the idea that a force extends throughout space through which the stars can affect the body. In attempting to identify this force, Mesmer first supposed it to be electricity. Afterwards, about the year 1773, he adopted the belief that it must be ordinary magnetism. So at Vienna, from 1773 to 1775, he employed the practice of stroking diseased parts of the body with magnets. But, in 1776, making a tour in Bavaria and Switzerland, he fell in with the notorious Father Gassner, who had at that time undertaken the cure of the blind prince-bishop of Ratisbon by exorcism. Then Mesmer observed that, without employing magnets, Gassner obtained very much the same kind of effects upon the human body which he had produced with their aid. The fact was not lost upon him. He threw away his magnets, and henceforth operated with the hand alone. In 1777, his reputation a little damaged by a failure in the case of the musician Paradies, Mesmer left Vienna, and the following year betook himself to Paris. The great success which he obtained there drew upon him the indignation and jealousy of the faculty, who did not scruple to brand him with the stigma of charlatanism. They averred that he threw difficulties in the way of a satisfactory examination of his method; but perhaps he had reason to suspect want of fairness in the proposed inquiry. He refused, from the government, an offer of twenty thousand francs to divulge his method; but he was ready to explain it, it is true, under a pledge of secresy, to individuals for one hundred louis. But his practice itself gave most support to the allegations against him. His patients were received and treated with an air of mystery and studied effect. The apartment, hung on every side with mirrors, was dimly lighted. A profound silence was observed, broken only by strains of music, which occasionally floated through the rooms. The patients were arranged around a large vessel, which contained a heterogeneous mixture of chemical ingredients. With this and with each other, they were placed in relation, by holding cords or jointed rods; and among them moved slowly and mysteriously Mesmer himself, affecting one by a touch, another by a look, a third by continued stroking with the hand, a fourth by pointing at him with a rod.
What followed is easily conceivable from the scenes referred to in my last letter, which are witnessed at religious revivals. One person became hysterical, then another; one was seized with catalepsy, then others; some with convulsions; some with palpitations of the heart, perspirations, and other bodily disturbances. These effects, however various and different, went all by the name of "salutary crises." The method was supposed to produce, in the sick person, exactly the kind of action propitious to his recovery. And it may easily be imagined that many patients found themselves better after a course of this rude empiricism; and that the impression made by these events, passing daily in Paris, must have been very considerable. To the ignorant the scene was full of wonderment.
To ourselves, regarding it from our present vantage-ground, it contains absolutely nothing of the marvellous. We discern the means which were in operation, and which are theoretically sufficient to produce the result. Those means consisted in,--first, high-wrought expectation and excited fancy, enough alone to set some of the most excitable into fits;--secondly, the contagious power of nervous disorder to cause the like disorder in others, a power augmenting with the number of persons infected;--thirdly, the physical influence upon the body of the _Od force_ discovered by Von Reichenbach, which is produced in abundance by chemical decomposition, which can be communicated to, and conveyed by inanimate conductors, and which finally emanates with great vivacity from the subtle chemistry of the living human frame itself. The reality of this third cause you must allow me to take for granted without farther explanation. Von Reichenbach's papers, the credit of which is guaranteed by their publication in Liebig and Wöhler's Annals of Chemistry, have been now some time translated into English, and are in the hands of most English readers.
It is remarkable that Jussieu, the most competent judge in the commission which, in 1784 condemned mesmerism as a scientific imposition, was so much struck with the effects he witnessed, that he recommended the subject, nevertheless, to the farther investigation of medical men. His objections were to the theory. He laid it down, in the separate report which he made, that the only physical cause in operation was animal heat; curiously overlooking the point, that common heat was not capable of doing the same things, and that, therefore, the effects _must be owing to the agency of that something else_ which animal heat contained in addition to common heat.
It is unnecessary to follow Mesmer through his minor performances. The relief sometimes obtained by stroking diseased parts with the hand had before been proclaimed by Dr Greatorex, whose pretensions had no less an advocate than the Honourable Robert Boyle. The extraordinary tales of Mesmer's immediate and instantaneous personal power over individuals are probably part exaggeration, part the real result of his confidence and practice in the use of the means he wielded. Mesmer died in 1815.
Among his pupils, when at the zenith of his fame, was the Marquis de Puységur. Returning from serving at the siege of Gibraltar, this young officer found mesmerism the mode at Paris, and appears to have become, for no other reason, one of the initiated. At the end of the course of instruction, he professed himself to be no wiser than when he began; and he ridiculed the credulity and the faith of his brothers, who were stanch adherents of the new doctrine. However he did not forget his lesson; and on going, the same spring, to his estate at Basancy, near Soissons, he took occasion to mesmerise the daughter of his agent, and another young person, for the toothach, who declared themselves, in a few minutes, cured. This questionable success was sufficient to lead M. de Puységur, a few days after, to try his hand on a young peasant of the name of Victor, who was suffering with a severe fluxion upon the chest. What was M. de Puységur's surprise when, at the end of a few minutes, Victor went off into a kind of tranquil sleep, without crisis or convulsion, and in that sleep began to gesticulate, and talk, and enter into his private affairs. Then he became sad; and M. de Puységur tried mentally to inspire him with cheerful thoughts; he hummed a lively tune to himself, _inaudibly_, and immediately Victor began to sing the air. Victor remained asleep for an hour, and awoke composed, with his symptoms mitigated.
The case of Victor revolutionised the art of mesmerism. The large part of his life in which M. Puységur had nothing to do but to follow this vein of inquiry, was occupied in practising and advocating a gentle manipulation to induce sleep, in preference to the more violent crises. I have no plea for telling you how M. de Puységur served in the first French revolutionary armies; how he quitted the service in disgust; how narrowly he escaped the guillotine; how he lived in retirement afterwards, benevolently endeavouring to do good to his sick neighbours by mesmerism; how he survived the Restoration; and how, finally, he died of a cold caught by serving again in the encampment at Rheims to assist as an old _militaire_ at the _sacre_ of Charles X.
For he had, to use the phrase of the moment, fulfilled his mission the day that he put Victor to sleep. He had made a vast stride in advance of his teacher. Not but that Mesmer must frequently have produced the same effect, but _he_ had passed it over unheeded, as one only of the numerous forms of salutary crisis; nor that M. de Puységur himself estimated, or that the knowledge had then been brought together which would have enabled him to estimate, the value, or the real nature and meaning, of the step which he had made. To himself he appeared to be largely extending the domain of mesmerism, of which he had, in truth, discovered and gone beyond the limits.
The state which he had so promptly and fortunately induced in Victor, was _neither more nor less than common trance_--the commonest form, perhaps, of the great family of nervous disorders, to which ordinary sleep-walking belongs, and of which I have already sketched the divisions and relations in the fifth letter of this series. All that remains, combining originality and value, of Mesmer's art, is, that it furnishes the surest method of inducing this particular condition of the system. Employed with collateral means calculated to shake the nerves and excite the imagination, mesmerism causes the same variety of convulsive and violent seizures which extremes of fanatical frenzy excite; when it is employed in a gentle form and manner, with accessaries that only soothe and tranquillise, the most plain and unpretending form of trance quietly steps upon the scene.
Perhaps you will wonder that I seem to attach so much importance to the power which mesmerism offers us, of producing at pleasure mere ordinary trance; and, unluckily, it is easy to overrate that importance; because, for any plan we are yet in possession of, the induction of trance, through mesmerism, is, in truth, a very uncertain and capricious affair. It is but a limited number of persons who can be affected by mesmerism; and the good to be obtained from the process is proportionately limited.
The first object to which artificial induction of trance may be turned, is the cure or alleviation of certain forms of disease.
It has been mentioned that in many so-called cataleptic cases, a condition of violent spasm is constantly present, _except_ when the patient falls into an alternative state of trance. _The spontaneous supervention of trance relieves the spasm._
I mentioned, too, in the fifth letter of this series, the case of Henry Engelbrecht, who, after a life of asceticism, and a week of nearly total abstinence, fell into a death-trance. _On waking from it, he felt refreshed and stronger._
These results are quite intelligible. In trance, the nervous system is put _out of gear_. The strain of its functions is suspended. Now, perhaps for the first time since birth, the nervous system, a part or the whole, experiences entire repose. The effect of this must be as soothing to it, as is to a diseased joint the disposing it in a relaxed position on a pillow. In this state of profound rest, it is natural that the nervous system should recruit its forces; that if previously weak and irritable, it should emerge from the trance stronger and more composed; that the induction of trance many days repeated, and maintained daily an hour or more, should finally enable the nerves to recover any extent of mere loss of tone, with its dependent morbid excitability, and to shake off various forms of disorder dependent upon that cause. So might it be expected, that epilepsy, that hysteric and cataleptic fits, that nervous palsy, that tic-doloreux, when caused by no structural impairment of organ, should get weak under the use of this means--other means, of course, not being thereby excluded, which peculiar features of individual cases render advisable. And experience justifies this reasonable anticipation. And it is found practically that, for purely nervous disorders, the artificial induction of trance is, generally speaking, the most efficient remedy. Nay, in cases of a more serious complexion, where organic disease exists, some unnecessary suffering and superfluous nervous irritability may be thus allayed and discarded. Even more may be said in favour of the availability of this practice. There are few diseases of any kind, and of other parts, in which the nervous system does not, primarily or secondarily, become implicated. And so far does disease in general contain an element which often may be reached and modified with salutary effect, through the means I am now advocating. When the prejudices of medical men against the artificial induction of trance have subsided, and its sanative agency has been fairly tried, and diligently studied, there is no doubt it will take a high rank among the resources of medicine.
In surgery, artificial trance is capable of playing a not less important part than in medicine.
For, as it has been already mentioned, an ordinary feature of trance is the entire suspension of common feeling. As long as the trance is maintained, the patient is impassive to all common impressions on the touch; the smartest electric shock, a feather introduced into the nose, burning, or cutting with a knife, excite no sensation. So that surgical operations may be performed without suffering during trance just as in the stupor produced by the ether inhalation. Then, as trance soothes the nerves, the patient, over and above the extinction of pain, is in a fitter state than otherwise for the infliction of physical violence. Likewise the trance may be induced not only at the time of the operation, but with equal safety on all the subsequent occasions when the wound has to be disturbed and dressed,--so that, in addition, all the after suffering attendant upon great operations may be thus avoided. The drawback against the method, is the uncertainty there exists of being able to induce trance artificially in any given case. But the trial is always worth making; and the number who can, with a little patience, be put thus as it were to sleep, is undoubtedly greater than is imagined.
The most celebrated case in which an operation has been performed upon a patient in the state of artificial trance, is that of Madame Plantin. She was sixty-four years of age, and laboured under scirrhus of the breast. She was prepared for the operation by M. Chapélain, who on several successive days threw her into trance by the ordinary mesmeric manipulations. She was _then_ like an ordinary sleep-walker, and would converse with indifference about the contemplated operation, the idea of which, when she was in her natural state, filled her with terror. The operation of removing the diseased breast was performed at Paris on the 12th of April 1829, by M. Jules Cloquet: it lasted from ten to twelve minutes. During the whole of this time, the patient _in her trance_ conversed calmly with M. Cloquet, and exhibited not the slightest sign of suffering. Her expression of countenance did not change, nor were the voice, the breathing, or the pulse, at all affected. After the wound was dressed, the patient was awakened from the trance, when, on learning that the operation was over, and seeing her children round her, Madame Plantin was affected with considerable emotion: whereupon M. Chapélain, to compose her, put her back into the state of trance.
I copy the above particulars from Dr Foissac's "_Rapports et Discussions de l'Academie Royale de Medicine sur le Magnetisme Animal_."--Paris, 1833. "My friend, Dr Warren of Boston, informed me that, being at Paris, he had asked M. Jules Cloquet if the story were true. M. Cloquet answered, "Perfectly." "Then why," said Dr Warren, "have you not repeated the practice?" M. Cloquet replied, "that he had not dared: that the prejudice against mesmerism was so strong at Paris, that he probably would have lost his reputation and his income by so doing."
Here, then, we discover two purposes of partial, indeed, but signal utility, compassable by the induction of trance, at the very outset of our inquiry into its utility. It will appear by-and-by that this resource promises to afford yet farther assistance to the physician. In the mean time, let us look at a relation of the subject which may appear more interesting to the general reader.
It has been mentioned that, in ordinary trance, the relations of consciousness to the nervous system are altered; that the laws of sensation and perception are suspended, or temporarily changed; that the mind appears to gain new powers. For a long time we had to trust to the chance turning up of cases of spontaneous trance, in the experience of physicians of observation, for any light we could hope would be thrown on those extraordinary phenomena. Now we possess around us, on every side, adequate opportunities for completely elucidating these events, if we please to employ them. The philosopher, when his speculations suggest a new question to be put, can summon the attendance of a trance, as easily as the Jupiter of the Iliad summoned a dream. Or, looking out for two or three cases to which the induction of trance may be beneficial, the physician may have in his house subjects for perpetual reference and daily experiment.
A gentleman with whom I have long been well acquainted, for many years Chairman of the Quarter Sessions in a northern county, of which the last year he was High Sheriff, has, like M. de Puységur, amused some of his leisure hours, and benevolently done not a little good, by taking the trouble of mesmerising invalids, whom he has thus restored to health. In constant correspondence with, and occasionally having the pleasure of seeing this gentleman, I have learned from him the common course in which the new powers of the mind which belong to trance are developed under its artificial induction. The sketch which I propose to give of this subject will be taken on his descriptions, which, I should observe, tally in all essential points with what I meet with in French and German authors. The little that I have myself seen of the matter, I will mention preliminarily; the most astounding things, it appears to me safer to shelter under the authority of Petetin, who, towards the close of the last century, _in ignorance of mesmerism_, described these phenomena _as they came before him spontaneously in catalepsy_.
The method of inducing trance that is found to be most successful, is to sit immediately fronting, and close to the patient, holding his hands or thumbs, or pointing the extended hands towards his forehead, and slowly moving them in passes down his face, shoulders, and arms. It is now clear that the force brought into operation on this occasion, is the Od force of Von Reichenbach. So the patients sometimes speak of seeing the luminous aura proceeding from the finger-points of the operator, which Von Reichenbach's performers described. There are many who are utterly insensible to this agency. Others are sensible of it in slight, and in various ways. A small proportion, three in ten perhaps, are susceptible to the extent of being thrown into trance.
In some, a common fit of hysterics is produced. In others, slight headach, and a sense of weight on the eyebrows, and difficulty of raising the eyelids supervene.
In one young woman, whom I saw mesmerized for the first time by Dupotel, nothing resulted but a sense of pricking and tingling wherever he pointed with his hand; and her arm on one or two occasions jumped in the most natural and conclusive manner, when, her eyes being covered, he directed his outstretched finger to it.
A gentleman, about thirty years of age, when the mesmerizer held his outstretched hands pointed to his head, experienced no disposition to sleep; but in two or three minutes, he began to shake his head and twist his features about; at last, his head was jerked from side to side, and forwards and backwards, with a violence that looked alarming. But he said, when it was over, that the motion had not been unpleasant; that he had moved in a sort voluntarily; although he could not refrain from it. If the hands of the operator were pointed to his arm instead of his head, the same violent jerks came in it, and gradually extended to the whole body. I asked him to try to resist the influence, by holding his arm out in strong muscular tension. This had the effect of retarding the attack of the jerks, but, when it came on, it was more violent than usual.
A servant of mine, aged about twenty-five, was mesmerized by Lafontaine, for a full half hour, and, no effect appearing to be produced, I told him he might rise from the chair, and leave us. On getting up, he looked uneasy and said his arms wore numb. They were perfectly paralysed from the elbows downwards, and numb to the shoulders. This was the more satisfactory, that neither the man himself, nor Lafontaine, nor the four or five spectators, expected this result. The operator triumphantly drew a pin and stuck-it into the man's hand, which bled but had no feeling. Then heedlessly, to show it gave pain, Lafontaine stuck the pin into the man's thigh, whose flashing eye, and half suppressed growl, denoted that the aggression would certainly have been returned by another, had the arm which should have done it not been really powerless. However, M. Lafontaine made peace with the man, by restoring him the use and feeling of his arms. This was done by dusting them, as it were, by quick transverse motions of his extended hands. In five minutes nothing remained of the palsy but a slight stiffness, which gradually wore off in the course of the evening.
Genuine and ordinary trance, I have seen produced by the same manipulations in from three minutes, to half an hour. The patient's eyelids have dropped, he has appeared on the point of sleeping, but he has not sunk back upon his chair; then he has continued to sit upright, and seemingly perfectly insensible to the loudest sound or the acutest and most startling impressions on the sense of touch. The pulse is commonly a little increased in frequency; the breathing is sometimes heavier than usual.
Occasionally, as in Victor's case, the patient quickly and spontaneously emerges from the state of trance-sleep into trance half-waking; a rapidity of development which I am persuaded occurs much more frequently among the French than with the English or Germans. English patients, especially, for the most part require a long course of education, many sittings, to have the same powers drawn out. And these are by far the most interesting cases. I will describe from Mr Williamson's account, the course he has usually followed in developing his patient's powers, and the order in which they have manifested themselves.
On the first day, perhaps, nothing can be elicited. But after some minutes the stupor seems as it were less embarrassing to the patient, who appears less heavily slumbrous, and breathes lighter again; or it may be the reverse, particularly if the patient is epileptic; after a little, the breathing may be deeper, the state one of less composure. Pointing with the hands to the pit of the stomach, laying the hands upon the shoulders, and slowly moving them on the arms down to the hands, the whole with the utmost quietude and composure on the part of the operator, will dispel the oppression.
And the interest of the first sitting is confined to the process of awakening the patient, which is one of the most marvellous phenomena of the whole. The operator lays his two thumbs on the space between the eyebrows, and as it were vigorously smooths or irons his eyebrows, rubbing them from within, outwards seven or eight times. Upon this, the patient probably raises his head and his eyebrows, and draws a deeper breath as if he would yawn; he is half awake, and blowing upon the eyelids, or the repetition of the previous operation, or dusting the forehead by smart transverse wavings of the hand, or blowing upon it, causes the patient's countenance to become animated; the eyelids open, he looks about him, recognises you, and begins to speak. If any feeling of heaviness remains, any weight or pain of the forehead, another repetition of the same manipulations sets all right. And yet this patient would not have been awakened, if a gun had been fired at his ear, or his arm had been cut off.
At the next sitting, or the next to that, the living statue begins to wake in its tranced life. The operator holds one hand over the opposite hand of his patient, and makes as if he would draw the patient's hand upwards, raising his own with short successive jerks, yet not too abrupt. Then the patient's hand begins to follow his; and often having ascended some inches, stops in the air cataleptic. This fixed state is always relieved by transverse brushings with the hand, or by breathing in addition, on the rigid limb. And it is most curious to see the whole bodily frame, over which spasmodic rigidness may have crept, thus thawed joint by joint. Then the first effect shown commonly is this motion, the patient's hand following the operator's. At the same sitting, he begins to hear, and there is intelligence in his countenance, when the operator pronounces his name: perhaps his lips move, and he begins to answer pertinently as in ordinary sleep-walking. But he hears the operator alone best, and him even in a whisper. _Your_ voice, if you shout, he does not hear: unless you take the operator's hand, and then he hears _you_ too. In general, however, now the proximity of others seems in some way to be sensible to him; and he appears uneasy when they crowd close upon him. It seems that the force of the relation between the operator and his patient naturally goes on increasing, as the powers of the sleep-walker are developed; but that this is not necessarily the case, and depends upon its being encouraged by much commerce between them, and the exclusion of others from joining in this trance-communion.
And now the patient--beginning to wake in trance, hearing and answering the questions of the operator, moving each limb, or rising even, as the operator's hand is raised to draw him into obedient following--enters into a new relation with his mesmeriser. He _adopts sympathetically every voluntary movement of the other_. When the latter rises from his chair, _he_ rises; when he sits down, _he_ sits down; if he bows, _he_ bows; if he make a grimace, _he_ makes the same. Yet his eyes are closed. He certainly does not see. His mind has interpenetrated to a small extent the nervous system of the operator; and is in relation with his voluntary nerves and the anterior half of his cranio-spinal chord. (These are the organs by which the impulse to voluntary motion is conveyed and originated.) Farther into the other's being, he has not yet got. So he does not _what the other thinks of, or wishes him to do_; but only what the other either does, or goes through the mental part of doing. So Victor sang the air, which M. de Puységur only mentally hummed.
The next strange phenomenon marks that the mind of the untranced patient has interpenetrated the nervous system of the other _a step farther_, and is in relation besides with the posterior half of the cranio-spinal chord and its nerves. For now the entranced person, who has no feeling, or taste, or smell of his own, _feels, tastes, and smells every thing that is made to tell on the senses of the operator_. If mustard or sugar be put in his own mouth, he seems not to know that they are there; if mustard is placed on the tongue of the operator, the entranced person expresses great disgust, and tries as if to spit it out. The same with bodily pain. If you pluck a hair from the operator's head, the other complains of the pain you give _him_.
To state in the closest way what has happened--the phenomena of sympathetic motion and sympathetic sensation, thus displayed, are exactly such as might be expected to follow, if the mind or conscious principle of the entranced person were brought into relation with the cranio-spinal chord of the operator and its nerves, and with no farther portion of his nervous system. Later, it will be seen the interpenetration can extend farther.
But before this happens, a new phenomenon manifests itself, not of a sympathetic character. The operator contrives to wake the entranced person to the knowledge that he possesses new faculties. _He develops in him new organs of sensation_, or rather helps to hasten his recognition of their possession.
It is to be observed, however, that many and many who can be thrown into trance will not progress so far as to the present step. Others make a tantalising half advance towards reaching it _thus_; and then stop. They are asked, "Do you see any thing?" After some days at length, they answer, "Yes"--"What?" "A light." "Where is the light?" Then they intimate its place to be either before them, or at the crown of the head, or behind one ear, or quite behind the head. And they describe the colour of the light, which is commonly yellow. And each day it occupies the same direction, and is seen equally when the room is light or dark. Their eyes in the mean time are closed. And here, with many, the phenomenon stops.
But, with others, it goes thus strangely farther. In this light they begin to discern objects, or they see whatever is presented to them in the direction in which the light lies, whether before the forehead or at the crown of the head, or wherever it may be. Sometimes the range of this new sense is very limited, and the object to be seen must be held near to the new organ. Sometimes it must touch it; generally, however, the sense commands what the eye would, if it were placed there.
One tries first to escape the improbability of an extempore organ of sense being thus established, by supposing that the mind of the entranced person has only penetrated a little deeper than before into yours, and perceives what you see. But I had the following experiment made, which excludes this solution of the phenomenon. The party standing behind the entranced person, whose use it was to see with the back of her head, held behind him a pack of cards, and then, drawing one of them, presented it, without seeing it himself, to her new organ of vision. She named the card justly each time the experiment was repeated.
The degree of light suiting this new vision varies in different cases: sometimes bright daylight is best; generally they prefer a moderate light. Some distinguish objects and colours in a light so obscure that the standers-by cannot distinguish the same with their eyes.
The above phenomena have been, over and over again, verified by the gentleman whom I before referred to, Mr J. W. Williamson of Whickham; and not only have I received the accounts of them from himself, but from two other gentlemen, who repeatedly witnessed their manifestation in patients at Mr Williamson's residence.
A parallel transposition of the sense of hearing I will exemplify from the details of a case of catalepsy, or spontaneous trance, as they are given by the observer, Dr Petetin, an eminent civil and military physician of Lyons, where he was president of the Medical Society. The work in which they are given is entitled, "Memoire sur la Catalepsie. 1787."
M. Petetin attended a young married lady in a sort of fit. She lay seemingly unconscious; when he raised her arm, it remained in the air where he placed it. Being put to bed, she commenced singing. To stop her, the doctor placed her limbs each in a different position. This embarrassed her considerably, but she went on singing. She seemed perfectly insensible. Pinching the skin, shouting in her ear, nothing aroused attention. Then it happened that, in arranging her, the doctor's foot slipped; and, as he recovered himself, half leaning over her, he said, "how provoking we can't make her leave off singing!" "Ah, doctor," she cried, "don't be angry! I won't sing any more," and she stopped. But shortly she began again; and in vain did the doctor implore her, by the loudest entreaties, addressed to her ear, to keep her promise and desist. It then occurred to him to place himself in the same position as when she heard him before. He raised the bed-clothes, bent his head towards her stomach, and said, in a loud voice, "Do you, then, mean to sing forever?" "Oh, what pain you have given me!" she exclaimed--"I implore you speak lower;" at the same time she passed her hand over the pit of her stomach. "In what way, then, do you hear?" said Dr Petetin. "Like any one else," was the answer. "But I am speaking to your stomach." "Is it possible!" she said. He then tried again whether she could hear with her ears, speaking even through a tube to aggravate his voice;--she heard nothing. On his asking her, at the pit of her stomach, if she had not heard him,--"No," said she, "I am indeed unfortunate."
A cognate phenomenon to the above is _the conversion of the patient's new sense of vision in a direction inwards_. He looks into himself, and sees his own inside as it were illuminated or transfigured.
A few days after the scone just described, Dr Petetin's patient had another attack of catalepsy. She still heard at the pit of her stomach, but the manner of hearing was modified. In the mean time her countenance expressed astonishment. Dr Petetin inquired the cause. "It is not difficult," she answered, "to explain to you why I look astonished. I am singing, doctor, to divert my attention from a sight which appals me. I see my inside, and the strange forms of the organs, surrounded with a network of light. My countenance must express what I feel,--astonishment and fear. A physician who should have my complaint for a quarter of an hour would think himself fortunate, as nature would reveal all her secrets to him. If he was devoted to his profession, he would not, as I do, desire to be quickly well." "Do you see your heart?" asked Dr Petetin. "Yes, there it is; it beats at twice; the two sides in agreement; when the upper part contracts, the lower part swells, and immediately after that contracts. The blood rushes out all luminous, and issues by two great vessels which are but a little apart."
There are many cases like the above on record, perfectly attested. There is no escaping from the facts. We have no resource but to believe them. Things if possible still more marvellous remain behind. The more advanced patient penetrates the sensoria of those around her, and knows their thoughts and all the folds of their characters. She is able, farther, to perceive objects, directly, at considerable--indefinite distances. She can foresee coming events in her own health. Finally, she can feel and discern by a kind of intuition, what is the matter with another person either brought into her presence, or who is, in certain other ways, identified by her. As the evidence of the possession of these faculties by entranced persons is complete, and admits of no question, an important use, I repeat, of the artificial induction of trance is, that it will multiply occasions of sifting this extraordinary field of psychological inquiry.
In the mean time I will not trespass upon your patience farther, nor weary you with farther instances, beyond giving the sequel of the case of catalepsy of which I have above mentioned some particulars. You will see in it a shadowing out of most of the other powers, which I have said are occasionally manifested by persons in trance, which sometimes attain an extraordinary vigour and compass, and which are maintained, or are maintainable, for several years, being manifested for that time, though not without caprice and occasional entire failures, on the patient reverting to the entranced condition. One of the most interesting features in what follows is, that it is evident M. Petetin was entirely unacquainted with mesmerism; and, at the same time, that he had all but discovered and developed the art of mesmeric manipulation himself.
The following morning, (to give the latter part of the case of catalepsy,) the access of the fit took place, according to custom, at eight o'clock in the morning. Petetin arrived later than usual; he announced himself by speaking to the fingers of the patient, (by which he was heard.) "You are a very lazy person this morning, doctor," said she. "It is true, madam; but if you knew the reason, you would not reproach me." "Ah," said she, "I perceive, you have had a headach for the last four hours; it will not leave you till six in the evening. You are right to take nothing; no human means can prevent its running its course." "Can you tell me on which side is the pain?" said Petetin. "On the right side; it occupies the temple, the eye, the teeth: I warn you that it will invade the left eye, and that you will suffer considerably between three and four o'clock; at six you will be free from pain." The prediction came out literally true. "If you wish me to believe you, you must tell me what I hold in my hand?" "I see through your hand an antique medal."
Petetin inquired of his patient at what hour her own fit would cease: "at eleven." "And the evening accession, when will it come on?" "At seven o'clock." "In that case it will be later than usual." "It is true; the periods of its recurrence are going to change to so and so." During this conversation, the patient's countenance expressed annoyance. She then said to M. Petetin, "My uncle has just entered; he is conversing with my husband, _behind the screen_; his visit will fatigue me, beg him to go away." The uncle, leaving, took with him by mistake her husband's cloak, which she perceived, and sent her sister-in-law to reclaim it.
In the evening, there were assembled, in the lady's apartment, a good number of her relations and friends. Petetin had, intentionally, placed a letter within his waistcoat, on his heart. He begged permission, on arriving, to wear his cloak. Scarcely had the lady, the access having come on, fallen into catalepsy, when she said, "And how long, doctor, has it come into fashion to wear letters next the heart?" Petetin pretended to deny the fact; she insisted on her correctness; and, raising her hands, designated the size, and indicated exactly the place of the letter. Petetin drew forth the letter, and held it, closed, to the fingers of the patient. "If I were not a discreet person," she said, "I should tell the contents; but to show you that I know them, they form exactly two lines and a half of writing;" which, on opening the letter, was shown to be the fact.
A friend of the family, who was present, took out his purse and put it in Dr Petetin's bosom, and folded his cloak over his chest. As soon as Petetin approached his patient, she told him that he had the purse, and named its exact contents. She then gave an inventory of the contents of the pockets of all present; adding some pointed remark when the opportunity offered. She said to her sister-in-law that the most interesting thing in _her_ possession was a letter;--much to her surprise, for she had received the letter the same evening and had mentioned it to no one.
The patient, in the mean time, lost strength daily, and could take no food. The means employed failed of giving her relief, and it never occurred to M. Petetin to inquire of her how he should treat her. At length, with some vague idea that she suffered from too great electric tension of the brain, he tried, fantastically enough, the effect of making deep inspirations, standing close in front of the patient. No effect followed from this absurd proceeding. _Then he placed one hand on the forehead, the other on the pit of the stomach of the patient_, and continued his inspirations. The patient now opened her eyes; her features lost their fixed look; she rallied rapidly from the fit, which lasted but a few minutes instead of the usual period of two hours more. In eight days, under a pursuance of this treatment, she entirely recovered from her fits, and with them ceased her extraordinary powers. But, during these eight days, her powers manifested a still greater extension; she foretold what was going to happen to her; she discussed, with astonishing subtlety, questions of mental philosophy and physiology; she caught what those around her meant to say, before they expressed their wishes, and either did what they desired, or begged that they would not ask her to do what was beyond her strength.
In conclusion, let me animadvert upon the injustice with which, to its own loss, society has treated mesmerism. The use of mesmerism in nervous disorders, its use towards preventing suffering in surgical operations, have been denied and scoffed at in the teeth of positive evidence. The supposition of physical influence existing that can emanate from one human being and affect the nerves of another, was steadily combated as a gratuitous fiction, till Von Reichenbach's discoveries demonstrated its soundness. And, finally, the marvels of _clairvoyance_ were considered an absolute proof of the visionary character of animal magnetism, because the world was ignorant that they occur independently of that influence, which only happens to be one of the modes of inducing the condition of trance in which they spontaneously manifest themselves. Adieu, dear Archy.
HISTORY OF THE CAPTIVITY OF NAPOLEON AT ST HELENA.
Whatever may be the pursuits of our posterity, whether the mind of nations will turn on philosophy or politics, whether on a descent to the centre of the earth, or on the model of a general Utopia--whether on a telegraphic correspondence with the new planet, by a galvanised wire two thousand eight hundred and fifty millions of miles long, or on a Chartist government--we have not the slightest reason to doubt, that our generation will be regarded as having lived in the most brilliant time of the by-gone world.
The years from 1789 to 1815 unquestionably include the most stirring period since the great primal convulsion, that barbarian deluge, which changed the face of Europe in the fifth century. But the vengeance which called the Vandal from his forest to crush the Roman empire, and after hewing down the Colossus which, for seven hundred years, had bestrode the world, moulded kingdoms out of its fragments, was of a totally different order from that which ruled over our great day of Change. In that original revolution, man, as the individual, was scarcely more than the sufferer. It was a vast outburst of force, as uncircumscribed as uncontrollable, and as unconnected with motives merely human, as an inroad of the ocean. It was a vast expanse of human existence, rushing surge on surge over the barriers of fair and fertile empire. It was hunger, and love of seizure, and hot thirst of blood, embodied in a mass of mankind rushing down upon luxury and profligacy, and governmental incapacity embodied in other masses of mankind. An invasion from the African wilderness with all its lions and leopards in full roar, could scarcely have less been urged by motives of human nature.
But the great revolution which in our time shook Europe, and is still spreading its shock to the confines of the world, was _human_ in the most remarkable degree. It was the work of impulses fierce and wild, yet peculiarly belonging to man. It was a succession of lights and shadows of human character, contrasted in the most powerful degree, as they passed before the eye of Europe--the ambition of man, the rage of man, the voluptuousness, the ferocity, the gallantry, and the fortitude of man, in all the varieties of human character. It was man in the robes of tragedy, comedy, and pantomime, but it was every where _man_. Every great event on which the revolution was suspended for the time, originated with some remarkable individual, and took its shape even from some peculiarity in that individual.
Thus, the period of mob-massacre began with the sudden ascendency of Marat--a hideous assassin, who regarded the knife as the only instrument of governing, and proclaimed as his first principle of political regeneration, that "half a million of heads must fall."
The second stage, the Reign of Terror, began with Robespierre, a village lawyer; in whose mingled cruelty and craft originated the bloody mockeries of that "Revolutionary Tribunal," which, under the semblance of trial, sent all the accused to the guillotine, and in all the formalities of justice committed wholesale murder.
The third stage was the reign of the Directory--the work of the voluptuous Barras--and reflecting his profligacy in all the dissoluteness of a government of plunder and confiscation, closing in national debauchery and decay.
The final stage was War--under the guidance of a man whose whole character displayed the most prominent features of soldiership. From that moment, the republic bore the sole impress of war. France had placed at her head the most impetuous, subtle, ferocious, and all-grasping, of the monarchs of mankind. She instantly took the shape which, like the magicians of old commanding their familiar spirits, the great magician of our age commanded her to assume. Peace--the rights of man--the mutual ties of nations--the freedom of the serf and the slave--the subversion of all the abuses of the ancient thrones--all the old nominal principles of revolutionary patriotism, were instantly thrown aside, like the rude weapons of a peasant insurrection, the pike and the ox-goad, for the polished and powerful weapons of royal armouries. In all the conquests of France the serf and the slave were left in their chains; the continental kingdoms, bleeding by the sword until they lay in utter exhaustion, were suffered to retain all their abuses; the thrones, stripped of all their gold and jewels, were yet suffered to stand. Every pretext of moral and physical redress was contemptuously abandoned, and France herself exhibited the most singular of all transformations.--The republic naked, frantic, and covered with her own gore, was suddenly seen robed in the most superb investitures of monarchy; assuming the most formal etiquette of empire, and covered with royal titles. This was the most extraordinary change in the recollections of history, and for the next hundred, or for the next thousand years, it will excite wonder. But the whole period will be to posterity what Virgil describes the Italian plains to have been to the peasant of his day, a scene of gigantic recollections; as, turning up with the ploughshare the site of ancient battles, he finds the remnants of a race of bolder frame and more trenchant weapons--the weightier sword and the mightier arm.
What the next age may develop in the arts of life, or the knowledge of nature, must remain in that limbo of vanity, to which Ariosto consigned embryo politicians, and Milton consigned departed friars--the world of the moon. But it will scarcely supply instances of more memorable individual faculties, or of more powerful effects produced by those faculties. The efforts of Conspiracy and Conquest in France, the efforts of Conservatism and Constitution in England, produced a race of men whom nothing but the crisis could have produced, and who will find no rivals in the magnitude of their capacities, the value of their services, in their loftiness of principle, and their influence on their age; until some similar summons shall be uttered to the latent powers of mankind, from some similar crisis of good and evil. The eloquence of Burke, Pitt, Fox, and a crowd of their followers, in the senate of England, and the almost fiendish vividness of the republican oratory, have remained without equals, and almost without imitators--the brilliancy of French soldiership, in a war which swept Europe with the swiftness and the devastation of a flight of locusts--the British campaigns of the Peninsula, those most consummate displays of fortitude and decision, of the science which baffles an enemy, and of the bravery which crushes him--will be lessons to the soldier in every period to come.
But the foremost figure of the great history-piece of revolution, was the man, of whose latter hours we are now contemplating. Napoleon may not have been the ablest statesman, or the most scientific soldier, or the most resistless conqueror, or the most magnificent monarch of mankind--but what man of his day so closely combined all those characters, and was so distinguished in them all? It is idle to call him the child of chance--it is false to call his power the creation of opportunity--it is trifling with the common understanding of man, to doubt his genius. He was one of those few men, who are formed to guide great changes in the affairs of nations. The celebrity of his early career, and the support given to him by the disturbances of France, are nothing in the consideration of the philosopher; or perhaps they but separate him more widely from the course of things, and assimilate him more essentially with those resistless influences of nature, which, rising from we know not what, and operating we know not how, execute the penalties of Heaven:--those moral pestilences which, like the physical, springing from some spot of obscurity, and conveyed by the contact of the obscure, suddenly expand into universal contagion, and lay waste the mind of nations.
In the earlier volumes of the Journal of Count Montholon, the assistance of Las Cases was used to collect the imperial _dicta_. But on the baron's being sent away from St Helena--an object which he appears to have sought with all the eagerness of one determined to make his escape, yet equally resolved on turning that escape into a subject of complaint--the duty of recording Napoleon's opinions devolved on Montholon. In the year 1818, Napoleon's health began visibly to break. His communications with O'Meara, the surgeon appointed by the English government, became more frequent; and as Napoleon was never closely connected with any individual without an attempt to make him a partisan, the governor's suspicions were excited by this frequency of intercourse. We by no means desire to stain the memory of O'Meara (he is since dead) with any dishonourable suspicion. But Sir Hudson Lowe cannot be blamed for watching such a captive with all imaginable vigilance. The recollection of the facility which too much dependance on his honour gave to Napoleon's escape from Elba, justly sharpened the caution of the governor. The fear of another European conflagration made the safeguard of the Ex-Emperor an object of essential policy, not merely to England, but to Europe; and the probability of similar convulsions rendered his detention at St Helena as high a duty as ever was intrusted to a British officer.
We are not now about to discuss the charges made against Sir Hudson Lowe; but it is observable, that they are made solely on the authority of Napoleon, and of individuals dismissed for taking too strong an interest in that extraordinary man. Those complaints may be easily interpreted in the instance of the prisoner, as the results of such a spirit having been vexed by the circumstances of his tremendous fall; and also, in the instance of those who were dismissed, as a species of excuse for the transactions which produced their dismissal. But there can be no doubt that those complaints had not less the direct object of keeping the name of the Ex-Emperor before the eyes of Europe; that they were meant as stimulants to partisanship in France; and that, while they gratified the incurable bile of the fallen dynasty against England, they were also directed to produce the effect of reminding the French soldiery that Napoleon was still in existence.
Yet there was a pettiness in all his remonstrances, wholly inconsistent with greatness of mind. He thus talks of Sir Hudson Lowe:--
"I never look on him without being reminded of the assassin of Edward II. in the Castle of Berkeley, heating the bar of iron which was to be the instrument of his crime. Nature revolts against him. In my eyes she seems to have marked him, like Cain, with a seal of reprobation."
Napoleon's knowledge of history was here shown to be pretty much on a par with his knowledge of scripture. The doubts regarding the death of Edward II. had evidently not come to his knowledge; and, so far as Cain was concerned, the sign was not one of reprobation, but of protection--it was a mark that "no man should slay him."
But all those complaints were utterly unworthy of a man who had played so memorable a part in the affairs of Europe. He who had filled the French throne had seen enough of this world's glory; and he who had fallen from it had been plunged into a depth of disaster, which ought to have made him regardless ever after of what man could do to him. A man of his rank ought to have disdained both the good and ill which he could receive from the governor of his prison. But he wanted the magnanimity that bears misfortune well: when he could no longer play the master of kingdoms, he was content to quarrel about valets; and having lost the world, to make a little occupation for himself in complaining of the want of etiquette in his dungeon. But the spirit of the intriguer survived every other spirit within him, and it is by no means certain that the return of O'Meara and Gourgaud to Europe was not a part of that intrigue in which Napoleon played the Italian to the last hour of his life. It is true that the general returned under a certificate of ill health, and it is also perfectly possible that the surgeon was unconscious of the intrigue. But there can be no doubt of the design; and that design was, to excite a very considerable interest in Europe, on behalf of the prisoner of St Helena. Gourgaud, immediately after his arrival, wrote a long letter to Marie Louise, which was palpably intended more for the Emperors of Russia and Austria than for the feelings of the Ex-Empress, of whose interest in the matter the world has had no knowledge whatever.
In this letter it was declared, that Napoleon was dying in the most frightful and prolonged agony. "Yes, Madame," said this epistle, "he whom Divine and human laws unite to you by the most sacred ties--he whom you have beheld an object of homage to almost all the sovereigns of Europe, and over whose fate I saw you shed so many tears when he left you, is perishing by a most cruel death--a captive on a rock in the midst of the ocean, at a distance of two thousand leagues from those whom he holds most dear."
The letter then proceeds to point out the object of the appeal. "These sufferings may continue for a long time. There is still time to save him: the moment seems very favourable. The Sovereigns are about to assemble at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle--passions seem calmed--Napoleon is now far from being formidable. In these circumstances let your Majesty deign to reflect what an effect a great step on your part would produce--that, for instance, of going to this Congress, and there soliciting a termination to the Emperor's sufferings, of supplicating your august father to unite his efforts with yours, in order to have Napoleon confided to his charge, if policy did not permit him to be restored to liberty; and how great would be your Majesty's own happiness: It would be said, the sovereigns of Europe, after having vanquished the great Napoleon, abandoned him to his most cruel enemies, they conducted him towards his grave by the most prolonged and barbarous torments, the continuation of his agony urged him even to demand more active executioners; he seemed forgotten, and without hope of aid; but Marie Louise remained to him, and he was restored to life."
Whether this letter ever reached its address is not clear; but if it did, it produced no discoverable effect.
But the absence of those confidants increased the troubles of the unlucky Montholon in a formidable degree, and Napoleon's habit of dictating his thoughts and recollections, (which he frequently continued for hours together, and sometimes into the middle of the night,) pressed heavily on the Count and Bertrand; the latter being excluded after six in the evening, when the sentinels were posted for the night, as he resided with his family, and thus devolving the task of the night on Montholon. Those dictations were sometimes on high questions of state, and on theories of war; sometimes on matters of the day, as in the following instance.
The death of the Princess Charlotte, which threw the mind of England into such distress, had just been made known at St Helena. Napoleon spoke of it as reminding him of the perilous child-birth of Marie Louise. "Had it not been for me," said he, "she would have lost her life, like this poor Princess Charlotte. What a misfortune! young and beautiful, destined to the throne of a great nation, and to die for want of proper care on the part of her nearest relations! Where was her husband? where was her mother? why were they not beside her, as I was beside Marie Louise? She, too, would have died, had I left her to the care of the professional people. She owes her life to my being with her during the whole time of danger; for I shall never forget the moment when the accoucheur Dubois came to me pale with fright, and hardly able to articulate, and informed me that a choice must be made between the life of the mother and that of the child. The peril was imminent; there was not a moment to be lost in decision. 'Save the mother,' said I--'it is her right. Proceed just as you would do in the case of a citizen's wife of the Rue St Denis.' It is a remarkable fact, that this answer produced an electric effect on Dubois. He recovered his _sang froid_, and calmly explained to me the causes of the danger. In a quarter of an hour afterwards, the King of Rome was born; but at first the infant was believed to be dead, he had suffered so much on coming into the world, and it was with much difficulty that the physicians recalled him to life."
It will probably be recollected as a similar instance of the advantage of care and decision, that Queen Caroline was rescued from the same hazard. Her accouchment was preceded by great suffering, and her strength seemed totally exhausted. The attendants were in a state of extreme alarm, when Lord Thurlow said, in his usual rough way, "Don't think of princesses here: treat her like the washerwoman, and give her a glass of brandy." The advice was followed, and the Princess speedily recovered.
Connected with the history of this short-lived son, is an anecdote, which Napoleon related as an instance of his own love of justice. When the palace was about to be built for the King of Rome at Passy, it was necessary to purchase some buildings which already stood on the ground. One of these was a hut belonging to a cooper, which the architects valued at a thousand francs. But the cooper, resolving to make the most of his tenure, now demanded ten times the sum. Napoleon ordered the money to be given to him; but when the contract was brought to him to sign, the fellow said, that "as an Emperor disturbed him," he ought to pay for turning him out, and must give him thirty thousand francs. "The good man is a little exacting," said Napoleon, "still there is some sense in his argument. Give him the thirty thousand, and let me hear no more about it." But the cooper, thinking that he had a fine opportunity, now said that he could not take less than forty thousand. The architect did not know what to say; he dared not again mention the matter to the Emperor, and yet it was absolutely necessary to have the house. Napoleon learned what was passing, and was angry, but allowed the offer of the forty thousand. Again the dealer retracted, and demanded fifty thousand. "He is a despicable creature," said the Emperor. "I will have none of his paltry hut: it shall remain where it is, as a testimony of my respect for the law."
The works were still going on at the time of the exile, in 1814; and, the cooper, finding himself in the midst of rubbish and building materials, groaned over the consequences of his folly, or rather of his extortion, for he had thus, deservedly, lost the opportunity of making his fortune.
The death of Cipriani, the _maître d'hôtel_, occurred about this time, and was startling from its suddenness. He was serving Napoleon's dinner, when he was attacked by such violent pains, that he was unable to reach his chamber without assistance. He rolled on the ground, uttering piercing cries. Four-and-twenty hours afterwards his coffin was carried to the cemetery of Plantation House! Cipriani had been employed in the secret police, and had distinguished himself by some difficult missions in the affairs of Naples and Northern Italy. It was only after the banishment to Elba that he had formed a part of the household. It was to Cipriani that the taking of Capri was owing. In 1806, Sir Hudson Lowe commanded at Capri, as lieutenant-colonel of a legion, composed of Corsican and Neapolitan deserters. The position of Capri in the Bay of Naples was of some importance for carrying on communications with those hostile to the French interest in Italy. Salicetti, prime minister of Naples, was vainly pondering on the capture of Capri; when it occurred to him to employ Cipriani, to put it into his power by surprise or treachery. Among the Corsicans under Sir H. Lowe's command, was one Suzanelli, a profligate, who had reduced himself by his debaucheries to acting as a spy. Cipriani soon ascertained that they had been fellow-students at college.
The whole story is curious, as an instance of the dexterity of Italian treachery, and of the difficulty which an honest man must always find in dealing with that people. Cipriani instantly found out Suzanelli, who was then in Naples, and said, "I know all, but we are fellow-countrymen--we have eaten the same soup: I do not desire to make you lose your head: choose between the scaffold, and making your fortune from your own country.--You are the spy of the English: help me to expel them from Capri, and your fortune is made. Refuse, and you are my prisoner, and will be shot within twenty-four hours." "I take your offer," was the answer. "What do you want with me?" Cipriani proposed to give him double what he received from the English, on condition of handing over all the letters which he received for Naples, and delivering the answers as if he had received them from the writers. Suzanelli thenceforth communicated all news relative to the movements of old Queen Caroline, and the British in the Mediterranean. Sir Hudson Lowe's confidence in Suzanelli was so much increased by the apparently important communications which the Neapolitan police had purposely made to him, that he rewarded him profusely, and at length accepted his offer of furnishing recruits to the Corsican legion at Capri. When the garrison was corrupted through the medium of those recruits, and an expedition was prepared at Naples, Suzanelli, in order to hoodwink the governor of Capri, whose vigilance might be awakened by the preparations, sent him a detailed report of the strength and object of the expedition, but telling him that it was meant to attack the Isle of Ponza. The expedition, under General La Marque, sailed at night, and the French effected their landing by surprise. The Royal Maltese regiment contained a great number of Suzanelli's recruits. They laid down their arms, and surrendered the forts in their charge. The commandant succeeded with difficulty in shutting himself up in the citadel with the royal Corsican regiment. It was inaccessible by assault, but the French dragged some heavy guns to a commanding height, and after a cannonade the garrison capitulated.
This story is not exactly true; for the capitulation was _not_ the result of the cannonade; but water and provisions had totally failed. The attempt made by an English frigate to succour the island had been frustrated by a violent gale, and there was no resource but to give up the island. Yet, if our memory is exact, there was _no_ capitulation; for the garrison escaped without laying down their arms.
It is proverbial, that great events frequently depend upon very little causes. All the world now blames the precipitancy of Napoleon in leaving Elba while the Congress was assembled. If he had waited until it was dissolved, he would have gained all the time which must have been lost by the Allies in reuniting their councils. The princes and diplomatists would have been scattered; the armies would have marched homewards; months would probably have elapsed before they could again have been brought into the field; and during that period, there would have been full opportunity for all the arts of intrigue and insinuation, which Napoleon so well knew how to use. Or, if he had delayed his return for a twelvemonth longer, he would have only found the obstacles so much the more diminished. In short, to him, the gain of time was every thing.
His own narrative on the subject now was, that he had been misled; that he was fully sensible of the advantages of delay, but that accident had betrayed him. He had established a secret correspondence with Vienna, through which he received weekly accounts of all that had passed in Congress, and was prepared to act accordingly. One of his agents, De Chaboulon, arrived at Elba, at the same period with the Chevalier D'Istria, (whom the King of Naples had sent with the despatch received from his ambassador at Vienna,) announcing the closing of the Congress, and the departure of the Emperor Alexander. On this intelligence Napoleon determined immediately to set sail for France, without waiting for the return of Cipriani, whom he had sent on a special mission. Had he waited for that return, the Emperor Alexander would have been on his way to Russia. But the result of his precipitancy was, that by rushing into France, while the emperors and diplomatists were still in combination, they were enabled to level the blow at him immediately. Instead of negotiations, he was pursued with a hue and cry; and instead of being treated as a prince, he was proclaimed an outlaw. Cipriani arrived in Elba on the 27th of February, but Napoleon had sailed on the evening of the 26th. So delicate was the interval between total ruin and what might have been final security; for Cipriani brought news of the Congress, and despatches from Vienna, which would have proved the importance of delaying the departure of the expedition.
But it must now be acknowledged that, if there ever was a human being under the influence of infatuation, that being was Napoleon, in the latter stages of his career. For ten years the favourite of fortune, the long arrear had begun to be paid in the year 1812. His expedition to Moscow was less a blunder than a frenzy. There was, perhaps, not one man in a thousand in Europe but foresaw the almost inevitable ruin of his army. We can recollect the rejoicing with which this perilous advance was viewed in England, and the universal prediction that the Russian deserts would be the grave of his army, if not of his empire. Poland had been conquered in a march and a month. The residence of Napoleon at Warsaw for the winter would have raised a Polish army for him, and would have given him a year for the march to Moscow. But he was _infatuated_: there is no other solution of the problem. He rushed on, captured the capital, and was ruined. Even with Moscow in ashes round him, he still persisted in the folly of supposing that he could persuade into peace an empire which had just given so tremendous an evidence of its fidelity and its fortitude. He was infatuated. He was detained amid the embers until it was impossible to remain longer, and equally impossible to escape the horrors of a Russian winter in a march of six hundred miles. His hour was come. Of an army which numbered four hundred thousand men on crossing the Niemen, probably not one thousand ever returned; for the broken troops which actually came back had been reinforcements which reached the Grand Army from time to time. He reached Paris with the stamp of fallen sovereignty on his brow: the remainder of his career was a struggle against his sentence. Waterloo was merely the scaffold: he was under irretrievable condemnation long before.
In his captivity, Napoleon was liberal in his donatives. On the departure of Balcombe, in whose house he had remained for some time on his arrival in the island, he gave him a bill for seventy-two thousand francs, with the grant of a pension of twelve thousand,--saying to him "I hear that your resignation of your employment is caused by the quarrels drawn upon you through the hospitality which you showed me: I should not wish you to regret ever having known me."
A quarrel relative to the bulletins of Napoleon's health, produced an order from the governor for the arrest of O'Meara. There was a vast quantity of peevishness exercised on the subject, and Napoleon attempted to raise this trifling affair into a general quarrel of the commissioners. But on his declaring that he would no longer receive the visits of O'Meara while under arrest, the governor revoked the order, and O'Meara continued his attendance until instructions were received from Lord Bathurst, to remove him from his situation in the household of the Emperor, and send him to England. This gave another opportunity for complaint. "I have lived too long," said Buonaparte; "your ministers are very bold. When the Pope was my prisoner, I would have cut off my arm rather than have signed an order for laying hands on his physician."
Before leaving the island, O'Meara drew up a statement of his patient's health, in which he seems to have regarded the liver as the chief seat of his disease. A copy of this paper reached home, when Cardinal Fesch and the mother of Napoleon had it examined by her own physician and four medical professors of the university. They also pronounced the disease to consist of an obstruction of the liver. So much for the certainty of medicine. The whole report is now known to have been a blunder. Napoleon ultimately died of a fearful disease, which probably has no connexion with the liver at all. His disease was cancer in the stomach.
The result of those quarrels, however, was to give a less circumscribed promenade to Napoleon. On the decline of his health being distinctly stated to Sir Hudson Lowe, he enlarged the circle of his exercise, and Napoleon resumed his walks and works. From this period, too, he resumed those dictations which, in the form of notes, contained his personal opinions, or rather those apologies for his acts, which he now became peculiarly anxious to leave behind him to posterity.
Whatever may be the historic value of those notes, it is impossible to read them without the interest belonging to transactions which shook Europe, and without remembering that they were the language of a man by far the most remarkable of his time, if not the most remarkable for the result of his acts, since the fall of the Roman empire. In speaking of the return from Elba--"I took," said he, "that resolution as soon as it was proved to me that the Bourbons considered themselves as the continuance of the Third Dynasty, and denied the legal existence of the Republic, and the Empire, which were thenceforth to be regarded only as usurping governments. The consequences of this system were flagrant. It became the business of the bishops to reclaim their sees; the property of the clergy, and the emigrants must be restored. All the services rendered in the army of Condé and in La Vendée, all the acts of treachery committed in opening the gates of France to the armies which brought back the king, merited reward. All those rendered under the standard of the Republic and the Empire were acts of felony." He then gave his special view of the overthrow of the French monarchy.
"The Revolution of 1789 was a general attack of the masses upon the privileged classes. The nobles had occupied, either directly or indirectly, all the posts of justice, high and low. They were exempt from the charges of the state, and yet enjoyed all the advantages accruing from them, by the exclusive possession of all honourable and lucrative employments. The principal aim of the Revolution was to abolish those privileges." He then declared the advantages of the Revolution. "It had established the right of every citizen, according to his merit, to attain to every employment; it had broken down the arbitrary divisions of the provinces, and out of many little nations formed a great one. It made the civil and criminal laws the same every where--the regulations and taxes the same every where. The half of the country changed its proprietors."
This statement is true, and yet the mask is easily taken off the Revolution. The whole question is, whether the means by which it was purchased were not wholly unnecessary. It cost seven years of the most cruel and comprehensive wickedness that the world ever saw; and, when at last its violence overflowed the frontiers, it cost nearly a quarter of a century of slaughter, of ruthless plunder and savage devastation, concluding with the capture of the French capital itself, twice within two years, and the restoration of the royal family by the bayonets of the conquerors.
Yet every beneficial change which was produced by the Revolution, at this enormous waste of national strength and human happiness, had been offered by the French throne before a drop of blood was shed; and was disdained by the leaders of the populace, in their palpable preference for the havoc of their species.
In the beginning of November, 1818, Sir Hudson Lowe communicated to Count Montholon a despatch from Lord Bathurst announcing the departure from Italy of two priests, a physician, a _maître d'hôtel_ and cook, sent by Cardinal Fesch, for the service of Longwood. This news was received by the household with joy, in consequence of Napoleon's declining health. Towards the end of November he became worse; and Dr Stock, the surgeon of one of the ships on the station, was sent for, and attended him for a while. Liver complaint was Napoleon's disease in the opinion of the doctor; the true disease having escaped them all. The paroxysm passed off, and for six weeks his constitution seemed to be getting the better of his disease.
The complaints of the governor's conduct appear to have been kept up with the same restless assiduity. If we are to judge from a conversation with Montholon, those complaints were of the most vexatious order. "It is very hard," said Sir Hudson, "that I who take so much care to avoid doing what is disagreeable, should be constantly made the victim of calumnies; that I should be presented as an object of ridicule to the eyes of the European powers; that the commissioners of the great powers should say to me themselves, that Count Bertrand had declared to them that I was a fool; that I could not be sure that the Emperor was at Longwood; that I had been forty days without seeing him; and that he might be dead without my knowing any thing of it." He further said that the newspapers, and particularly the _Edinburgh Review_, were full of articles which represented him as an assassin. But in the mean time, it was necessary that the orderly officer should see Napoleon every day, and that this might be done in any way he pleased. All that was necessary was, that he should be seen.
Yet this demand of seeing him, which was thus expressed in moderate terms, and obviously essential to his safe keeping, was answered in the lofty style of a melodrama. "Count Bertrand and myself have both informed you, sir, that you should never violate the Emperor's privacy without forcing his doors, and shedding blood."
A great deal of the pretended irritation of Napoleon and his household, arose from the governor's omission of the word Emperor in his notes; and on this subject a cavil had existed even in England. Yet what could be more childish than such a cavil, either in England or in St Helena? It is a well-known diplomatic rule, that no title which a new power may give to itself can be acknowledged, except as a matter of distinct negotiation; and those Frenchmen must have known that the governor had no right to acknowledge a title, which had never been acknowledged by the British Cabinet.
At length the quarrel rose to bullying. The governor having insisted on his point, that Napoleon should be seen by the orderly officer; this was fiercely refused; and at length Bertrand made use of offensive language, filling up the offence by a challenge to the governor. The most surprising matter in the whole business is, that Sir Hudson did not instantly send the blusterer to the black-hole. It was obvious that the idea of fighting with men under his charge was preposterous. But he still, and we think injudiciously, as a matter of the code of honour, wrote, that if Count Bertrand had not patience to wait another opportunity, as he could not fight his _prisoner_, he might satisfy his rage by fighting Lieutenant-Colonel Lyster, the bearer of his reply, who was perfectly ready to draw his sword. Of this opportunity, however, the Count had the wisdom to avoid taking advantage.
The whole question now turned on the admission of the orderly officer, to have personal evidence that Napoleon was still in the island--a matter of obvious necessity, for Europe at that time teemed with the projects of Revolutionary Frenchmen for setting him free. His escape would have ruined the governor; but even if it had been a matter of personal indifference to him, his sense of the public evils which might be produced by the return of this most dangerous of all incendiaries would doubtless have made his detention one of the first duties.
However, finding at last that the state of Napoleon's health might afford a sufficient guarantee against immediate escape, and evidently with the purpose of softening the irritation between them as much as possible, it was finally, though "temporarily," agreed to take Montholon's word for his being at Longwood. On the 21st of September, the priests and Dr Antomarchi arrived. Napoleon, always active and inventive, now attempted to interest the Emperor of Russia in his liberation. It must be owned, that this was rather a bold attempt for the man who had invaded Russia, ravaged its provinces, massacred its troops, and finished by leaving Moscow in flames. But he dexterously limited himself to explaining the seizure of the Duchy of Oldenburg, which was the commencement of the rapacious and absurd attempt to exclude English merchandise from the Continent. Oldenburg was one of the chief entrances by which those manufactures made their way into Germany. Its invasion, and the countless robberies which followed, had been among the first insolences of Napoleon, and the cause of the first irritations of Alexander, as his sister was married to the reigning prince. Napoleon lays the entire blame on Davoust, whom he charges with both the conception and the execution. But if he had disapproved of the act, why had he not annulled it? "I was on the point of doing so," said Napoleon, "when I received a menacing note from Russia; but," said he, "from the moment when the honour of France was implicated, I could no longer disapprove of the marshal's proceedings." He glides over the invasion of Russia with the same unhesitating facility. "I made war," said he, "against Russia, in spite of myself. I knew better than the libellers who reproached me with it, that Spain was a devouring cancer which I ought to cure before engaging myself in a terrible struggle, the first blow of which would be struck at a distance of five hundred leagues from my frontiers. Poland and its resources were but poetry, in the first months of the year 1812." He then adroitly flatters the Russian nation. "I was not so mad as to think that I could conquer Russia without immense efforts. I knew the bravery of the Russian army. The war of 1807 had proved it to me." He then hints at the subject of his conversations at Erfurth, and discloses some of those curious projects, by which France and Russia were to divide the world. He says that Alexander offered to exchange his Polish provinces for Constantinople. Under this arrangement Syria and Egypt would have supplied to France the loss of her colonies. He then admits that he had desired to marry the Grand-duchess; and, finally asserting that the dynasty of the Bourbons was forced upon the people, he declares himself willing to accept of Russian intervention to save himself from the "martyrdom of that rock."
It is evident that the conduct of the governor was constantly guided by a wish to consult the convenience of his prisoner; but the most important point of all was to guard against his escape. Gradually the relaxations as to the limits of his movements became more satisfactory even to the household themselves; and for some time in the latter period of 1819 Napoleon was suffered to ride to considerable distances in the island, without the attendance of all English officer. He now took long rides--among others, one to the house of Sir William Doveton, on the other side of the island. In the evenings he dictated narratives relative to some of the more prominent points of his history, for the purpose of their being sent to Europe, where he was determined, at least, never to let the interest of his name die, and where, though he was practically forgotten, this clever but utterly selfish individual deceived himself into the belief that thousands and tens of thousands were ready to sacrifice every thing for his restoration. On one of these evenings he gave his own version of the revolt of Marshal Ney.
It will be remembered that Ney, when the command of the troops was given to him by Louis XVIII. made a dashing speech to the King, declaring that "he would bring back the monster in an iron cage." But it happened that he had no sooner seen the monster, than he walked over to him with his whole army. This was an offence not to be forgiven; and the result was, that on the restoration of the King, Ney was tried by a court-martial, and shot.
Of course, there could be but one opinion of this unfortunate officer's conduct; but it is curious to observe the romantic colour which Napoleon's dexterous fancy contrived to throw over the whole scene.
"Marshal Ney," said he, "was perfectly loyal, when he received his last orders from the King. But his fiery soul could not fail to be deeply impressed by the intoxicating enthusiasm of the population of the provinces, which was daily depriving him of some of his best troops, for the national colours were hoisted on all sides." Notwithstanding this, Ney, when the Emperor was ready at Lyons, resisted his recollections, until he received the following letter from the Emperor. "Then he yielded, and again placed himself under the banner of the empire."
The letter was the following pithy performance:--"Cousin, my major-general sends you the order of march. I do not doubt that the moment you heard of my arrival at Lyons, you again raised the tricolored standards among your troops. Execute the orders of Bertrand, and come and join me at Chalons. I will receive you as I did the morning after the battle of Moscow." It must be acknowledged that the man who could have been seduced by this letter must have been a simpleton: it has all the arrogance of a master, and even if he had been perfectly free, it was evident that obedience would have made him a slave. But he had given a solemn pledge to the King; he had been given the command of the army on the strength of that pledge; and in carrying it over to the enemy of the King, he compromised the honour and hazarded the life of every man among them. The act was unpardonable, and he soon found it to be fatally so.
Napoleon makes no reference to the pledge, to the point of honour or the point of duty, but pronounces his death a judicial assassination. Still, he is evidently not quite clear on the subject; for he says, that even if he had been guilty, his services to his country ought to have arrested the hand of justice.
Napoleon sometimes told interesting tales of his early career. One of those, if true, shows how near the world was to the loss of an Emperor. After the siege of Toulon, which his panegyrists regard as the first step to his good fortune, he returned to Paris, apparently in the worst possible mood for adventure. He was at this period suffering from illness. His mother, too, had just communicated to him the discomforts of her position.--She had been just obliged to fly from Corsica, where the people were in a state of insurrection, and she was then at Marseilles, without any means of subsistence. Napoleon had nothing remaining, but an assignat of one hundred sous, his pay being in arrear. "In this state of dejection I went out," said he, "as if urged to suicide by an animal instinct, and walked along the quays, feeling my weakness, but unable to conquer it. In a few more moments I should have thrown myself into the water, when I ran against an individual dressed like a simple mechanic, and who, recognising me, threw himself on my neck, and cried, 'Is it you, Napoleon? what joy to see you again!' It was Demasis, a former comrade of mine in the artillery regiment. He had emigrated, and had returned to France in disguise, to see his aged mother. He was about to go, when, stopping, he said, 'What is the matter? You do not listen to me. You do not seem glad to see me. What misfortune threatens you? You look to me, like a madman about to kill himself.'"
This direct appeal awoke Napoleon's feelings, and he told him every thing. "Is that all?" said he; opening his coarse waistcoat, and detaching a belt, he added, "here are thirty thousand francs in gold, take them and save your mother." "I cannot," said Napoleon, "to this day, explain to myself my motives for so doing, but I seized the gold as if by a convulsive movement, and ran like a madman to send it to my mother. It was not until it was out of my hands, that I thought of what I had done. I hastened back to the spot where I had left Demasis, but he was no longer there. For several days I went out in the morning, returning not until evening, searching every place where I hoped to find him."
The end of the romance is as eccentric as the beginning. For fifteen years Napoleon saw no more of his creditor. At the end of that time he discovered him, and asked "why he had not applied to the Emperor." The answer was, that he had no necessity for the money, but was afraid of being compelled to quit his retirement, where he lived happily practising horticulture.
Napoleon now paid his debt, as it maybe presumed, magnificently; made him accept three hundred thousand francs as a reimbursement from the Emperor for the thirty thousand lent to the subaltern of artillery; and besides, made him director-general of the gardens of the crown, with a salary of thirty thousand francs. He also gave a government place to his brother.
Napoleon, who seems always to have had some floating ideas of fatalism in his mind, remarked that two of his comrades, Demasis and Philipeau, had peculiar influence on his destiny. Philipeau had emigrated, and was the engineer employed by Sir Sydney Smith to construct the defences of Acre. We have seen that Demasis stopped him at the moment when he was about to drown himself. "Philipeau," said he, "stopped me before St Jean d'Acre: but for him, I should have been master of this key of the East. I should have marched upon Constantinople, and rebuilt the throne of the East."
This idea of sitting on the throne of the Turk, seems never to have left Napoleon's mind. He was always talking of it, or dreaming of it. But it may fairly be doubted, whether he could ever have found his way out of Syria himself. With his fleet destroyed by Nelson, and his march along the coast--perhaps the only practicable road--harassed by the English cruisers; with the whole Turkish army ready to meet him in the defiles of Mount Taurus; with Asia Minor still to be passed; and with the English, Russian, and Turkish fleets and forces ready to meet him at Constantinople, his death or capture would seem to be the certain consequence of his fantastic expedition. The strongest imaginable probability is, that instead of wearing the diadem of France, his head would have figured on the spikes of the seraglio.
Suicide is so often the unhappy resource of men indifferent to all religion, that we can scarcely be surprised at its having been contemplated more than once by a man of fierce passions, exposed to the reverses of a life like Napoleon's. Of the dreadful audacity of a crime, which directly wars with the Divine will, which cuts off all possibility of repentance, and which thus sends the criminal before his Judge with all his sins upon his head, there can be no conceivable doubt. The only palliative can be, growing insanity. But in the instance which is now stated by the intended self-murderer, there is no attempt at palliation of any kind.
"There was another period of my life," said Napoleon, "when I attempted suicide; but you are certainly acquainted with this fact." "No, sire," was Montholon's reply.
"In that case, write what I shall tell you: for it is well that the mysteries of Fontainbleau should one day be known."
We condense into a few sentences this singular narrative, which begins with an interview demanded by his marshals on the 4th of April 1815, when he was preparing to move at the head of his army to attack the Allies. The language of the marshals was emphatic.
"The army is weary, discouraged, disorganised; desertion is at work among the ranks. To re-enter Paris cannot be thought of: in attempting to do so we should uselessly shed blood."
Their proposal was, his resignation in favour of his son.
Caulaincourt had already brought him the Emperor Alexander's opinion on the subject. The envoy had thus reported the imperial conversation:--"I carry on no diplomacy with you, but I cannot tell you every thing. Understand this, and lose not a moment in rendering an account to the Emperor Napoleon of our conversation, and of the situation of his affairs here; and return again as quickly, bringing his abdication in favour of his son. As to his personal fate, I give you my word of honour that he will be properly treated. But lose not an hour, or all is lost for him, and I shall no longer have power to do any thing either for him or his dynasty."
Napoleon proceeds. "I hesitated not to make the sacrifice demanded of my patriotism. I sat down at a little table, and wrote my Act of Abdication in favour of my son." But on that day Marmont with his army had surrendered. The Allies instantly rejected all negotiation, after this decisive blow in their favour. The Act of Resignation had not reached them, and they determined on restoring the old monarchy at once. On this the desertion was universal; and every man at Fontainbleau was evidently thinking only of being the first to make his bargain with the Bourbons. Napoleon, as a last experiment, proposed to try the effect of war in Italy.
But all shook their heads, and were silent. He at length signed the unequivocal Abdication for himself, and his family.
"From the time of my retreat from Russia," said he, "I had constantly carried round my neck, in a little silken bag, a portion of a poisonous powder which Ivan had prepared by my orders, when I was in fear of being carried off by the Cossacks. My life no longer belonged to my country; the events of the last few days had again rendered me master of it. Why should I endure so much suffering? and who knows, that my death may not place the crown on the head of my son? France was saved."--
"I hesitated no longer, but, leaping from my bed, mixed the poison in a little water, and drank it, with a sort of happiness.
"But time had taken away its strength; fearful pains drew forth some groans from me; they were heard, and medical assistance arrived. It was not Heaven's will that I should die so soon--St Helena was in my _Destiny_."
It may easily be supposed that projects were formed for carrying the prisoner from St Helena. One of those is thus detailed. The captain of a vessel returning from India, had arranged to bring a boat to a certain point of the coast without running the risk of being stopped. This person demanded a million of francs, not, as he said, for himself, but for the individual whose concurrence was necessary. The million was not to be payable until the vessel had reached America. This renders it probable that the captain was a Yankee. At all events, it shows how necessary was the vigilance of the governor, and how little connected with tyranny were his precautions against evasion. Another project was to be carried out, by submarine vessels, and on this experiment five or six thousand Louis were expended in Europe. But Napoleon finished his inquiry into these matters by refusing to have any thing to do with them. It is probable that he expected his release on easier terms than those of breaking his neck, as Montholon observes, "in descending the precipices of St Helena," or being starved, shot, or drowned on his passage across the Atlantic. But as his object was constantly to throw obloquy on the Bourbons, he placed his fears to the account of their treachery.
"I should not," said he, "be six months in America without being assassinated by the Count d'Artois's creatures. Remember the isle of Elba. Did he not send the _Chouan Brulard_ there to organise my assassination? And besides, we should always obey our destiny. Every thing is written in Heaven. It is my martyrdom which will restore the crown of France to my dynasty. I see in America nothing but assassination or oblivion. I prefer St Helena."
In the beginning of 1821, Napoleon began to grow lethargic. He had generally spent the day in pacing up and down his apartment, and dictating conversations and political recollections. But he now sat for hours listlessly and perfectly silent on the sofa. It required the strongest persuasion to induce him to take the air either on foot or _en calêche_.
Napoleon to the last was fond of burlesquing the hypocrisy or romance of the Revolution. The 18th of _Brumaire_, which made him First Consul, and had given him two colleagues, gave him the opportunity of developing the patriotism of the Republic. Shortly after that period, Sieyes, supping with the heads of the Republican party, said to them, at the same time throwing his cap violently on the ground, "There is no longer a Republic. I have for the last eight days been conferring with a man who knows every thing. He needs neither counsel nor aid; policy, laws, and the art of government are all as familiar to him as the command of an army. I repeat to you, there is no longer a Republic."
Sieyes was well known to be what the French call an _idealogue_. He was a theorist on governments, which he invented in any convenient number. For the Consulate he had his theory ready. The First Consul was to be like an epicurean divinity, enjoying himself and taking care for no one. But this tranquillity of position, and nonentity of power, by no means suited the taste of Napoleon. "'Your Grand Elector," said he (the title which seems to have been intended for his head of his new constitution,) "would be nothing but an idle king. The time for do-nothing kings is gone by--six millions of francs and the Tuilleries, to play the stage-king in, put his signature to other peoples work, and do nothing of himself, is a dream. Your Grand Elector would be nothing but a pig to fatten, or a master, the more absolute because he would have no responsibility.' It was on quitting me after this conversation," said Napoleon, "that Sieyes said to Roger Ducos, 'My dear Colleague, we have not a President, we have a master. You and I have no more to do, but to make our fortunes before making our _paquets_.'" This was at least plain speaking, and it discloses the secret of ninety-nine out of every hundred of the Republicans.
An amusing anecdote of the memorable Abbé is then told. He was Almoner to one of the Princesses of France. One day, while he was reading mass, the Princess, from some accidental circumstance, retired, and her ladies followed her. Sieyes, who was busy reading his missal, did not at first perceive her departure; but when he saw himself abandoned by all the great people, and had no auditory left but the domestics, he closed the book, and left the altar, crying, "I do not say mass for the rabble!" This certainly was not very democratic, and yet Sieyes was soon afterwards the most rampant of all possible democrats.
The history of his patriotism, however, alike accounted for his former contempt and his subsequent fraternisation. Previously to the Revolution he was poor, neglected, and angry; but, as he was known to be a man of ability, his name was mentioned to De Brienne, who, though an archbishop, was Prime Minister. He was desired to attend at his next levee; he attended, and was overlooked. He complained to his friend, who repeated the complaint to the archbishop, who desired him to appear at his levee; but was so much occupied with higher people, that the clever but luckless Abbé was again overlooked. He made a third experiment, on the promise that he should obtain audience; but he found the Archbishop enveloped in a circle of _epaulets_, _grands cordons_, and mitres. To penetrate this circle was impossible, and the Abbé, now furious at what he regarded as a mockery, rushed to his chamber, seized a pen, and wrote his powerful and memorable pamphlet entitled, "What is the third Estate?" a fierce, but most forcible appeal to the vanity of the lower orders, pronouncing them _the_ nation. This was a torch thrown into a powder magazine--all was explosion; the church, the noblesse, and the monarchy were suddenly extinguished, and France saw this man of long views and powerful passions, suddenly raised from hunger and obscurity, to the highest rank and the richest sinecurism of the republic.
Antomarchi was not fortunate in his attendance on Napoleon. Of course he felt, like every other foreigner, the ennui of the island, and he grew impatient to return to Europe. At last he applied for permission, which Napoleon gave him in the shape of a discharge, with the following sting at the end. "During the fifteen months which we have spent in this country, you have given his Majesty no confidence in your moral character. You can be of no use to him in his illness, and your residing here for several months longer would have no object, and be of no use." However, a reconciliation was effected, and the doctor was suffered to remain. But all the household now began to be intolerably tired. Three of the household, including the Abbé, requested their congé.
There is in the spirit of the foreigner a kind of gross levity, an affectation of frivolity with respect to women, and a continual habit of vulgar vanity, which seems to run through all ranks and ages of the continental world. What can be more offensively trifling, than the conduct which Napoleon narrates of himself, when Emperor, at Warsaw.
A Madame Waleska seems to have been the general belle of the city. On the night when Napoleon first saw this woman, at a ball, General Bertrand and Louis de Perigord appeared as her public admirers. "They both," said he, "kept hovering emulously round her." But Napoleon, Emperor, husband, and mature as he was, chose to play the gallant on this evening also. Finding the two Frenchmen in the way of his attentions, he played the Emperor with effect on the spot. He gave an order to Berthier, then head of his staff, instantly to send off M. Perigord "to obtain news of the 6th corps," which was on the Passarge. Thus one inconvenience was got rid of, but Bertrand was still present, and during supper his attentions were so marked that, as he leaned over Madame's chair, his aiguilettes danced on her shoulders. "Upon this," said Napoleon, "my impatience was roused to such a pitch that I touched him on the arm and drew him to the recess of a window, where I gave him orders 'to set out for the head-quarters of Prince Jerome,' and without losing an hour to bring me a report of the siege of Breslau." Such it is to come in the way of Emperors. "The poor fellow was scarcely gone," adds Napoleon, "when I repented of my angry impulse; and I should certainly have recalled him, had I not remembered at the same minute that his presence with Jerome would be useful to me." And this was the conduct of a man then in the highest position of life, whose example must have been a model to the multitude, and in whom even frivolity would be a crime.
Napoleon had long lived in a state of nervous fear, which must have made even his high position comfortless to him. He had been for years in dread of poison. "I have escaped poisoning," said he, "ten times, if I have once." In St Helena he never eat or drank any thing which had not been tasted first by one of the household! Montholon, during the night, constantly tasted the drink prepared for him. On this subject, Napoleon told the following anecdote.
"He was one day leaving the dinner-table with the Empress Josephine, and two or three other persons, when, as he was about to put his hand in his pocket for his snuff-box, he perceived it lying on the mantel-piece, in the saloon which he was entering. He was about to open it and take a pinch, when his good star caused him to seat himself. He then felt that his snuff-box was in one of his pockets. This excited inquiry, and on sending the two boxes to be chemically tested, the snuff on the mantel-piece was discovered to be poisoned." After this, it is somewhat absurd in M. Montholon to give his hero credit for _sang froid_, and say of him, that no one could take fewer precautions against such dangers than the Emperor. His whole life seems to have been precautionary; still, he sententiously talked the nonsense of fatalism.
"Our last hour is written above," was his frequent remark. He had some absurdities on the subject of medicine, which would have very effectually assisted the fulfilment of this prediction. He had all idea that he should cure himself of his immediate disease, and perhaps of every other, by swallowing orange-flower water, and soup _à la reine_.
The governor, during this period, constantly offered the services of an English physician; and Dr Arnott was at last summoned, who pronounced the disease to be very serious, and to be connected with great inflammation in the region of the stomach. It was now, for the first time, ascertained that his disease was ulceration of the stomach. There is an occasional tribute to the humane conduct of the governor at this time. On April eleventh, there is this memorandum:--
"Sir Hudson Lowe has left us in perfect tranquillity, since Dr Arnott has been admitted, though he comes every day to the apartments of the orderly officer, for the purpose of conferring with the physician."
Napoleon, now conscious of the dangerous nature of his disease, made his will. He had conceived that he was worth in various property about two hundred millions of francs, which he left by will, but of which we believe the greater part was impounded by the French government, as being public property.
He now held a long conversation on the prospects of his son, whom he regarded as not altogether beyond the hope of ascending the throne of France. He predicted the fall of the reigning family. "The Bourbons," said he, "will not maintain their position after my death." With an exactness equally odd, but equally true, he predicted the rise of another branch of the dynasty: "My son will arrive, after a time of troubles; he has but one party to fear, that of the Duke of Orleans. That party has been germinating for a long time. France is the country where the chiefs of parties have the least interest. To rest for support on them, is to build their hopes on sand."
There is a brilliant shrewdness now and then, in his contempt of the showy exhibitors in public life. "The great orators," said he, "who rule the assemblies by the brilliancy of their eloquence, are in general men of the most mediocre talents. They should not be opposed in their own way, for they have always more noisy words at command than you. In my council there were men possessed of much more eloquence than I was, but I always defeated them by this simple argument,--Two and two make four.
"My son will be obliged to allow the liberty of the press. This is a necessity in the present day. My son ought to be a man of new ideas, and of the cause which have made triumphant every where.
"Let my son often read and reflect on history: that is the only true philosophy. Let him read and meditate on the wars of the great Captains. That is the only means of rightly learning the science of war."
In April, the signs of debility grew still more marked. On the 26th, at four in the morning, after a calm night, he had what Montholon regards as a dream, but what Napoleon evidently regarded as a vision. He said with extraordinary emotion, "I have just seen my good Josephine, but she would not embrace me; she disappeared at the moment when I was about to take her in my arms; she was seated _there_; it seemed to me that I had seen her yesterday evening; she is not changed--still the same, full of devotion to me; she told me that we were about to see each other again, never more to part. She assured me of that. Did you see her?"
Montholon attributed this scene to feverish excitement, gave him his potion, and he fell asleep; but on awaking he again spoke of the Empress Josephine.
It is difficult in speaking of dreams and actual visions, to know the distinction. That the mind may be so perfectly acted upon during the waking hours as to retain the impressions during sleep, is the experience of every day. And yet we know so little of the means by which truths may be communicated to the human spirit while the senses are closed, that it would be unphilosophical to pronounce even upon those fugitive thoughts as unreal. That Napoleon must have often reflected on his selfish and cruel desertion of Josephine, it is perfectly natural to conceive. That he may have bitterly regretted it, is equally natural, for, from that day, his good fortune deserted him. And he might also have discovered that he had committed a great crime, with no other fruit than that of making a useless alliance, encumbering himself with an ungenial companion, and leaving an orphan child dependant on strangers, and continually tantalised by the recollections of a fallen throne. Those feelings, in the solitude of his chamber, and the general dejection of his captivity, must have so often clouded his declining hours, that no miracle was required to embody them in such a vision as that described. And yet, so many visitations of this kind have undoubtedly occurred, that it would be rash to pronounce that this sight of the woman who had so long been the partner of his brilliant days might not have been given, to impress its moral on the few melancholy hours which now lay between him and the grave.
It is painful, after a scene which implies some softness of heart, to find him unrepentant of one of the most repulsive, because the most gratuitous crime of his career. In the course of the day, Bertrand, in translating an English journal, inadvertently began to read an article containing a violent attack on the conduct of Caulaincourt and Savary in the seizure of the Duc d'Enghien. Napoleon, interrupting him, suddenly cried, "This is shameful." He then sent for his will, and interlined the following words:--"I caused the Duc d'Enghien to be arrested and tried, because that step was essential to the interest, honour, and safety of the French people, when the Count d'Artois was maintaining, by his own confession, sixteen assassins in Paris. Under similar circumstances I should act in the same way." Having written these few lines he gave back the will. From this period he was engaged in writing codicils and appointing executors. He gave to Marchand a diamond necklace, valued at 200,000 francs. He wound up those transactions by an extraordinary letter,--no less than the form of an announcement of his own death. It was in these words:--
"Monsieur le Gouverneur, the Emperor Napoleon breathed his last on the ---- after a long and painful illness. I have the honour to communicate this intelligence to you.
"The Emperor had ordered me to communicate, if such be your desire, his last wishes. I beg you to inform me, what are the arrangements, prescribed by your government for the transportation of his remains to France, as well as those relating to the persons of his suite. I have the honour to be, &c., COUNT MONTHOLON."
An act of this order implied a good deal of self-possession. But, even to the last day he continued to occupy his mind with subjects sufficiently trying at any period. On one of those nights he made Montholon bring a table to his bed-side, and dictated for two hours; the subjects being, the decoration of Versailles, and the organisation of the National Guard. On the 30th of April he was given over by the physicians. On the 3rd of May his fever continued, and his mind was evidently beginning to be confused. On the 5th of May he passed a very bad night and became delirious. "Twice," said Montholon, "I thought I distinguished the unconnected words, _France--Armée--Tête d'Armée--France_."
His final hour now visibly approached. From six in the morning, until half-past five in the evening of that day, he remained motionless, lying on his back, with his right hand out of the bed, and his eyes fixed, seemingly absorbed in deep meditation, and without any appearance of suffering; his lips were slightly contracted; his whole face expressed pleasant and gentle impressions.
But he seems to have been awake to external objects to the last. For whenever Antommarchi attempted to moisten his lips, he repulsed him with his hand, and fixed his eyes on Montholon, as the only person whom he would permit to attend him. At sunset he died.
The immediate cause of his death was subsequently ascertained by the surgeons to have been an extensive ulceration of the stomach.
On the 9th of May the body was buried with military honours. On the 30th, Montholon, with the household, quitted St Helena.
Thus obscurely, painfully, and almost ignominiously, closed the career of the most brilliant, ambitious, and powerful monarch of his time. No man had ever attained a higher rank, and sunk from it to a lower. No man had ever been so favoured by fortune. No man had ever possessed so large an influence over the mind of Europe, and been finally an object of hostility so universal. He was the only man in history, against whom a Continent in arms pronounced sentence of overthrow: the only soldier whose personal fall was the declared object of a general war:--and the only monarch whose capture ensured the fall of his dynasty, extinguished an empire, and finished the loftiest dream of human ambition in a dungeon.
Napoleon, since his fall, has been denied genius. But if genius implies the power of accomplishing great ends by means beyond the invention of others, he was a genius. Every act of his career was a superb innovation. As a soldier, he changed the whole art of war. Instead of making campaigns of tactics, he made campaigns of triumphs. He wasted no time in besieging towns; he rushed on the capital. He made no wars of detachments, but threw a colossal force across the frontier, held its mass together, and fought pitched battles day after day, until he trampled down all resistance by the mere weight of a phalanx of 250,000 men. Thus, in 1800, at Marengo, he reconquered Italy in twelve hours. In 1805, he broke down Austria in a three months' war. In 1806, he crushed the Prussian army in four-and-twenty hours, and walked over the monarchy. In 1807, he drove the Russians out of Germany, fought the two desperate battles of Eylau and Friedland, and conquered that treaty of Tilsit, by which he gave the Emperor Alexander a shadow of empire in Asia, in exchange for the substance of universal empire in Europe.
But his time was come. His wars had been wholly selfish. To aggrandise his own name, he had covered Europe with blood. To place _himself_ at the head of earthly power, he had broken faith with Turkey, with Russia, with Germany, and with Spain. The blood, the spoil, and the misery of millions were upon his head. His personal crimes concentrated the vengeance of mankind upon his diadem. For the last three years of his political and military existence, he seems to have lain under an actual spell. Nothing but the judicial clouding of his intellect can account for the precipitate infirmities of his judgment. His march to Russia, as we have already observed, was a gigantic absurdity in the eyes of all Europe--his delay at Moscow was a gigantic absurdity in the eyes of every subaltern in his army. But his campaigns in France were only a continuation of those absurdities. With fifty thousand men he was to conquer three hundred thousand, backed by an actual million ready to rush into the province of France. How was resistance possible? Treaty was his only hope: yet he attempted to resist, and refused to treat. He was beaten up to the walls of Paris. The Allies then offered him France: he still fought, and only affected to negociate. At length the long infatuation was consummated in his march _from_ Paris; the Allies marched _to_ Paris; and Napoleon was instantly deposed, outlawed, and undone.
Even his second great experiment for power was but the infatuation repeated. Every act was an error: his return from Elba ought to have been delayed for at least a year. His campaign of 1815 ought to have made head against the Prussians and Germans in the south, while he left the English and Prussians to waste their strength against his fortresses. Even in Belgium, he ought to have poured the whole mass of his army on the English at once, instead of violating his own first principle of war, and dividing it into three armies, Ney's at Quatre-Bras, Grouchy's at Wavre, and his own at Ligny.
Still, when routed at Waterloo, he had a powerful force in the field, the remnant of his army, with Grouchy's corps. With those he ought to have moved on slowly towards Paris, garrisoning the fortresses, breaking up the roads, throwing every obstacle in the way of the Allies, and finally, at the head of his 60,000 veterans, with the national guard of the capital and the surrounding districts, (amounting to not less than 100,000 men,) at once making a front against the Allies, and negociating.
Above all things, he ought _never_ to have separated himself from the army; as he thus stripped his party of all power at the moment, and virtually delivered himself a prisoner to the Bourbonists in the capital. Whatever might be the difficulty of deciding on his conduct at the time, it is now perfectly easy to see, that all these were blunders of the first magnitude, and that every step was direct to his ruin.
He was no sooner in Paris, than he was made a prisoner; escaped being shot, only through the mercy of the Allies; and, for the general quiet of France and Europe, was consigned, for the remainder of his few and melancholy years, to the prison of St Helena.
The name of Napoleon has a great place in history. He was a great moving power of the day of change, a great statesman, a brilliant soldier, and a splendid ruler of the mightiest dominion that had existed under one sceptre, since the days of Charlemagne. He was a man of vast projects, vast means, and vast opportunities. But he had no greatness of mind; he had but one purpose, personal aggrandizement; and for that purpose, he adopted every vice of the heart of man.
Without being bloodthirsty by nature, he was cruel by habit; without being naturally avaricious, he was a universal spoiler; and without savagely hating mankind, he spurned the feelings, the sufferings, and the life of man. He was hollow, fierce, and remorseless, where his own objects were concerned, and whether he cheated his party in the state, or rode over a field covered with his dying troops, he regarded the treachery as legitimate, and the slaughter as meritorious, if they raised him a step nearer to the aim of his ambition.
With the most splendid chances for establishing a name of perpetual honour, this selfishness defeated them all. On his accession to the throne, he might have secured Peace, as the principle of all European government. He might have developed all the natural powers of his empire, covered its rivers with commerce, filled its cities with opulence, restored the neglected fertility of its plains, and rendered its capital the centre of the most brilliant civilisation which the world had ever seen. But War was for the _fame_ of Napoleon, and he chose the havoc of war.
In 1812 he might have restored the kingdom of Poland, and stamped perpetual renown on his diadem, by an act of imperial justice. But he preferred sacrificing it to the alliance of Austria--for the purpose of devastating Russia. He might have exercised his boundless influence over Spain, to bring the faculties of that noble country to the light, and add the contributions of twelve millions of a half-forgotten race of mankind, to the general happiness of the world. But he preferred being called its conqueror, shedding its blood in torrents. To France herself he might have given a rational liberty, have animated her literature, taught common sense to her vanity, thrown the field open to her genius, and guided her natural ardour, flexibility, and spirit of enterprise, to achievements for the good of man, to which all the trophies of the sword are pale. But he cast away all those illustrious opportunities, and thought only of the shout of the rabble.
Napoleon's career was _providential_; there is no name in history, whose whole course bears so palpable a proof of his having been created for a _historic_ purpose. Europe, in the partition of Poland, had committed a great crime,--France, in the murder of her king, had committed a great crime. The three criminal thrones, and the regicidal republic, were alike to be punished. Napoleon was the appointed instrument for both purposes. He first crushed the democracy, and then he broke the strength of the three powers in the field--he thrice conquered the Austrian capital--he turned Prussia into a province,--and his march to Russia desolated her most populous provinces, and laid her Asiatic capital in ashes.
But France, which continually paid for all those fearful triumphs in her blood, was still to suffer a final and retributive punishment. Her armies were hunted from the Vistula to the Rhine, and from the Rhine to the Seine. She saw her capital twice captured--her government twice swept away--her conquests lost--her plunder recovered by its original possessors, and her territory garrisoned by an army of strangers--her army disbanded--her empire cut down to the limits of the old monarchy--her old masters restored, and her idol torn from his altar. Thus were thrown away the fruits of the Revolution, of the regicide, of the democracy, and of a quarter of a century of wretchedness, fury, and blood.
On Napoleon himself fell the heaviest blow of all. All the shames, sorrows, and sufferings of France were concentered on his head. He saw his military power ruined--his last army slaughtered--his last adherents exiled--his family fugitive,--his whole dynasty uncrowned, and himself given up as a prisoner to England, to be sent to an English dungeon, to be kept in English hands; to finish his solitary and bitter existence in desertion and disease, and be laid in an English grave,--leaving to mankind perhaps the most striking moral of blasted ambition ever given to the world.
* * * * *
In 1840 England, at the solicitation of France, suffered the remains of Napoleon to be brought to Europe. They were received in Paris with military pomp, and on the 15th of December were entombed in the chapel of the Invalides.
 _History of the Captivity of Napoleon at St Helena._ By General Count MONTHOLON Vols. iii. and iv. London: H. Colburn.
JUANCHO THE BULL-FIGHTER.
M. Theophile Gautier, best known as a clever contributor to the critical _feuilleton_ of a leading Paris newspaper, also enjoys a respectable reputation as tale-teller and tourist. His books--although for the most part slight in texture, and conveying the idea that the author might have done better had he taken more pains--have certain merits of their own. His style, sometimes defaced by affectation and pedantry, has a lively smartness not unfrequently rising into wit. And in description he is decidedly happy. Possessing an artist's eye, he paints with his pen; his colouring is vivid, his outline characteristic. These qualities are especially exemplified in a spirited and picturesque, but very _French_ narrative, of an extensive ramble in Spain, published about four years ago. He has now again drawn upon his Peninsular experience to produce a tale illustrative of Spanish life and manners, chiefly in the lower classes of society. His hero is a bull-fighter, his heroine a _grisette_. Of bull-fights, especially within the last few years, one has heard enough and to spare, since every literary traveller in Spain thinks it incumbent on him to describe them. But this is the first instance we remember where the incidents of the bull-ring, and the exploits and peculiarities of its gladiators, are taken as groundwork for a romantic tale. The attempt has been crowned with very considerable success.
The construction of M. Gautier's little romance is simple and inartificial, the incidents are spirited, the style is fresh and pleasant. Its character is quite Spanish, and one cannot doubt the author's personal acquaintance with the scenes and types he sketches--although here and there he has smoothed down with a little French polish the rugged angles of Spanish nationality, and in other places he may be accused of melodramatising rather over much. Through the varnish which it is the novelist's privilege to lay on with a more or less sparing brush, we obtain many interesting and correct glimpses of classes of people whose habits and customs are unknown to foreigners, and are likely to continue so, in great measure, until the appearance of Spanish writers able and willing to depict them. The three principal personages of the tale--the only important ones--are, a young gentleman of Madrid, a bull-fighter named Juancho, and an orphan girl of humble birth and great beauty. The story hinges upon the rivalry of the gentleman and the _torero_ for the good graces of the grisette. There is a secondary plot, associated and partly interwoven with the principal one, but which serves little purpose, save that of prolonging a short tale into a volume. It will scarcely be necessary to refer to it in sketching the trials of the gentle Militona, and the feats and misfortunes of the intrepid and unhappy Juancho.
It was on a June afternoon of the year 184--that Don Andrés de Salcedo--a cavalier of good family, competent fortune, handsome exterior, amiable character, and four-and-twenty years of age--emerged from a house in the Calle San Bernardo at Madrid, where he had passed a wearisome hour in practising a duet of Bellini's with Doña Feliciana Vasquez de los Rios. This young lady, still in her teens, moderately pretty and tolerably rich, Andrés had from childhood been affianced with, and was accustomed to consider as his future wife, although his sentiments towards her were, in fact, of a very tepid description. Betrothed as children by their parents, there was little real love between them: they met without pleasure and parted without pain; their engagement was an affair of habit, not of the heart.
It was a _dia de toros_, as Monday is called in Madrid--that being the day when bull-fights usually take place--and Andrés, passionately addicted to the Spanish sport, left the mansion of his mistress without any lover-like reluctance, and hurried to the bull-ring. Through the spacious street of Alcala, then crowded to suffocation with vehicles of every description, horsemen, and pedestrians, all hurrying to the point of grand attraction, the young man pressed onward with that alert and active step peculiar to Spaniards--unquestionably the best walkers in the world--joyfully fingering his ticket of _Sombra por la tarde_. It entitled him to a place close to the barrier; for Andrés, despising the elegance of the boxes, preferred leaning against the ropes intended to prevent the bulls from leaping amongst the spectators. Thence each detail of the combat is distinctly seen, each blow appreciated at its just value; and in consideration of these advantages, Andrés willingly resigned his elbows to the contact of motley-jacketed muleteers, and his curls to the perfume of the manolo's cigar.
Although a bridegroom-elect ought not, strictly speaking, to perceive the existence of other women than his intended, such scrupulous fidelity is very rare except in romances: and Don Andrés, albeit descended neither from Don Juan Tenorio nor Don Juan de Marana, was led to the circus by other attractions besides the brave swordsmanship of Luca Blanco and of Montés' nephew. At the bull-fight on the previous Monday he had seen a young girl of rare and singular beauty, whose features had imprinted themselves on his memory with a minuteness and indelibility quite extraordinary, considering the short time he had been able to observe them. So casual a meeting should have left no more trace than the picture to which one accords a passing glance. No word or sign had been exchanged between Andrés and the manola, (she apparently belonged to that class,) who had been separated by several benches. Andrés had no reason to believe that the young girl had remarked his admiration, or even perceived him. Her eyes, fixed upon the arena, had not for an instant wandered from the incidents of the bull-fight, in which she appeared to take an exclusive interest. It would have been natural to forget her on the threshold of the circus; but, instead of that, her image had haunted Andrés all the week, recurring perpetually to his memory with increased distinctness and perseverance. And it was a vague hope, unacknowledged even to himself, of beholding the lovely manola, that now doubled his usual impatience to reach the scene of the bull-fight.
At the very moment Andrés passed under one of the three arcades of the gate of Alcala, a _calesin_, or light calash, dashed through the crowd, amidst a concert of curses and hisses, the usual sounds with which the Spanish populace assail whatever deranges them in their pleasures, and infringes upon the sovereignty of the pedestrian. This vehicle was of outrageous magnificence. The body, borne by two enormous scarlet wheels, was covered with groups of Cupids, and with Anacreontic attributes, such as lyres, tambourines, Pandaean pipes, cooing doves, and hearts pierced with arrows, executed at some remote period by a pencil more remarkable for audacity than correctness of design. The mule harnessed to this gaudy car, had the upper half of his body closely clipped, bore a lofty panoply of coloured worsted upon his head, and was covered with bells from nose to tail. A ferocious-looking charioteer, stripped to his shirt-sleeves, a sheepskin jacket dangling from his shoulder, sat sideways upon the shaft, and belaboured with his whip-handle the lean flanks of his beast, which sprang forward with redoubled fury at each repetition of the stimulant.
There was nothing remarkable in the appearance of such a vehicle on a Monday afternoon at the Alcala gate; and if we have honoured it with especial notice, it is because, upon beholding it, the countenance of Don Andrés was illumined by an expression, of the most agreeable surprise. The cabriolet contained two persons: one of these was a little old woman, in an antiquated black dress, whose gown, too short by an inch, disclosed the hem of one of those yellow woolen petticoats commonly worn by Castilian peasants. This venerable creature belonged to the class of women known in Spain as _Tia_ Pelona, _Tia_ Blasia, according to their name, and which answer to the French Mother Michel, Mother Godichon, in the society Paul de Kock delights to sketch. Her large, black, cadaverous physiognomy was relieved by dark sunken eyes, and by a pair of mustaches shading the corners of her lips. Although she had long passed the age of coquetry, she arranged her elbows under her serge mantilla with an air of no small pretension, and flirted with a certain dexterity a large green paper fan. It could hardly be the sight of this amiable creature that brought a smile of satisfaction across the features of Don Andrés.
The second occupant of the cabriolet was a young girl, sixteen or eighteen years old--sixteen rather than eighteen. A black silk mantilla, drooping from the top of a tall tortoiseshell comb, round which a magnificent plait of hair was twisted, formed a frame to her lovely countenance, whose paleness bordered on the olive. Her foot, worthy of a Chinese beauty, was extended on the front of the calash, showing a delicate satin shoe and a tight silk stocking with coloured clocks. One of her hands, slender and well formed, although a little sun-burnt, played with the corners of her mantilla, and on the other, which held a white handkerchief, sparkled several silver rings--the richest treasures of the manola's jewel-case. Buttons of jet glittered on her sleeve, completing this strictly Spanish costume. Andrés recognised the charming creature whose image had haunted him during the whole of the past week. Accelerating his pace, he entered the bull-ring at the same time with the two women. Chance had so distributed the numbers of the stalls that Andrés found himself seated next to the young manola.
Whilst the benches of the amphitheatre became rapidly covered with spectators, the bull-fighters assembled in a large white-washed apartment, serving as a green-room for the actors in the sanguinary drama. Amongst these was a man of five or eight-and-twenty, whose tawny complexion, jet-black eyes, and crisp curling hair, told of an Andalusian origin. A more robust body and better shaped limbs could hardly be seen. They exhibited strength and agility combined in the happiest proportions. Equally well qualified to run and to wrestle, Nature, had she had the express intention of making a bull-fighter, could not have succeeded better than when she moulded this slender Hercules. Through the opening of his cloak glittered the spangles and embroidery of his pink and silver vest, and the jewel of the ring that confined the ends of his cravat; this jewel was of considerable value, proving, as did the whole of the costume, that its owner belonged to the aristocracy of his profession. His _mono_ of new ribbons, attached to the lock of hair reserved expressly for that purpose, spread in gay profusion over his nape; his montero, of the most glossy black, was loaded with silk ornaments of the same colour; his pumps, extraordinarily small and thin, would have done honour to a shoemaker, and might have served a goddess of the ballet.
Nevertheless, Juancho--such was the name of the torero--had not the frank, open air of a handsome young fellow with gay garments on his back, about to be applauded by a host of pretty women. Did apprehension of the approaching contest disturb his serenity? Had he seen in his dreams an infernal bull bearing a matador empaled upon his horns of red-hot steel? Nothing of the sort. This gloomy air was his wont since a twelvemonth. Without being on bad terms with his comrades, there no longer existed between him and them that jovial and careless familiarity usual amongst persons who share the chances of a perilous profession. He did not repulse advances, but he made none; and although an Andalusian, he was often taciturn. If he at times threw off his melancholy, it was to run into the opposite extreme, and abandon himself to a gaiety as violent as it was factitious. Then he would drink like a fish, dance like a madman, and quarrel about every thing and about nothing. The fit over, he relapsed into his previous moody reserve.
The hour fixed for the commencement of the sport approached. Juancho rose from his bench, threw off his cloak, took his sword, and mingled with the motley group of _toreros_ and _chulos_, _banderillos_ and _espadas_. The cloud had left his brow; his eyes sparkled, his nostril was dilated. A singular expression of daring animated his fine features. His foot pressed the ground energetically, and the nerves of his instep quivered beneath the knitted silk like the tense-strings on a guitar-handle. Juancho was really a splendid fellow, and his costume wonderfully set off his physical perfections. A broad red sash encircled his graceful waist; the silver embroideries covering his vest formed, at the collar and pockets, and on the sleeves, patches where the groundwork of the garment disappeared under the complications of the arabesques. It was no longer pink embroidered with silver, but silver embroidered with pink. So loaded were the shoulders with twist, filigree, knots and ornaments of all kinds, that the arms seemed to issue from two crushed crowns. The satin hose, braided and spangled on the seams, were admirably adjusted to limbs combining power and elegance. The whole dress was the masterpiece of Zapata of Granada,--of that Zapata, unrivalled for _majo_ costumes, who weeps when he takes one home, and offers his customer more money to resign it to him than he had asked for making it. The learned in such matters did not consider the suit dear at ten thousand reals. Worn by Juancho, it was worth twenty thousand.
The last flourish of trumpets sounded; the arena was cleared of dogs and boys, and the troop of bull-fighters entered. A murmur of admiration greeted Juancho when he made his obeisance before the queen's box; he bent the knee with so good a grace, with an air at once, so humble and so proud, and rose again so gracefully and easily, that the severest critics and oldest frequenters of the circus declared none had ever done it better.
Meanwhile Andrés, delighted to have found the manola, paid little attention to the preliminaries of the fight, and the first bull had already ripped up a horse before he bestowed a single look upon the arena. He gazed at the young girl by his side, with an intentness that would doubtless have embarrassed her had she perceived it. He thought her more charming than ever; and certainly a more perfect type of Spanish beauty had never sat upon the blue granite benches of the Madrid circus. With admiration amounting to ecstasy, Andrés contemplated the delicate profile, the thin, well-formed nose, with nostrils pink-tinted, like the interior of a tropical shell; the full temples, where, beneath the slightest possible tint of amber, meandered an imperceptible network of blue veins; the mouth, fresh as a flower, ripe and ruddy as a fruit, slightly opened by a half smile, and illuminated by a gleam of mother-of-pearl; and above all, the eyes, whose glances, passing between a thick double fringe of black lashes, possessed an irresistible fascination. It was the Greek form with the Arab character: the style of beauty would have had something startling in a London or Paris drawing-room, but was perfectly in its place at a bull-fight and under the ardent sky of Spain.
The old woman, less attentive than the young one to the progress of the sport, watched the proceedings of Andrés with the look of a dog who scents a thief. As he persisted in his contemplation of his pretty neighbour, the old lady's anger gradually increased; she fidgeted on her seat, rattled her fan, pushed her companion with her elbow, and asked her all sorts of questions to oblige her to turn her head. But the young girl either did not or would not understand; she gave short answers, and resumed her attentive and serious attitude.
"The devil take the old witch!" muttered Andrés. "Tis a thousand pities they have abolished the Inquisition! With such a face as that, she would have been treated, without form of trial, to a ride on an ass, dressed in a _san-benito_ and a sulphur shirt. She belongs to the seminary of Barahona, and washes young girls for the sorcerers' sabbath."
Juancho, whose turn to kill had not yet come, stood carelessly in the centre of the circus, paying no more attention to the bulls than if they had been so many sheep. He scarcely deigned to take two or three steps aside when the furious beasts showed a disposition to attack him. His large bright black eye glanced round boxes, galleries, and benches, where thousands of fans, of every hue, fluttered and palpitated like butterflies' wings. He evidently sought some one. At last a gleam of joy flashed across his brown features, and he made the slightest possible movement of his head, the sort of salutation that actors sometimes address to their acquaintances before the curtain. It was directed to the bench on which sat the old woman and the young girl.
"Militona," said the duenna in a low voice, "Juancho sees us. Be cautious! that young man ogles you, and Juancho is jealous."
"What is that to me?" replied Militona in the same tone.
"You know he does not jest with those who displease him."
"I have not looked at the gentleman, and besides, am I not my own mistress?"
In saying she had not looked at Andrés, Militona was guilty of a slight equivocation. She had not _looked_ at him, perhaps, for women can see without looking, but she could have given a most minute description of his person. And out of respect to truth, we must here mention that she took Don Andrés de Salcedo for what he really was, a very smart and good-looking cavalier.
Andrés, as a pretext for commencing a conversation, called one of those dealers in oranges, preserved fruits, lozenges, and other sweetmeats, who circulate in the corridor of the bull-ring, and offer their wares to the spectators at the end of long sticks.
"Señorita, will you accept some comfits?" said Andrés, with an engaging smile to his beautiful neighbour, offering her the open box.
The young girl turned quickly round, and looked at him with an air of uneasy surprise.
"They are lemon and mint," said he, as if to decide her.
Militona, suddenly making up her mind, plunged her little fingers into the box, and took a pinch of the lozenges.
"Luckily Juancho has his back turned," muttered a _majo_ who stood just by, "or there would be blood on his knife to-night."
"Will this lady take some?" continued Andrés in a tone of exquisite politeness, holding out the box to the horrible old woman, who was so disconcerted by this piece of audacity that in her confusion she took every one of the sugar-plums. Nevertheless, whilst emptying the box into the palm of her hand, black as that of a mummy, she cast a furtive and frightened glance at the circus, and heaved an enormous sigh.
At that moment the orchestra sounded the death: it was Juancho's turn to kill. He approached the municipal box, made the usual salutation and demand, and threw his montero into the air in right cavalier style. The audience, usually so tumultuous, became profoundly silent. The bull Juancho had to kill was of formidable breed; seven horses, stretched lifeless upon the sand, their bowels protruding from hideous wounds, told of his fury and vigour. The two picadores had left the arena, sorely bruised and crippled by numerous falls, and the supernumerary waited in the corridor, foot in stirrup and lance in fist, ready to replace them. The chulos prudently kept themselves in the vicinity of the palisade, one foot on the wooden ledge which aids them to leap it in case of danger; and the victorious bull ranged the circus--stained here and there by large puddles of blood, which the attendants dared not approach to scatter with sawdust--striking the doors with his horns, and tossing the dead horses into the air. Juancho approached the monstrous beast with that firm and deliberate step before which lions themselves retreat. The bull, astonished at sight of a fresh adversary, paused, uttered a deep roar, shook the slaver from his muzzle, scratched the earth with his hoof, lowered his head two or three times, and made a few paces backwards. Juancho was magnificent to behold: his countenance expressed dauntless resolution; his fixed and steadfast eyes, whose pupils, surrounded by white, resembled stars of jet, darted invisible rays which pierced the bull like steel darts; unconsciously, he subjected the brute to that magnetism by which Van Amburgh sends his trembling tigers crouching to the extremity of their den. Each forward step made by the man was responded to by a backward one of the ferocious beast. At this triumph of moral over brute force, the audience, seized with enthusiasm, burst into frantic applause, shouting and stamping, yelling out _vivas_, and ringing the species of bells which amateurs take with them to the bull-fights. Walls and ceilings cracked beneath this storm of admiration, the paint crumbled off and flew about in whirlwinds of white dust. The torero, thus applauded, raised his head, with flashing eyes and joyful heart, to the place where Militona sat, as if to lay at her feet the admiration of a whole city. The moment was badly chosen. Militona had dropped her fan, and Don Andrés, who had snatched it up with all the precipitation of a person desirous to strengthen with an additional thread the slender chain of a new acquaintance, returned it to her with a happy smile and gallant gesture. The young girl could not do less than acknowledge the polite attention by a gracious smile and inclination of her head. Smile and bow were detected by Juancho; his lips grew pale, his complexion green, the orbits of his eyes became blood-shot, his hand contracted on his sword-hilt, and the point of the weapon, which he held low, was thrust, by a convulsive movement, thrice into the sand. The bull, no longer under the spell of the fascinating glance, approached his adversary, who neglected to put himself on guard. The interval between man and beast was terribly small.
"Master Juancho is not easily frightened," observed some of the more callous spectators.
"Juancho, have a care!" cried others, more humane; "Juancho _de mi vida_, Juancho of my heart, Juancho of my soul, the bull is upon you!"
As to Militona, whether it was that the habit of bull-fights had blunted her sensibility, or that she had entire confidence in the consummate skill of Juancho, or because she took little interest in the man over whom she exercised such influence, her face continued as calm as if nothing unusual was occurring; only a slight flush appeared in the centre of her cheek, and the lace of her mantilla rose and fell upon her bosom with increased rapidity.
The cries of the spectators roused Juancho from his stupor: he drew hastily back, and waved the scarlet folds of the _muleta_ before the eyes of the bull. The instinct of self-preservation, the pride of the gladiator, struggled in his breast with the desire to watch Militona; a moment's neglect, a glance on one side, might cost him his life. It was an infernal predicament for a jealous man. To behold, beside the woman he loved, a gay, handsome, and attentive rival, while he, in the middle of a circus, the eyes of twelve thousand spectators riveted upon him, had, within a few inches of his breast, the sharp horns of a ferocious beast which, under pain of dishonour, he could only kill in a certain manner and by a wound in a certain place.
The torero, once more master of the _jurisdiction_, as it is said in tauromachian slang, settled himself firmly on his heels, and manoeuvred with the muleta to make the bull lower his head.
"What could he say to her," thought Jauncho, "that young fellow on whom she smiled so sweetly?" Swayed by the reflection, he again forgot his formidable antagonist, and involuntarily raised his eyes. The bull, profiting by the momentary inattention, rushed upon the man; the latter, taken unawares, leaped backwards, and, by a mechanical movement, made a thrust with his sword. Several inches of the blade entered, but in the wrong place. The weapon met the bone; a furious movement of the bull made it rebound from the wound amidst a spout of blood, and fall to the ground some paces off. Juancho was disarmed, and the bull more dangerous than ever, for the misdirected thrust had served but to exasperate him. The chulos ran to the rescue, waving their pink and blue cloaks. Militona grew pale; the old woman uttered lamentable ejaculations, and sighed like a stranded whale. The public, beholding Juancho's inconceivable awkwardness, commenced one of those tremendous uproars in which the Spanish people excel: a perfect hurricane of insulting epithets, of vociferations and maledictions. "Away with the dog!" was shouted on all sides; "Down with the thief, the assassin! To the galleys with him! To Ceuta! The clumsy butcher, to spoil such a noble beast!" And so on, through the entire vocabulary of abuse which the Spanish tongue so abundantly supplies. Juancho stood erect under the storm of insult, biting his lips, and tearing with his right hand the lace frills of his shirt. His sleeve, ripped open by the bull's horn, disclosed his arm a long violet scar. For an he tottered, and seemed about to fall, suffocated by the violence of his emotions; but he promptly recovered himself, ran to his sword, picked it up, straightened the bent blade with his foot, and placed himself with his back towards the place where Militona sat. At a sign he made, the chulos led the bull towards him by tantalising it with their cloaks; and this time he dealt the animal a downward thrust, in strict conformity with the laws of the sport--such a one as the great Montés of Chiclana himself would not have disowned. The sword was planted between the shoulders, and its cross-hilt, rising between the horns of the bull, reminded of those Gothic engravings where St Hubert is seen kneeling before a stag which bears a crucifix in its antlers.
The bull fell heavily on its knees before Juancho, as if doing homage to his superiority, and after a short convulsion rolled over, its four feet in the air.
"Juancho has taken a brilliant revenge! What a splendid thrust! He is superior to Arjona and the Chiclanero; do you not think so, Señorita?" cried Andrés enthusiastically to his neighbour.
"For God's sake, sir, not another word!" replied Militona very quickly, without turning her head and scarcely moving her lips. The words were spoken in a tone at once so imperative and so imploring, that Andrés immediately saw it was not the artifice of a young girl begging to be let alone, and hoping to be disobeyed. Neither could modesty dictate the injunction. Nothing he had said called for such rigour, and manolas, the grisettes of Madrid, are not usually--be it said without calumny--of such extreme susceptibility. Real terror, apprehension of a danger unknown to Andrés, was indicated by the hasty sentence.
"Can she be a princess in disguise?" said Andrés to himself, considerably puzzled how to act. "If I hold my tongue, I shall look like a fool, or, at any rate, like a very middling sort of Don Juan: if I persist, I shall perhaps cause the poor girl some disagreeable scene. Can she be afraid of the duenna? Hardly. When that amiable old sorceress devoured my comfits, she became in some sort an accomplice. It cannot be she whom my infanta dreads. Is there a father, brother, husband, or jealous lover in the neighbourhood?" But on looking around, Andrés could discover no one who seemed to pay the slightest attention to the proceedings of the beautiful manola.
From the moment of the bull's death till the end of the fight, Juancho did not once look at Militona. He despatched with unparalleled dexterity two other bulls that fell to his share, and was applauded as vehemently as he had previously been hissed. Andrés, either not deeming it prudent, or not finding a good pretext to renew the conversation, didn't speak another word to Militona, and even left the circus a few minutes before the conclusion of the performances. Whilst stepping across the benches, he whispered something to a boy of quick and intelligent physiognomy, and then immediately disappeared.
The boy, when the audience rose to depart, mingled in the crowd, and, without any apparent design, attached himself to the steps of Militona and the duenna. He saw them get into their cabriolet, and when the vehicle rolled away on its great scarlet wheels, he hung on behind, as if giving way to a childish impulse, and was whirled through a cloud of dust, singing at the top of his voice the popular ditty of the Bulls of Puerto.
"Well done!" exclaimed Andrés, who, from an alley of the Prado, which he had already reached, saw cab and boy rattle past: "in an hour I shall know the address of the charming manola."
Andrés had reckoned without the chapter of accidents. In the Calle de los Desamparados, a cut across the face from the whip of the surly _calesero_, forced the ragged Mercury to let go his hold. Before he could pick himself up, and rub the dust and tears from his eyes, the vehicle was at the farther end of the street, and although Perico, impressed with the importance of his mission, followed it at the top of his speed, he lost sight of it in the labyrinth of lanes adjacent to the Plaza de Lavapies--literally, Washfeet Square--a low quarter of Madrid. The most he could ascertain was, that the calesin had deposited its burthen in one of four streets, but in which of them it was impossible to say. With the bait of a dollar before his eyes, however, the urchin was not to be discouraged; and late that night, as Don Andrés was returning from a wearisome tertulia, whither he had been compelled to accompany Doña Feliciana de los Rios, he felt a pull at the skirt of his coat. It was Perico.
"Caballero," said the child, "she lives in the Calle del Povar, the third house on the right. I saw her at her window, taking in the water jar."
It is difficult to describe the style of architecture of the house inhabited by Militona, unless we designate it as the order composite. Its front was characterised by a total absence of symmetry; the walls, sadly out of the perpendicular, seemed about to fall, and would doubtless have done so but for the support of sundry iron curves and crosses, which held the bricks together, and of two adjacent houses of more solid construction. From the lower part of the ricketty fabric the plaster had peeled off in large scales, exposing the foundation wall; whilst the upper stories, better preserved, exhibited traces of old pink paint, as if the poor house blushed for shame of its miserable condition. Near the roof of broken and disorderly tiles, which marked out a brown festoon against the bright blue sky, was a little window, surrounded by a recent coat of white plaster. On the right of this casement hung a cage, containing a quail: on the left another cage, of minute dimensions, decorated with red and yellow beads, served as palace to a cricket. A jar of porous earth, suspended by the ears to a string, and covered with a pearly moisture, held water cooling in the evening breeze, and from time to time allowed a few drops to fall upon two pots of sweet basil that stood beneath it. The window was that of Militona's apartment.
If the reader will venture to ascend with us this dark and broken staircase, we will follow Militona as she trips lightly up it on her return from the bull-fight; whilst old Aldonsa tolls behind, calling upon the saints for succour, and clinging to the greasy rope that does duty as a banister. On reaching the topmost landing-place, the pretty manola raised a fragment of matting that hung before one of those many-panelled doors common in Madrid, took her key and let herself in. The interior of the room was humble enough. Whitewash replaced paper; a scratched mirror--which reflected very imperfectly the charming countenance of its owner--a plaster cast of St Antony, flanked by two blue glass vases containing artificial flowers, a deal table, two chairs, and a little bed covered with a muslin quilt, composed the entire furniture. We must not forget an image of Our Lady, rudely painted and gilt on glass, engravings of the fight of the second of May, of the funeral of Daoiz and Velarde, and of a _picador_ on horseback; a tambourine, a guitar, and a branch of palm, brought from church on the previous Palm Sunday. Such was Militona's room; and although it contained but the barest necessaries of life, it had not the chill and dreary look of misery. A cheerful gleam illuminated it; the red brick floor was gay and pleasant to the eye; there was no shade on the white walls, or cobweb on the raftered roof--all was fresh, and bright, and cheerful in the poor garret. In England it would have been perfect destitution, in Spain it was almost comfort, and more than was necessary for happiness.
The old woman was at last at the top of the stairs; she entered the room and let herself fall upon one of the two chairs, which cracked under her weight. "The water jar, Militona, for mercy's sake! I am half suffocated with the heat and dust; and those accursed lozenges have put my throat in a flame."
"You should not have eaten so many, _tia_," said the young girl, smiling, and placing the jar to the old lady's lips. Aldonsa drank eagerly, passed the back of her hand over her mouth, and fanned herself in silence.
"Talking of lozenges," said she after a pause, "how furiously Juancho looked at us! I am sure he missed the bull because that young spark spoke to you. Juancho is jealous as a tiger, and if he has fallen in with yonder pretty gentleman, he will have made him repent his gallantry. I would not give much for the young man's skin; it will have some famous holes in it. Do you remember the slash he gave Luca, for offering you a nosegay at the festival of San Isidro?"
"I hope Juancho will commit no violence," exclaimed the young girl--"What frightful slavery to be thus persecuted by his ferocious love!"
"It is your fault," retorted Aldonsa. "Why are you so pretty?"
A sharp rap at the door, sounding as if given by an iron finger, interrupted the conversation. The old woman got up and looked through the little grating, inserted, according to Spanish custom, in the centre of the door. Through the bars appeared the countenance of Juancho, pale beneath the bronzed tint with which the sun of the arena had overlaid it. Aldonsa opened the door and the torero entered. His features betrayed the violent emotions that had agitated him in the bull-ring. To the shame of having been hissed was superadded rage at not having quitted the circus soon enough to overtake the young man who had been so attentive to Militona. Where could he now find him? Doubtless he had followed the manola and spoken to her again. And at the thought, Juancho's hand mechanically sank to his girdle to seek his knife.
The torero sat down upon the second chair. Militona stood at the window, pulling a flower to pieces; the old woman fanned herself more rapidly than ever: an awkward silence reigned in the apartment. Aldonsa was the first to break it.
"Does your arm hurt you, Juancho?"
"No," replied the bull-fighter, fixing his deep gaze upon Militona.
"You should bandage it, and apply salt and water," said the old woman, determined not to let the conversation drop.
Juancho made no reply, but addressed himself to Militona.
"Who was the young man who sat beside you at the bull-fight?"
"I do not know him. I never saw him before."
"But you would like to know him?"
"The supposition is polite. Well, and what if I should?"
"I would kill him, the dainty gentleman in polished boots and white gloves."
"You talk like a madman, Juancho. What right have I given you to be jealous of me? You love me, you say--is that my fault? Am I obliged to adore you, because you have taken it into your head to find me pretty?"
"True enough," interposed the old woman, "she is not obliged. Nevertheless, you would make a handsome couple. Prettier hand never rested on more vigorous arm; and if you danced a cachuca together at the garden of the Delicias, people would stand on the chairs to look at you."
"Have I played the coquet with you, Juancho? Have I sought, by word, or look, or smile, to engage your affections?"
"No," replied the torero in a gloomy voice.
"I never promised you any thing, or gave you any hope: I always bade you forget me. Why torment and offend me by your unjustifiable violence? You crippled poor Luca, an honest fellow, who amused me and made me laugh, and you wounded your friend Ginés almost to death, because he happened to touch my hand. Do you think such conduct advances you in my good opinion? And to-day at the circus you behaved absurdly; whilst watching me, you let the bull come upon you, and gave a miserable thrust."
"But I love you, Militona!" exclaimed the bull-fighter passionately. "I love you with all my heart and soul; I see but you in the world, and a bull's horn entering my breast would not make me turn my head when you smile upon another man. True, my manners are not gentle, for I have passed my life in contests with savage beasts, in slaying and exposing myself to be slain. I cannot be soft and simpering like those delicate young gentlemen who pass their time in reading the papers and having their hair curled! But if you will not be mine," resumed Juancho after a pause, striking the table violently with his fist, "at any rate no one else shall call you his." And with these words he got up and left the room. "I will find him!" he muttered, as he strode down the stairs, "and cool his courtship with three inches of steel."
All that night Juancho kept watch and ward in front of Militona's dwelling, in hopes of falling in with her new admirer. Militona learned this from old Aldonsa, who lived in the house, and she felt seriously alarmed lest the handsome cavalier who had been so courteous to her at the circus, and whom she could not remember without a certain interest, should come to harm at the hands of the terrible torero who thus tyrannised over her inclinations and scared away all aspirants to her favour. Juancho, meanwhile, steady in his resolve to exterminate his rival, had betaken himself, on coming off guard in the Calle del Povar, to a tailor's in the Calle Mayor, and there had exchanged his usual majo's dress for a suit of black and a round hat. Thus metamorphosed into a sober citizen, he passed the day and evening in the Prado, the most elegant coffee-houses, the theatres--in every place, in short, where he thought it likely he should meet the object of his anger. But nowhere could he find him, and that for the best of reasons. At the very hour that the torero purchased the disguise intended to facilitate his revenge, Don Andrés, in the back shop of a clothes-dealer on the Rastro--the great Madrid market for second-hand articles of every description--donned the complete costume of a manolo, trusting it would aid him in his designs upon Militona. Equipped in a round jacket of snuff-coloured cloth, abundantly decorated with small buttons, in loose pantaloons, a silk sash, a dark cloak and velvet-trimmed hat, which garments, although not quite new, were not wanting in a certain elegance, and sat trimly upon his well-made person, Andrés hurried to the Calle del Povar. He at once recognised the window described to him by Perico; a curtain was drawn before it on the inner side, and nothing indicated that the room had an occupant.
"Doubtless she is gone out," thought Andrés, "and will return only when her day's work is finished. She must be a needle-woman, cigar-maker, embroideress, or something of that kind," and he walked on.
Militona had not gone out. She was cutting out a dress upon her little table. The occupation required no great mystery, but nevertheless her door was bolted, for fear probably of some sudden invasion on the part of Juancho, rendered doubly dangerous by the absence of Tia Aldonsa. As she worked, Militona's thoughts travelled faster than her needle. They ran upon the young man who had gazed at her the previous evening, at the circus, with so tender and ardent a gaze, and who had spoken a few words to her in a voice that still sounded pleasantly in her ear.
It was night, and Juancho, straitened and uncomfortable in his modern costume, and wearied with fruitless researches, paced the alleys of the Prado with hasty steps, looking every man in the face, but without discovering his rival. At the same hour, Andrés, seated in an _orchateria de chufas_ (orgeat-shop) nearly opposite Militona's house, quietly consumed a glass of iced lemonade. He had placed himself on picket there, with Perico for his vedette. Juancho would have passed him by without recognising him, or thinking of seeking his enemy under the round jacket and felt hat of a manolo, but Militona, concealed in the corner of her window, had not been deceived for an instant by the young man's disguise. Love has sharper eyes than hatred. Devoured by anxiety, the manola asked herself what could be the projects of the persevering cavalier, and dreaded the terrible scene that must ensue should Juancho discover him. Andrés, his elbows upon the table, watched every one who went in or out of the house; but night came and Militona had not appeared. He began to doubt the correctness of his emissary's information, when a light in the young girl's window showed that the room was inhabited. Hastily writing a few words in pencil on a scrap of paper, he called Perico, who lingered in the neighbourhood, and bade him take the billet to the pretty manola. Perico slipped into the house, fumbled his way up stairs, and discovered Militona's door by the light shining through the cracks. Two discreet taps; the wicket was half opened, and the note taken in.
"It is to be hoped she can read," thought Andrés, as he paid for his lemonade, left the shop, and walked slowly up and down the street. This was what he had written:--
"One who cannot forget you, and who would grieve to do so, ardently desires to see you again; but after your last words at the circus, and ignorant of your position, he fears to place you in peril by seeking an interview. Danger to himself would be no obstacle. Extinguish your lamp, and throw your answer from the window."
In a few minutes the lamp disappeared, the window opened, and Militona took in her water-jar. In so doing she upset one of the pots of sweet basil, which fell into the street and was broken to pieces. Amidst the brown earth scattered upon the pavement, something white was visible. It was Militona's answer. Andrés called a _sereno_, or watchman, who just then passed, with his lantern at the end of his halbert, and begging him to lower the light, read the following words, written in a tremulous hand, and in large irregular letters:--
"Begone instantly.... I have no time to say more. To morrow, at ten o'clock, in the church of San Isidro. For Heaven's sake begone! your life is at stake."
"Thank you, my good man," said Andrés, putting a real into the sereno's hand, "you may go."
The street was quite deserted, and Andrés was walking slowly away, when the apparition of a man, wrapped in a cloak, beneath which the handle of a guitar formed an acute angle, excited his curiosity, and he stepped into the dark shadow of a low archway. The man threw back the folds of his cloak, brought his guitar forward, and began that monotonous thrumming which serves as accompaniment to serenades and seguidillas. The object of this prelude evidently was to awaken the lady in whose honour it was perpetrated; but Militona's window continued closed and dark; and at last the man, compelled to content himself with an invisible auditory,--in spite of the Spanish proverb, which says, no woman sleeps so soundly that the twang of a guitar will not bring her to the window,--began to sing in a strong Andalusian accent. The serenade consisted of a dozen verses, in which the singer celebrated the charms of a cruel mistress, vowed inextinguishable love, and denounced fearful vengeance upon all rivals. The menaces, however, were far more abundant, in this rude ditty, than the praises of beauty or protestations of affection.
"_Caramba_!" thought Andrés, when the song concluded, "what ferocious poetry! Nothing tame about those couplets. Let us see if Militona is touched by the savage strain. This must be the terrible lover by whom she is so frightened. She might be alarmed at less."
Don Andrés advanced his head a little; a moonbeam fell upon it, and Juancho's quick eye detected him. "Good!" said Andrés to himself, "I am caught. Now then, cool and steady."
Juancho threw down his guitar, which resounded mournfully on the pavement, and ran up to Andrés, whose face was now in the full moonlight, and whom he at once recognised.
"What do you here at this hour?" said the bull-fighter, in a voice that trembled with passion.
"I listen to your music; it is a refined amusement."
"If you listened, you heard that I allow no one to set foot in this street when I sing."
"I am naturally very disobedient," replied Andrés, with perfect coolness.
"You will change your character to-day."
"Certainly not--I am attached to my habits."
"Defend yourself, then, or die!" cried Juancho, drawing his knife, and rolling his cloak round his arm. His movements were imitated by Andrés, who placed himself on guard with a promptness that showed knowledge of the weapon, and somewhat surprised the bull-fighter. Andrés had long practised the _navaja_ under one of the best teachers in Seville, as at Paris one sees young men of fashion take lessons of _savate_ and singlestick, reduced to mathematical principles by Lecourt and Boucher.
Juancho hovered about his adversary, advancing his left arm, protected by numerous folds of cloth, as a buckler, his right drawn back to give more swing and force to the blow; now stooping with knees bent, then rising up like a giant, and again sinking down like a dwarf; but the point of his knife was always met by the cloaked arm of Andrés. Alternately retreating and suddenly and impetuously attacking, he sprang right and left, balancing his blade on his hand, as though about to hurl it at his foe. Andrés replied several times to these varied attacks by such rapid and well-directed thrusts, that a less adroit combatant than Juancho would hardly have parried them. It was truly a fine fight, and worthy a circle of spectators learned in the art; but, unfortunately, the windows were all closed, and the street was empty. Academicians of San Lucar, of the Potro of Cordova, of the Albaycin of Granada, and of the _barrio_ of Triana, why were ye not there to witness the doughty deeds of those valiant champions?
The two champions, vigorous though they were, grew fatigued with such violent exertions; the sweat streamed from their temples, their breasts heaved like the bellows of a forge, their feet were heavier on the ground, their movements less elastic. Juancho felt the point of Andrés' knife pierce his sleeve, and his rage redoubled; with a desperate bound, and at risk of his life, he sprang, like a panther, upon his enemy. Andrés fell backwards, and, in his fall, burst open the imperfectly-fastened door of Militona's house, in front of which the duel occurred. Juancho walked quietly away. The _sereno_, who just then passed the end of the street, uttered his monotonous cry;--"_Las once y media, y sereno._"
In an agony of anxiety, Militona had listened from her window to the noise of this conflict; she would have called for help, but her tongue clove to her palate, and terror compressed her throat with its iron fingers. At last, half frantic, and unconscious of what she did, she staggered downstairs, and reached the door just as it was forced open by the weight of Andrés' inanimate body.
The next morning, soon after day-break, when the torero, in cloak and slouched hat, walked into the neighbourhood of the Plaza de Lavapies to hear what was said of the night's events, he learned, to his intense horror, that Andrés, severely but not mortally wounded, had been conveyed to Militona's room, and placed in her bed, where he now lay, carefully tended by the manola, of whose humane and charitable conduct the gossips of the quarter were loud in praise. When Juancho heard this, his knees shook, and he was forced to support himself against the wall. His rival in the chamber, and on the bed, of Militona! He could scarcely refrain from rolling on the ground, and tearing his breast with his nails. Recovering himself, he entered the house and ascended the stairs with a heavy and sinister-sounding step. "In her chamber! In her chamber!" he muttered. And, as he spoke, he instinctively opened and shut his long Albacete knife. On reaching the top of the stairs, he knocked violently at the manola's door.
Andrés started on his bed of suffering; Militona, who was seated near him, turned deadly pale, and rose to her feet as if impelled by springs. Tia Aldonsa looked horribly frightened, and devoutly crossed herself. The blow was so imperative as to command attention; a repetition of the summons would have forced the door from its hinges. With trembling hand Aldonsa opened the wicket, and beheld Juancho's face at the aperture. Medusa's mask, livid amidst its grim and snaky locks, could hardly have produced a more terrible effect upon the poor old woman. Speechless and petrified, she stood with fixed eyeballs, open mouth, and hands extended. True it was, that the torero's head, seen through the grating, had no very amiable and encouraging aspect; his eyes were injected with blood; his face was livid, and his cheek-bones, whence the usual ruddy tinge had fled, formed two white spots in his cadaverous countenance; his distended nostrils palpitated like those of ferocious beasts that had scent of a prey; his teeth were pressed upon his lip, which was swollen and bloody from the bite. Jealousy, fury, and revenge had set their stamp on his distorted features.
"Blessed Lady of Almudena!" muttered the old woman, "deliver us from this peril, and I promise you a wax taper with a velvet handle."
Courageous as he was, Andrés experienced that uneasy feeling to which the bravest men are subject when exposed to a danger against which they are defenceless. He mechanically extended his hand to seek some weapon.
As nobody opened the door, Juancho applied his shoulder to it and gave a push; the planks cracked, and the plaster crumbled from round the lock and hinges. Then Militona, placing herself before Andrés, said in a calm and firm voice to the old woman, who was half crazed with terror:
"Aldonsa, open the door; I insist upon it."
Aldonsa drew the bolt, and, standing close to the wall, pulled the door back upon her for protection, like a helot letting a tiger into the arena, or a servant admitting into the bull-ring some furious native of Gaviria or Colmenar. Juancho, who expected more resistance, entered slowly, as if disconcerted by the absence of obstacles. But a single glance at Andrés, stretched in Militona's bed, brought back all his fury. He seized the door, to which Tia Aldonsa, who thought her last hour come, clung with all her might, and shutting it in spite of the poor old woman's efforts, placed his back against it and crossed his arms upon his breast.
"Angels of heaven!" muttered Aldonsa, her teeth chattering with terror, "he will murder us all three. I will call out of the window."
And she made a step in that direction. But Juancho, guessing her intention, seized her by the gown, and with a single jerk replaced her against the wall, her skirt half torn off.
"Hag!" he cried, "if you attempt to call out, I will twist your neck like a fowl's, and send your old soul to the devil. Come not between me and the object of my wrath, or I crush you on my path."
And he pointed to Andrés, who, pale and feeble, in vain endeavoured to raise his head from the pillow. It was a horrible situation. No noise had been made that could alarm the neighbours, who, moreover, would have been more likely to lock themselves in their rooms for fear of Juancho, than to render assistance. There were no means of apprising the police, or obtaining succour from without. Poor Andrés, severely wounded, weak from loss of blood, without arms, and unable to use them had he had any, lay at the mercy of a ruffian intoxicated with rage and jealousy. All this because he had ogled a pretty manola at a bull-fight. It is allowable to suppose that at that moment he regretted the tea-table, piano, and prosaic society of Doña Feliciana de los Rios. Nevertheless, on casting a supplicatory glance at Militona, as if to implore her not to risk her safety in his defence, he found her so marvellously lovely in her pallor and emotion, that he could not think her acquaintance dearly purchased even by this great peril. She stood erect, one hand on the edge of Andrés' bed, whom she seemed resolved to protect, the other extended towards the door with a gesture of supreme majesty.
"What do you here, murderer?" she cried, in clear and thrilling tones. "You sought a lover; you find a wounded and helpless man. Begone! Fear you not lest the wound break out afresh at your presence? Are you not sick of bloodshed? Do you come as an assassin?"
The young girl accentuated the last word in so singular a manner, and accompanied it with so piercing and terrible a look, that Juancho was embarrassed, reddened, turned pale, and the ferocity of his countenance was exchanged for an expression of uneasiness. After a pause, he spoke in a choked and faltering voice.
"Swear, by the relics of Monte Sagrado, and by the image of the Virgin del Pilar, by your dead father, and your sainted mother, that you do not love this man, and I instantly depart."
Andrés awaited Militona's reply with intense anxiety. She made none. Her long black lashes drooped over her cheek, which was suffused with a faint tinge of pink. Although this silence was perhaps his doom to death, Andrés felt his heart leap with joy.
"If you will not swear," continued Juancho, "affirm it. I will believe you; you have never lied. But if you keep silence, I must kill him." And he approached the bed with uplifted knife.
"You love him?"
"Yes!" exclaimed the young girl, with flashing eyes and a voice trembling with passion and indignation. "I love him. If he dies on my account, let him know at least that he is beloved. Let him carry to his grave that word, his consolation and your torture."
With a bound, Juancho stood beside Militona, whose arm he rudely grasped.
"Do not repeat it," he exclaimed, "or I throw you, with my knife in your heart, upon the body of your minion."
"What care I!" cried the courageous girl. "Think you I will live, if he dies?"
Andrés made a desperate effort to raise himself. He endeavoured to call out; a reddish foam rose to his lips--his wound had opened. He fell back senseless upon his pillow.
"If you do not depart," cried Militona to the torero, "I hold you vile, base, and a coward. I believe all that has been said of you; I believe that you could have saved Domingues when the bull knelt upon his breast, and that you would not, because you were meanly jealous of him."
"Militona! Militona! you have a right to hate me, although never did man love woman as I love you; but you have no right to despise me. No human power could save Domingues."
"If you would not have me think you an assassin, depart!"
"Yes, I will wait till he is cured," replied Juancho, in a gloomy tone.--"Take good care of him. I have sworn, that whilst I live, no man shall call you his."
During this stormy scene, old Aldonsa had slipped out to sound an alarm in the neighbourhood. Five or six men now rushed into the room, seized Juancho and dragged him out with them. But on the landing-place he shook them from him, as a bull shakes off a pack of dogs, and forcing his way through all opposition, reached the street and was lost to view in the maze of buildings that surrounds the Plaza de Lavapies.
The friends of Don Andrés de Salcedo, uneasy at his disappearance, had already applied to the police to obtain news of his fate. Researches were made, and Argamasilla and Covachuelo, two of the most wily alguazils of the secret police, at last succeeded in ferreting out traces of the missing cavalier. Orders were given to arrest Juancho the bull-fighter, on a charge of assassination. But the Madrid police are not very celebrated for courage and decision, and the two thief-catchers above named, to whom the execution of the warrant was intrusted, proceeded on their mission with infinite delicacy, awed by the notorious strength and fierceness of the torero. Evil tongues were ready to assert that they took considerable pains not to meet with the man for whose capture they affected to be anxious. At last, however, a clumsy spy reported to them that the object of their timid researches had just entered the circus with as calm an air as if he had no crime upon his conscience, or fear of the arm of justice. Argamasilla and Covachuelo could no longer evade the performance of their duty, and were compelled to betake themselves to the place pointed out.
The unwelcome information was correct. Juancho had gone to the circus,--driven thither by the force of habit rather than by any interest in the sport that had once engrossed his thoughts and energies. Since the terrible scene in Militona's room had convinced him she loved another, his courage and energy seemed to have deserted him. He was morose, listless, and indifferent to every thing. Nevertheless he had instinctively wandered down to the bull-ring, to look at some remarkably fine beasts that had been brought to the stable for the next day's fight. He was still there, and was walking across the arena, when Argamasilla and Covachuelo arrived with a little squad of assistants, and Covachuelo, with infinite ceremony and courtesy, informed Juancho that he was under the painful necessity of conducting him to prison. Juancho shrugged his shoulders contemptuously and walked on. The alguazil made a sign, and two men laid hands upon the torero, who brushed them away as though they had been flies upon his sleeve. The whole band then precipitated themselves upon him; he struggled furiously, and knocked them about like nine-pins, but, sensible that he must at last be overpowered by numbers, he managed gradually to get near the _toril_, and then, shaking off his assailants by a sudden effort, he opened the door, and took refuge in that dangerous asylum. His enemies endeavoured to follow him, but whilst they tried to force the door, it suddenly flew open, and a bull, hunted from his stall by Juancho, dashed with lowered horns and dreadful bellow amongst the terrified troop. The poor devils had but just time to climb the barriers, and one of them only escaped with a terrible rent in his lower garments.
This daring proceeding of the besieged greatly disconcerted the besiegers. Nevertheless they plucked up courage, and, after a while, ventured to return to the charge. This time two bulls rushed out, and as the police dispersed and got away with all the agility of fear, the wild animals, seeing no human foes, turned their wrath against each other, crossed their horns, and with muzzles in the dust of the circus, made furious efforts for mastery.
"Comrade," cried Covachuelo to Juancho, "we know the extent of your ammunition. You have still five bulls to let off; after that you will be compelled to surrender unconditionally. If you capitulate and come out at once, I will take you to prison with due regard for your feelings, without handcuffs, in a coach at your own expense, and will say nothing in my report of the resistance you have made, which would aggravate your case."
Juancho, careless about his liberty, ceased his defence, and gave himself up to Argamasilla and Covachuelo, who took him to prison with all the honours of war.
The torero's case was a bad one. The public prosecutor represented the nocturnal combat as an attempted assassination. Fortunately Andrés, whom a good constitution and Militona's unremitting care speedily restored to health, interceded for him, representing the affair as a duel, fought with an unusual weapon certainly, but with one which he could accept, because he was acquainted with its management. The generous young man, happy in Militona's love, thought poor Juancho had suffered sufficiently on his account, without being sent to the galleys for a wound now perfectly healed. Andrés held his present happiness cheaply bought at the price of a stab. And as a murder can hardly be very severely punished, when the victim is in perfect health and pleads for his assassin, the result of Salcedo's mediation, and of the interest he made, was the release of Juancho, who left his prison with the bitter regret of owing his liberty to the man he most hated upon earth, and from whom he would sooner have died than receive a favour.
"Unhappy wretch that I am!" he exclaimed, when he once more found himself unfettered and in sunshine. "Henceforward, I must hold this man's life sacred, or deserve the epithet of coward and villain. Oh! I would a thousand times have preferred the galleys! In ten years I should have returned and could have revenged myself."
From that day Juancho disappeared. It was said that he had been seen galloping on his famous black horse in the direction of Andalusia. Be that as it might, he was no more seen in Madrid.
The departure of the bull-fighter was shortly followed by the marriage of Andrés and Militona, Andrés having been released from his previous engagement with Doña Feliciana de los Rios, who had discovered, during his illness, that she had in fact very little affection for her betrothed husband, and had encouraged the attentions of a rich English traveller. The double marriage took place on the same day and in the same church. Militona had insisted on making her own wedding dress; it was a masterpiece, and seemed cut out of the leaves of a lily. It was so well made, that nobody remarked it. Feliciana's dress was extravagantly rich. When they came out of church, every body said of Feliciana, "What a lovely gown!" and, of Militona, "What a charming person!"
Two months had elapsed, and Don Andrés de Salcedo and his lady lived in retirement at a delicious country villa near Granada. With good sense that equalled her beauty, Militona refused to mix in the society to which her marriage elevated her, until she should have repaired the deficiencies of an imperfect education. The departure of a friend for the Manillas, compelled her husband to visit Cadiz, and she accompanied him. They found the Gaditanos raving of a torero who performed prodigies of skill and courage. Such temerity had never before been witnessed. He gave out that he came from Lima in South America, and was then engaged at Puerto-de-Santa-Maria. Thither Andre's, who felt his old tauromachian ardour revive at the report of such prowess, persuaded his wife to accompany him, and at the appointed hour they took their places in a box at the circus. On all sides they heard praises of this famous torero. His incredible feats were in every body's mouth, and all declared that if he was not killed, he would very soon eclipse the fame of the great Montés himself.
The fight began, and the torero made his appearance. He was dressed in black; his vest, garnished with ornaments of silk and jet, had a sombre richness harmonizing with the wild and almost sinister countenance of its wearer; a yellow sash was twisted round his meagre person, which seemed composed solely of bone and muscle. His dark countenance was traversed by furrows, traced, as it seemed, rather by the hand of care than by lapse of years; for although youth had disappeared from his features, middle age had not yet set its stamp upon them. There was something in the face and figure of the man which Audrés thought he remembered; but he could not call to mind when or where he had seen him. Militona, on the other hand, did not doubt for an instant. In spite of his small resemblance to his former self, she at once recognised Juancho.
The terrible change wrought in so short a time had something that alarmed her. It proved how terrible was the passion that had thus played havoc with this man of iron frame.
Hastily opening her fan to conceal her face, she said to Andrés in a hurried voice:
"It is Juancho."
But her movement was too late; the torero had seen her; with his hand he waved a salutation.
"Juancho it really is!" cried Andrés; "the poor fellow is sadly changed; he has grown ten years older. Ah! _he_ is the new torero, of whom they talk so much: he has returned to the bull-ring."
"Let us go, Andrés," said Militona to her husband. "I know not why, but I am very uneasy; I feel sure something will happen."
"What can happen," replied Andrés, "except the death of horses and the fall of a few picadores?"
"I fear lest Juancho should commit some extravagance,--some furious act."
"You cannot forget that unlucky stab, or lucky one, I should rather call it, since to it I owe my present happiness." And Andrés tenderly pressed the hand of his bride, to whose cheeks the blood that for an instant had left them, now began to return. "If you knew Latin--which you fortunately do not--I would tell you that the law of _non bis in idem_ guarantees my safety. Besides the honest fellow has had time to calm himself."
Juancho performed prodigies. He behaved as if invulnerable; took bulls by the tail and made them waltz, put his foot between their horns and leaped over them, tore off the ribbons with which they were adorned, planted himself right in their path and harassed them with unparalleled audacity. The delighted spectators were outrageous in their applause, and swore that such a bull-fight had never been witnessed since the days of the Cid Campeador. The other bull-fighters, electrified by the example of their chief, seemed equally reckless of danger. The picadores advanced to the very centre of the circus, the banderillos drove their darts into the flanks of the bull without once missing. When any of them were hard pressed, Juancho was ever at hand, prompt to distract the attention of the furious beast, and draw its anger on himself. One of the chulos fell, and would have been ripped from navel to chin, had not Juancho, at risk of his life, forced the bull from its victim. Every thrust he gave was delivered with such skill and force that the sword entered exactly between the shoulders, and disappeared to the hilt. The bulls fell at his feet as though struck by lightning, and a second blow was never once required.
"_Caramba_!" exclaimed Andrés, "Montes, the Chiclanero, Arjona, Labi, and the rest of them, had better take care; Juancho will excel them all, if he has not done so already."
But such exploits as these were not destined to be repeated; Juancho attained that day the highest sublimity of the art; he did things that will never be done again. Militona herself could not help applauding; Andrés was wild with delight and admiration; the delirium was at its height; frantic acclamations greeted every movement of Juancho.
The sixth bull was let into the arena.
Then an extraordinary and unheard-of thing occurred: Juancho, after playing the bull and manoeuvring his cloak with consummate dexterity, took his sword, and, instead of plunging it into the animal's neck, as was expected, hurled it from him with such force, that it turned over and over in the air, and stuck deep in the ground at the other end of the circus.
"What is he about," was shouted on all sides. "This is madness--not courage! What new scheme is this? Will he kill the bull with his bare hands?"
Juancho cast one look at Militona--one ineffable look of love and suffering. Then he remained motionless before the bull. The beast lowered its head. One of its horns entered the breast of the man, and came out red to the very root. A shriek of horror from a thousand voices rent the sky.
Militona fell back upon her chair in a deathlike swoon.
 _Sombra por la tarde_,--"shade for the afternoon." The tickets for the bull-fight vary in value according as they are for the sunny or shady side of the arena.
 Places of bad fame in the respective towns, frequented by thieves and suspicious characters.
 "Half-past eleven, and a fine night."
 The stable where the bulls are kept.
THE EMERALD STUDS.
A REMINISCENCE OF THE CIRCUIT.
"Hallo, Tom! Are you not up yet? Why, man, the judges have gone down to the court half an hour ago, escorted by the most ragged regiment of ruffians that ever handled a Lochaber-axe."
Such was my matutinal salutation to my friend Thomas Strachan, as I entered his room on a splendid spring morning. Tom and I were early college allies. We had attended, or rather, to speak more correctly, taken out tickets for the different law classes during the same sessions. We had fulminated together within the walls of the Juridical Society on legal topics which might have broken the heart of Erskine, and rewarded ourselves diligently thereafter with the usual relaxations of a crab and a comfortable tumbler. We had aggravated the same grinder with our deplorable exposition of the Pandects, and finally assumed, on the same day, the full-blown honours of the Advocate's wig and gown. Nor did our fraternal parallel end there: for although we had walked the boards of the Parliament House with praiseworthy diligence for a couple of sessions, neither of us had experienced the dulcet sensation which is communicated to the palm by the contact of the first professional guinea. In vain did we attempt to insinuate ourselves into the good graces of the agents, and coin our intellects into such jocular remarks, as are supposed to find most favour in the eyes of facetious practitioners. In vain did I carry about with me, for a whole week, an artificial process most skilfully made up; and in vain did Tom compound and circulate a delectable ditty, entitled, "The Song of the Multiplepoinding." Not a single solicitor would listen to our wooing, or even intrust us with the task of making the simplest motion. I believe they thought me too fast, and Tom too much of a genius: and, therefore, both of us were left among the ranks of the briefless army of the stove. This would not do. Our souls burned within us with a noble thirst for legal fame and fees. We held a consultation (without an agent) at the Rainbow, and finally determined that since Edinburgh would not hear us, Jedburgh should have the privilege of monopolising our maiden eloquence at the ensuing justiciary circuit. Jedburgh presents a capital field to the ambition of a youthful advocate. Very few counsel go that way; the cases are usually trifling, and the juries easily bamboozled. It has besides this immense advantage--that should you by any accident happen to break down, nobody will in all probability be the wiser for it, provided you have the good sense to ingratiate yourself with the circuit-clerk.
Tom and I arrived at Jedburgh the afternoon before the circuit began. I was not acquainted with a human being within the parliamentary boundaries of that respectable borough, and therefore experienced but a slight spasm of disappointment when informed by the waiter at the inn, that no inquiries had yet been made after me, on the part of writers desirous of professional assistance. Strachan had been wiser. Somehow or other, he had gotten a letter of introduction to one Bailie Beerie, a notable civic dignitary of the place; and accordingly, on presenting his credentials, was invited by that functionary to dinner, with a hint that he "might maybe see a wheen real leddies in the evening." This pointed so plainly to a white choker and dress boots, that Strachan durst not take the liberty of volunteering the attendance of his friend; and accordingly I had been left alone to wile away, as I best might, the tedium of a sluggish evening. Before starting, however, Tom pledged himself to return in time for supper; as he entertained a painful conviction that the party would be excessively slow.
So long as it was light, I amused myself pretty well, by strolling along the banks of the river, and enunciating a splendid speech for the pannel in an imaginary case of murder. However, before I reached the peroration, (which was to consist of a vivid picture of the deathbed of a despairing jury-man, conscience-stricken by the recollection of an erroneous verdict,) the shades of evening began to close in; the trouts ceased to leap in the pool, and the rooks desisted from their cawing. I returned to discuss my solitary mutton at the inn; and then, having nothing to do, sat down to a moderate libation, and an odd number of the Temperance Magazine, which valuable tract had been left for the reformation of the traveller by some peripatetic disciple of Father Mathew.
Nine o'clock came, but so did not Strachan. I began to wax wroth, muttered anathemas against my faithless friend, rang for the waiter, and--having ascertained the fact that a Masonic Lodge was that evening engaged in celebrating the festival of its peculiar patron--I set out for the purpose of assisting in the pious and mystic labours of the Brethren of the Jedburgh St Jeremy. At twelve, when I returned to my quarters, escorted by the junior deacon, I was informed that Strachan had not made his appearance, and accordingly I went to bed.
Next morning, I found Tom, as already mentioned, in his couch. There was a fine air of negligence in the manner in which his habiliments were scattered over the room. One glazed boot lay within the fender, whilst the other had been chucked into a coal-scuttle; and there were evident marks of mud on the surface of his glossy kerseymeres. Strachan himself looked excessively pale, and the sole rejoinder he made to my preliminary remark was, a request for soda-water.
"Tom," said I, inexpressibly shocked at the implied confession of the nature of his vespers--"I wonder you are not ashamed of yourself! Have you no higher regard for the dignity of the bar you represent, than to expose yourself before a Jedburgh Bailie?"
"Dignity be hanged!" replied the incorrigible Strachan. "Bailie Beerie is a brick, and I won't hear a word against him. But, O Fred! if you only knew what you missed last night! Such a splendid woman--by Jove, sir, a thoroughbred angel. A bust like one of Titian's beauties, and the voice of a lovelorn nightingale!"
"One of the Misses Beerie, I presume. Come, Tom, I think I can fill up your portrait. Hair of the auburn complexion, slightly running into the carrot--skin fair, but freckled--greenish eyes--red elbows--culpable ankles--elephantine waist--and sentiments savouring of the Secession."
"Ring the bell for the waiter, and hold your impious tongue. You never were farther from the mark in your life. The wing of the raven is not more glossy than her hair--and oh, the depth and melting lustre of those dark unfathomable eyes! Waiter! a bottle of soda-water, and you may put in a thimbleful of cognac."
"Come, Tom!--none of your ravings. Is this an actual Armida, or a new freak of your own imagination?"
"_Bonâ fide_--an angel in every thing, barring the wings."
"Then how the deuce did such a phenomenon happen to emerge at the Bailie's?"
"That's the very question I was asking myself during the whole time of dinner. She was clearly not a Scotswoman. When she spoke, it was in the sweet low accents of a southern clime, and she waved away the proffered haggis with an air of the prettiest disgust!"
"But the Bailie knew her?"
"Of course he did. I got the whole story out of him after dinner, and, upon my honour, I think it is the most romantic one I have ever heard. About a week ago, the lady arrived here without attendants. Some say she came in the mail-coach--others in a dark travelling chariot and pair. However, what matters it? the jewel can derive no lustre or value from the casket!"
"Yes--but one always likes to have some kind of idea of the setting. Get on."
"She seemed in great distress, and inquired whether there were any letters at the post-office addressed to the Honourable Dorothea Percy. No such epistle was to be found. She then interrogated the landlord, whether an elderly lady, whose appearance she minutely described, had been seen in the neighbourhood of Jedburgh; but except old Mrs Slammingham of Summertrees, who has been bed-ridden for years, there was nobody in the county who at all answered to the description. On hearing this, the lady seemed profoundly agitated--shut herself up in a private parlour, and refused all sustenance."
"Had she not a reticule with sandwiches, Tom?"
"Do not tempt me to commit justifiable homicide--you see I am in the act of shaving.--At last the landlady, who is a most respectable person, and who felt deeply interested at the desolate situation of the poor young lady, ventured to solicit an interview. She was admitted. There are moments when the sympathy of even the humblest friend is precious. Miss Percy felt grateful for the interest so displayed, and confided the tale of her griefs to the matronly bosom of the hostess."
"And she told you?
"No,--but she told Bailie Beerie. That active magistrate thought it his duty to interfere. He waited upon Miss Percy, and from her lips he gathered the full particulars of her history. Percy is not her real name, but she is the daughter of an English peer of very ancient family. Her father having married a second time, Dorothea was exposed to the persecutions of a low-minded vulgar woman, whose whole ideas were of that mean and mercenary description which characterise the Caucasian race. Naomi Shekles was the offspring of a Jew, and she hated, whilst she envied, the superior charms of the noble Norman maiden. But she had gained an enormous supremacy over the wavering intellect of the elderly Viscount; and Dorothea was commanded to receive, with submission, the addressses of a loathsome apostate, who had made a prodigious fortune in the railways."
"One of the tribe of Issachar?"
"Exactly. A miscreant whose natural function was the vending of cast habiliments. Conceive, Fred, what the fair young creature must have felt at the bare idea of such shocking spousals! She besought, prayed, implored,--but all in vain. Mammon had taken too deep a root in the paternal heart,--the old coronet had been furbished up by means of Israelitish gold, and the father could not see any degradation in forcing upon his child an alliance similar to his own."
"You interest me excessively."
"Is it not a strange tale?" continued Thomas, adjusting a false collar round his neck. "I knew you would agree with me when I came to the pathetic part. Well, Fred, the altar was decked, the ornaments ready, the Rabbi bespoke----"
"Do you mean to say, Strachan, that Lady Dorothea was to have been married after the fashion of the Jews?"
"I don't know exactly. I think Beerie said it was a Rabbi; but that may have been a flight of his own imagination. However, somebody was ready to have tied the nuptial knot, and all the joys of existence, and its hopes, were about to fade for ever from the vision of my poor Dorothea!"
"_Your_ Dorothea!" cried I in amazement. "Why, Tom--you don't mean to insinuate that you have gone that length already?"
"Did I say mine?" repeated Strachan, looking somewhat embarrassed. "It was a mere figure of speech: you always take one up so uncommonly short.--Nothing remained for her but flight, or submission to the Cruel mandate. Like a heroic girl, in whose veins the blood of the old crusaders was bounding, she preferred the former alternative. The only relation whom she could apply in so delicate, a juncture, was an aged aunt, residing somewhere in the north of Scotland. To her she wrote, beseeching her, as she regarded the memory of her buried sister, to receive her miserable child; and she appointed this town, Jedburgh, as the place of meeting."
"But where's the aunt?"
"That's just the mysterious part of the business. The crisis was so imminent that Dorothea could not wait for a reply. She disguised herself,--packed up a few jewels which had been bequeathed to her by her mother,--and, at the dead of night, escaped from her father's mansion. Judge of her terror when, on arriving here, panting and perhaps pursued, she could obtain no trace whatever of her venerable relative. Alone, inexperienced and unfriended, I tremble to think what might have been her fate, had it not been for the kind humanity of Beerie."
"And what was the Bailie's line of conduct?"
"He behaved to her, Fred, like a parent. He supplied her wants, and invited her to make his house her home, at least until the aunt should appear. But the noble creature would not subject herself to the weight of so many obligations. She accepted, indeed, his assistance, but preferred remaining here, until she could place herself beneath legitimate guardianship. And doubtless," continued Strachan with fervour, "her good angel is watching over her."
"And this is the whole story?"
"Do you know, Tom, it looks uncommonly like a piece of deliberate humbug!"
"Your ignorance misleads you, Fred. You would not say so had you seen her. So sweet--so gentle--with such a tinge of melancholy resignation in her eye, like that of a virgin martyr about to suffer at the stake! No one could look upon her for a moment, and doubt her purity and truth."
"Perhaps. But you must allow that we are not living exactly in the ages of romance. An elopement with an officer of dragoons is about the farthest extent of legitimate enterprise which is left to a modern damsel; and, upon my word, I think the story would have told better, had some such hero been inserted as a sort of counterpoise to the Jew. But what's the matter? Have you lost any thing?"
"It is very odd!" said Strachan, "I am perfectly certain that I had on my emerald studs last night. I recollect that Dorothea admired them exceedingly. Where on earth can I have put them?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. I suspect, Tom, you and the Bailie were rather convivial after supper. Is your watch wound up?"
"Of course it is. I assure you you are quite wrong. It was a mere matter of four or five tumblers. Very odd this! Why--I can't find my watch neither!"
"Hallo! what the deuce! Have we fallen into a den of thieves? This is a nice beginning to our circuit practice."
"I could swear, Fred, that I put it below my pillow before I went to sleep. I remember, now, that it was some time before I could fit in the key. What can have become of it?"
"And you have not left your room since?"
"No, on my word of honour!"
"Pooh--pooh! Then it can't possibly be gone. Look beneath the bolster."
But in vain did we search beneath bolster, mattress, and blankets; yea, even downwards to the fundamental straw. Not a trace was to be seen of Cox Savory's horizontal lever, jewelled, as Tom pathetically remarked, in four special holes, and warranted to go for a year without more than a minute's deviation. Neither were the emerald studs, the pride of Strachan's heart, forthcoming. Boots, chamber-maid, and waiter were collectively summoned--all assisted in the search, and all asseverated their own integrity.
"Are ye sure, sir, that ye brocht them hame?" said the waiter, an acute lad, who had served his apprenticeship at a commercial tavern in the Gorbals; "Ye was gey an' fou when ye cam in here yestreen."
"What do you mean, you rascal?"
"Ye ken ye wadna gang to bed till ye had anither tumbler."
"Don't talk trash! It was the weakest cold-without in the creation."
"And then ye had a sair fecht on politics wi' anither man in the coffee-room."
"Ha! I remember now--the bagman, who is a member of the League! Where is the commercial villain?"
"He gaed aff at sax preceesely, this morning, in his gig, to Kelso."
"Then, by the head of Thistlewood!" cried Strachan, frantically, "my ticker will be turned into tracts against the corn-laws!"
"Hoot na!" said the waiter, "I canna think that. He looked an unco respectable-like man."
"No man can be respectable," replied the aristocratic Thomas, "who sports such infernal opinions as I heard him utter last night. My poor studs! Fred.--they were a gift from Mary Rivers before we quarreled, and I would not have lost them for the universe! Only think of them being exposed for sale at a free-trade bazar!"
"Come, Tom--they may turn up yet."
"Never in this world, except at a pawnbroker's. I could go mad to think that my last memorial of Mary is in all probability glittering in the unclean shirt of a bagman!"
"Had you not better apply to the Fiscal?"
"For what purpose? Doubtless the scoundrel has driven off to the nearest railway, and is triumphantly counting the mile-posts as he steams to his native Leeds. No, Fred. Both watch and studs are gone beyond the hope of redemption."
"The loss is certainly a serious one."
"No doubt of it: but a thought strikes me. You recollect the edict, _nautae_, _caupones_, _stabularii_? I have not studied the civil law for nothing and am clearly of opinion, that in such a case the landlord is liable."
"By Jove! I believe you are right. But it would be as well to turn up Shaw and Dunlop for a precedent before you make any row about it. Besides, it may be rather difficult to establish that you lost them at the inn."
"If they only refer the matter to my oath, I can easily settle that point," replied Strachan. "Besides, now that I think of it, Miss Percy can speak to the watch. She asked me what o'clock it was just before we parted on the stairs."
"Eh, what! Is the lady in this house?"
"To be sure--did I not tell you so?"
"I say, Tom--couldn't you contrive to let one have a peep at this angel of yours?"
"Quite impossible. She is the shyest creature in the world, and would shrink from the sight of a stranger."
"But, my dear Tom----"
"I can't do it, I tell you; so it's no use asking me."
"Well, I must say you are abominably selfish. But what on earth are you going to do with that red and blue Joinville? You can't go down to court without a white neckcloth."
"I am not going down to court."
"Why, my good fellow! what on earth is the meaning of this?"
"I am not going down to court, that's all. I say, Fred, how do I look in this sort of thing?"
"Uncommonly like a cock-pheasant in full plumage. But tell me what you mean?"
"Why, since you must needs know, I am going up stairs to breakfast with Miss Percy."
So saying, Mr Strachan made me a polite bow, and left the apartment. I took my solitary way to the courthouse, marvelling at the extreme rapidity of the effect which is produced by the envenomed darts of Cupid.
On entering the court, I found that the business had commenced. An enormous raw-boned fellow, with a shock of the fieriest hair, and hands of such dimensions that a mere glimpse of them excited unpleasant sensations at your windpipe, was stationed at the bar, to which, from previous practice, he had acquired a sort of prescriptive right.
"James M'Wilkin, or Wilkinson, or Wilson," said the presiding judge, in a tone of disgust which heightened with each successive alias, "attend to the indictment which is about to be preferred against you."
And certainly, if the indictment contained a true statement of the facts, James M'Wilkin, or Wilkinson, or Wilson was about as thoroughpaced a marauder as ever perambulated a common. He was charged with sheep-stealing and assault; inasmuch as, on a certain night subsequent to the Kelso fair, he, the said individual with the plural denominations, did wickedly and feloniously steal, uplift, and away take from a field adjoining to the Northumberland road, six wethers, the property, or in the lawful possession of, Jacob Gubbins, grazier, then and now or lately residing in Morpeth; and moreover, on being followed by the said Gubbins, who demanded restitution of his property, he, the said M'Wilkin, &c., had, in the most brutal manner, struck, knocked down, and lavished divers kicks upon the corporality of the Northumbrian bumpkin, to the fracture of three of his ribs, and otherwise, to the injury of his person.
During the perusal of this formidable document by the clerk, M'Wilkin stood scratching his poll, and leering about him as though he considered the whole ceremony as a sort of solemn joke. I never in the course of my life cast eyes on a more nonchalant or unmitigated ruffian.
"How do you say, M'Wilkin," asked the judge; "are you guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty, aff course. D'ye tak me for a fule?" and M'Wilkin flounced down upon his seat, as though he had been an ornament to society.
"Have you a counsel?" asked the judge.
"De'il ane--nor a bawbee," replied the freebooter.
Acting upon the noble principle of Scottish jurisprudence, that no man shall undergo his trial without sufficient legal advice, his lordship in the kindest manner asked me to take charge of the fortunes of the forlorn M'Wilkin. Of course I made no scruples; for, so long as it was matter of practice, I should have felt no hesitation in undertaking the defence of Beelzebub. I therefore leaned across the dock, and exchanged a few hurried sentences with my first client.
"Why don't you plead guilty?"
"What for? I've been here before. Man, I'm thinking ye're a saft ane!"
"Did you not steal the sheep."'
"Ay--that's just the question. Let them find that out."
"But the grazier saw you?"
"I blackened his e'es."
"You'll be transported to a dead certainty."
"Deevil a fears, if ye're worth the price o' half a mutchkin. I'm saying--get me a Hawick jury, and it's a' richt. They ken me gey and weel thereabouts."
Although I was by no means satisfied in my own mind that an intimate acquaintance with M'Wilkin and his previous pursuits would be a strong recommendation in his favour to any possible assize, I thought it best to follow his instructions, and managed my challenges so well that I secured a majority of Hawickers. The jury being sworn in, the cause proceeded; and certainly, before three witnesses had been examined, it appeared to me beyond all manner of doubt, that, in the language of Tom Campbell, my unfortunate client was
"Doom'd the long coves of Sydney isle to see,"
as a permanent addition to that cultivated and Patagonian population. The grazier stood to his story like a man, and all efforts to break him down by cross-examination were fruitless. There was also another hawbuck who swore to the sheep, and was witness to the assault; so that, in fact, the evidence was legally complete.
Whilst I was occupied in the vain attempt to make Gubbins contradict himself, there had been a slight commotion in the court-room. On looking round afterwards, I was astonished to behold my friend Strachan seated in the magistrate's box, next to a very pretty and showily-dressed woman, to whom he was paying the most marked and deliberate attention. On the other side of her was an individual in a civic chain, whose fat, pursy, apoplectic appearance, and nose of the colour of an Orleans plum, thoroughly realised my mental picture of the Bailie. His small, blood-shot eyes twinkled with magisterial dignity and importance; and he looked, beside Miss Percy--for I could not doubt that it was she--like a satyr in charge of Florimel.
The last witness for the crown, a very noted police officer from Glasgow, was then put into the box, to prove a previous conviction against my friend M'Wilkin. This man bore a high reputation in his calling, and was, indeed, esteemed as a sort of Scottish Vidocq, who knew by headmark every filcher of a handkerchief between Caithness and the Border. He met the bold broad stare of the prisoner with a kind of nod, as much as to assure him that his time was very nearly up; and then deliberately proceeded to take a hawk's-eye view of the assembly. I noticed a sort of quiet sneer as he glanced at the Magistrate's box.
"Poor Strachan!" thought I. "His infatuation must indeed be palpable, since even a common officer can read his secret in a moment."
I might just as well have tried to shake Ailsa Craig as to make an impression upon this witness; however, heroically devoted to my trust, I hazarded the attempt, and ended by bringing out several additional tales of turpitude in the life and times of M'Wilkin.
"Make room there in the passage! The lady has fainted," cried the macer.
I started to my feet, and was just in time to see Miss Percy conveyed from the court in an apparently inanimate state, by the Bailie and the agitated Strachan.
"Devilish fine-looking woman that!" observed the Advocate-Depute across the table. "Where did your friend Mr Strachan get hold of her?"
"I really don't know. I say--are you going to address the jury for the crown?"
"It is quite immaterial. The case is distinctly proved, and I presume you don't intend to speak?"
"I'm not so sure of that."
"Oh, well,--in that case I suppose I must say a word or two. This closes the evidence for the crown, my lord," and the Depute began to turn over his papers preparatory to a short harangue.
He had just commenced his speech, when I felt a hand laid upon my shoulder. I looked around: Strachan was behind me, pale and almost breathless with excitement.
"Fred--can I depend upon your friendship?"
"Of course you can. What's the row?"
"Have you ten pounds about you?"
"Yes--but what do you mean to do with them? Surely you are not going to make a blockhead of yourself by bolting?"
"No--no! give me the money--quick!"
"On your word of honour, Tom?"
"On my sacred word of honour!--That's a good fellow--thank you, Fred;" and Strachen pocketed the currency. "Now," said he, "I have just one other request to make."
"Speak against time, there's a dear fellow! Spin out the case as long as you can, and don't let the jury retire for at least three quarters of an hour. I know you can do it better than any other man at the bar."
"Are you in earnest, Tom?"
"Most solemnly. My whole future happiness--nay, perhaps the life of a human being depends upon it."
"In that case I think I shall tip them an hour."
"Heaven reward you, Fred! I never can forget your kindness!"
"But where shall I see you afterwards?"
"At the hotel. Now, my dear boy, be sure that you pitch it in, and, if possible, get the judge to charge after you. Time's all that's wanted--adieu!" and Tom disappeared in a twinkling.
I had little leisure to turn over the meaning of this interview in my mind, for the address of my learned opponent was very short and pithy. He merely pointed out the clear facts, as substantiated by evidence, and brought home to the unhappy M'Wilkin; and concluded by demanding a verdict on both charges contained in the indictment against the prisoner.
"Do you wish to say any thing, sir?" said the judge to me, with a kind of tone which indicated his hope that I was going to say nothing. Doubtless his lordship thought that, as a very young counsel, I would take the hint; but he was considerably mistaken in his man. I came to the bar for practice--I went on the circuit with the solemn determination to speak in every case, however desperate; and it needed not the admonition of Strachan to make me carry my purpose into execution. What did I care about occupying the time of the court? His lordship was paid to listen, and could very well afford to hear the man who was pleading for M'Wilkin without a fee. I must say, however, that he looked somewhat disgusted when I rose.
A first appearance is a nervous thing, but there is nothing like going boldly at your subject. "_Fiat experimentum in corpore vili_," is a capital maxim in the Justiciary Court. The worse your case, the less chance you have to spoil it; and I never had a worse than M'Wilkin's.
I began by buttering the jury on their evident intelligence and the high functions they had to discharge, which of course were magnified to the skies. I then went slap-dash at the evidence; and, as I could say nothing in favour of my client, directed a tremendous battery of abuse and insinuation against his accuser.
"And who is this Gubbins, gentlemen, that you should believe this most incredible, most atrocious, and most clumsy apocrypha of his? I will tell you. He is an English butcher--a dealer in cattle and in bestial--one of those men who derive their whole subsistence from the profits realised by the sale of our native Scottish produce. This is the way in which our hills are depopulated, and our glens converted into solitudes. It is for him and his confederates--not for us--that our shepherds watch and toil, that our herds and flocks are reared, that the richness of the land is absorbed! And who speaks to the character of this Gubbins? You have heard the pointless remarks made by my learned friend upon the character of my unfortunate client; but he has not dared to adduce in this court one single witness in behalf of the character of his witness. Gentlemen, he durst not do it! Gubbins has deponed to you that he bought those sheep at the fair of Kelso, from a person of the name of Shiells, and that he paid the money for them. Where is the evidence of that? Where is Shiells to tell us whether he actually sold these sheep, or whether on the contrary they were not stolen from him? Has it been proved to you, gentlemen, that M'Wilkin is not a friend of Shiells--that he did not receive notice of the theft--that he did not pursue the robber, and, recognising the stolen property by their mark, seize them for the benefit of their owner? No such proof at least has been led upon the part of the crown, and in the absence of it, I ask you fearlessly, whether you can possibly violate your consciences by returning a verdict of guilty? Is it not possible--nay, is it not extremely probable, that Gubbins was the actual thief? Was it not his interest, far more than M'Wilkin's, to abstract those poor unhappy sheep, because it is avowedly his trade to fill the insatiable maw of the Southron? And in that case, who should be at the bar? Gubbins! Gubbins, I say, who this day has the unparalleled audacity to appear before an enlightened Scottish jury, and to give evidence which, in former times, might have led to the awful consequence of the execution of an innocent man! And this is what my learned friend calls evidence! Evidence to condemn a fellow-countryman, gentlemen? No--not to condemn a dog!"
Having thus summarily disposed of Gubbins, I turned my artillery against the attendant drover and the policeman. The first I indignantly denounced as either an accomplice or a tool: the second I smote more severely. Policemen are not popular in Hawick; and, knowing this, I contrived to blacken the Scottish Vidocq as a bloodhound.
But by far the finest flight of fancy in which I indulged was reserved for the peroration. I was not quite sure of the effect of my commentary on the evidence, and therefore thought it might be advisable to touch upon a national raw.
"And now, gentlemen," said I, "assuming for one moment that all my learned friend has said to you is true--that the sheep really belonged to this Gubbins, and were taken from him by M'Wilkin--let us calmly and deliberately consider how far such a proceeding can be construed into a crime. What has my unfortunate client done that he should be condemned by a jury of his countrymen? What he stands charged with is simply this--that he has prevented an Englishman from driving away the produce of our native hills. And is this a crime? It may be so, for aught I know, by statute; but sure I am, that in the intention, to which alone you must look, there lies a far deeper element of patriotism than of deliberate guilt. Think for one moment, gentlemen, of the annals of which we are so proud--of the ballads still chanted in the hall and in the hamlet--of the lonely graves and headstones that are scattered all along the surface of the southern muirs. Do not these annals tell us how the princes and the nobles of the land were wont to think it neither crime nor degradation to march with their retainers across the Borders, and to harry with fire and sword the fields of Northumberland and Durham? Randolph and the Bruce have done it, and yet no one dares to attach the stigma of dishonour to their names. Do not our ballads tell how at Lammas-tide,
'The doughty Earl of Douglas rade Into England to fetch a prey?'
And who shall venture to impeach the honour of the hero who fell upon the field of Otterbourne? Need I remind you of those who have died in their country's cause, and whose graves are still made the object of many a pious pilgrimage? Need I speak of Flodden, that woful place where the Flowers of the Forest were left lying in one ghastly heap around their king? Ah, gentlemen! have I touched you now? True, it was in the Olden time that these things were done and celebrated; but remember this, that society may change its place, states and empires may rise and be consolidated, but patriotism still lives enduring and undying as of yore! And who shall dare to say that patriotism was not the motive of M'Wilkin? Who shall presume to analyse or to blame the instinct which may have driven him to the deed? Call him not a felon--call him rather a poet; for over his kindling imagination fell the mighty shadow of the past. Old thoughts, old feelings, old impulses, were burning in his soul. He saw in Gubbins, not the grazier, but the lawless spoiler of his country; and he rose, as a Borderer should, to vindicate the honour of his race. He may have been mistaken in what he did, but the motive, at least, was pure. Honour it then, gentlemen, for it is the same motive which is at all times the best safeguard of a nation's independence; and do honour likewise to yourselves by pronouncing a unanimous verdict of acquittal in favour of the prisoner at the bar!"
By the time I had finished this harangue, I was wrought up to such a pitch of enthusiasm, that I really considered M'Wilkin in the light of an extremely ill-used individual, and the tears stood in my eyes as I recapitulated the history of his wrongs. Several of the jury, too, began to get extremely excited, and looked as fierce as falcons when I reminded them of the field of Flodden. But my hopes were considerably damped when I heard the charge of his lordship. With all respect for the eminent Senator who that day presided on the bench, I think he went rather too far when he designated my maiden-effort a rhapsody which could only be excused on account of the inexperience of the gentleman who uttered it. Passing from that unpleasant style of stricture, he went _seriatim_ over all the crimes of M'Wilkin, and very distinctly indicated his opinion that a more consummate ruffian had seldom figured in the dock. When he concluded, however, there was a good deal of whispering in the jury-box, and at last the gentlemen of the assize requested permission to retire.
"That was a fine flare-up of yours, Freddy," said Anthony Whaup, the only other counsel for the prisoners upon the circuit. "You came it rather strong, though, in the national line. I don't think our venerable friend overhead half likes your ideas of international law."
"Why, yes--I confess he gave me a tolerable wigging. But what would you have me do? I must have said something."
"Oh, by Jove, you were perfectly right! I always make a point of speaking myself; and I can assure you that you did remarkably well. It was a novel view, but decidedly ingenious, and may lead to great results. If that fellow gets off, you may rely upon it there will be some bloodshed again upon the Border."
"And a jolly calendar, of course, for next circuit. I say, Authony,--how many cases have you got?"
"Two thefts with habit and repute, a hame-sucken, rather a good forgery, and an assault with intent to commit."
"Rather--but poor pay. I haven't sacked more than nine guineas altogether. Gad!" continued Anthony, stretching himself, "this is slow work. I'd rather by a great deal be rowing on the canal."
"Hush! here come the jury."
They entered, took their seats, and each man in succession answered to his name. I stole a glance at M'Wilkin. He looked as leonine as ever, and kept winking perseveringly to the Hawickers.
"Now, gentlemen," said the clerk of court, "what is your verdict?"
The foreman rose.
"The jury, by a majority, find the charges against the prisoner NOT PROVEN."
"Hurrah!" shouted M'Wilkin, reckless of all authority. "Hurrah! I say--you counsellor in the wig--ye shanna want a sheep's head thae three years, if there's ane to be had on the Border!"
And in this way I gained my first acquittal.
I found Strachan in his room with his face buried in the bed-clothes. He was kicking his legs as though he suffered under a violent fit of the toothache.
"I say, Tom, what's the matter? Look up, man! Do you know I've got that scoundrel off?"
"Tom, I say! Tom, you dunderhead--what do you mean by making an ass of yourself this way? Get up, for shame, and answer me!"
Poor Strachan raised his head from the coverlet. His eyes were absolutely pink, and his cheeks of the tint of a lemon.
"O Fred, Fred!" said he with a series of interjectional gasps. "I am the most unfortunate wretch in the universe. All the hopes I had formerly cherished are blighted at once in the bud! She is gone, my friend--gone away from me, and, alas! I fear for ever!
"The deuce she has! and how?"
"Oh what madness tempted me to lead her to the court?--what infatuation it was to expose those angelic features to the risk of recognition! Who that ever saw those dove-like eyes could forget them?"
"I have no objection to the eyes--they were really very passable. But who twigged her?"
"An emissary of her father's--that odious miscreant who was giving evidence at the trial."
"The policeman? Whew! Tom!--I don't like that."
"He was formerly the land-steward of the Viscount;--a callous, cruel wretch, who was more than suspected of having made away with his wife."
"And did he recognise her?"
"Dorothea says that she felt fascinated by the glitter of his cold gray eye. A shuddering sensation passed through her frame, just as the poor warbler of the woods quivers at the approach of the rattle-snake. A dark mist gathered before her sight, and she saw no more until she awoke to consciousness within my arms."
"Very pretty work, truly! And what then?"
"In great agitation, she told me that she durst tarry no longer here. She was certain that the officer would make it his business to track her, and communicate her hiding-place to her family; and she shook with horror when she thought of the odious Israelitish bridegroom. 'The caverns of the deep green sea--the high Tarpeian rock--the Lencadian cliff of Sappho,'--she said, 'all would be preferable to that! And yet, O Thomas, to think that we should have met so suddenly, and that to part for ever!' 'Pon my soul, Fred, I am the most miserable of created beings."
"Why, what on earth has become of her?"
"Gone--and I don't know whither. She would not even apprise the Bailie of her departure, lest she might leave some clue for discovery. She desired me to see him, to thank him, and to pay him for her,--all of which I promised to do. With one kiss--one deep, burning, agonised kiss, which I shall carry with me to my grave--- she tore herself away, sprang into the postchaise, and in another moment was lost to me for ever!"
"And my ten pounds?" said I, in a tone of considerable emotion.
"Would you have had me think twice," asked Strachan indignantly, "before I tendered my assistance to a forlorn angel in distress, even though she possessed no deeper claims on my sympathy? I thought, Frederick, you had more chivalry in your nature. You need not be uneasy about that trifle;--I shall be in funds some time about Christmas."
"Humph! I thought it was a P.P. transaction, but no matter. And is this all the clue you have got to the future residence of the lady?"
"No,--she is to write me from the nearest post-town. You will see, Fred, when the letter arrives, how well worthy she is of my adoration."
I have found, by long experience, that it is no use remonstrating with a man who is head-over-ears in love. The tender passion affects us differently, according to our constitutions. One set of fellows, who are generally the pleasantest, seldom get beyond the length of flirtation. They are always at it, but constantly changing, and therefore manage to get through a tolerable catalogue of attachments before they are finally brought to book. Such men are quite able to take care of themselves, and require but little admonition. You no doubt hear them now and then abused for trifling with the affections of young women--as if the latter had themselves the slightest remorse in playing precisely the same game!--but in most cases such censure is undeserved, for they are quite as much in earnest as their neighbours, so long as the impulse lasts. The true explanation is, that they have survived their first passion, and that their faith is somewhat shaken in the boyish creed of the absolute perfectibility of woman. The great disappointment of life does not make them misanthropes--but it forces them to caution, and to a closer appreciation of character than is usually undertaken in the first instance. They have become, perhaps, more selfish--certainly more suspicious, and though often on the verge of a proposal, they never commit themselves without an extreme degree of deliberation.
Another set seem designed by nature to be the absolute victims of woman. Whenever they fall in love, they do it with an earnestness and an obstinacy which is actually appalling. The adored object of their affections can twine them round her finger, quarrel with them, cheat them, caricature them, or flirt with others, without the least risk of severing the triple cord of attachment. They become as tame as poodle-dogs, will submit patiently to any manner of cruelty or caprice, and in fact seem rather to be grateful for such treatment than otherwise. Clever women usually contrive to secure a captive of this kind. He is useful to them in a hundred ways, never interferes with their schemes, and, if the worst comes to the worst, they can always fall back upon him as a _pis-aller_.
My friend Tom Strachan belonged decidedly to this latter section. Mary Rivers, a remarkably clever and very showy girl, but as arrant a flirt as ever wore rosebud in her bosom, had engrossed the whole of his heart before he reached the reflecting age of twenty, and kept him for nearly five years in a state of uncomplaining bondage. Not that I believe she ever cared about him. Tom was as poor as a church-mouse, and had nothing on earth to look to except the fruits of his professional industry, which, judging from all appearances, would be a long time indeed in ripening. Mary was not the sort of person to put up with love in a cottage, even had Tom's circumstances been adequate to defray the rent of a tenement of that description: she had a vivid appreciation not only of the substantials, but of the higher luxuries of existence. But her vanity was flattered at having in her train at least one devoted dangler, whom she could play off, whenever opportunity required, against some more valuable admirer. Besides, Strachan was a man of family, tall, good-looking, and unquestionably clever in his way: he also danced the polka well, and was useful in the ball-room or the pic-nic. So Mary Rivers kept him on in a kind of blissful dream, just sunning him sufficiently with her smiles to make him believe that he was beloved, but never allowing matters to go so far as to lead to the report that they were engaged. Tom asked for nothing more. He was quite contented to indulge for years in a dream of future bliss, and wrote during the interval a great many more sonnets than summonses. Unfortunately sonnets don't pay well, so that his worldly affairs did not progress at any remarkable ratio. And he only awoke to a sense of his real situation, when Miss Rivers, having picked a quarrel with him one day in the Zoological Gardens, announced on the next to her friends that she had accepted the hand of a bilious East India merchant.
Tom made an awful row about it--grew as attenuated and brown as an eel--and garnished his conversation with several significant hints about suicide. He was, however, saved from that ghastly alternative by being drafted into a Rowing Club, who plied their gondolas daily on the Union Canal. Hard exercise, beer, and pulling had their usual sanatory effect, and Tom gradually recovered his health, if not his spirits.
It was at this very crisis that he fell in with this mysterious Miss Percy. There was an immense hole in his affections which required to be filled up; and, as nature abhors a vacuum, he plugged it with the image of Dorothea. The flight, therefore, of the fair levanter, after so brief an intercourse, was quite enough to upset him. He was in the situation of a man who is informed over-night that he has succeeded to a large fortune, and who gets a letter next morning explaining that it is a mere mistake. I was therefore not at all astonished either at his paroxysms or his credulity.
We had rather a dreary dinner that day. The judges always entertain the first day of circuit, and it is considered matter of etiquette that the counsel should attend. Sometimes these forensic feeds are pleasant enough; but on the present occasion there was a visible damp thrown over the spirits of the party. His lordship was evidently savage at the unforeseen escape of M'Wilkin, and looked upon me, as I thought, with somewhat of a prejudiced eye. Bailie Beeric and the other magistrates seemed uneasy at their unusual proximity to a personage who had the power of death and transportation, and therefore abstained from emitting the accustomed torrent of civic facetiousness. One of the sheriffs wanted to be off on a cruise, and another was unwell with the gout. The Depute Advocate was fagged; Whaup surly as a bear with a sore ear, on account of the tenuity of his fees; and Strachan, of course, in an extremely unconversational mood. So I had nothing for it but to eat and drink as plentifully as I could, and very thankful I was that the claret was tolerably sound.
We rose from table early. As I did not like to leave Tom to himself in his present state of mind, we adjourned to his room for the purpose of enjoying a cigar; and there, sure enough, upon the table lay the expected missive. Strachan dashed at it like a pike pouncing upon a parr; I lay down upon the sofa, lit my weed, and amused myself by watching his physiognomy.
"Dear suffering angel!" said Tom at last, with a sort of whimper, "Destiny has done its worst! We have parted, and the first fond dream of our love has vanished before the cold and dreary dawn of reality! O my friend--we were like the two birds in the Oriental fable, each doomed to traverse the world before we could encounter our mate--we met, and almost in the same hour the thunderbolt burst above us!"
"Yes--two very nice birds," said I. "But what does she say in the letter?"
"You may read it," replied Tom, and he handed me the epistle. It was rather a superior specimen of penmanship, and I don't choose to criticise the style. Its tenor was as follows:--
"I am hardly yet, my dear friend, capable of estimating the true extent of my emotions. Like the buoyant seaweed torn from its native bed among the submarine forest of the corals, I have been tossed from wave to wave, hurried onwards by a stream more resistless than that which sweeps through the Gulf of Labrador, and far--far away as yet is the wished-for haven of my rest. Hitherto my life has been a tissue of calamity and wo. Over my head since childhood, has stretched a dull and dreary canopy of clouds, shutting me out for ever from a glimpse of the blessed sun. Once, and but once only have I seen a chasm in that envious veil--only once and for a few, a _very_ few moments, have I gazed upon the blue empyrean, and felt my heart expand and thrill to the glories of its liquid lustre. That once--oh, Mr Strachan, can I ever forget it?--that once comprises the era of the few hours which were the silent witnesses of our meeting!
"Am I weak in writing to you thus? Perhaps I am; but then, Thomas, I have never been taught to dissemble. Did I, however, think it probable that we should ever meet again--that I should hear from your lips a repetition of that language which now is chronicled in my soul--it may be that I would not have dared to risk an avowal so candid and so dear! As it is, it matters not. You have been my benefactor, my kind consoler--my friend. You have told me that you love; and in the fullness and native simplicity of my heart, I believe you. And if it be any satisfaction to you to know that your sentiments have been at least appreciated, believe that of all the pangs which the poor Dorothea has suffered, this last agony of parting has been incomparably the most severe.
"You asked me if there was no hope. Oh, my Thomas! what would I not give could I venture to answer, yes? But it cannot be! You are young and happy, and will yet be fortunate and beloved: why, then, should I permit so fair an existence to be blighted by the upas-tree of destiny under which I am doomed to languish? You shall not say that I am selfish--you shall not hereafter reproach me for having permitted you to share a burden too great for both of us to carry. You must learn the one great lesson of existence, to submit and to forget!
"I am going far away, to the margin of that inhospitable shore which receives upon its rocks the billows of the unbroken Atlantic,--or haply, amongst the remoter isles, I shall listen to the seamew's cry. Do not weep for me. Amidst the myriad of bright and glowing things which flutter over the surface of this green creation, let one feeble, choking, over-burdened heart be forgotten! Follow me not--seek me not--for, like the mermaid on the approach of the mariner, I should shrink from the face of man into the glassy caverns of the deep.
"Adieu, Thomas, adieu! Say what you will for me to the noble and generous Beerie. Would to heaven that I could send him some token in return for all his kindness, but a good and gallant heart is its own most adequate reward.
"They are putting to the horses--I can hear the rumble of the chariot! Oh, once more, dear friend--alas, too inexpressibly dear!--take my last farewell. Adieu--my heart is breaking as I write the bitter word!--forget me.
"Do you wonder at my sorrow now?" said Strachan, as I laid down the passionate epistle.
"Why, no. It is well got up upon the whole, and does credit to the lady's erudition. But I don't see why she should insist so strongly upon eternal separation. Have you no idea whereabouts that aunt of hers may happen to reside?"
"Not the slightest."
"Because, judging from her letter, it must be somewhere about Benbecula or Tiree. I shouldn't even wonder if she had a summer box on St Kilda."
"Right! I did not think of that--you observe she speaks of the remoter isles."
"To be sure, and for half a century there has not been a mermaid seen to the east of the Lewis. Now, take my advice, Tom--don't make a fool of yourself in the meantime, but wait until the Court of Session rises in July. That will allow plenty of time for matters to settle; and if the old Viscount and that abominable Abiram don't find her out before then, you may depend upon it they will abandon the search. In the interim, the lady will have cooled. Walks upon the sea-shore are uncommonly dull without something like reciprocal sentimentality. The odds are, that the old aunt is addicted to snuff, tracts, and the distribution of flannel, and before August, the fair Dorothea will be yearning for a sight of her adorer. You can easily gammon Anthony Whaup into a loan of that yacht of his which he makes such a boast of; and if you go prudently about it, and flatter him on the score of his steering, I haven't the least doubt that he will victual his hooker and give you a cruise in it for nothing."
"Admirable, my dear Fred! We shall touch at all the isles from Iona to Uist; and if Miss Percy be indeed there--"
"You can carry her off on five minutes' notice, and our long friend will be abundantly delighted. Only, mind this! If you want my candid opinion on the wisdom of such an alliance, I should strongly recommend you to meddle no farther in the matter, for I have my doubts about the Honourable Dorothea, and--"
"Bah, Fred! Doubts after such a letter as that? Impossible! No, my dear friend--your scheme is admirable--unexceptionable, and I shall certainly act upon it. But oh--it is a weary time till July!"
"Merely a short interval of green pease and strawberries. I advise you, however, to fix down Whaup as early as you can for the cruise."
The hint was rapidly taken. We sent for our facetious friend, ordered supper, and in the course of a couple of tumblers, persuaded him that his knowledge of nautical affairs was not exceeded by that of T. P. Cooke, and that he was much deeper versed in the mysteries of sky-scraping than Fenimore Cooper. Whaup gave in. By dint of a little extra persuasion, I believe we might have coaxed him into a voyage for Otaheite; and before we parted for the evening it was agreed that Strachan should hold himself in readiness to start for the Western Islands about the latter end of July--Whaup being responsible for the provisions and champagne, whilst Tom pledged himself to cigars.
I never ascertained the exact amount of the sum which Tom handed over to the Bailie. It must, however, have been considerable, for he took to retrenching his expenditure, and never once dropped a hint about the ten pounds which I was so singularly verdant as to lend him. The summer session stole away as quickly as its predecessors, though not, in so far as I was concerned, quite as unprofitably, for I got a couple of Sheriff-court papers to draw in consequence of my M'Wilkin appearance. Tom, however, was very low about himself, and affected solitude. He would not join in any of the strawberry lunches or fish dinners so attractive to the junior members of the bar; but frequented the Botanical Gardens, where he might be seen any fine afternoon, stretched upon the bank beside the pond, concocting sonnets, or inscribing the name of Dorothea upon the monument dedicated to Linnaeus.
Time, however, stole on. The last man who was going to be married got his valedictory dinner at the close of session. Gowns were thrown off, wigs boxed up, and we all dispersed to the country wheresoever our inclination might lead us. I resolved to devote the earlier part of the vacation to the discovery of the town of Clackmannan--a place of which I had often heard, but which no human being whom I ever encountered had seen. Whaup was not oblivious of his promise, and Strachan clove unto him like a limpet.
We did not meet again until September was well-nigh over. In common with Strachan, I had adopted the resolution of changing my circuit, and henceforth adhering to Glasgow, which, from its superior supply of criminals, is the favourite resort of our young forensic aspirants. So I packed my portmanteau, invoked the assistance of Saint Rollox, and started for the balmy west.
The first man I met in George's Square was my own delightful Thomas. He looked rather thin; was fearfully sun-burned; had on a pair of canvass trowsers most wofully bespattered with tar, and evidently had not shaved for a fortnight.
"Why, Tom, my dear fellow!" cried I, "can this possibly be you? What the deuce have you been doing with yourself? You look as hairy as Robinson Crusoe."
"You should see Whaup,--he's rather worse off than Friday. We have just landed at the Broomielaw, but I was obliged to leave Anthony in a tavern for fear we should be mobbed in the street. I'm off by the rail to Edinburgh, to get some decent toggery for us both. Lend me a pound-note, will you?"
"Certainly--that's eleven, you recollect. But what's the meaning of all this? Where is the yacht?"
"Safe--under twenty fathoms of dark blue water, at a place they call the Sneeshanish Islands. Catch me going out again, with Anthony as steersman!"
"No doubt he is an odd sort of Palinurus. But when did this happen?"
"Ten days ago. We were three days and nights upon the rock, with nothing to eat except two biscuits, raw mussels and tangle!"
"Mercy on us! and how did you get off?"
"In a kelp-boat from Harris. But I haven't time for explanation just now. Go down, like a good fellow, to the Broomielaw, No. 431--you will find Anthony enjoying himself with beef steaks and bottled stout, in the back parlour of the Cat and Bagpipes. I must refer you to him for the details."
"One word more--you'll be back to the circuit?"
"Decidedly. To-morrow morning: as soon as I can get my things together."
"And the lady--What news of her?"
The countenance of Strachan fell.
"Ah, my dear friend! I wish you had not touched upon that string--you have set my whole frame a jarring. No trace of her--none--none! I fear I shall never see her more!"
"Come! don't be down-hearted. One never can tell what may happen. Perhaps you may meet her sooner than you think."
"You are a kind-hearted-fellow, Fred. But I've lost all hope. Nothing but a dreary existence is now before me, and--but, by Jupiter, there goes the starting bell!"
Tom vanished, like Aubrey's apparition, with a melodious twang, and a perceptible odour of tar; and so, being determined to expiscate the matter, I proceeded towards the Broomielaw, and in due time became master of the locality of the Cat and Bagpipes.
"Is there a Mr Whaup here?" I inquired of Mrs M'Tavish, the landlady, who was filling a gill-stoup at the bar.
"Here you are, old chap!" cried the hilarious voice of Anthony from an inner apartment. "Turn to the right, steer clear of the scrubbing brushes, and help yourself to a mouthful of Guinness."
I obeyed. Heavens, what a figure he was! His trowsers were rent both at the knees and elsewhere, and were kept together solely by means of whip-cord. His shirt had evidently not benefited by the removal of the excise duties upon soap, and was screened from the scrutiny of the beholder by an extempore paletot, fabricated out of sail-cloth, without the remotest apology for sleeves.
Anthony, however, looked well in health, and appeared to be in tremendous spirits.
"Tip us your fin, my old coxs'un!" said he, winking at me over the rim of an enormous pewter vessel which effectually eclipsed the lower segment of his visage. "Blessed if I ain't as glad to see you as one of Mother Carey's chickens in a squall."
"Come, Anthony! leave off your nautical nonsense, and talk like a man of the world. What on earth have you and Tom Strachan, been after?"
"Nothing on earth, but a good deal on sea, and a trifle on as uncomfortable a section of basalt as ever served two unhappy buccaniers for bed, table, and sofa. The chilliness is not off me yet."
"But how did it happen?"
"Very simply: but I'll tell you all about it. It's a long story, though, so if you please I shall top off with something hot. I'm glad you've come, however, for I had some doubts how far this sort of original Petersham would inspire confidence as to my credit in the bosom of the fair M'Tavish. It's all right now, however, so here goes for my yarn."
But I shall not follow my friend through all the windings of his discourse, varied though it certainly was, like the adventures of the venerated Sinbad. Suffice it to say, that they were hardly out of sight of the Cumbraes before Tom confided the whole tale of his sorrows to the callous Anthony, who, as he expressed it, had come out for a lark, and had no idea of the of rummaging the whole of the west coast and the adjacent islands for a petticoat. Moved, however, by the pathetic entreaties of Strachan, and, perhaps, somewhat reconciled to the quest by the dim vision of an elopement, Anthony magnanimously waived his objections, and the two kept cruising together, in a little shell of a yacht, all round the western Archipelago. Besides themselves, there were only a man and a boy on board.
"It was slow work," said Anthony,--"deucedly slow. I would not have minded the thing so much if Strachan had been reasonably sociable; but it was rather irksome, you will allow, when, after the boy had brought in the kettle, and we had made every thing snug for the night, Master Strachan began to maunder about the lady's eyes, and to tear his hair, and to call himself the most miserable dog in existence. I had serious thoughts, at one time, of leaving him ashore on Mull or Skye, and making off direct to the Orkneys; but good-nature was always my foible, so I went on, beating from one place to another, as though we had been looking for the wreck of the Florida.
"I'll never take another cruise with a lover so long as I live. Tom led me all manner of dances, and we were twice fired at from farm-houses where he was caterwauling beneath the windows with a guitar. It seems he had heard that flame of his sing a Spanish air at Jedburgh. Tom must needs pick it up, and you have no idea how he pestered me. Go where we would, he kept harping on that abominable ditty, in the hopes that his mistress might hear him; and, when I remonstrated on the absurdity of the proceeding, he quoted the case of Blondel, and some trash out of Uhland's ballads. Serenading on the west coast is by no means a pleasant pastime. The nights are as raw as an anchovy, and the midges particularly plentiful.
"Well, sir, we could find no trace of the lady after all. Strachan got into low spirits, and I confess that I was sometimes sulky--so we had an occasional blow up, which by no means added to the conviviality of the voyage. One evening, just at sundown, we entered the Sound of Sneeshanish--an ugly place, let me tell you, at the best, but especially to be avoided in any thing like a gale of wind. The clouds in the horizon looked particularly threatening, and I got a little anxious, for I knew that there were rocks about, and not a light-house in the whole of the district.
"In an hour or two it grew as dark as a wolf's throat. I could not for the life of me make out where we were, for the Sound is very narrow in some parts, and occasionally I thought that I could hear breakers ahead.
"'Tom,' said I, 'Tom, you lubber!'--for our esteemed friend was, as usual, lying on the deck, with a cigar in his mouth, twangling at that eternal guitar--'take hold of the helm, will you, for a minute, while I go down and look at the chart.'
"I was as cold as a cucumber; so, after having ascertained, as I best could, the bearings about the Sound, I rather think I _did_ stop below for one moment--but not longer--just to mix a glass of swizzle by way of fortification, for I didn't expect to get to bed that night. All of a sudden I heard a shout from the bows, bolted upon deck, and there, sure enough, was a black object right ahead, with the surf shooting over it.
"'Luff, Tom! or we are all dead men;--Luff, I say!' shouted I. I might as well have called to a millstone. Tom was in a kind of trance.
"'O Dorothea!' said our friend.
"'To the devil with Dorothea!' roared I, snatching the tiller from his hand.
"It was too late. We went smash upon the rock, with a force that sent us headlong upon the deck, and Strachan staggered to his feet, bleeding profusely at the proboscis.
"Down came the sail rattling about our ears, and over lurched the yacht. I saw there was no time to lose, so I leaped at once upon the rock, and called upon the rest to follow me. They did so, and were lucky to escape with no more disaster than a ruffling of the cuticle on the basalt; for in two minutes more all was over. Some of the timbers had been staved in at the first concussion. She rapidly filled,--and down went, before my eyes, the Caption the tidiest little craft that ever pitched her broadside into the hull of a Frenchman!"
"Very well told indeed," said I, "only, Anthony, it does strike me that the last paragraph is not quite original. I've heard something like it in my younger days, at the Adelphi. But what became of you afterwards?"
"Faith, we were in a fix, as you may easily conceive. All we could do was to scramble up the rocks,--which, fortunately, were not too precipitous,--until we reached a dry place, where we lay, huddled together, until morning. When light came, we found that we were not on the main land, but on a kind of little stack in the very centre of the channel, without a blade of grass upon it, or the prospect of a sail in sight. This was a nice situation for two members of the Scottish bar! The first thing we did was to inquire into the state of provisions, which found to consist of a couple of biscuits, that little Jim, the boy, happened to have about him. Of course we followed the example of the earlier navigators, and confiscated these _pro bono publico_. We had not a drop of alcohol among us, but, very luckily, picked up a small keg of fresh water, which, I believe, was our salvation. Strachan did not behave well. He wanted to keep half-a-dozen cigars to himself; but such monstrous selfishness could not be permitted, and the rest of us took them from him by force. I shall always blame myself for having weakly restored to him a cheroot."
"And what followed?"
"Why, we remained three days upon the rock. Fortunately the weather was moderate, so that we were not absolutely washed away, but for all that it was consumedly cold of nights. The worst thing, however, was the deplorable state of our larder. We finished the biscuits the first day, trusting to be speedily relieved; but the sun set without a vestige of a sail, and we supped sparingly upon tangle. Next morning we were so ravenous that we could have eaten raw squirrels. That day we subsisted entirely upon shell-fish, and smoked all our cigars. On the third we bolted two old gloves, buttons and all; and, do you know, Fred, I began to be seriously alarmed about the boy Jim, for Strachan kept eying him like an ogre, began to mutter some horrid suggestions as to the propriety of casting lots, and execrated his own stupidity in being unprovided with a jar of pickles."
"O Anthony--for shame!"
"Well--I'm sure he was thinking about it, if he did not say so. However, we lunched upon a shoe, and for my own part, whenever I go upon another voyage, I shall take the precaution of providing myself with pliable French boots--your Kilmarnock leather is so very intolerably tough! Towards evening, to our infinite joy, we descried a boat entering the Sound. We shouted, as you may be sure, like demons. The Celtic Samaritans came up, and, thanks to the kindness of Rory M'Gregor the master, we each of us went to sleep that night with at least two gallons of oatmeal porridge comfortably stowed beneath our belts. And that's the whole history."
"And how do you feel after such unexampled privation?"
"Not a hair the worse. But this I know, that if ever I am caught again on such idiotical errand as hunting for a young woman through the Highlands, my nearest of kin are at perfect liberty to have me cognosced without opposition."
"Ah--you are no lover, Anthony. Strachan, now, would go barefooted through Stony Arabia, for the mere chance of a casual glimpse at his mistress."
"All I can say, my dear fellow, is, that if connubial happiness cannot be purchased without a month's twangling on a guitar and three consecutive suppers upon sea-weed, I know at least one respectable young barrister who is likely to die unmarried. But I say, Fred, let us have a coach and drive up to your hotel. You can lend me a coat, I suppose, or something of the sort, until Strachan arrives; and just be good enough, will you, to settle with Mrs M'Tavish for the bill, for, by all my hopes of a sheriffship, I have been thoroughly purged of my tin."
The matter may not be of any especial interest to the public; at the same time I think it right to record the fact that Anthony Whaup owes me seven shillings and eightpence unto this day.
"That is all I can tell you about it," said Mr Hedger, as he handed me the last of three indictments, with the joyful accompaniment of the fees. "That is all I can tell you about it. If the _alibi_ will hold water, good and well--if not, M'Closkie will be transported."
Hedger is the very best criminal agent I ever met with. There is always a point in his cases--his precognitions are perfect, and pleading, under such auspices, becomes a kind of realised romance.
"By the way," said he, "is there a Mr Strachan of your bar at circuit? I have a curious communication from a prisoner who is desirous to have him as her counsel."
"Indeed? I am glad to hear it. Mr Strachan is a particular friend of mine, and will be here immediately. I shall be glad to introduce you. Is it a heavy case?"
"No, but rather an odd one--a theft of money committed at the Blenheim hotel. The woman seems a person of education, but, as she obstinately refuses to tell me her story, I know very little more about it than is contained in the face of the indictment."
"What is her name?"
"Why you know that is a matter not very easily ascertained. She called herself Euphemia Saville when brought up for examination, and of course she will be tried as such. She is well dressed, and rather pretty, but she won't have any other counsel than Mr Strachan; and singularly enough, she has positively forbidden me to send him a fee on the ground that he would take it as an insult."
"I should feel particularly obliged if the whole public would take to insulting me perpetually in that manner! But really this is an odd history. Do you think she is acquainted with my friend?"
"I can't say," said he "for, to tell you the truth, I know nothing earthly about it. Only she was so extremely desirous to have him engaged, that I thought it not a little remarkable. I hope your friend won't take offence if I mention what the woman said?"
"Not in the least, you may be sure of that. And, _apropos_, here he comes."
And in effect Whaup and Strachan now walked into the counsel's apartment, demure, shaven, and well dressed--altogether two very different looking individuals from the tatterdemalions of yesterday.
"Good morning, Fred," cried Whaup; "Servant, Mr Hedger--lots of work going, eh? Are the pleas nearly over yet?"
"Very nearly, I believe, Mr Whaup. Would you have the kindness to----"
"Oh, certainly," said I. "Strachan, allow me to introduce my friend Mr Hedger, who is desirous of your professional advice."
"I say, Freddy," said Whaup, looking sulkily at the twain as they retired to a window to consult, "what's in the wind now? Has old Hedger got a spite at any of his clients?"
"How should I know? What do you mean?"
"Because I should rather think," said Anthony, "that in our friend Strachan's hands the lad runs a remarkably good chance of a sea voyage to the colonies, that's all."
"Fie for shame, Anthony! You should not bear malice."
"No more I do--but I can't forget the loss of the little Caption all through his stupid blundering; and this morning he must needs sleep so long that he lost the early train, and has very likely cut me out of business for the sheer want of a pair of reputable trousers."
"Never mind--there is a good time coming."
"Which means, I suppose, that you have got the pick of the cases? Very well: it can't be helped, so I shall even show myself in court by way of public advertisement."
So saying, my long friend wrestled himself into his gown, adjusted his wig knowingly upon his cranium, and rushed toward the court-room as vehemently as though the weal of the whole criminal population of the west depended upon his individual exertions.
"Freddy, come here, if you please," said Strachan, "this is a very extraordinary circumstance! Do you know that this woman, Euphemia Saville, though she wishes me to act as her counsel, has positively refused to see me!"
"Very odd, certainly! Do you know her?"
"I never heard of the name in my life. Are you sure, Mr Hedger, that there is no mistake?"
"Quite sure, sir. She gave me, in fact, a minute description of your person, which perhaps I may be excused from repeating."
"Oh, I understand," said Tom, fishingly; "complimentary, I suppose--eh?"
"Why yes, rather so," replied Hedger hesitatingly; and he cast at the same time a glance at the limbs of my beloved friend, which convinced me that Miss Saville's communication had, somehow or other, borne reference to the shape of a parenthesis. "But, at all events, you may be sure she has seen you. I really can imagine no reason for an interview. We often have people who take the same kind of whims, and you have no idea of their obstinacy. The best way will be to let the Crown lead its evidence, and trust entirely to cross-examination. I shall take care, at all events, that her appearance shall not damage her. She is well dressed, and I don't doubt will make use of her cambric handkerchief."
"And a very useful thing that same cambric is," observed I. "Come, Tom, my boy, pluck up courage! You have opportunity now for a grand display; and if you can poke in something about chivalry and undefended loveliness, you may be sure it will have an effect on the jury. There is a strong spice of romance in the composition of the men of the Middle Ward."
"The whole thing, however, seems to me most mysterious."
"Very; but that is surely an additional charm. We seldom find a chapter from the Mysteries of Udolfo transferred to the records of the Justiciary Court of Scotland."
"Well, then, I suppose it must be so. Fred, will you sit beside me at the trial? I'm not used to this sort of thing as yet, and I possibly may feel nervous."
"Not a bit of you. At any rate I shall be there, and of course you may command me."
In due time the cause was called. Miss Euphemia Saville ascended the trap stair, and took her seat between a pair of policemen with exceedingly luxuriant whiskers.
I must allow that I felt a strong curiosity about Euphemia. Her name was peculiar; the circumstances under which she came forward were unusual; and her predilection for Strachan was tantalising. Her appearance, however, did little to solve the mystery. She was neatly, even elegantly dressed in black, with a close-fitting bonnet and thick veil, which at first effectually obscured her countenance. This, indeed, she partially removed when called upon to plead to the indictment; but the law of no civilised coountry that I know of is so savage as to prohibit the use of a handkerchief, and the fair Saville availed herself of the privilege by burying her countenance in cambric. I could only get a glimpse Of some beautiful black braided hair and a forehead that resembled alabaster. To all appearance she was extremely agitated, and sobbed as she answered to the charge.
The tender-hearted Strachan was not the sort of man to behold the sorrows of his client without emotion. In behalf of the junior members of the Scottish bar I will say this, that they invariably fight tooth and nail when a pretty girl is concerned, and I have frequently heard bursts of impassioned eloquence poured forth in defence of a pair of bright eyes or a piquant figure, in cases where an elderly or wizened dame would have run a strong chance of finding no Cicero by her side. Tom accordingly approached the bar for the purpose of putting some questions to his client, but not a word could he extract in reply. Euphemia drew down her veil, and waved her hand with a repulsive gesture.
"I don't know what to make of her," said Strachan; "only she seems to be a monstrous fine woman. It is clear, however, that she has mistaken me for somebody else. I never saw her in my life before."
"Hedger deserves great credit for the way he has got her up. Observe, Tom, there is no finery about her; no ribbons or gaudy scarfs, which are as unsuitable at a trial as at a funeral. Black is your only wear to find favour in the eyes of a jury."
"True. It is a pity that so little attention is paid to the aesthetics of criminal clothing. But here comes the first witness--Grobey I think they call him--the fellow who lost the money."
Mr Grobey mounted the witness-box like a cow ascending a staircase. He was a huge, elephantine animal of some sixteen stone, with bushy eyebrows and a bald pate, which he ever and anon affectionately caressed with a red and yellow bandana. Strachan started at the sound of his voice, surveyed him wistfully for a moment, and then said to me in a hurried whisper--
"As I live, Fred, that is the identical bagman who boned my emerald studs at Jedburgh!"
"You don't mean to say it?"
"Fact, upon my honour! There is no mistaking his globular freetrading nose. Would it not be possible to object to his evidence on that ground?"
"Mercy on us! no.--Reflect--there is no conviction."
"True. But he stole them nevertheless. I'll ask him about them when I cross."
Mr Grobey's narrative, however, as embraced in animated dialogue with the public prosecutor, threw some new and unexpected light upon the matter. Grobey was a traveller in the employment of the noted house of Barnacles, Deadeye, and Company, and perambulated the country for the benevolent purpose of administering to deficiency of vision. In the course of his wanderings, he had arrived at the Blenheim, where, after a light supper of fresh herrings, toasted cheese, and Edinburgh ale, assisted, _more Bagmannorum_, by several glasses of stiff brandy and water, he had retired to his apartment to sleep off the labours of the day. Somnus, however, did not descend that night with his usual lightness upon Grobey. On the contrary, the deity seemed changed into a ponderous weight, which lay heavily upon the chest of the moaning and suffocated traveller; and notwithstanding a paralysis which appeared to have seized upon his limbs, every external object in the apartment became visible to him as by the light of a magic lantern. He heard his watch ticking, like a living creature, upon the dressing-table where he had left it. His black morocco pocketbook was distinctly visible, beside the looking-glass, and two spectral boots stood up amidst the varied shadows of the night. Grobey was very uncomfortable. He began to entertain the horrid idea that a fiend was hovering, through his chamber.
All at once he heard the door creaking upon its hinges. There was a slight rustling of muslin, a low sigh, and then momentary silence. "What, in the name of John Bright, can that be?" thought the terrified traveller; but he had not to wait long for explanation. The door opened slowly--a female figure, arrayed from head to foot in robes of virgin whiteness, glided in, and fixed her eyes, with an expression of deep solemnity and menace, upon the countenance of Grobey. He lay breathless and motionless beneath the spell. This might have lasted for about a minute, during which time, as Grobey expressed it, his very entrails were convulsed with fear. The apparition then moved onwards, still keeping her eyes upon the couch. She stood for a moment near the window, raised her arm with a monitory gesture to the sky, and then all at once seemed to disappear as it absorbed in the watery moonshine. Grobey was as bold a bagman as ever flanked a mare with his gig-whip, but this awful visitation was too much. Boots, looking-glass, and table swam with a distracting whirl before his eyes; he uttered a feeble yell, and immediately lapsed into a swoon.
It was bright morning when he awoke. He started up, rubbed his eyes, and endeavoured to persuade himself that it was all an illusion. To be sure there were the boots untouched, the coat, the hat, and the portmanteau; but where--oh where--were the watch and the plethoric pocketbook, with its bunch of bank-notes and other minor memoranda? Gone--spirited away; and with a shout of despair old Grobey summoned the household.
The police were straightway taken into his confidence. The tale of the midnight apparition--of the Demon Lady--was told and listened to, at first with somewhat of an incredulous smile; but when the landlord stated that an unknown damosel had been sojourning for two days at the hotel, that she had that morning vanished in a hackney-coach without leaving any trace of her address, and that, moreover, certain spoons of undeniable silver were amissing, Argus pricked up his ears, and after some few preliminary inquiries, issued forth in quest of the fugitive. Two days afterwards the fair Saville was discovered in a temperance hotel; and although the pocketbook had disappeared, both the recognisable notes and the watch were found in her possession. A number of pawn-tickets, also, which were contained in her reticule, served to collect from divers quarters a great mass of _bijouterie_, amongst which were the Blenheim spoons.
Such was Mr Grobey's evidence as afterwards supplemented by the police. Tom rose to cross-examine.
"Pray, Mr Grobey," said he, adjusting his gown upon his shoulders with a very knowing and determined air as though he intended to expose his victim--"Pray, Mr Grobey, are you any judge of studs?"
"I ain't a racing man," replied Grobey, "but I knows an oss when I sees it."
"Don't equivocate, sir, if you please. Recollect you are upon your oath," said Strachan, irritated by a slight titter which followed upon Grobey's answer. "I mean studs, sir--emerald studs for example?"
"I ain't. But the lady is," replied Grobey.
"How do you mean, sir?"
"'Cos there vos five pair on them taken out of pawn with her tickets."
"How do you know that, sir?"
"'Cos I seed them."
"Were you at Jedburgh, sir, in the month of April last?"
"Do you recollect seeing me there?"
"Do you remember what passed upon that occasion?"
"You was rather confluscated, I think."
There was a general laugh.
"Mr Strachan," said the judge mildly, "I am always sorry to interrupt a young counsel, but I really cannot see the relevancy of these questions. The Court can have nothing to do with your communications with the witness. I presume I need not take a note of these latter answers."
"Very well, my lord," said Tom, rather discomfited at being cut out of his revenge on the bagman, "I shall ask him something else;" and he commenced his examination in right earnest. Grobey, however, stood steadfast to the letter of his previous testimony.
Another witness was called; and to my surprise the Scottish Vidocq appeared. He spoke to the apprehension and the search, and also to the character of the prisoner. In his eyes she had long been chronicled as habit and repute a thief.
"You know the prisoner then?" said Strachan rising.
"I do. Any time these three years."
"Under what name is she known to you?"
"Betsy Brown is her real name, but she has gone by twenty others."
"By twenty, do you say?"
"There or thereabouts. She always flies at high game; and, being a remarkably clever woman, she passes herself off for a lady."
"Have you ever seen her elsewhere than in Glasgow?"
I cannot tell what impulse it was that made me twitch Strachan's gown at this moment. It was not altogether a suspicion, but rather a presentiment of coming danger. Strachan took the hint and changed his line.
"Can you specify any of her other names?"
"I can. There are half-a-dozen of them here on the pawn-tickets. Shall I read them?"
"If you please."
"One diamond ring, pledged in name of Lady Emily Delaroche. A garnet brooch and chain--Miss Maria Mortimer. Three gold seals--Mrs Markham Vere. A watch and three emerald studs--the Honourable Dorothea Percy----"
There was a loud shriek from the bar, and a bustle--the prisoner had fainted.
I looked at Strachan. He was absolutely as white as a corpse.
"My dear Tom," said I, "hadn't you better go out into the open air?"
"No!" was the firm reply; "I am here to do my duty, and I'll do it."
And in effect, the Spartan boy with the fox gnawing into his side, did not acquit himself more heroically than my friend. The case was a clear one, no doubt, but Tom made a noble speech, and was highly complimented by the Judge upon his ability. No sooner, however, had he finished it than he left the Court.
I saw him two hours afterwards.
"Tom," said I, "About these emerald studs--I think I could get them back from the Fiscal."
"Keep them to yourself. I'm off to India."
"Bah!--go down to the Highlands for a month."
Tom did so; purveyed himself a kilt; met an heiress at the Inverness Meeting, and married her. He is now the happy father of half-a-dozen children, and a good many of us would give a trifle for his practice. But to this day he is as mad as a March hare if an allusion is made in his presence to any kind of studs whatsoever.
Wake, Rome! destruction's at thy door. Rouse thee! for thou wilt sleep no more Till thou shalt sleep in death: The tramp of storm-shod Mars is near-- His chariot's thundering roll I hear, His trumpet's startling breath. Who comes?--not they, thy fear of old, The blue-eyed Gauls, the Cimbrians bold, Who like a hail-shower in the May Came, and like hail they pass'd away; But one with surer sword, A child whom thou hast nursed, thy son, Thy well-beloved, thy favoured one, Thy Cæsar comes--thy lord!
The ghost of Marius walks to-night By Anio's banks in shaggy plight, And laughs with savage glee; And Sylla from his loathsome death, Scenting red Murder's reeking breath, Doth rise to look on thee. Signs blot the sky; the deep-vex'd earth Breeds portents of a monstrous birth; And augurs pale with fear have noted The dark-vein'd liver strangely bloated, Hinting some dire disaster. To right the wrongs of human kind Behold! the lordly Rome to bind, A Roman comes--a master.
He comes whom, nor the Belgic band, The bravest Nervii might withstand With pleasure-spurning souls Nor they might give his star eclipse, The sea-swept Celts with high-tower'd ships, Where westmost ocean rolls. Him broad-waved Rhine reluctant own'd As 'neath the firm-set planks it groan'd, Then, when the march of spoiling Rome Stirr'd the far German's forest-home; And when he show'd his rods Back to their marshy dens withdrew The Titan-hearted Suevians blue, That dared the immortal gods.
Him Britain from her extreme shores, Where fierce the huge-heaved ocean roars, Beholding, bent the knee. Now, Pompey, now! from rushing Fate Thy Rome redeem: but 'tis too late, Nor lives that strength in thee. In vain for thee State praises flow From lofty-sounding Cicero; Vainly Marcellus prates thy cause, And Cato, true to parchment laws, Protests with rigid hands: The echo of a by-gone fame, The shadow of a mighty name, The far-praised Pompey stands.
Lift up thine eyes, and see! Sheer down, From where the Alps tremendous frown, Strides War, which Julius leads: Eager to follow, to pursue-- Sleepless, to one high purpose true, The prosperous soldier speeds. He comes, all eye to scan, all hand To do, the instinct of command; With firm-set tread, and pointed will, And harden'd courage, practised skill, And anger-whetted sword: A man to seize, and firmly hold-- To his own use a world to mould-- Rome's not unworthy lord!
The little Rubicon doth brim Its purple tide--a check for him, Hinted, how vainly! He All bounds and marks, the world's dull wonder, Calmly o'erleaps, and snaps asunder All reverend ties that be! The soldier carries in his sword The primal right by bridge or ford To pass. Shall kingly Cæsar fall And kiss the ground--the Senate's thrall And boastful Pompey's drudge? Forthwith, with one bold plunge, is pass'd The fateful flood--"the DIE is CAST; Let Fortune be the judge!"
The day rose on Ariminum With War's shrill cry--They come! they come! Nor they unwelcomed came; Pisauram, Fanum's shrine, and thou, Ancon, with thy sea-fronting brow, Own'd the great soldier's name. And all Picenum's orchard-fields, And the strong-forted Asculum yields: And where, beyond high Apennine, Clitumnus feeds the white, white kine; And 'mid Pelignian hills-- Short time, with his Corfinian bands, Stout Aenobarbus stiffly stands Where urgent Cæsar wills!
Flee, Pompey, flee! the ancient awe Of magisterial rule and law, Authority and state, The Consul's name, the Lictor's rods, The pomp of Capitolian gods, Stem not the flooding fate. Beneath the Volscian hills, and near Where exiled Marius lurk'd in fear, 'Mid stagnant Liris' marshes, there Breathe first in that luxurious lair Where famous Hannibal lay; Nor tarry; while the chance is thine. Hie o'er the Samnian Apennine To the far Calabrian bay!
Wing thy sure speed! Who hounds thy path? Fierce as the Furies in their wrath The blood-stain'd wretch pursue, He comes, Rome's tempest-footed son, Victor, but deeming nothing done While aught remains to do. Above Brundusium's bosom'd bay He stands, lashing the Adrian spray. With piers of enterprise the sea Her fleet-wing'd chariot trims for thee, To the Greek coast to bear thee; There, where Enipeus rolls his flood Through storied fields made fat with blood, For fate's last blow prepare thee.
There will thy dwindled hosts, increased By kings and tetrarchs of the East, And sons of swarthy Nile; From Pontus and from Colchis far, The gather'd ranks of motley war, Let fortune seem to smile A moment, that with sterner frown, She, when she strikes, may strike thee down. A flattering fool shall be thy guide, And hope shall whisper to thy pride Things that may not befall. Thy forward-springing wit shall boast The numbers of thy counted host-- That pride may have a fall.
Hoar Pindus, from his rocky barriers, Looks on thy ranks of gay-plumed warriors, And sees an ominous sight: The leafy tent for victory graced, Foresnatching fate with impious haste From gods that rule the fight. Thus fools have perish'd; and thus thou, Spurr'd to sheer death, art blinded now. Feeble thy clouds of clattering horse To dash his steady ordered force; From twanging bow and sling Dintless the missile hail is pour'd, Where the Tenth Legion wields the sword, And Cæsar leads the wing.
'Tis done. And sire to son shall tell What on Emathian plains befell, A God-ordain'd disaster; How justice dealt the even blow, And Rome that laid the nations low Herself hath found a master. Oh, had thou known thyself to rule, That train'd the world in thy stern school, Fate might have gentlier dealt; but now Thyself thy proper Fury, thou Hast struck the avenging blow. On sandy Afric's treacherous shore, Fresh from red Pharsaly's streaming gore, Lies Rome with Pompey low.
J. S. B.
 The Rubicon, which is a small torrent, a little north of _Rimini_ (_Ariminum_), flowing into the Hadriatic, was, at the time of Cæsar's famous passage, swollen to a considerable stream by three days' rain.--LUCAN, i. 213-19.
 "'Hic,' ait--'hic pacem temerataque jura relinquo. Te, Fortuna, sequor, procul hinc jam foedera sunto; Credidunus Fatis, uterdum est judice bello.'"--LUCAN, i. 227.
 Cæsar met with no opposition in his march to Rome except from Domitius Aenobarbus, who was stationed at Corfinium, amid the Apennines, east of the Eucine lake. The line of march which Cæsarr took, through Picenum, was, as Gibbon has remarked, calculated at once to clear his rear of the Pompeian party, and to frighten Pompey himself, not only out of Rome, but, as actually happened, out of Italy.
 Pompey fled to _Capua_, passing the marshes of _Minturnae_ at the mouth of the _Liris_ (now the Garigliano), and from thence over the Apennines, by the Via Appia, to Brundusium in the ancient _Calabria_.
 An allusion to the battle of _Cynoscephalae_, which subjected Macedonia to the Romans (B. C. 197.) The scene of this battle was on the same plain of Thessaly through which the Enipeus flows into the Peneus, passing by Pharsalus in its course. This alludes to the battle of Dyrrachium, where Pompey was successful for a moment, only to revive in his party that vain confidence and shallow conceit which was their original ruin.
 _Labienus_, Cæsar's lieutenant in the Gallic war; but who afterwards joined Pompey. He gave his new master bad advice.--_Bellum Civile_, iii.
 See the order of battle of both parties.--_Bellum Civile_, iii. 68, 69.
REID AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF COMMON SENSE.
Although Dr Reid does not stand in the very highest rank of philosophers, this incomparable edition of his works goes far to redress his deficiencies, and to render his writings, taken in connexion with the editorial commentaries, a most engaging and profitable study. It is probable that the book derives much of its excellence from the very imperfections of the textual author. Had Reid been a more learned man, he might have failed to elicit the unparalleled erudition of his editor,--had he been a clearer and closer thinker, Sir William Hamilton's vigorous logic and speculative acuteness, would probably have found a narrower field for their display. On the whole, we cannot wish that Reid had been either more erudite or more perspicacious, so pointed and felicitous is the style in which his errors are corrected, his thoughts reduced to greater precision, his ambiguities pointed out and cleared up, and his whole system set in its most advantageous light, by his admiring, though by no means idolatrous editor.
Besides being a model of editorship, this single volume is, in so far as philosophy and the history of philosophical opinion are concerned, of itself a literature. We must add, however, that Sir William Hamilton's dissertations, though abundant, are not yet completed. Yet, in spite of this drawback, the work is one which ought to wipe away effectually from our country the reproach of imperfect learning and shallow speculation; for in depth of thought, and extent and accuracy of knowledge, the editor's own contributions are of themselves sufficient to bring up our national philosophy (which had fallen somewhat into arrear) to a level with that of the most scientific countries in Europe.
In the remarks that are to follow, we shall confine ourselves to a critique of the philosophy of Dr Reid, and of its collateral topics. Sir William Hamilton's dissertations are too elaborate and important to be discussed, unless in an article, or series of articles, devoted exclusively to themselves. Should we appear in aught to press the philosophy of common sense too hard, we conceive that our strictures are, to a considerable extent, borne out by the admissions of Sir William Hamilton himself, in regard to the tenets of the founder of the school. And should some of our shafts glance off against the editor's own opinions, he has only himself to blame for it. If we see a fatal flaw in the constitution of all, and consequently of his, psychology, it was his writings that first opened our eyes to it. So lucidly has he explained certain philosophical doctrines, that they cannot stop at the point to which he has carried them. They must be rolled forward into a new development which perhaps may be at variance with the old one, where he tarries. But his powerful arm first set the stone in motion, and he must be content to let it travel whithersoever it may. He has taught those who study him _to think_--and he must stand the consequences, whether they think in unison with himself or not. We, conceive, however, that even those who differ from him most, would readily own, that to his instructive disquisitions they were indebted for at least one half of all that they know of philosophy.
In entering on an examination of the system of Dr Reid, we must ask first of all, what is the great problem about which philosophers in all ages have busied themselves most, and which consequently must have engaged, and did engage, a large share of the attention of the champion of Common Sense? We must also state the _fact_ which gives rise to the problem of philosophy.
The perception of a material universe, as it is the most prominent fact of cognition, so has it given rise to the problem which has been most agitated by philosophers. This question does not relate to the existence of the fact. The existence of the perception of matter is admitted on all hands. It refers to the nature, or origin, or constitution of the fact. Is the perception of matter simple and indivisible, or is it composite and divisible? Is it the ultimate, or is it only the penultimate, _datum_ of cognition? Is it a relation constituted by the concurrence of a mental or subjective, and a material or objective element,--or do we impose upon ourselves in regarding it as such? Is it a state, or modification of the human mind? Is it an effect that can be distinguished from its cause? Is it an event consequent on the presence of real antecedent objects? These interrogations are somewhat varied in their form, but each of them embodies the whole point at issue, each of them contains the cardinal question of philosophy. The perception of matter is the admitted fact. The _character_ of this fact--that is the point which speculation undertakes to canvass, and endeavours to decipher.
Another form in which the question may be put is this: We all believe in the existence of matter--but what _kind_ of matter do we believe in the existence of? matter _per se_, or matter _cum perceptione_? If the former--this implies that the given fact (the perception of matter) is compound and submits to analysis; if the latter--this implies that it is simple and defies partition.
Opposite answers to this question are returned by psychology and metaphysics. In the estimation of metaphysic, the perception of matter is the absolutely elementary in cognition, the _ne plus ultra_ of thought. Reason cannot get beyond, or behind it. It has no pedigree. It admits of no analysis. It is not a relation constituted by the coalescence of an objective and a subjective element. It is not a state or modification of the human mind. It is not an effect which can be distinguished from its cause. It is not brought about by the presence of antecedent realities. It is positively the FIRST, with no forerunner. The perception-of-matter is one mental word, of which the verbal words are mere syllables. We impose upon ourselves, and we also falsify the fact, if we take any other view of it than this. Thus speaks metaphysic, though perhaps not always with an unfaltering voice.
Psychology, or the science of the human mind, teaches a very different doctrine. According to this science, the perception of matter is a secondary and composite truth. It admits of being analysed into a subjective and an objective element--a mental modification called perception on the one hand, and matter _per se_ on the other. It is an effect induced by real objects. It is not the first _datum_ of intelligence. It has matter itself for its antecedent. Such, in very general terms, is the explanation of the perception of matter which psychology proposes.
Psychology and metaphysics are thus radically opposed to each other in their solutions of the highest problem of speculation. Stated concisely, the difference between them is this:--psychology regards the perception of matter as susceptible of analytic treatment, and travels, or endeavours to travel, beyond the given fact: metaphysic stops short in the given fact, and there makes a stand, declaring it to be all indissoluble unity. Psychology holds her analysis to be an analysis of things. Metaphysic holds the psychological analysis to be an analysis of sounds--and nothing more.
These observations exhibit, in their loftiest generalisation, the two counter doctrines on the subject of perception. We now propose to follow them into their details, for the purpose both of eliciting the truth and of arriving at a correct judgment in regard to the reformation which Dr Reid is supposed to have effected in this department of philosophy.
The psychological or analytic doctrine is the first which we shall discuss, on account of its connexion with the investigations of Dr Reid,--in regard to whom we may state, beforehand, our conclusion and its grounds, which are these:--that Reid broke down in his philosophy, both polemical and positive, because he assumed the psychological and not the metaphysical doctrine of perception as the basis of his arguments. He did not regard the perception of matter as absolutely primary and simple; but in common with all psychologists, he conceived that it admitted of being resolved into a mental condition, and a material reality; and the consequence was, that he fell into the very errors which it was the professed business of his life to denounce and exterminate. How this catastrophe came about we shall endeavour shortly to explain.
Reid's leading design was to overthrow scepticism and idealism. In furtherance of this intention, he proposed to himself the accomplishment of two subsidiary ends,--the refutation of what is called the ideal or representative theory of perception, and the substitution of a doctrine of intuitive perception in its room. He takes, and he usually gets, credit for having accomplished both of these objects. But if it be true that the representative theory is but the inevitable development of the doctrine which treats the perception of matter analytically, and if it be true that Reid adopts this latter doctrine, it is obvious that his claims cannot be admitted without a very considerable deduction. That both of these things are true may be established, we think, beyond the possibility of a doubt.
In the first place, then, we have to show that the theory of a representative perception (which Reid is supposed to have overthrown) is identical with the doctrine which treats the perception of matter analytically;--and, in the second, we have to show that Reid himself followed the analytic or psychological procedure in his treatment of this fact, and founded upon the analysis his own doctrine of perception.
_First_, The representative theory is that doctrine of perception which teaches that, in our intercourse with the external universe, we are not immediately cognisant of real objects themselves, but only of certain mental transcripts or images of them, which, in the language of the different philosophical schools, were termed ideas, representations, phantasms, or species. According to this doctrine we are cognisant of real things, not in and through themselves, but in and through these species or representations. The representations are the immediate or proximate, the real things are the mediate or remote, objects of the mind. The existence of the former is a matter of knowledge, the existence of the latter is merely a matter of belief.
To understand this theory, we must construe its nomenclature into, the language of the present day. What, then, is the modern synonym for the "ideas," "representations," "phantasms," and "species," which the theory in question declares to be vicarious of real objects? There cannot be a doubt that the word _perception_ is that synonym. So that the representative theory, when fairly interpreted, amounts simply to this;--that the mind is immediately cognisant, not of real objects themselves, but _only of its own perceptions of real objects_. To accuse the representationist of maintaining a doctrine more repugnant to common sense than this, or in any way different from it, would be both erroneous and unjust. The golden rule of philosophical criticism is, to give every system the benefit of the most favourable interpretation which it admits of.
This, then, is the true version of representationism,--namely, that our perceptions of material things, and not material things _per se_, are the proximate objects of our consciousness when we hold intercourse with the external universe.
Now, this is a doctrine which inevitably emerges the instant that the analysis of the perception of matter is set on foot and admitted. When a philosopher divides, or imagines that he divides, the perception of matter into two things, perception _and_ matter, holding the former to be a state of his own mind, and the latter to be no such state; he does, in that analysis, and without saying one other word, avow himself to be a thoroughgoing representationist. For his analysis declares that, in perception, the mind has an immediate or proximate, and a mediate or remote object. Its perception of matter is the proximate object--the object of its consciousness; matter itself, the material existence, is the remote object--the object of its belief. But such a doctrine is representationism, in the strictest sense of the word. It is the very essence and definition of the representative theory to recognise, in perception, a remote as well as a proximate object of the mind. Every system which does this, is necessarily a representative system. The doctrine which treats the perception of matter analytically does this; therefore the analytic or psychological doctrine is identical with the representative theory. Both hold that the perceptive process involves two objects--an immediate and a mediate; and nothing more is required to establish their perfect identity. The analysis of the fact which we call the perception of matter, is unquestionably the groundwork and pervading principle of the theory of a representative perception, whatever form of expression this scheme may at any time have assumed.
_Secondly_, Did Dr Reid go to work analytically in his treatment of the perception of matter? Undoubtedly he did. He followed the ordinary psychological practice. He regarded the _datum_ as divisible into perception and matter. The perception he held to be an act, if not a modification, of our minds; the matter, he regarded as something which existed out of the mind and irrespective of all perception. Right or wrong, he resolved, or conceived that he had resolved, the perception of matter into its constituent elements--these being a mental operation on the one hand, and a material existence on the other. In short, however ambiguous many of Dr Reid's principles may be, there can be no doubt that he founded his doctrine of perception on an analysis of the given fact with which he had to deal. He says, indeed, but little about this analysis, so completely does he take it for granted. He accepted, as a thing of course, the notorious distinction between the perception of matter and matter itself: and, in doing so, he merely followed the example of all preceding psychologists.
These two points being established,--_first_, that the theory of representationism necessarily arises out of an analysis of the perception of matter; and _secondly_, that Reid analysed or accepted the analysis of this fact,--it follows as a necessary consequence, that Reid, so far from having overthrown the representative theory, was himself a representationist. His analysis gave him more than he bargained for. He wished to obtain only one, that is, only a proximate object in perception; but his analysis necessarily gave him two: it gave him a remote as well as a proximate object. The mental mode or operation which he calls the perception of matter, and which he distinguishes from matter itself, this, in his philosophy, is the proximate object of consciousness, and is precisely equivalent to the species, phantasms, representations of the older psychology; the real existence, matter itself, which he distinguishes from the perception of it, this is the remote object of the mind, and is precisely equivalent to the mediate or represented object of the older psychology. He and therepresentationists, moreover, agree in hold ing that the latter is the object of belief rather than of knowledge.
The merits of Dr Reid, then, as a reformer of philosophy, amount in our opinion to this:--he was among the first to _say_ and to _write_ that the representative theory of perception was false and erroneous, and was the fountainhead of scepticism and idealism. But this admission of his merits must be accompanied by the qualification that he adopted, as the basis of his philosophy, a principle which rendered nugatory all his protestations. It is of no use to disclaim a conclusion if we accept the premises which inevitably lead to it. Dr Reid disclaimed the representative theory, but he embraced its premises, and thus he virtually ratified the conclusions of the very system which he clamourously denounced. In his language, he is opposed to representationism, but in his doctrine, he lends it the strongest support, by accepting as the foundation of his philosophy an analysis of the perception of matter.
In regard to the _second_ end which Dr Reid is supposed to have overtaken,--the establishment of a doctrine of intuitive as opposed to a doctrine of representative perception, it is unnecessary to say much. If we have proved him to be a representationist, he cannot be held to be an intuitionist. Indeed, a doctrine of intuitive perception is a sheer impossibility upon his principles. A doctrine of intuition implies that the mind in perceiving matter has only one, namely, a proximate object. But the analysis of the perception of matter yields as its result, a remote as well as a proximate object. The proximate object is the perception--the remote object is the reality. And thus the analysis of the given fact necessarily renders abortive every endeavour to construct a doctrine of intuitive perception. The attempt _must_ end in representationism. The only basis for a doctrine of intuitive perception which will never give way, is a resolute forbearance from all analysis of the fact. Do not tamper with it, and you are safe.
Such is the judgment which we are reluctantly compelled to pronounce on the philosophy of Dr Reid in reference to its two cardinal claims--the refutation of the ideal theory, and the establishment of a truer doctrine--a doctrine of intuitive perception. In neither of these undertakings do we think that he has succeeded, and we have exhibited the grounds of our opinion. We do not blame him for this: he simply missed his way at the outset. Representationism could not possibly be avoided, neither could intuitionism be possibly fallen in with, on the analytic road which he took.
But we have not yet done with the consideration of the psychological or analytic doctrine of perception. We proceed to examine the entanglements in which reason gets involved when she accepts the perception of matter not in its natural and indissoluble unity, but as analysed by philosophers into a mental and a material factor. We have still an eye to Dr Reid. He came to the rescue of reason--how did it fare with him in the struggle?
The analysis so often referred to affords a starting point, as has been shown, to representationism: it is also the tap-root of scepticism and idealism. These four things hang together in an inevitable sequence. Scepticism and idealism dog representationism, and representationism dogs the analysis of the perception of matter, just as obstinately as substance is dogged by shadow. More explicitly stated, the order in which they move is this:--The analysis divides the perception of matter into perception and matter--two separate things. Upon this, representationism declares, that the perception is the proximate and that the matter is the remote object of the mind. Then scepticism declares, that the existence of the matter which has been separated from the perception is problematical, because it is not the direct object of consciousness, and is consequently hypothetical. And, last of all, idealism takes up the ball and declares, that this hypothetical matter is not only problematical, but that it is non-existent. These are the perplexities which rise up to embarrass reason whenever she is weak enough to accept from philosophers their analysis of the perception of matter. They are only the just punishment of her infatuated facility. But what has Reid done to extricate reason from her embarrassments?
We must remember that Reid commenced with analysis, and that consequently he embraced representationism,--in its spirit, if not positively in its letter. But how did he evade the fangs of scepticism and idealism--to say nothing of destroying--these sleuth-hounds which on this road were sure to be down upon his track the moment they got wind of him? We put the question in a less figurative form,--When scepticism and idealism doubted or denied the independent existence of matter, how did Reid vindicate it? He faced about and appealed boldly to our instinctive and irresistible _belief_ in its independent existence.
The crisis of the strife centres in this appeal. In itself, the appeal is perfectly competent and legitimate. But it may be met, on the part of the sceptic and idealist, by two modes of tactic. The one tactic is weak, and gives an easy triumph to Dr Reid: the other is more formidable, and, in our opinion, lays him prostrate.
_The first Sceptical Tactic._ In answer to Dr Reid's appeal, the sceptic or idealist may say, "Doubtless we have a belief in the independent existence of matter; but this belief is not to be trusted. It is an insufficient guarantee for that which it avouches. It does not follow that a thing is true because we instinctively believe it to be true. It does not follow that matter exists because we cannot but believe it to exist. You must prove its existence by a better argument than mere belief."--This mode of meeting the appeal we hold to be pure trifling. We join issue with Dr Reid in maintaining that our nature is not rooted in delusion, and that the primitive convictions of common sense, must be accepted as infallible. If the sceptic admits that we _have_ a natural belief in the independent existence of matter, there is an end to him: Dr Reid's victory is secure. This first tactic is a feeble and mistaken manoeuvre.
_The Second Sceptical Tactic._ This position is not so easily turned. The stronghold of the sceptic and idealist is this: they deny the primitive belief to which Dr Reid appeals to be _the fact_. It is not true, they say, that any man believes in the independent existence of matter. And this is perfectly obvious the moment that it is explained. Matter in its _independent_ existence, matter _per se_, is matter disengaged in thought from all perception of it present or remembered. Now, does any man believe in the existence of such matter? Unquestionably not. No man by any possibility can. What the matter is which man really believes in shall be explained when we come to speak of the metaphysical solution of the problem--perhaps sooner. Meanwhile we remark that Dr Reid's appeal to the conviction of common sense in favour of the existence of matter _per se_, is rebutted, and in our opinion triumphantly, by the denial on the part of scepticism and idealism that any such belief exists. Scepticism and idealism not only deny the independent existence of matter, but they deny that any man believes in the independent existence of matter. And in this denial they are most indubitably right. For observe what such a belief requires as its condition. A man must disengage in thought, a tree, for instance, from the thought of all perception of it, and then he must believe in its existence thus disengaged. If he has not disengaged, in his mind, the tree from its perception, (from its present perception, if the tree be before him--from its remembered perception, if it be not before him,) he cannot believe in the existence of the tree disengaged from its perception; for the tree is not disengaged from its perception. But unless he believes in the existence of the tree disengaged from its perception, he does not believe in the independent existence of the tree,--in the existence of the tree _per se_. Now, can the mind by any effort effect this disengagement? The thing is an absolute impossibility. The condition on which the belief hinges cannot be purified, and consequently the belief itself cannot be entertained.
People have, then, _no belief_ in the independent existence of matter--that is, in the existence of matter entirely denuded of perception. This point being proved, what becomes of Dr Reid's appeal to _this belief_ in support of matter's independent existence? It has not only no force; it has no meaning. This second tactic is invincible. Scepticism and idealism are perfectly in the right when they refuse to accept as the guarantee of independent matter a belief which itself has no manner of existence. How can they be vanquished by an appeal to a nonentity?
A question may here be raised. If the belief in question be not the fact, what has hitherto prevented scepticism from putting a final extinguisher on Reid's appeal by _proving_ that no such belief exists? A very sufficient reason has prevented scepticism, from doing this--from explicitly extinguishing the appeal. There is a division of labour in speculation as well as in other pursuits. It is the sceptic's business simply to deny the existence of the belief: it is no part of his business to exhibit the grounds of his denial. _We_ have explained these grounds; but were the sceptic to do this, he would be travelling out of his vocation. Observe how the case stands. The reason why matter _per se_ is not and cannot be believed in, is because it is impossible for thought to disengage matter from perception, and consequently it is impossible for thought to believe in the disengaged existence of matter. The matter to be, believed in is not disengaged from the perception, consequently it cannot be believed to be disengaged from the perception. But unless it be believed to be disengaged from the perception, it cannot be believed to exist _per se_. In short, as we have already said, the impossibility of complying with the _condition_ of the belief is the ground on which the sceptic denies the _existence_ of the belief. But the sceptic is himself debarred from producing these grounds. Why? Because their exhibition would be tantamount to a rejection of the principle which he has _accepted_ at the hands of the orthodox and dogmatic psychologist. That principle is the analysis so often spoken of--the separation, namely, of the perception of matter into perception and matter _per se_. The sceptic accepts this analysis. His business is simply to _accept_, not to discover or scrutinise principles. Having accepted the analysis, he then denies that any belief attaches to the existence of matter _per se_. In this he is quite right. But he cannot, consistently with his calling, exhibit the ground of his denial; for this ground is, as we have shown, the impossibility of performing the analysis,--of effecting the requisite disengagement. But the sceptic has accepted the analysis, has admitted the disengagement. He therefore cannot now retract: and he has no wish to retract. His special mission--his only object is to confound the principle which he has accepted by means of the reaction of its consequence. The inevitable consequence which ensues when the analysis of the perception of matter is admitted is the extinction of all belief in the existence of matter. The analysis gives us a kind of matter to believe in to which no belief corresponds. The sceptic is content with pronouncing this to be the fact without going into its reason. It is not his business to correct, by a direct exposure, the error of the principle which the dogmatist lays down, and which he accepts. The analysis is the psychologist's affair; let _him_ look to it. Were the sceptic to make it his, he would emerge, from the sceptical crisis, and pass into a new stage of speculation. He, indeed, subverts it indirectly by a _reductio ad absurdum_. But he does not _say_ that he subverts it--he leaves the orthodox proposer of the principle to find that out.
Reid totally misconceived the nature of scepticism and idealism in their bearings on this problem. He regarded them as habits of thought--as dispositions of mind peculiar to certain individuals of vexatious character and unsound principles, instead of viewing them as catholic eras in the development of all genuine speculative thinking. In his eyes they were subjective crotchets limited to some, and not objective crises common to all, who think. He made _personal_ matters of them--a thing not to be endured. For instance, in dealing with Hume, he conceived that the scepticism which confronted him in the pages of that great genius, was _Hume's_ scepticism, and was not the scepticism of human nature at large,--was not his own scepticism just as much as it was Hume's. _His_ soul, so he thought, was free from the obnoxious flaw, merely because _his_ anatomy, shallower than Hume's, refused to lay it bare. With such views it was impossible for Reid to eliminate scepticism and idealism from philosophy. These foes are the foes of each man's own house and heart, and nothing can be made of them if we attack them in the person of another. Ultimately and fairly to get rid of them, a man must first of all thoroughly digest them, and take them up into the vital circulation of his own reason. The only way of putting them back is by carrying them forward.
From having never properly secreted scepticism and idealism in his own mind, Reid fell into the commission of one of the gravest errors of which a philosopher can be guilty. He falsified the fact in regard to our primitive beliefs--a thing which the obnoxious systems against which he was fighting never did. He conceived that scepticism and idealism called in question a fact which was countenanced by a natural belief; accordingly, he confronted their denial with the allegation that the disputed fact--the existence of matter _per se_--was guaranteed by a primitive conviction of our nature. But this fact receives no support from any such source. There is no belief in the whole repository of the mind which can be fitted on to the existence of matter denuded of all perception. Therefore, in maintaining the contrary, Reid falsified the fact in regard to our primitive convictions--in regard to those principles of common sense which he professed to follow as his guide. This was a serious slip. The rash step which he here took plunged him into a much deeper error than that of the sceptic or idealist. They err in common with him in accepting as their starting-point the analysis of the perception of matter. He errs, by himself, in maintaining that there is a belief where no belief exists.
But do not scepticism and idealism doubt matter's existence _altogether_, or deny to it _any_ kind of existence? Certainly they do; and in harmony with the principle from which they start they must do this. The _only_ kind of matter which the analysis of the perception of matter yields, is matter _per se_. The existence of such matter is, as we have shown, altogether uncountenanced either by consciousness or belief. But there is no other kind of matter in the field. We must therefore either believe in the existence of matter _per se_, or we must believe in the existence of _no_ matter whatever. We do not, and we cannot believe in the existence of matter _per se_; therefore, we cannot believe in the existence of matter at all. This is not satisfactory, but it is closely consequential.
But why not, it may be said--why not cut the knot, and set the question at rest, by admitting at once that every man _does_, popularly speaking, believe in the existence of matter, and that he practically walks in the light of that belief during every moment of his life? This observation tempts us into a digression, and we shall yield to the temptation. The problem of perception admits of being treated in _three_ several ways: _first_, we may ignore it altogether,--we may refuse to entertain it at all; or, _secondly_, we may discuss it in the manner just proposed--we may lay it down as gospel that everyman does believe in the existence of matter, and acts at all times upon this conviction, and we may expatiate diffusely over these smooth truths; or, _thirdly_, we may follow and contemplate the subtle and often perplexed windings which reason takes in working her way through the problem--a problem which, though apparently clearer than the noonday sun, is really darker than the mysteries of Erebus. In short, we may _speculate_ the problem. In grappling with it, we may trust ourselves to the mighty current of _thinking_, with all its whirling eddies,--certain that if our thinking be genuine objective thinking, which deals with nothing but _ascertained_ facts--it will bring us at last into the haven of truth. We now propose to consider which of these modes of treating the problem is the best; we shall begin by making a few remarks upon the _second_, for it was this which brought us to a stand, and seduced us into the present digression.
It is, no doubt, perfectly true, that we all believe in the existence of matter, and that we all act up to this belief. But surely that statement is not a thing, to be put into a book and _sold_. It is not even a thing which one man is entitled to tell _gratuitously_ to another man who knows it just as well as he does. It must be admitted upon a moment's reflection, that to communicate such information is to trifle with people's patience in an intolerable degree, is to trespass most abominably upon public or upon private indulgence. What, then, shall we say, when we find this kind of truth not only gravely imparted, but vehemently reiterated and enforced by scientific men, as it is in the pages of Dr Reid and other celebrated expounders of the philosophy of the human mind? We shall only say, that the economy of science is less understood than that of commerce; and that while material articles, such as air and sunshine, which are accessible to all, are for that reason excluded from the market of trade, many intellectual wares, which are at least equally accessible, are most preposterously permitted to have a place in the market of science. Such wares are the instinctive principles of Dr Reid. To inform a man that the material universe exists, and that he believes in its existence, is to take for granted that he is an idiot.
The circumstance which led the philosophers of Common Sense to traffic in this kind of article, was perhaps the notion that truths had a value in communication in proportion to their _importance_ to mankind. But that is a most mistaken idea. The most important truths have absolutely no value in communication. The truth that "each of us exists"--the truth "that each of us is the same person to-day that he was yesterday," the truth that "a material universe exists, and that we believe in its existence,"--all these are most important truths--most important things to know. It is difficult to see how we could get on without this knowledge. Yet they are not worth one straw in communication. And why not? Just for the same reason that atmospheric air, though absolutely indispensable to our existence, has no value whatever in exchange--this reason being that we can get, and have already got, both the air and the truths, in unlimited abundance for nothing,--and thanks to no man. Why _give_ a man what he has already _got_ to his heart's content--why _teach_ him what he already _knows_ even to repletion?
It is not its importance, then, which confers upon truth its value in communication. In other words, it is a most superfluous civility for one man to impart truth to another, solely because it happens to be important. If the important truth be already perfectly well known to the recipient, and if the imparter of it is aware that the recipient knows it just as well as he does,--"thank you _for nothing_" is, we think, the mildest reply that could be made in the circumstances. The fact is, that the value of truth is measured by precisely the same standard which determines the value of wealth. This standard is in neither case the importance of the article,--it is always its difficulty of attainment,--its cost of production. Has _labour_ been expended on its formation or acquisition; then the article, if a material commodity, has a value in exchange--if a truth, it has a value in communication. Has no labour been bestowed upon it, and has Nature herself furnished it to every human being in overflowing abundance, then the thing is altogether destitute of exchange-value--whether it be an article of matter or of mind. No man can, without impertinence, transmit or convey such a commodity to his neighbour.
If this be the law on the subject, (and we conceive that it must be so ruled) it settles the question as to the _second_ mode of dealing with the problem of perception. It establishes the point that this method of treating the problem is not to be permitted. It is _tabooed_ by the very nature of things. Air and sunshine are excellent and most important articles, but they are not things to carry to market in bottles,--because no labour is required to produce them, and because they are the gratuitous and abundant property of every living soul. In the same way, the existence of a material universe--and the fact that we believe in its existence--these are most important truths; but they are not things to take to market in books, and for a like reason. They are important things to _know_, but they are not important things to _tell_. We conceive, in short, that Nature, by rendering these and similar truths unreservedly patent to the whole human race, has affixed to them her own contraband,--interdicting their communication; and that Dr Reid, in making them the staple of his publications, was fighting against an eternal law. He undertook to teach the world certain truths connected with perception, which by his own admission the world already knew just as well as he did--and which required no labour for their production. This way of going to work with any problem, is certainly not the best. These remarks settle, we think, the general pretensions of the philosophy of Common Sense. In justice, however, to this philosophy, we must not omit to mention, that Sir William Hamilton has adduced the evidence of no less than one hundred and six witnesses, whose testimony goes to establish that it is a [Greek: ktêma es aei]--a perpetual possession, "a _joy_ for ever."
The _first_ and _third_ modes of dealing with our problem remain to be considered. The first mode ignores the problem altogether, it refuses to have any thing to do with it. Perhaps this mode is the best of the three. We will not say that it is not: it is at any rate preferable to the second. But once admit that philosophy is a legitimate occupation, and this mode must be set aside, for it is a negation of all philosophy. Every thing depends upon this admission. But the admission is, we conceive, a point which has been already, and long ago decided. Men must and will philosophise. That being the case, the only alternative left is, that we should discuss the highest problem of philosophy in the terms of the _third_ mode proposed. We have called this the speculative method--which means nothing more than that we should expend upon the investigation the uttermost toil and application of thought; and that we should estimate the truths which we arrive at, not by the scale of their importance, but by the scale of their difficulty of attainment,--of their cost of production. _Labour_, we repeat it, is the standard which measures the value of truth, as well as the value of wealth.
A still more cogent argument in favour of the strictly speculative treatment of the problem is this. The problem of perception may be said to be a _reversed_ problem. What are the means in every other problem, are in _this_ problem the end--and what is the end in every other problem, is in this problem the means. In every other problem the solution of the problem is the end desiderated: the means are the thinking requisite for its solution. But here the case is inverted. In _our_ problem the desiderated solution is the means, the end is the development, or, we should rather say, the creation of speculative thought--a kind of thought different altogether from ordinary popular thinking. "Oh! then," some one will perhaps exclaim, "after all, the whole question about perception resolves it into a _mere gymnastic_ of the mind." Good sir--do you know what you are saying? Do _you_ think that the mind itself is any thing except a mere gymnastic of the mind. If you do--you are most deplorably mistaken. Most assuredly the mind only _is_ what the mind _does_. The existence of thought is the exercise of thought. Now if this be true, there is the strongest possible reason for treating the problem after a purely speculative fashion. The problem and its desired solution--these are only the means which enable a new species of thinking, (and that the very highest) viz. speculative thinking, to deploy into existence. This deployment is the end. But how can this end be attained if we check the speculative evolution in its first movements, by throwing ourselves into the arms of the _apparently_ Common Sense convictions of Dr Reid? We use the word "apparently," because, in reference to this problem, the apparently Common Sense convictions of Dr Reid, are not the _really_ Common Sense convictions of mankind. These latter can only be got at through the severest discipline of speculation.
Our final answer, then, to the question which led us into this digression is this:--It is quite true that the material world exists: it is quite true that we believe in this existence, and always act in conformity with our faith. Whole books may be written in confirmation of these truths. They may be published and paraded in a manner which apparently settles the entire problem of perception. And yet this is not the right way to go to work. It settles nothing but what all men, women, and children have already settled. The truths thus formally substantiated were produced without an effort--every one has already got from Nature at least as much of them as he cares to have; and therefore, whatever their importance may be, they cannot, with any sort of propriety, be made the subjects of conveyance from man to man. We must either leave the problem altogether alone, (a thing, however, which we should have thought of sooner,) or we must adopt the speculative treatment. The argument, moreover, contained in the preceding paragraph, appears to render this treatment imperative; and accordingly we now return to it, after our somewhat lengthened digression.
We must take up the thread of our discourse at the point where we dropped it. The crisis to which the discussion had conducted us was this; that the existence of matter could not be believed in _at all_. The psychological analysis necessarily lands us in this conclusion: for the psychological analysis gives us, for matter, nothing but matter _per se_. But matter _per se_ is what no man does or can believe in. We are reluctant to reiterate the proof; but it is this: to believe in the existence of matter _per se_ is to believe in the existence of matter liberated from perception; but we, cannot believe in the existence of matter liberated from perception, for no power of thinking will liberate matter from perception; therefore, we cannot believe in the existence of matter _per se_. This argument admits of being exhibited in a still more forcible form. We commence with an illustration. If a man believes that a thing exists as one thing, he cannot believe that this same thing exists as another thing. For instance, if a man believes that a tree exists as a tree, he cannot believe that it exists as a house. Apply this to the subject in hand. If a man believes that matter exists as a thing _not_ disengaged from perception, he cannot believe that it exists as a thing _disengaged_ from perception. Now, there cannot be a doubt that the _only_ kind of matter in which man believes is matter _not_ disengaged from perception. He therefore cannot believe in matter _disengaged_ from perception. His mind is already preoccupied by the belief that matter is _this one thing_, and, therefore, he cannot believe that it is _that other thing_. His faith is, in this instance, forestalled, just as much as his faith is forestalled from believing that a tree is a house, when he already believes that it is a tree.
There are two very good reasons, then, why we cannot believe in the existence of matter at all, if we accept as our starting point the psychological analysis. This analysis gives us, for matter, matter _per se_. But matter _per se_ cannot be believed in; 1st, because the condition on which the belief depends cannot be complied with; and, 2dly, because the matter which we _already_ believe in is something quite different from matter _per se_. In trying to believe in the existence of matter _per se_, we always find that we are believing in the existence of _something else_, namely, in the existence of matter _cum perceptione_. But it is not to the psychological analysis that we are indebted for this matter, which is something else than matter _per se_. The psychological analysis does its best to annihilate it. It gives us nothing but matter _per se_,--a thing which neither is nor can be believed in. We are thus prevented from believing in the existence of _any_ kind of matter. In a word, the psychological analysis of the perception of matter necessarily converts who embrace it into sceptics or idealists.
In this predicament what shall we do? Shall we abandon the analysis as a treacherous principle, or shall we, with Dr Reid, make one more stand in its defence? In order that the analysis may have fair play we shall give it another chance, by quoting Mr Stewart's exposition of Reid's doctrine, which must be regarded as a perfectly faithful representation:--"Dr Reid," says Mr Stewart, "was the first person who had courage to lay completely aside all the common _hypothetical_ language concerning perception, and to exhibit _the difficulty_, in all its magnitude, by a plain _statement of the fact_. To what, then, it may be asked, does this statement amount? Merely to this; that the mind is so formed that certain impressions produced on our organs of sense, by external objects, are _followed_ by corresponding sensations, and that these sensations, (which have no more resemblance to the qualities of matter, than the words of a language have to the things they denote,) are _followed_ by a perception of the existence and qualities of the bodies by which the impressions are made;--that all the steps of this process are equally incomprehensible." There are at least two points which are well worthy of being attended to in this quotation. _First_, Mr Stewart says that Reid "exhibited the difficulty of the problem of perception, in all its magnitude, by a plain statement of fact." What does that mean? It means this; that Reid stated, indeed, the fact correctly--namely, _that_ external objects give rise to sensations and perceptions, but that still his statement did not penetrate to the heart of the business, but by his own admission, left the difficulty undiminished. What difficulty? The difficulty as to _how_ external objects give rise to sensations and perceptions. Reid did not undertake to settle that point--a wise declinature, in the estimation of Mr Stewart. Now Mr Stewart, understanding, as he did, the philosophy of causation, ought to have known that every difficulty as to _how_ one thing gives rise to another, is purely a difficulty of the mind's creation, and not of nature's making, and is, therefore, no difficulty at all. Let us explain this,--a man says he knows _that_ fire explodes gunpowder; but he does not know _how_ or by what means it does this. Suppose, then, he finds out the means, he is still just where he was; he must again ask how or by what means these discovered means explode the gunpowder; and so on _ad infinitum_. Now the mind may quibble with itself for ever, and _make_ what difficulties it pleases in this way; but there is no _real_ difficulty in the case. In considering any sequence, we always know the _how_ or the means as soon as we know the _that_ or the fact. These means may be more proximate or more remote means, but they are invariably given either proximately or remotely along with and in the fact. As soon as we know _that_ fire explodes gunpowder, we know _how_ fire explodes gunpowder,--for fire is itself the means which explodes gunpowder,--the _how_ by which it is ignited. In the same way, _if_ we knew that matter gave rise to perception, there would be no difficulty as to _how_ it did so. Matter would be itself the means which gave rise to perception. We conceive, therefore, that Mr Stewart did not consider what he was saying when he affirmed that Reid's plain statement of facts exhibited _the difficulty_ in all its magnitude. If Reid's statement _be_ a statement of fact, all difficulty vanishes,--the question of perception is relieved from every species of perplexity. If it _be_ the fact that perception is consequent on the presence of matter, Reid must be admitted to have explained, to the satisfaction of all mankind, _how_ perception is brought about. Matter is itself the means by which it is brought about.
_Secondly_, then--Is it the fact that matter gives rise to perception? That is the question. Is it the fact that these two things stand to each other in the relation of antecedent and consequent? Reid's "plain statement of fact," as reported by Mr Stewart, maintains that they do. Reid lays it down as a fact, that perceptions _follow_ sensations, that sensations _follow_ certain impressions made on our organs of sense by external objects, which stand first in the series. The sequence, then, is this--1_st_, Real external objects; 2_d_, Impressions made on our organs of sense; 3_d_, Sensations; 4_th_, Perceptions. It will simplify the discussion if we leave out of account Nos. 2 and 3, limiting ourselves to the statement that real objects precede perceptions. This is declared to be a fact--of course an _observed_ fact; for a fact can with no sort of propriety be called a fact, unless some person or other has _observed_ it. Reid "laid completely aside all the common _hypothetical_ language concerning perception." His plain statement (so says Mr Stewart) contains nothing but facts--facts established, of course, by observation. It is a fact of observation then, according to Reid, that real objects precede perceptions; that perceptions follow when real objects are present. Now, when a man proclaims as fact such a sequence as this, what must he first of all have done? He must have observed the antecedent _before_ it was followed by the consequent; he must have observed the cause out of combination with the effect; otherwise his statement is a pure hypothesis or fiction. For instance, when a man says that a shower of rain (No. 1), is followed by a refreshed vegetation (No. 2), he must have observed both No. 1 and No. 2, and he must have observed them as two separate things. Had he never observed any thing but No. 2 (the refreshed vegetation), he might form what conjectures he pleased in regard to its antecedent, but he never could lay it down _as an observed fact_, that this antecedent was a shower of rain. In the same way, when a man affirms it to be a fact of observation (as Dr Reid does, according to Stewart) that material objects are _followed_ by perceptions, it is absolutely necessary for the credit of his statement that he should have observed this to be the case; that he should have observed material objects before they were followed by perceptions; that he should have observed the antecedent separate from the consequent: otherwise his statement, instead of being complimented as a plain statement of fact, must be condemned as a tortuous statement of hypothesis. Unless he has observed No. 1 and No. 2 in sequence, he is not entitled to declare that this is an observed sequence. Now, did Reid, or did any man ever observe matter anterior to his perception of it? Had Reid a faculty which enabled him to catch matter before it had passed in to perception? Did he ever observe it, as Hudibras says, "undressed?" Mr Stewart implies that he had such a faculty. But the notion is preposterous. No man can observe matter prior to his perception of it; for his observation of it presupposes his perception of it. Our observation of matter _begins_ absolutely with the perception of it. Observation always gives the perception of matter as the _first_ term in the series, and not matter itself. To pretend (as Reid and Stewart do) that observation can go behind perception, and lay hold of matter before it has given rise to perception--this is too ludicrous a doctrine to be even mentioned; and we should not have alluded to it, but for the countenance which it has received from the two great apostles of common sense.
This last bold attempt, then, on the part of Reid and Stewart (for Stewart adopts the doctrine which he reports) to prop their tottering analysis on direct observation and experience, must be pronounced a failure. Reid's "plain statement of fact" is not a _true_ statement of _observed_ fact; it is a vicious statement of _conjectured_ fact. Observation depones to the existence of the perception of matter as the first _datum_ with which it has to deal, but it depones to the existence of nothing anterior to this.
But will not abstract thinking bear out the analysis by yielding to us matter _per se_ as a legitimate inference of reason? No; it will do nothing of the kind. To make good this inference, observe what abstract thinking must do. It must bring under the notice of the mind matter _per se_ (No. 1) as something which is _not_ the perception of it (No. 2): but whenever thought tries to bring No. 1 under the notice of the mind, it is No. 2 (or the perception of matter) which invariably comes. We may ring for No. 1, but No. 2 always answers the bell. We may labour to construe a tree _per se_ to the mind, but what we always _do_ construe to the mind is the perception of a tree. What we want is No. 1, but what we always get is No. 2. To unravel the thing explicitly--the manner in which we impose upon ourselves is this:--As explanatory of the perceptive process, we construe to our minds _two number twos_, and one of these we _call_ No. 1. For example, we have the perception of a tree (No. 2); we wish to think the tree itself (No. 1) as that which gives rise to the perception. But this No. 1 is merely No. 2 over again. _It_ is thought of as the perception of a tree, _i. e._ as No. 2. We _call_ it the tree itself, or No. 1; but we _think_ it as the perception of the tree, or as No. 2. The first or explanatory term (the matter _per se_) is merely a repetition in thought (though called by a different name) of the second term--the term to be explained--viz. the perception of matter. Abstract thinking, then, equally with direct observation, refuses to lend any support to the analysis; for a thing cannot be said to be analysed when it is merely multiplied or repeated, which is all that abstract thinking does in regard to the perception of matter. The matter _per se_, which abstract thinking supposes that it separates from the perception of matter, is merely an iteration of the perception of matter.
Our conclusion therefore is, that the analysis of the perception of matter into the two things, perception and matter (the ordinary psychological principle), must, on all accounts, be abandoned. It is both treacherous and impracticable.
Before proceeding to consider the metaphysical solution of the problem, we shall gather up into a few sentences the reasonings which in the preceding discussion are diffused over a considerable surface. The ordinary, or psychological doctrine of perception, reposes upon an analysis of the perception of matter into two separate things,--a modification of our minds (the one thing) consequent on the presence of matter _per se_, which is the other thing. This analysis inevitably leads to a theory of representative perception, because it yields as its result a proximate and a remote object. It is the essence of representationism to recognise both of these as instrumental in perception. But representationism leads to scepticism--for it is possible that the remote or real object (matter _per se_), not being an object of consciousness, may not be instrumental in the process. Scepticism doubts its instrumentality, and, doubting its instrumentality, it, of course, doubts its existence; for not being an object of consciousness, its existence is only postulated in order to account for something which _is_ an object of consciousness, viz. perception. If, therefore, we doubt that matter has any hand in bringing about perception, we, of course, doubt the existence of matter. This scepticism does. Idealism denies its instrumentality and existence. In these circumstances what does Dr Reid do? He admits that matter _per se_ is not an object of consciousness; but he endeavours to save its existence by an appeal to our natural and irresistible belief in its existence. But scepticism and idealism doubt and deny the existence of matter _per se_, not merely because it is no object of consciousness, but, moreover, because it is no object of belief. And in this they are perfectly right. It _is_ no object of belief. Dr Reid's appeal, therefore, goes for nothing. He has put into the witness-box a nonentity. And scepticism and idealism are at any rate for the present reprieved. But do not scepticism and idealism go still further in their denial--do they not extend it from a denial in the existence of matter _per se_, to a denial in the existence of matter altogether? Yes, and they must do this. They can only deal with the matter which the psychological analysis affords. The only kind of matter which the psychological analysis affords is matter _per se_, and it affords this as all matter whatsoever. Therefore, in denying the existence of matter _per se_, scepticism and idealism must deny the existence of matter out and out. This, then, is the legitimate _terminus_ to which the accepted analysis conducts us. We are all, as we at present stand, either sceptics or idealists, every man of us. Shall the analysis, then, be given up? Not if it can be substantiated by any good plea: for _truth_ must be accepted, be the consequences what they may. Can the analysis, then, be made good either by observation or by reasoning,--the only competent authorities, now that belief has been declared _hors de combat_? Stewart says that Reid made it good by means of direct observation; but the claim is too ridiculous to be listened to for a single instant. We have also shown that reasoning is incompetent to make out and support the analysis; and therefore our conclusion is, that it falls to the ground as a thing altogether impracticable as well as false, and that the attempt to re-establish it ought never, on any account, to be renewed.
* * * * *
We have dwelt so long on the exposition of the psychological or analytic solution of the problem of perception, that we have but little space to spare for the discussion of the metaphysical doctrine. We shall unfold it as briefly as we can.
The principle of the metaphysical doctrine is precisely the opposite of the principle of the psychological doctrine. The one attempts all analysis; the other forbears from all analysis of the given fact--the perception of matter. And why does metaphysic make no attempt to dissect this fact? Simply because the thing cannot be done. The fact yields not to the solvent of thought: it yields not to the solvent of observation: it yields not to the solvent of belief, for man has no belief in the existence of matter from which perception (present and remembered) has been withdrawn. An impotence of the mind does indeed apparently resolve the supposed synthesis: but essential thinking exposes the imposition, restores the divided elements to their pristine integrity, and extinguishes the theory which would explain the _datum_ by means of the concurrence of a subjective or mental, and an objective or material factor. The convicted weakness of psychology is thus the root which gives strength to metaphysic. The failure of psychology affords to metaphysic a foundation of adamant. And perhaps no better or more comprehensive description of the object of metaphysical or speculative philosophy could be given than this,--that it is a science which exists, and has at all times existed, chiefly for the purpose of exposing the vanity and confounding the pretensions of what is called the "science of the human mind." The turning-round of thought from psychology to metaphysic is the true interpretation of the Platonic conversion of the soul from ignorance to knowledge--from mere opinion to certainty and satisfaction: in other words, from a discipline in which the thinking is only _apparent_, to a discipline in which the thinking is _real_. Ordinary observation does not reveal to us the real, but only the apparent revolutions of the celestial orbs. We must call astronomy to our aid if we would reach the truth. In the same way, ordinary or psychological thinking may show us the apparent movements of thought--but it is powerless to decipher the real figures described in that mightier than planetary scheme. Metaphysic alone can teach us to read aright the intellectual skies. Psychology regards the universe of thought from the Ptolemaic point of view, making man, as this system made the earth, the centre of the whole: metaphysic regards it from the Copernican point of view, making God, as this scheme makes the sun, the regulating principle of all. The difference is as great between "the science of the human mind" and metaphysic, as it is between the Ptolemaic and the Copernican astronomy, and it is very much of the same kind.
But the opposition between psychology and metaphysic, which we would at present confine ourselves to the consideration of, is this:--the psychological blindness consists in supposing that the analysis so often referred to is practicable, and has been made out: the metaphysical insight consists in seeing that the analysis is null and impracticable. The superiority of metaphysic, then, does not consist in doing, or in attempting more than psychology. It consists in seeing that psychology proposes to execute, the impossible, (a thing which psychology does not herself see, but persists in attempting;) and it consists, moreover, in refraining from this audacious attempt, and in adopting a humbler, a less adventurous, and a more circumspect method. Metaphysic (viewed in its ideal character) aims at nothing but what it can fully overtake. It is quite a mistake to imagine that this science proposes to carry a man beyond the length of his tether. The psychologist, indeed, launches the mind into imaginary spheres; but metaphysic binds it down to the fact, and there sternly bids it to abide. _That_ is the profession of the metaphysican, considered in his beau-ideal. That, too, is the practice (making allowance for the infirmities incident to humanity, and which prevent the ideal from ever being perfectly realised)--the practice of all the true astronomers of thought, from Plato down to Schelling and Hegel. If these philosophers accomplish more than the psychologist, it is only because they attempt much less.
In taking up the problem of perception all that metaphysic demands is the _whole_ given fact. That is her only postulate. And it is undoubtedly a stipulation which she is justly entitled to make. Now, what is, in this case, the _whole_ given fact? When we perceive an object, what is the whole given fact before us? In stating it, we must not consult elegance of expression: the whole given fact is this,--"We apprehend the perception of an object." The fact before us is comprehended wholly in that statement, but in nothing short of it. Now, does metaphysic give no countenance to an analysis of this fact? That is a new question--a question on which we have not yet touched. Observe,--the fact which metaphysic declares to be absolutely unsusceptible of analysis is "the perception of matter." But the fact which we are now considering is a totally different fact: it is _our apprehension of_ the perception of matter--and it does not follow that metaphysic will also declare this fact to be ultimate and indecompoundable. Were metaphysic to do this, it would reduce us to the condition of subjective or egoistic idealism. But metaphysic is not so absurd. It denies the divisibility of the one fact; but it does itself divide the other. And it is perfectly competent for metaphysic to do this, inasmuch as "our apprehension of the perception of matter" is a different fact from "the perception of matter itself." The former is, in the estimation of metaphysic, susceptible of analysis--the latter is not. Metaphysic thus escapes the imputation of leading us into subjective idealism. This will become more apparent as we proceed.
"Our apprehension of the perception of matter,"--this, then, is the whole given fact with which metaphysic has to deal. And this fact metaphysic proceeds to analyse into a subjective and an objective factor--giving to the human mind that part of the _datum_ which belongs to the human mind, and withholding from the human mind that part of the _datum_ to which it has no proper or exclusive claim. But at what point in the _datum_ does metaphysic insert the dissecting knife, or introduce the solvent which is to effect the proposed dualisation? At a very different point from that at which psychology insinuates her "ineffectual fire." Psychology cuts down between perception and matter, making the former subjective and the latter objective. Metaphysic cuts down between "our apprehension"--and "the perception of matter;" making the latter, "the perception of matter," totally objective, and the former, "our apprehension," alone subjective. Admitting, then, that the total fact we have to deal with is this, "our apprehension of the perception of matter"--the difference of treatment which this fact experiences at the hand of psychology and metaphysic is this:--they both divide the fact; but psychology divides it as follows;--"Our apprehension of the perception of"--that is the subjective part of the _datum_--the part that belongs to the human mind;--"Matter _per se_" is the objective part of the _datum_, the part of the _datum_ which exists independently of the human mind. Metaphysic divides it at a different point, "our apprehension of:" this, according to metaphysic, is the subjective part of the process--it is all which can with any propriety be attributed to the human mind:--"the perception of matter," this is the objective part of the _datum_--the part of it which exists independently of the human mind--and to the possession of which the human mind has no proper claim--no title at all.
Before explaining what the grounds are which authorise metaphysic in making a division so different from the psychological division of the fact which they both discuss, we shall make a few remarks for the purpose of extirpating, if possible, any lingering prejudice which may still lurk in the reader's mind in favour of the psychological partition.
According to metaphysic, the perception of matter is not the whole given fact with which we have to deal in working out this problem--(it is not the whole given fact; for, as we have said, our apprehension of, or participation in, the perception of matter--this is the whole given fact);--but the perception of matter is the _whole objective_ part of the given fact. But it will, perhaps, be asked--Are there not here two given facts? Does not the perception of matter imply two _data_? Is not the perception one given fact, and is not the matter itself another given fact--and are not these two facts perfectly distinct from one another? No: it is the false analysis of psychologists which we have already exposed that deceives us. But there is another circumstance which, perhaps, contributes more than any thing else to assist and perpetuate our delusion. This is the construction of language. We shall take this opportunity to put the student of philosophy upon his guard against its misleading tendency.
People imagine that because two (or rather three) words are employed to denote the fact, (the perception of matter,) that therefore there are two separate facts and thoughts corresponding to these separate words. But it is a great mistake to suppose that the analysis of facts and thoughts necessarily runs parallel with the analysis of sounds. Man, as Homer says, is [Greek: merops], or a word-divider; and he often carries this propensity so far as to divide words where there is no corresponding division of thoughts or of things. This is a very convenient practice, in so far as the ordinary business of life is concerned: for it saves much circumlocution, much expenditure of sound. But it runs the risk of making great havoc with scientific thinking; and there cannot be a doubt that it has helped to confirm psychology in its worst errors, by leading the unwary thinker to suppose that he has got before him a complete fact or thought, when he has merely got before him a complete word. There are whole words which, taken by themselves, have no thoughts or things corresponding to them, any more than there are thoughts and things corresponding to each of the separate syllables of which these words are composed. The words "perception" and "matter" are cases in point. These words have no meaning,--they have neither facts nor thoughts corresponding to them, when taken out of correlation to each other. The word "perception" must be supplemented (mentally at least) by the words "of matter," before it has any kind of sense--before it denotes any thing that exists; and in like manner the word "matter" must be mentally supplemented by the words "perception of," before it has any kind of sense, or denotes any real existence. The psychologist would think it absurd if any one were to maintain that there is one separate existence in nature corresponding to the syllable _mat-_, and another separate existence corresponding to the syllable _ter_--the component syllables of the word "matter." In the estimation of the metaphysician, it is just as ridiculous to suppose that there is an existing fact or modification in us corresponding to the three syllables _perception_, and a fact or existence in nature corresponding to the two syllables _matter_. The word "perception" is merely part of a word which, for convenience' sake, is allowed to represent the whole word; and so is the word "matter." The word "perception-of-matter" is always the one total word--the word to the mind,--and the existence which this word denotes is a totally objective existence.
But in these remarks we are reiterating (we hope, however, that we are also enforcing) our previous arguments. No power of the mind can divide into two facts, or two existences, or two thoughts, that one prominent fact which stands forth in its integrity as the perception-of-matter. Despite, then, the misleading construction of language--despite the plausible artifices of psychology, we must just accept this fact as we find it,--that is, we must accept it indissoluble and entire, and we must keep it indissoluble and entire. We have seen what psychology brought us to by tampering with it, under the pretence of a spurious, because impracticable analysis.
We proceed to exhibit the grounds upon which the metaphysician claims for the perception of matter a totally objective existence. The question may be stated thus: Where are we to place this _datum_? in our minds or _out of_ our minds? We cannot place part of it in our own minds, and part of it out of our minds, for it has been proved to be not subject to partition. Whereever we place it, then, there must we place it whole and undivided. Has the perception of matter, then, its proper location in the human mind, or has it not? Does its existence depend upon our existence, or has it a being altogether independent of us?
Now that, and that alone, is the point to decide which our natural belief should be appealed to; but Dr Reid did not see this. His appeal to the conviction of common sense was premature. He appealed to this belief without allowing scepticism and idealism to run their full course; without allowing them to confound the psychological analysis, and thus bring, us back to a better condition by compelling us to accept the fact, not as given in the spurious analysis of man, but as given in the eternal synthesis of God. The consequence was, that Reid's appeal came to naught. Instead of interrogating our belief as to the objective existence of the perception of matter, (the proper question,) the question which he brought under its notice was the objective existence of matter _per se_--matter _minus_ perception. Now, matter _per se_, or _minus_ perception, is a thing which no belief will countenance. Reid, however, could not admit this. Having appealed to the belief, he was compelled to distort its evidence in his own favour, and to force it, in spite of itself, to bear testimony to the fact which he wished it to establish. Thus Dr Reid's appeal not only came to naught, but being premature, it drove him, as has been said and shown, to falsify the primitive convictions of our nature. Scepticism must indeed be terrible, when it could thus hurry an honest man into a philosophical falsehood.
The question, then, which we have to refer to our natural belief, and abide the answer whatever it may be, is this:--Is the perception of matter (taken in its integrity, as it must be taken,) is it a modification of the human mind, or is it not? We answer unhesitatingly for ourselves, that _our_ belief is, that it is not. This "confession of faith" saves us from the imputation of subjective idealism, and we care not what other kind of idealism we are charged with. We can think of no sort of evidence to prove that the perception of matter is a modification of the human mind, or that the human mind is its proper and exclusive abode: and all our belief sets in towards the opposite conclusion. Our primitive conviction, when we do nothing to pervert it, is that the perception of matter is not, either wholly, or in part, a condition of the human soul; is not bounded in any direction by the narrow limits of our intellectual span, but that it "dwells apart," a mighty and independent system, a city fitted up and upheld by the everlasting God. Who told us that we were placed in a world composed of matter, which gives rise to our subsequent internal perceptions of it, and not that we were let down at once into a universe composed of external perceptions of matter, that were there beforehand and from all eternity--and in which we, the creatures of a day, are merely allowed to participate by the gracious Power to whom they really appertain? We, perversely philosophising, told ourselves the former of these alternatives; but our better nature, the convictions that we have received from God himself, assure us that the latter of them is the truth. The latter is by far the simpler, as well as by far the sublimer doctrine. But it is not on the authority either of its simplicity or its sublimity, that we venture to propound it--it is on account of its perfect consonance, both with the primitive convictions of our unsophisticated common sense, and with the more delicate and complex evidence of our speculative reason.
When a man consults his own nature, in an impartial spirit, he inevitably finds that his genuine belief in the existence of matter is not a belief in the independent existence of matter _per se_--but is a belief in the independent existence of the perception of matter which he is for the time participating in. The very last thing which he naturally believes in, is, that the perception is a state of his own mind, and that the matter is something different from it, and exists apart _in naturâ rerum_. He they _say_ that he believes this, but he never does really believe it. At any rate, he believes in the _first_ place that they exist _together_, wherever they exist. The perception which a man has of a sheet of paper, does not come before him as something distinct from the sheet of paper itself. The two are identical: they are indivisible: they are not two, but one. The only question then is, whether the perception of a sheet of paper (taken as it must be in its indissoluble totality) is a state of the man's own mind--or is no such state. And, in settlement of this question, there cannot be a doubt that he believes in the _second_ place, that the perception of a sheet of paper is not a modification of his own mind, but is an objective thing which exists altogether independent of him, and one which would still exist, although he, and all other created beings were annihilated. All that he believes to be his (or subjective) is _his participation in_ the perception of this object. In a word, it is the perception of matter, and not matter _per se_, which is the _kind_ of matter, in the independent and permanent existence of which man rests and reposes his belief. There is no truth or satisfaction to be found in any other doctrine.
This metaphysical theory of perception is a doctrine of pure intuitionism: it steers clear of all the perplexities of representationism; for it gives us in perception only one--that is, only a proximate object: this object is the perception of matter,--and this is one indivisible object. It is not, and cannot be, split into a proximate and a remote object. The doctrine, therefore, is proof against all the cavils of scepticism. We may add, that the entire objectivity of this _datum_ (which the metaphysical doctrine proclaims) makes it proof against the imputation of idealism,--at least of every species of absurd or objectionable idealism.
But what are these objective perceptions of matter, and to whom do they belong? This question leads us to speak of the circumstance which renders the metaphysical doctrine of perception so truly valuable. This doctrine is valuable chiefly on account of the indestructible foundation which it affords to the _à priori_ argument in favour of the existence of God. The substance of the argument is this,--matter is the perception of matter. The perception of matter does not belong to man; it is no state of the human mind,--man merely participates in it. But it must belong to some mind,--for perceptions without an intelligence in which they inhere are, inconceivable and contradictory. They must therefore be the property of the Divine mind; states of the everlasting intellect; _ideas_ of the Lord and Ruler of all things, and which come before us as _realities_,--so forcibly do they contrast themselves with the evanescent and irregular ideas of our feeble understandings. We must, however, beware, above all things, of regarding these Divine ideas as _mere_ ideas. An idea, as usually understood, is that from which all reality has been abstracted; but the perception of matter is a Divine idea, from which the reality has not been abstracted, and from which it cannot be abstracted.
But what, it will be asked--what becomes of the senses if this doctrine be admitted? What is their use and office? Just the same as before,--only with this difference, that whereas the psychological doctrine teaches that the exercise of the senses is the condition upon which we are permitted to apprehend objective material things--the metaphysical doctrine teaches that the exercise of the senses is the condition upon which we are permitted to apprehend or participate in the objective perception of material things. There is no real difficulty in the question just raised; and therefore, with this explanatory hint, we leave it, our space being exhausted.
Anticipations of this doctrine are to be found in the writings of every great metaphysician--of every man that ever speculated. It is announced in the speculations of Malebranche--still more explicitly in those of Berkeley; but though it forms the substance of their systems, from foundation-stone to pinnacle, it is not proclaimed with sufficiently unequivocal distinctness by either of these two great philosophers. Malebranche made the perception of matter totally objective, and vested the perception in the Divine mind, as we do. But he erred in this respect: having made the perception of matter altogether objective, he analysed it in its objectivity into perception (_idée_) and matter _per se_. We should rather say that he attempted to do this: and of course he failed, for the thing, as we have shown, is absolutely impossible. Berkeley made no such attempt. He regarded the perception of matter as not only totally objective, but as absolutely indivisible; and therefore we are disposed to regard him as the greatest metaphysician of his own country--(we do not mean Ireland; but England, Scotland, and Ireland)--at the very least.
When this elaborate edition of Reid's works shall be completed--shall have received its last consummate polish from the hand of its accomplished editor--we promise to review the many important topics (partly philosophical and partly physiological) which Sir William Hamilton has discussed in a manner which is worthy of his own great reputation, and which renders all compliment superfluous. We are assured that the philosophical public is waiting with anxious impatience for the completion of these discussions. In the mean time, we heartily recommend the volume to the student of philosophy as one of the most important works which our higher literature contains, and as one from which he will derive equal gratification and instruction, whether he agrees with its contents or not.
 _The Works of Thomas Reid, D.D._ Edited by SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON, Bart., Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh; with Copious Notes and Supplementary Dissertations by the Editor. Edinburgh: Maclachlan, Stewart, & Co. 1846.
 _Among the first._ He was not _the_ first. Berkeley had preceded him in denouncing most unequivocally the whole theory of representationism. The reason why Berkeley does not get the credit of this is, because his performance is even more explicit and cogent than his promise. He made no phrase about refuting the theory--he simply refuted it. Reid _said_ the business--but Berkeley _did_ it. The two greatest and most unaccountable blunders in the whole history of philosophy are, probably Reid's allegations that Berkeley was a representationist, and that he was an idealist; understanding by the word _idealist_, one who denies the existence of a real external universe. From every page of his writings, it is obvious that Berkeley was neither the one of these nor the other, even in the remotest degree.
 _They err._--This, however, can scarcely be called an error. It is the business of the sceptic at least to accept the principles generally recognised, and to develop their conclusions, however absurd or revolting. If the principles are false to begin with, that is no fault of his, but of those at whose hands he received them.
 _Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind_. Part I. ch. i.
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NOTE _in reference to an Article in our last Number, and to_ PROFESSOR WILSON'S _Letter to the Editor of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, dated 30th June._
MESSRS BLACKWOOD regret to find that some observations regarding the University of Edinburgh, contained in an article in their last Number, should have occasioned feelings of pain and disapprobation in one of their earliest and best supporters, Professor Wilson, of whose connexion with the Magazine they are justly proud, and whose friendship they hope ever to retain undiminished.
These observations did not at the time appear to them in the aspect in which they now see that they may be regarded. They were fully assured of the meaning and motives of the writer of the article in question, and conscious themselves of the deepest respect and admiration for the University of Edinburgh.
They are now, however, sensible that the passage referred to was liable to objections which they know had not occurred to the writer of the article, but which they, as the parties who have all along been responsible for the management of the Magazine, ought to have seen and obviated.
They deeply regret that through this error upon their part Professor Wilson should have felt it necessary to disclaim what had thus inadvertently been allowed to appear in their pages.
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_Printed by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh._