The Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. I., No. 8, April, 1835 by Various
THE SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER:
DEVOTED TO EVERY DEPARTMENT OF LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS.
Au gré de nos desirs bien plus qu'au gré des vents. _Crebillon's Electre_.
As _we_ will, and not as the winds will.
RICHMOND: T. W. WHITE, PUBLISHER AND PROPRIETOR. 1834-5.
SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER.
VOL. I.] RICHMOND, APRIL 1835. [NO. 8.
T. W. WHITE, PRINTER AND PROPRIETOR. FIVE DOLLARS PER ANNUM.
We regret that from the late period at which the sixth number of "Sketches of the History of Tripoli" was received, it has been impossible to present it to our readers this month. It will appear in our next.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
INFLUENCE OF FREE GOVERNMENT ON THE MIND.
Human society, from the nature of its formation, is governed in all its multifarious movements, however majestic or delicate, by mind. There are no changes, nor revolutions in society, that do not acknowledge its influence. It is the all-pervading, all-exciting cause of human action. Its power on the social system is similar to that of gravitation in regulating the magnificent and rolling orbs of space; the great centre of attraction, holding together and preserving in harmonious order the thousand relations of life. Physical force, which to the superficial eye appears to have swayed the destinies of mankind in all ages of the world, will be found on examination to be only a mean, enabling it to wield with greater skill and force the sceptre of its power. The conquering legions of Cæsar or Bonaparte would have been a useless pageant, deprived of this active, governing principle. This exciting principle of society reaches its maturity and power by gradual developement. In the first stages of civilization its strength is that of an infant, afterwards that of a giant; and the spheres of its action are as various as its powers. We behold it soaring on the shining wings of imagination to the fields of fiction; calm, comprehensive, searching in philosophy and science; animated and exalted on the noble theatre of eloquence; pure and humble in the holy aspirations of religion. Such being the nature of mind, we are led to the irresistible inference, that the state of communities or nations will be low or elevated in proportion to its neglect or cultivation. The conceptions of mind form the mirror of national character. If there be a want of mental cultivation, as a consequent, the numerous attractions which hold in harmony and union the relations of society will be destroyed; and general darkness and misery prevail. On the contrary, if there be an expansion of mind, these ties so necessary, so sacred, will receive new strength; and a universal joy, and beauty, and brightness, pervade the whole social compact.
Many and various causes tend to the development of mind. It varies in every nation and under every form of government. We read of the majestic melancholy, the lofty passion, the stern intellect of the _North_; of the mental effeminacy, of the exuberant fancy, beneath the sunny skies and amid the olive groves of the _South_. We read of the effects, natural advantages and impediments; how inaccessible barriers may raise their Alpine heads, and prevent the light of one nation from beaming on another; thus destroying the interchange of kindred thoughts and obstructing the growth of mind; how nature's works, her forests, rivers, lakes, groves, and water-falls in their original grandeur and sublimity; how art's works, shining in their new splendor, or fallen from their primitive state, cities and towers lying in the crumbling embrace of time, stir up the sympathies, enliven the emotions, and arouse the imagination to high exertion; how the resources of the earth, her rich mines, her quarries of marble, stimulate the spirit of improvement in the arts and sciences. We read too, how the mind wastes away under the influence of despotic institutions, and how ignorance reigns shining in purple and gold; lastly, how the mind attains its full developement, and is ever active in its native strength, and power, and greatness, under the pacific and stirring effect of free principles. Each of these causes which may advance or retard the growth of mind, afford themes worthy of investigation. That of the influence of free institutions, having a bearing on the destinies of American mind, we have selected as the subject of this essay.
A ceaseless activity is the original characteristic of all material creation. All matter, whether on the surface, or in the centre of the earth, is imperceptibly undergoing a continuous change. To-day, we gaze with delighted eye on the loveliness and grandeur of nature, lit up by the smile of heaven; to-morrow, they have passed away. We only look upon a clear blue sky, to behold it the next moment hung with dark and angry clouds. The sun and the moon ever pursue their same eternal tireless course. Nature has likewise created an undying active spirit in the mental world. Activity is the earliest intellectual developement. The many imperious duties, connected with the stupendous relations which the individual members of society sustain to each other, prove that the mind was destined for action. The different natures, and the beautiful adaptations of the intellectual powers, prove it. Their native elasticity, their quick excitability, prove it. Curiosity, that key which unlocks the sanctuaries of knowledge, is seen from the days of childhood to silvery age. A desire of society, a commune and interchange of thought and feeling, has ever been a distinguishing characteristic of mankind in all ages and in all parts of the world. The sublime summits which the mind has reached, and the perennial glories which have crowned its efforts, are evidence unanswerable of the vastness of its power. But there cannot be full powerful mental action without mental freedom. Freedom is incident to action mental or physical. Observe the king of birds as he spreads his majestic wings on high; mark his swift flight, his strength and vigor; then behold him shut up within a cage, how weak, how lifeless, how nerveless! The same is true of mind; unrestrained, its powers transcend all limits, but fettered, they dwindle away--are powerless. The mind then is both naturally free and active. Such being the case, free institutions are founded in nature; and, therefore, their influence on the mind arises from a natural and mutual relation: this relation cannot be otherwise than efficacious in its tendencies on the mind.
What is the nature of free institutions? Founded in man's free active nature, their tendency is to develope his powers and dignity. Their permanency, depending on the mental part of man, their chief aim and policy are his moral and intellectual elevation. Universal mental cultivation is the enduring basis and majestic pillar of their structure. As the effulgent life-giving orb of day brings forth the hidden beauties and treasures of nature, they draw out to the light the powers and faculties of every member of society. They bring mind in competition with mind; thus striking out the "celestial spark," they recognise no mental indolence; they afford means suited to the growth of all kinds of mind; they hold out the same common inducements to all; they reward with immortality noble intellectual action. Their true prominent feature is the collision of minds.
Let us examine their influences. All legislation, all governmental measures and operations, originate in the chosen intellect of the people, assembled in free deliberation. No single will creates a law. Many cultivated thinking minds coming together in close discussion, strike out the great principles of political science. And the minds thus exercised are not confined in their illuminating influence to the legislative hall, but go abroad, brilliant and powerful, awakening to thought, and enlightening millions of minds. Whatever the legislators conceive and create, affords a theme on which a thousand other eloquent minds among the people concentrate their talents, and shine forth in bright display. Thus we perceive that the splendid and dazzling theatre of eloquence is opened, inviting the exertions of bold, persuasive, original intellect. Eloquence is one of the characteristics of free governments. It requires free action. Its nature is to thrill the feelings, to awaken the fancy, to exalt the thoughts of a nation. It is the mind speaking forth its native inspiriting thoughts. It is the rapid flow of deep excited feeling. It is the natural influence which one mind exerts over another. It is the unbridled intellect, clothed in shining and magic forms. Can it exist under a despotism? The bird that dips its wings in the heavens does not require more freedom. It is opposed to tyranny of any kind. What is the history of eloquence? We behold it in unrivalled brilliancy and power in the Republican of mighty Rome. Rome's eaglet of conquest canopied the world under his expanded wings; but the genius of her eloquence, peaceful, but powerful, moulded and swayed the mind of her people and raised her to matchless grandeur.
In free governments, new occasions are continually arising for intellectual action. It is the inevitable result of that freedom they give to the mind. The free mind is ever active and progressive, ever soaring to lofty heights. The free mind disdains to follow the beaten track, and marks out an original, a more elevated path. The free mind experiences the full efficacy of all the stimulating feelings of our nature. Can such a cast of mind do otherwise than open new fields for high action? or produce other than wonderful and glorious results? Animated by an unconquerable love of action, all obstacles and difficulties vanish before it. It overthrows old systems, and erects new ones more dazzling in splendor. It revolutionizes all unsound associations, political, social, religious and literary. It fully developes and explains the existing relations of life, and unfolds hitherto unfelt ones. It thinks and feels more exaltedly, more deeply, more strongly. Lethargy never steals upon such a mind. Now a mind thus exercised, thus unlimited in its action, must shine forth in its original beauty and might, must attain all that is noble or sublime in intellectual achievement. This mind does not exist under despotic institutions. It could not. The restrained mind is ever retrograding. The restrained mind, aimless and unambitious, pursues the old path and never thinks of seeking a new one. The restrained mind never feels the irrepressible delight of a superior thought, never the exhilarating influence of deep and lofty meditation. Is it wonderful that despotic governments never attain a high degree of intellectual eminence? Or is it wonderful that free governments should know no barriers too great, no limits too extensive, no summits too elevated; should send forth a living increasing light of mental glory over the world?
In free governments "capacity and opportunity are twin sisters." Development of mind being their chief aim, they afford every proper means to this end. The genius of learning is brought down from her high abodes, and caused to walk radiant with beauty, through every grade of society. Education, the soul's strength, is disseminated with a liberal hand to every portion of the community. Intellectual illumination is made universal, as extensive as the circling canopy of the firmament. The inferior and superior mind drink at the same fountain--aspire to the same immortal renown. For while they thus develope the mind, they open to all the bright halls of eminence, offer to all _fame's_ brilliant diadem. Glorious is the effect! The principles of science are seen shining in increased brightness in the work-shop; eloquence, deep and overwhelming, full of heavenly fire and pathos, arises from the shades of obscurity; the lyre of poetry touched by the spirit of song, sends forth its melodious and inspiring strains from the deep valley and the mountain top; in truth, the great mass of society is moved and agitated by an active untiring spirit, even as the waters of Bethesda were wont to be moved when visited by the angel of the skies. Do we behold such an aspect under despotic institutions? Do they encourage the universal growth of mind? Do they hold out a common inducement to eloquent and lofty effort? or insure to superior genius an enduring fame? Impossible! when all intellectual influence is confined to the palace. Impossible! when learning in its effect on society is no more than the light of the moon, shining by the side of the noonday sun.
But free circulation of thought and feeling composes the chief influence of free institutions on the mind. The beauty, union, and elevation of society depend upon the action and re-action of mind. Indeed, this reciprocal influence of mind is the final cause in the formation of society. Where it is unfelt all relations, political and social, are frail and disregarded. If we look through society we shall find that all national mental greatness and power, originates in the influence which a few mighty minds exert in setting the great mass of mind to thinking and feeling. How great have been the effects of the minds of the Newtons, Bacons, Ciceros and Luthers on the world! How many millions of minds have they not excited to strong and elevated action! Now, free governments, from their very nature, encourage this interchange, this mutual action of mind on mind. And mark the results. The original brightness of one mind throws new light on the path of another. A superior thought, like the blast of the Highland warrior's trump bounding from crag to crag, and causing, quick as sound, a hundred minds to beat for action, spreads with electric rapidity through every nerve of the social frame. Thoughts once clouded in darkness assume a blinding brightness. Thoughts once confused and incomprehensible are mastered and imbodied in enchanting forms. Patient and ambitious investigation, surmounting every obstacle, and penetrating to the lowest depths of knowledge, brings forth its rich treasures; truths, brilliant and irresistible. Free discussion is awakened, eliciting talent, intellectual energies and glories. Nor is this all. In philosophy, a few mighty minds arise and unfold new principles in human nature; and, immediately, a spirit of revolution, rapid but glorious, rages through society, destroying false and unnatural relations, and strengthening those that are genuine by holier and imperishable ties. In literature, a few mighty minds arise, profound in thought, imperial in fancy and conception, which like so many meridian suns, casting their beams upon the mental world, draw forth the native graces, and beauties, and grandeur of mind, and disseminate through every department of letters an influence enlivening and beautifying: an influence, which arouses the slumbering spirit of poetry, and throws an immortal radiance over the Elysian realms of fiction. In science, a few mighty minds arise, expose old fallacies, explore the rich mines of the earth, develope the mysterious principles of matter, explain the nature of their application, and suddenly an unusual mental splendor encircles the temple of learning. Art wields her sceptre with greater skill and precision, improving and adorning every branch of mechanism, that administers to the uses and comforts of society. And this influence of these few mighty minds on the general mind of society reacts in resilient bounds, again acts, and again rebounds, continually increasing in vigor and majesty. Thus the powers, passions and emotions of the mind, are developed to their full stature. Thus, that mind gains its natural ascendancy, crowns itself with unfading laurels, erects its throne, all magnificent, far above human thrones, and wields an overpowering influence over the destinies of mankind. Thus, all nations either in the ancient or modern world, where mind has shone in its brightest forms, have gained their immortality. From a want of this mutual influence of superior and inferior minds, despotic nations have ever remained in superstition and ignorance. For the sake of mind, who will not hail with delight the day when the genius of liberty shall canopy the world with her guardian wings!
But the friends of monarchical governments tell us that Republics do not encourage high intellectual developement, because they do not stimulate the mind to exertion by liberal rewards. In a triumphant air, they point us to the munificent era of Augustus, when genius bloomed amid kingly splendor, to the profuse liberality of _Eastern_ kings; to the generous age of Leo X, when Italia's mind shone in rivalry with her own bright and lovely skies. We grant that the mind in free governments is deprived of this influence. Does it thereby sustain any loss? Let us examine this point. Will the mind whose only stimulant are the smiles and pecuniary emoluments of kings, exhibit its native strength and grandeur? or will the Muse that sings to please the whims and caprices of a court, soar on eagle wings and to mountain heights? He who depends on another for support, must necessarily so shape his actions as to gain the good will of his patron. It is familiar to every one, that they who live in the sunshine of a palace, and from whom the mind in monarchies receives its patronage, are no more nor less in their characters than a composition of vanity and pride; of vanity and pride demanding deification. The mind then that acts under courtly favor must bow in lowly adoration and flattery. The scholar mourns over this defect in the writings of Horace: he wrote to please the wily and arrogant Augustus. If we turn over the productions of modern ages, when monarchy has reigned, we shall find the same grovelling slave-like spirit. Can such an influence develope the real beauty and sublimity of mind? No! For the mind that would attain a full growth, a growth noble and dignified--must mark out a course of its own, must move forward with a fearless, unbending step.
But because the mind in free governments does not enjoy the influence of princely favor, (which in our humble opinion is rather an injury than a benefit,) it is not therefore deprived of every other stimulant. In a Republic, mental influence is not confined to any one particular sphere, but illumines by the same beneficent rays the summits and the depths of society. It is sound reason, that the motives to intellectual action will bear a character corresponding to the influence of that action. If its influence be noble and extensive the stimulus of mind will be strong and awakening. How great then the motives to mental effort in free governments! There the mind acts not to please a crown, not to scatter flowers for courtiers to walk over, but conscious of the weight of its responsibility, and the boundless extent of its power, thinks and feels, that its thoughts and feelings may mould and sway countless other minds. There is an indescribable glory in such a stimulus. It not only purifies and elevates the mind which it arouses, but prospers and ennobles the condition of mankind. Still further--The mind whose theatre of action is thus extensive, and that looks up to no living being for aid, will in most instances, be excited to action by the idea of a virtuous immortality. And say, friend of monarchical munificence, is not the mind that conceives this idea in its pure genuineness, actuated by a stimulus more powerful than all the smiles of all the kings, than all the gold of all the Perus in the world could create? Analyze this idea. It combines benevolence and sublimity of feeling. It raises the mind above earthly scenes to the contemplation of the ineffable brightness and goodness of the Creator. Its great end is the promotion of the happiness of coming ages. Who will compare the action of the mind thus stimulated with that of the mind, whose only stimulus is present selfish enjoyment? As well may we compare the anthill to the "cloud-crowned Andes."
What says biography of those superior minds that have shone as lights to the world. Did they grow to their full power and greatness under the influence of monarchical institutions? Did they arouse the mind of Homer, the immortal bard of antiquity? Or the eloquence and moral sublimity of Cicero? Or the unrivalled philosophy of Socrates? Who has not lamented over the severe fate of modern genius? Danté, Petrarch and Ariosto, minds resplendent in imagery and conception, wrote their best works when friendless exiles on a foreign shore. Cervantes wrote his Don Quixotte of undying fame, in a dungeon. Shakspeare, rightly styled the great magician of human nature, was often obliged to act parts in his own plays. Milton, who in thought and conception dwelt in the home of angels, sold his Paradise Lost for five pounds; lived the disgrace and glory of his age. These minds were the subjects of monarchies. Others might be mentioned. Surely then this patronage of kingly governments is but an empty name. It will not stimulate the noble mind, for such a mind creates its own stimulus. Let no one say then that the mind cannot ascend to lofty heights without its aid. But rather let us exclaim with the poet,
"'Tis immortality should fire the mind."
In looking over the pages of history, no fact strikes us more perceptibly than that all greatness of mind has ever been proportionate to its enjoyment of civil liberty. In vain do we look for universal education, either in ancient or modern times, among the numerous kingdoms of the East; in vain for a philosopher, poet or historian. The story of Grecian mind in its full maturity and superiority is known to every scholar. He there beholds mind in its real glory and power, shining under diversified forms; in imaginative brilliancy; in philosophic research; in the highest spheres of literature and science. But her freedom departed. The voice of eloquence was no longer heard in her forums, or in her beautiful fanes and groves; her Muses were cold to the embraces of her poets; in short, her intellectual greatness was gone. Behold her now! How striking the contrast of her former and present condition! And how appropriate the line of Byron--
"'Tis Greece, but living Greece no more."
The history of Roman mind does not differ from that of Grecian mind. Who would ask for stronger illustrations of the argument in favor of free principles on the mind.
But the influence of free institutions on the mind is not confined purely to the intellectual, but extends to the moral nature of man. They blend strength and splendor of intellect with the soft and beamy radiance of moral feeling. This is a natural consequence. For as a general rule, where there is an expansion of intellect, there will be a similar growth in morals. As intellect expands, as its perceptions become keener and surer, the relations and duties of life are perceived in a stronger and clearer light. Deprived of intellect, morals and principles lose their efficacy. We speak now of unperverted intellect; not of that kind of intellect which blasted the hopes of revolutionary France; not of that kind of intellect which characterized a Mirabeau or a Voltaire, but of such as free institutions in their purity would create--an intellect pure and exalted. Such an intellect cannot fail to strengthen our obligations as public and private men.
Indeed, one of the fundamental principles of free governments is founded in man's moral nature, the equality of mankind. For from this principle flows a spirit of peace, of love and kindness. Cherish the idea that men are by nature possessed of equal rights, and you destroy that coldness and selfishness which corrupt and debase the moral affections. Cherish it, and benevolence reigns queen over the heart, dispensing far and wide her refreshing benefits. Cherish it, and every member of society feels himself drawn towards his fellow by heavenly attractions. Cherish it, and the springs of sympathetic feeling rise to overflowing. In fine, cherish it, and the virtues of the heart increase in beauty and holiness, and run out in gladdening streams. Destroy it, and general morality is gone forever.
Thus we perceive that free governments tend both to growth of morals and intellect; that the developement of the one is not attended to and the other neglected, but that they unfold, bloom and mature in union. Thus too, we perceive that free governments do not unfold half of man's powers or strength, but that under their influence the whole mind expands, full, bright and lovely, as the "bloom of blowing Eden fair."
We have now finished an imperfect view of the influence of free principles on the mind. Beautiful is their application in our own country. Here they exist in their pure original character. Here, their influence is beyond calculation--over an extensive territory, abounding in every variety of interest and advantage. Here the press is free, and the thoughts and feelings of one section of the land may enlighten another section; this section may throw new light and splendor into another, this into another and another: thus creating a chain of mental influence, which will extend from one extremity of the country to the other. Here there is every civil advantage; numerous theatres for the display of eloquent mind. Here there is every natural advantage; numerous theatres for the display of literary and scientific mind. Let the discerning traveller perform the tour of our land, and there is no beauty of nature, no charm of landscape, no majesty of forest, no grandeur or sublimity of mountain or water scenery, that will not meet his delighted vision. Every state possesses materials sufficient to create a literature of its own. The Baronial castles and lofty hills of Scotland, together with their incidents, penciled by the graphic hand of Walter Scott, gained him a deathless name. Every state, and we assert it without fear of contradiction, has more of the interesting, the romantic and picturesque in incident and scenery than Scotland. It is our own fault then if our literature is not immortalized by more than one Scott. Add to these the great variety of mind which characterizes our land. Let the traveller go through the south, and he will behold mind glowing, impetuous and brilliant; let him go through the north, and he will behold mind, more systematized, profound in reason, silent, deep in feeling; let him go through the west, and he will behold a comminglement of every variety of mind. Besides, there are peculiar thoughts and feelings which belong to each state. Now consider all these advantages joined together, mingled as the colors in the rainbow, by one grand powerful feeling, which characterizes the whole, a feeling of union, a common American feeling: and let our free institutions act upon them in their full vigor and power, and we will have a mind presenting every variety of interest, beauty, strength and brightness--all eloquent, all sublime--a sun illumining the world.
H. J. G.
_Cincinnati, Ohio, April 1835_.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
A few weeks since D. D. Mitchell, Esq., a resident for many years past, near the falls of Missouri, in the vicinity of the Rocky Mountains, was in this city, on a visit to his native State, and it was my good fortune to become personally acquainted with him. He has been an enterprising and successful adventurer in the American fur trade, and is now in command of a fort and trading establishment in the neighborhood of the _Black-feet_, a nation of Indians with whom the whites have had but little intercourse, and whose peculiar character and manners we have had few opportunities of knowing. Besides being a bold and active participator in many of the bloody conflicts of various tribes, Mr. Mitchell has been a keen observer of Indian customs, traits, and superstitions; and so great a favorite was he among the powerful tribe of the Black-feet, that they created him a chief, with the title of the _Spotted Elk_. Mr. Mitchell did me the favor whilst here, to submit some of his manuscripts to my inspection. They contain sketches of the Indian character, and of the country, on the head waters of Missouri, hitherto almost unexplored by the white man, and also various interesting anecdotes and observations, highly creditable to the intelligence, discernment and enterprise of the writer. I cannot withhold from the patrons of the Literary Messenger, some share of the pleasure I have myself experienced, in reading these valuable papers, and, for the present, I send to the publisher, a remarkable Indian love tale, which Mr. Mitchell, besides his written testimony, privately assured me was _founded on fact_.--Washington Irving, in his recent "Tour on the Prairies," makes the following remark: "As far as I can judge, the Indian of poetical fiction, is like the shepherd of pastoral romance, a mere personification of imaginary attributes." It may be so, and perhaps most heroes and heroines of novels and romances, are principally creations of fancy; but if the author of the Sketch Book, meant to assert, that the children of the forest were altogether unsusceptible of some of the noble and tender emotions of our nature--he stands opposed by undoubted evidence to the contrary. Who does not believe, for example, what our own history has taught, of the matchless purity and guileless simplicity of Pocahontas--the lofty spirit of Totopotomoi, and the rare magnanimity of Logan? The passion of love indeed, as modified and refined in civilized life, has not often been found in the breast of the Indian warrior, but even to this general truth, there have been numerous exceptions, and among them, I have never met with one so marked and striking, as that which is recorded in the following story.
THE WHITE ANTELOPE;
OR, INDIAN LOVER.
From the Manuscripts of D. D. Mitchell, Esq.
Some time during the autumn of 1832, a young blood Indian (of the race of the Black-feet,) arrived at the fort all alone. He had no furs, or other articles of traffic with him, and was not equipped in the usual style for war. His pale haggard appearance, and deep settled melancholy, attracted the observation of all who saw him; but as a residence of several years among the Indians, had taught us something of their rules of politeness, I forbore to question him as to the cause of his grief, more especially as he did not seem to be in a very communicative mood. I ordered him something to eat, but he pushed the proffered repast aside, and refused to partake. Our interpreter then handed him a pipe, which he received in a cold mechanical manner, appearing scarcely conscious of what he did; and instead of sending up dense columns of smoke in rapid succession, as is usually the case, he sat with the pipe extended across his knees, absorbed in a deep reverie, and now and then heaving profound sighs, which appeared to arise from the inmost recesses of his soul. The pipe having gone out, the interpreter relighted it, and again placed it in the young Indian's hand. He started up, and after a few hasty whiffs, seized his bow and arrows, and walked hastily out of the fort. Our curiosity having been excited by his mysterious conduct, several of us followed in order to watch his motions. He went to the river bank, and having thrown off his robe, which he fastened to the back of his head, in order to keep it dry, he deliberately plunged into the river and swam for the opposite shore. I called to him through the interpreter, promising if he would return, to send him over in my skiff, reminding him at the same time that the current was wide, and the water extremely cold--but he only turned his head around, and with a bitter smile, exclaimed, "the fire which is burning in my heart, will keep me warm!" He spoke no other word, but dashing through the waves, which a keen October wind had lashed into motion, we saw him presently ascend the rocky cliffs of the other side, and striking into the path which led to the mountains, he disappeared, with the speed and agility of an antelope. Several conjectures were made among us, respecting the singular conduct of this seemingly unhappy youth; but as none could furnish an explanation entirely satisfactory, the affair in a few days, ceased to be the subject of inquiry or conversation.
On a cold stormy evening, about the middle of the following February, I was standing on the bank of the river, giving some directions to the men engaged in constructing a kind of harbor or basin, to secure our boats, on the opening of spring, from the drifting ice, when I was startled by the quick report of a gun, and a loud shout of triumph, which proceeded from the opposite shore, and were echoed in long reverberations from the rocky cliffs of the Missouri. Broad flakes of snow were falling around me, and whirling in every direction, so that I was prevented from perceiving objects on the opposite side; but I supposed that some war party was probably returning from a victorious campaign. When about to return to the fort, I discovered two Indians, a young man and woman, crossing the river on the ice; they both approached the spot where I stood; the youth holding his hand towards me, in a manner which denoted confidence and friendship. Though actually shivering with cold, his countenance seemed to beam with joy and animation, and pointing my attention to the comely girl, at his side, he exclaimed, whilst his dark eyes sparkled with triumph, "Now she is mine, for I have fairly won her in battle!" and at the same moment he cast a glance at two bloody scalps, which hung suspended from his ram-rod. I now recognised the mysterious young man, who had visited the fort in October; but his manner and appearance were altogether changed. His step was now buoyant and elastic, and in place of the gloomy silence and mental agony which marked his previous deportment, he was now gay and talkative, indulging in the light laugh and ready jest. Being anxious to know something of his story, I invited the lover and his young Indian maiden into the fort, an invitation which they readily accepted. After a hearty meal, and a few whiffs of the pipe, the warrior swain, drawing his Indian beauty closer to his side, and assuming as much gravity of feature, as his thrilling sensations of happiness would allow, related in a very circumstantial manner, the following story:--
"I have loved this girl," said he, "as far back as I can remember;" and at the same moment, as he laid his hand on her shining dark hair, the black eyed damsel of the Prairies rewarded her lover's confession with a smile of approbation. "I loved her," he continued, "long before I knew the meaning of love; for when a small boy, I once shot my arrow at her mother for striking the daughter. I afterwards wondered at myself for doing so, especially as my father talked to me _angry_, and said that the girl was no relation of mine. I remember too, when we played at ball on the ice, if we happened to be opposed in the game, I would not win from her, though every thing I had was staked. Those were happy days. In the winter, we made snares for rabbits and foxes, or climbed to the top of some high hill, and amused ourselves by rolling the snow down its sides, which, as it rolled, grew bigger and bigger, until it reached the bottom, where it lay till the warm sun in the spring melted it away to fog, and raised it again to the clouds. Even so has it happened to us. We continued to roll down the stream of life, increasing in size and in love, until now we have reached years of maturity; and we will continue to love each other, until time wastes us away like the snow ball, and the Great Spirit takes us up into his own land.
"Last summer we were encamped by the side of the chief mountain, and I saw Sinepaw (the name of the Indian girl,) almost every day. Often have I wandered from the camp, and hiding myself behind some tree, have watched the whole day in the hope of seeing her pass that way. If I could but get a glance at her, I was satisfied, and returned quietly to the lodge; but if it chanced that she did not make her appearance, I then sat me down and wept; but during my sleep I was always happy, for in my dreams I was never separated from her. You know that, according to the law of our tribe, none but a warrior can dare to think of a wife; and as I was nothing but a youth, and had never taken a scalp, I was therefore ashamed to speak even to _Sinepaw_, much less to her father and mother. One day, whilst preparing to go out to war, where I panted to perform some exploit which should rank me amongst our braves and warriors, and entitle me to the privilege of marrying the girl of my choice, the whole camp was suddenly thrown into an uproar, and I learned that eight of our women who were gathering wild turnip in the prairies, had been captured and carried away by the _Flat-heads_. Sinepaw was one of the eight. A war party, myself among the number, was immediately despatched in pursuit. We followed for several days, but we lost the trail of our enemies in the mountains, and our leader commanded us to return. I thought that my heart would burst with grief; but as yet I had no trophy in battle, and I dared not utter a complaint. When I returned to the camp, my heart was very heavy. I believed that it was dead. I could neither eat, nor sleep, nor join in the merry song or dance, as it was my custom to do. My only pleasure was, to climb to the top of the mountain, seat myself on a bank of snow, and looking to the country of the Flat-heads, pray the Great Spirit to give me the cunning and courage to recover my lost Sinepaw. Once when I had remained in that dismal spot three days and nights, taking neither rest nor food, on the fourth morning the sun drove away the mist from the mountain, and warmed my veins with its beams. I fell into a sound sleep, and the Great Spirit came down and told me to go in pursuit of the _Flat-heads_; that he would take pity on my grief, and restore Sinepaw to her lover. I awoke from my pleasant dream: the Great Spirit was gone, but I remembered his words.
"The next day I started all alone. You saw me when I passed your fort, and you pitied my distress. For thirty-four days I travelled through the mountains, before I found the camp of the _Flat-heads_. The Great Spirit had caused them to place it in the only spot where it was possible I could ever succeed in recovering Sinepaw. It was just at the foot of a high rocky cliff, on the banks of the Snake river. On the top of the cliff, I found a hole in the rock, which served as a hiding place, and from which I could easily see all that passed in the camp. For seven long days I kept a constant watch, before I could once get a glimpse at my girl. At last I saw her, and I thought that my heart would leap from my mouth. My limbs trembled so violently, that I could not stand, and the tears gushed from my eyes, causing the prairie beneath me to look like a vast lake, whose waves were troubled. Soon, however, I brushed away my tears, the lake disappeared--and I again beheld the camp, and Sinepaw standing in the same spot. She was employed in harnessing two dogs for the purpose of assisting the squaws to haul wood from a little island in the middle of the river. She did not return until nearly sun-set; but when she did, I was lucky enough to see the lodge into which she went. I examined that lodge particularly, and all the others around it, so that I should know it again. When it was dark, I spoke to the Great Spirit; told him he promised I should have my Sinepaw again, and begged him not to deceive me. I resolved to carry her off that night, or leave my scalp to be danced in the camp of the Flat-heads!!
[Footnote 1: A small stream that falls into the Columbia.]
"The night was very dark and stormy; the wind mourned around the top of the cliff, and the snow flakes whirling through the air, seemed to me like so many ghosts. Three ravens fluttered up the side of the rock, and lighting on a stunted pine, which grew near my place of retreat, uttered a dismal scream, as if scenting for something to eat, and waiting to feast on my carcass. Beneath me lay a thousand enemies, who would in a moment have cut me into pieces, and given my body to their dogs. My teeth chattered with cold and fear, and I felt like a woman. The cliff was steep and overhung with shelving rocks. It was so dark that I could not see my hand before me; and if I made one false step, I should be dashed to pieces among the rocks, and Sinepaw would remain a slave among my enemies. When my courage was about to expire, this horrid thought revived it, and I immediately commenced sliding down the cliff, holding on the points of the rocks, and grasping the pine bushes which grew in my course. Several times my foot-hold crumbled beneath me, and I fell from rock to rock, but there was always something to stop my descent and prevent my destruction. At length I reached the bottom, and stood on the level prairie. The camp was but a short distance from me, and I walked towards it slowly and cautiously. Every thing was solemn and silent, and the stillness was only broke by the hollow wind whistling through the prairie glass, or by the howl of some dog who could find no shelter from the storm. When I entered the camp, I drew my robe over my head, and boldly stepped forward. Several young men were standing near the different lodges, perhaps to get a sly look at their sweethearts, but they took no notice of me. Once I thought that a dog, belonging to the camp, would have ruined me: he made for the spot where I was, snapping and barking, and running around me several times; but, luckily, an old squaw came from a lodge hard by, and drove him off. No doubt the Great Spirit sent her, for had it been a man, he would have come towards me, and spoken, and all would have been lost.
"When I came to the lodge I was seeking, I knew it by a large white wolf skin, which hung on a pole at the door. I stood a few moments, and prayed the Great Spirit to pity me, then ventured to raise the skin and look into the lodge. A small fire which was burning in the centre, cast a pale and sickly light all around me, and I saw that all who were there, were asleep. Several times I tried to go in, but as often felt as if something was pulling me back; but looking around and beholding nothing, I knew it was the evil spirit, so I raised the skin once more, boldly stepped forward, and stood in the same lodge with Sinepaw. My heart beat so loud, I thought it would wake all the sleepers. At the first glance, I knew it was the lodge of a chief, for over the spot where he lay, hung his medicine bag, his bow and arrows, and immediately under them, two scalps of my own nation. At the sight of the scalps I drew my knife, intending to kill him, but I thought of Sinepaw and stopped. Where was she? Fifteen men and women lay sleeping on the ground, and all so wrapped in their robes, that I could not distinguish them; so I drew my own robe over my face, and sat down to listen to their breathing, for I knew there was music in the breath of Sinepaw, different from that of all other women. I was not deceived: I found that she lay just behind me: so I turned and took the robe from her face. She still slept; a tear was glistening on her eyelash, and her cheek was thin and pale. She murmured something which I could not hear, but, stooping down, I kissed away the tear, which was even sweeter than the blood of my brother's murderer, which I had tasted. She opened her eyes, looked up, and saw me, but thought it was a dream. She looked again, and when she saw that it was really me, she would have screamed, but I laid my hand on her mouth, and whispered in her ear, 'Rise, let us fly from the camp!' She gazed wildly around the lodge, and seemed as if her senses would fly from her. At length I raised her up, and led her to the door, but she stopped and turned my face to the light, as if to be assured that it was me. She hesitated no longer: we both sprung from the lodge, and Sinepaw threw her arms around me!
"Oh, my friend!" exclaimed the impassioned lover, addressing himself to me, whilst his eyes sparkled with extraordinary brilliancy, "at that moment I looked around on the camp, and laughed at all its dangers. I felt as if I should not fear to meet a hundred enemies. It was the first time that Sinepaw ever embraced me, and it kindled a feeling, such as I shall never experience again. I believe when I am dead and mouldered into dust, the parts of my body which her arms encircled, will never be corrupted.
"A number of horses stood tied around the lodge, and Sinepaw cut loose the cords of two of the best, which we quickly mounted. I drew my bow and arrows, and rode slowly forward, making as little noise as possible; but a young man soon discovered us, and gave the alarm! Laying whip to our horses, we soon cleared the camp, dashed down the bank, and crossed the river on the ice; but the uproar which we heard behind us, and the thundering of horses' feet over the frozen prairie, too plainly told that we were closely pursued. The storm continued to roar, and the darkness was greater than ever. Sometimes I heard a shot behind us, and a hundred voices calling out loudly to each other; but we still kept on our way, at the full speed of our steeds, and in about two hours from the time we started, the tempest had spent its rage, and daylight began to dawn. At sun-rise I rode to the top of a hill, in order to survey the country and the better to shape my course, when I spied two _Flat-heads_ on horseback, not far to my right, who, seeing me also, raised a shout of triumph, and immediately rushed forward in pursuit. I knew it was in vain to fly; our horses were already weary and faint, and could hold out no longer. I made signs to Sinepaw to come to the top of the hill, when seizing her horse by the rein, I sheathed my knife blade in his throat, and dealt the same fatal blow at my own. Their lifeblood gushed as a spring, and as they staggered and fell, I placed their bodies around us, to form an entrenchment for defence.
"The warriors soon rode up, and discharged their guns, but their balls fell harmless, or lodged in the carcases which protected us. They fired again and again, but I still lay motionless, for as I had but nine arrows left, I had not one to throw away. At last they began to conclude that I had no arms, and they ventured to ride still nearer. I heard the trampling of their horses a few steps off; my bow and arrows were prepared, and I raised my head, but withdrew it as quick as lightning. They fired at once, but their fire came too late: I sprang upon my feet, and before the _Flat-heads_ could either reload or retreat, I sent two arrows through the body of one, and one through the head of the other. They attempted to fly, but both were brought to the ground. I raised the war whoop of the Spotted Eagle, and rushing down the side of the hill, I secured their scalps and guns. Here they are!" he exclaimed, exhibiting his spoils in triumph; "who can now say that the White Antelope is not a warrior, or who can refuse him his daughter as a wife?"
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
_Mr. White_,--The following spirited lines, evidently composed on some occasion of serious import, together with a gold ring broken into several fragments, were accidentally found in my neighborhood about two years ago, enveloped in a neatly folded sheet of letter paper, without date, seal, or superscription. I send you a copy of them, hoping that by the aid of your very good "Messenger" they may meet the eye of poor "Corydon" again, or if you please, that of his "faithless one." Should you deem them worthy of publication, they are now at your service. Yours, respectfully,
_Albemarle, March 25, 1835_.
THE LAST GIFT.
When I sit musing on the chequered past, (A term much darken'd with untimely woes,) My thoughts revert to her, for whom still flows The tear, tho' half disown'd, and binding fast Pride's stubborn cheat to my too yielding heart; I say to her she robbed me of my rest, When that was all my wealth. 'Tis true my breast Received from her this wearying, lingering smart, Yet, ah! I cannot bid her form depart: Tho' wrong'd, I love her--yet in anger love; For _she was most unworthy_. Now I prove Vindictive joy; and on my stern front gleams The native pride of my much injured heart.--_H. K. White_.
I said to Love's accursed art, Behold this broken ring! Thus thou hast broke the bruised heart, As 'twere some worthless thing. But tho' it bleed at every pore, Crush'd by the reckless blow, My spirit still shall triumph o'er The tide of wo. I said to Friendship's lifted hand, Smite on--my bosom's bare-- Deep didst thou plunge the fatal brand, And left it rankling there. But still there throbs within these veins, The spirit's manliness, That scorns, amid its keenest pains, To seek redress. I said to Treachery's cunning dame, Come on--I dread thee not; Thou may'st pursue me till my name And being are forgot. But still my spirit ne'er shall weep, Tho' driv'n to Ocean's farthest Isle, I'd rather brave the angry deep, Than thy _cold smile_. I said to Mammon's golden store, Shine on--thou art but dust; I covet not thy worthless ore, Tho' by Misfortune crush'd. For deep within this bosom's shrine, There lives a spirit still, (More costly far than wealth of thine,) Thou canst not kill. I said to Earth's unstable ball, Roll on--it matters not; A few more suns will rise and fall, And I shall be forgot. But still the spirit in its bloom, Tho' oft by sorrow curs'd, Shall yet from thy sepulch'ral gloom With rapture burst. I said to Her, the faithless one, Who vow'd to love me best, Smile on--thy friendship I disown, And spurn thee from my breast. But still the spirit thou hast crush'd, The secret ne'er shall tell, And tho' thou tread it in the dust, 'Twill say--FAREWELL. I said to Him, the mighty Lord, Who reigns above the sky, And governs by his sovereign word, Man's darkest destiny,-- Father, I kiss thy chastening rod, In love I know 'twas given, For while it smites me 'neath the sod, It points to Heaven.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
Of the Æolian Harp to the Wind.
"Wind of the dark blue mountains, Thou dost but sweep my strings, Into wild gusts of mournfulness, With the rushing of thy wings.
When the gale is freshly blowing My notes responsive swell, And over music's power, Their triumphs seem to tell.
But when the breeze is sighing, Then comes 'a dying fall,' Less--less indeed exalting, But sweeter far than all.
It sighs, like hapless mortals, For youthful pleasures fled, For hopes and friends once cherished, Now mingled with the dead.
And oh! how sweetly touching, Is the sad and plaintive strain, Recalling former pleasures, That ne'er can live again.
Once more thy breezes freshen, And sweep the Æolian strings, And again their notes are swelling, With the rushing of thy wings.
They seem to cheer the drooping, To bid the wretched live, And with their sounds ecstatic, His withering hopes revive."
Alas! and in life's drama, Howe'er we play our part, Hope is forever breathing, On the Lyre of the Heart.
Hope is forever touching Some chord that vibrates there, While bitter disappointment Mars the delusive air.
Alternate joys and sorrows, Obedient to her call, Now breathe a strain that's flatt'ring, And now "a dying fall."
Yet how unlike the measures Of the sweet Æolian string! These soothe the heart that's wounded, Those plant a deeper sting.
Then wind of the dark blue mountains, Still sweep these trembling strings Into sweet strains of mournfulness, With the flutter of thy wings.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
"Every modification of a society, at all lettered, works out for itself a correspondent literature, bearing the stamp of its character and exhibiting all its peculiarities."
[Footnote 1: Sir J. Mackintosh's History of England, vol. I.]
It is thus that we see among the simple progenitors of a now polished race, a simplicity of literature in extreme accordance with their rude and unsophisticated manners. Yet when I speak of a rude literature, I am not to be understood as implying want of merit. On the contrary, the unpruned freedom of thought and unextinguished fire of feeling, so essential to true poetry, are chiefly to be found among a people martial and but little cultivated. Nor is this all; we often discover a beautiful tenderness, breathing of the primeval simplicity in which it has been nurtured. The dangers and hardships of severe employment, were sometimes forgotten in intervals of rest, and at such times, love ditties were made and sung. All natural beauties--the mountain--the waters of the valley--the dingle--the mossy wood, peopled by its vagabond essences and strange spirits--were inexhaustible food for poetry. This love of gentleness was the stronger for its contrast with the tone of feeling which preceded it. There are many instances of "the soft" to be found amongst the mutilated scraps and scattered records remaining to us from the numerous races usually called Barbarians. Montaigne somewhere quotes an original Caribbean song, which he pronounces worthy of Anacreon:
"Oh, snake stay; stay, O snake, that my sister may draw from the pattern of thy painted skin, the fashion and work of a rich riband which I mean to present to my mistress: so may thy beauty and thy disposition be preferred to those of all other serpents. Oh, snake stay!"
If this had been the song of a Peruvian or a Chilian, it would have been less singular. As it is, it was probably sung by a savage Carib in a moment of that rest, of which I have spoken as the season for "love ditties."
The curious student who searches into the authorities of our historians, will find that they are chiefly made up of legends imbodied in the songs of coeval bards and minstrels. This was the source of historical knowledge to the Danish writers, more than to those of any other country; indeed the scald was as well a chronicler as a singer. Nor is this historical foundation to be despised. Those who sung were most frequently eye witnesses of the occurrences celebrated in their songs. Men in those early ages had not so thoroughly learned the art of misrepresentation. Manly openness was a virtue: cunning was scarcely known in action or narration: or, if known, despised. Consequently we find that in many or all cases where other proofs are to be had, the legends of the bards are substantiated.--The chief source of our information with regard to the Saxon rule in the island of Great Britain, is the Saxon Chronicle--a kind of journal or annual, kept by the monks of early ages. This extends considerably beyond the era of the conquest, and is often spun into verse. Indeed the first instance of the use of rhyme in the Saxon tongue, is to be found in this chronicle--I will not however anticipate my subject by quoting the lines in this place.
The materials with which English antiquaries build up their historical creeds, are so slender, that the very existence of the minstrel, as distinct from the poet, prior to William's coming, has been matter of controversy.--After close examination, I am inclined to side with those who maintain that minstrelsey--like the feudal system--was no more than improved by the Normans; that it had accompanied the Saxons from Germany.
We are told that, Colgrin, a Saxon prince, gained access to his brother Baldulph, while the latter defended York against Arthur and his Britons, by disguising himself as a harper. Likewise that the great Alfred stole forth in the same disguise from the Isle of Athelney--whither Guthrun the Dane had driven him--and that in such plight he entered the enemy's quarters unhindered. Another story of the same nature is told us of Anlaff, a Danish chief, who explored the camp of king Athelstane. The learned bishop of Dromore, after quoting these several stories at full length, remarks: "Now if the Saxons had not been accustomed to have minstrels of their own, Alfred's assuming so new and unusual a character would have excited suspicions among the Danes. On the other hand, if it had not been customary with the Saxons to shew favor and respect to the Danish scalds, Anlaff would not have ventured himself among them, especially on the eve of a battle. From the uniform procedure then of both these kings, we may fairly conclude that the same mode of entertainment prevailed among both people, and that the minstrel was a privileged character with each."
[Footnote 2: Geoffrey of Monmouth.]
[Footnote 3: Vide Rapin.]
This proves, to me, that a plant from the same root whence sprung the Danish scald, grew and flourished in England. This idea is farther strengthened by the fact that Saxons and Danes were of one and the same origin--both swarms from the same northern hive--and that the scald retained by the Danes was an important personage among the Teutonic tribes; and nothing can be more natural than for men to recur to the customs and usages of their parent-land.
[Footnote 4: Sir W. Temple.]
It seems therefore that minstrels constituted a privileged race among the Saxons. Yet poetry was not meanwhile confined to their vocal performances. Alfred himself was the author of several written pieces of considerable merit. Among other ballads, one descriptive of the battle of Brunnenburgh, is still extant. This battle--fought between Athelstane and a confederacy of Danes and rebel Britons--was well drawn in the original, and has been translated by a school boy at Eton with unrivalled beauty and truth.
[Footnote 5: Frere.]
Song was used likewise on the field of battle. Many instances of this are on record, but I shall select no more than one for the sake of proof.
When Harold the last Saxon king, drew up his army against the combined forces of Tostigg--his rebel brother--and Harold Hardrada, the Norwegian king, Tostigg rode out upon a hillock, and _after the fashion of the day_, began a war-chaunt. While thus engaged, a herald came from Harold, his brother, greeting him, and offering reconciliation. "The dukedom of Northumberland shall be given thee," said the herald. "And what reward has he for my friend and ally?" replied the haughty rebel. "Seven feet of English ground, or as men call him a giant, perhaps eight." And the herald finding his attempt at reconciliation futile, put spurs to his horse. Tostigg rode backward and forward, tossing his bare sword into the air and catching it as it fell. Meanwhile his brother's archers came within bow-shot, and their arrows whistled from the string. Tostigg fought beside his ally, in a blue tunic and shining helmet. He was yet chanting to his army, when a shaft pierced his throat and ended song and life together.
Thus do we see that poetry existed in three shapes; in the songs of a privileged order, called by the various names of _joculator_, _minstrel_, &c. &c.; in writing; and in the martial chaunts of heroes "bowne for battelle."--And what were the subjects of these several species of poetry? The last explains itself. The first two were probably on martial topics; so we may infer at least from the specimens which have reached us, and from the situation of England, even for centuries after its union under Egbert. Swept by the repeated inroads of the Danes--harassed and ground by the never-ending feuds of the great nobles, "ye might (in the strong words of an old historian,) as well plough the sea."--Thus with warlike customs--the last half of Sir J. Mackintosh's remark, quoted in the beginning of this paper, being at all times a consequent on the first--literature grew up in more harsh strength than graceful beauty. Society was little better than a confederacy for joint defence against watchful foes. The air was redolent of strife and contention. The "clash of armor and the rush of multitudes," mingling _minaci murmure cornuum_, were imitated on the harp's string, and enthusiastic damsels sung the deeds of their lovers, or so far forgot the more tender affection which would prefer the life of its object, to that object's death and after-honor, as to mingle the _io triumphe_ with the burial song; thus giving way to the fierce joy, which weakness, when excited by thoughts of great deeds denied itself, conjures up--the _gaudia certaminis_, ever strongest in the weakest. I have already remarked, that "during intervals of rest, love ditties were sung." We have remnants enough to know that the Saxon poets were not forgetful of all gentler feeling, though these too were most often mingled with alloy. There were not wanting those willing and eager to embalm the names of the beautiful and great. There were not wanting bards to sing of the _loves_ of these.
Elgiva, who drew her royal lover from the board where his nobles, and the sage Dunstan, had met to do him honor. Editha, the lady of the swan-neck, who recognised the body of Harold though mangled and disfigured wofully "for that her eyes were strong with love." These have had their good qualities and misfortunes immortalized by men, who, in the pauses of the bitterest strife, turned to admire beauty and unyielding affection, and to lament the evils brought upon innocent heads.
They sung too of Elfrida, who stabbed young Alfred while feasting in Corfe-castle--a deed "than which no worse had been committed among the people of the Angles, since they first came to the land of Britain." And in this we perceive the alloy, as in their praise of the masculine Ethelflida, "the lady of Mercia," daughter of the great Alfred.
I have barely glanced over the Saxon literature from the middle of the fifth century, to that of the eleventh, without entering into a careful and accurate detail of the changes which must have occurred, and which probably by a closer examination than I have thought needful, might be spread open. One great change occurred about the end of the eighth century. Egbert--Bretwalda, or king of Wessex, one of the seven principalities forming the Heptarchy--long lived at the court of Charlemagne, then the most polished court west of Italy. He united the seven petty kingdoms into one, and as their single head, had an opportunity of using effectually the information gathered abroad.
Several additions were made to this, but the one most worthy notice, was more than two centuries after. Edward the confessor, passed twenty-seven years, from boyhood to middle age, at the court of Rouen; indeed (according to Ingulphus,)
"Paene in Gallicam transierat."
He therefore added to the polish, introduced by his predecessor, though at so late an hour that the change for the better was scarcely perceptible, before it merged in the more important one, introduced by the Norman invasion.
I now proceed to an examination of poetry through ages of comparative light. Although from the gradual intercourse between the two nations prior to their amalgamation, no alteration of feeling or manners had taken place, extensive enough to mark the "conquest" as a grand and important era in the history of national customs, still many and subtle changes were produced, bearing in no small degree upon the subject before us.
The poetry of the Saxons was without rhyme, and the author of "an essay on Chaucer," says, "without metre." The learned antiquary must have attached a meaning to the word _metre_, wholly at variance with that now and usually received. Metre (from the Greek [Greek: metron] and Latin _metrum_) has several meanings, but scarcely distinct ones: all may be included in that of 'an harmonious disposition of words.' It is not enough to say that it differed from prose in being the language of passion. The general rules by which we judge poetry, are immutable, and equally applicable to that of Greeks, Saxons, and modern English. Dr. Blair and his authorities, define poetry to be "the language of passion metrically arranged," (I quote from memory) and supported so ably, I will not consent to a halving of the definition. The before mentioned Essayist on Chaucer, adduces the "vision of Pierce Ploughman" as a specimen of the Saxon style of poetry. And herein it becomes evident that he mistakes the meaning of the word _metre_. For those old lines, composed about the middle of the fourteenth century, are, notwithstanding the ancient mode of writing without breaks or division into lines, beyond doubt capable of being arranged in separate and distinct verses. I am not without support in the opinion here given; Dr. Hickes maintains that the Saxons observed syllabic quantities "though perhaps not so strictly as the Greek and Latin heroic poets." It may be asked how this comes to be at all a question, since monuments of Saxon poetry still remain by which we can judge. But it is no such easy matter to judge correctly. Syllables were accented much at the whim of the versifyer; so much so that general rules for the disposition of accent are little less than useless. Add to this the common custom, before mentioned, of writing poetry and prose alike; and when we remember that the object in view is to ascertain the number and accentuation of syllables, the wonder will disappear.
[Footnote 6: Pref. Sax. Gram.]
One among the earliest specimens of the use of rhyme in the Island of Great Britain, is to be found in the Saxon Chronicle. The author says that he himself had seen the Conqueror, and we may thence infer that the lines were written in the reign of William Rufus, or at farthest in that of his brother and successor Henry. It may be as well before quoting this literary curiosity, to notice a distich in itself trifling, and only worth noticing as the very earliest specimen of Saxon Rhyme, on record.
Aldred, Archbishop of York, threw out two rhyming verses against one _Urse_, sheriff of Worcestershire, not long after the conquest:
"_Hatest thou Urse--Have thou God's curse._" _Vocaris Ursus--Habeas dei maledictionem._
William of Malmsbury, who has preserved this precious morsel, says that he inserts this English, "_quod Latina verba non sicut Anglica concinnati respondent_." The _concinnity_ I presume consisted in the rhyme, and would scarcely have been deemed worth repeating if rhyme in English had not been a rare thing. It is quite apparent that rhyme and an improved metre were introduced by the Normans, among whom composition in their own dialect had been long before attempted in imitation of the jingling Latin rhythm.
The lines in the Saxon Chronicle to which I have referred, are a comment upon the changes effected by William. I will set them down in legible characters.
Thet he nam he rihte And mid mycelan un-rihte He foette mycel deor-frith And he loegde laga therwith-- He forbead the heortas Swylce Eac tha baras; Swa swithe he lufode the hea-deor Swylce he waere heora faeder, Eac he sætte be tham haran, That hi mosten freo faran.--
This may be translated after somewhat the following fashion: "He took money by right and unright--He made many deer parks and established laws by which," whosoever slew a hart or a hind was deprived of his eye-sight--"He forbade men to kill harts or boars, and he loved the tall deer as if he were their father. He decreed that the brindled hares should go free."
In addition to these, Matthew Paris mentions a canticle which 'the blessed Virgin' was pleased to dictate to Godric, a hermit near Durham.
From this time to the reign of Henry II, which began in 1154, we find no records of rhyming poetry. In that reign, one Layamon, a priest of Ernleye, near Severn, as he terms himself, translated from the French of Wace, a fabulous history of the Britons, entitled, "Le Bruit;" which, Wace himself, about the year 1150, had translated from the Latin of Geoffrey of Monmouth. This poem is for the most part after the Old Saxon fashion, without rhyme, except so far as a jingle at intervals may be so called. We next, if guided by the actual records of written poetry, are forced to pass over an interval of 100 years--to the middle of Henry the third's reign. The reasons of this gap are perhaps these--
The scholars of the age affected to write in Latin--which they called the universal language. The more skilful poets who lived, as is usual with the race, upon the bounty of the great nobles, out of compliment to these their Norman benefactors, framed their verse into the Norman French; while the low and popular singers--then the only true _English_ poets--left nothing worth preservation. I will pass on hurriedly through this uninteresting portion of my slight history of written poetry, to the nearest resting-place, and thence take a back view of minstrelsy as nourished in the courts of the English Kings, and principally in that of Richard Coeur de Lion.
[Footnote 7: The poems of this interval have been translated into the English of Elizabeth's time, when the rage for gathering scraps of ballad into "garlands" was at its full. It is, however, impossible to distinguish them from the numerous pieces, really French--i.e. written not only in the French language, but in France, bearing similar date, and translated at the same time. It is impossible to draw hair lines or any kind of lines between these; or if possible, needs a more skilful antiquary, than the author of these cacoethes scribendi.]
In the reign of Henry III, we find that one Orm or Ormin, wrote a paraphrase of the gospel histories, entitled, Ormulum. Hickes and Wanley have both given large extracts from this, without discovering that it was poetry. But a close examination will render evident to any one, with any ear for metre, that the Ormulum is written very exactly, in verses of fifteen syllables without rhyme, in imitation of the most common species of the Latin, tetrameter iambic. Another piece, a moral poem on old age, bears date about the same reign; it is more remarkable for a corrupt MS., from which the only print of the poem at all common, seems to have been taken, than for any thing else.
[Footnote 8: This metre is the same metre with that of the Modern Greeks, which Lord Byron tells us, shuffles on to the old tune: A captain bold of Halifax, &c.]
The next interval from the end of Henry the third's reign, to the middle of the fourteenth century, when Chaucer came upon the _dais_, was filled up with a swarm of 'small poets.' These were principally translators of popular poems from the Roman or French authors, and their compositions were thence called _Romances_. They neither improved on the material before gathered, nor added anything of value to the store. And so we come to Geoffrey Chaucer--whence, let me recur to another branch of the subject in hand.
I have said that minstrels were known among the Saxons before the conquest, and that these were in high repute at the Saxon courts. That Alfred himself was a poet, and on one occasion, a minstrel. The Normans brought with them their harpers and troubadours and the profession received a great acquisition of strength and honor. Every Baron had his own joculator, and we find amongst the records of the Old English families, items of _largesse_ to wandering harpers. Such were at all seasons welcomed by the feudal nobles--perhaps for the same reason that our modern aristocrats of Virginia were hospitable--from a love of news. Minstrels as news-gleaners--often coming too from the royal court--were a source of entertainment to the lords, who, immured in their solitary castles among swampy moors, or perched on hill-tops almost inaccessible to man, seldom heard other than an enemy at their gates.
[Footnote 9: Vid. the story of Taillefer--Du Cange.]
At the court of Henry I,--to whom Sir Walter Scott refers in those lines of his rambling epistle to George Ellis--
"But who shall teach my harp to gain A sound of the romantic strain, Whose Anglo-Norman tones whilere Could win the royal Henry's ear,-- Famed Beauclerc called, for that he loved, The minstrel, and his lay approved?"
Minstrels and minstrelsy were especially favored.
Beauclerc--the most accomplished monarch of his day, so far as letters were concerned, became by fellowship of feeling and taste, the patron of all the caste. The court-fed minions, like the lizard whose color depends on the species of grass or plant of which it eats, became of course completely Norman in their feelings. Indeed the greater number were Normans by birth and education, lured to the English court by the ever ready bait of patronage; and those that were not, seeing that these met with favor, imitated them in style and every thing else. The '_Anglo_' might with propriety have been dropped in Sir Walter's verse just quoted.
[Footnote 10: It is a melancholy sight to see so exalted a class of human beings, whether from necessity or not, forever debasing themselves into servile dependency. Even Dante, whose lament that he had to climb another's stair would seem the outbreak of an independent spirit, could humble himself before a Guido.]
That the six kings following the conqueror were, with an exception, completely Norman in their habits and predilections, we may easily discover in the history of English law, traced back to its foundation among the very roots of the feudal system. It was against Norman innovation that the independent Barons of the thirteenth century arose, and held John Lackland in duress until his name was affixed to Magna Charta--a paper purporting to restore affairs to the state in which Edward the Saxon left them. It was this same fondness for French men and French rules that forced from Henry III a signature to the same paper,--John having evaded his on plea of compulsion.
But, although extremely opposed to those principles of freedom which Hengist and his followers had brought from the woods of Germany, and which ages after marked England as a great and prosperous nation, Norman ideas and sentiments were a southern sun to the growth of poetry and other literature.
I have mentioned Henry Beauclerc's love for these. After him, in the struggles of the heroic Maud or Matilda, and in the turbulent reign of the ill-fated Stephen, neither party had leisure for literary pursuits. But in the reign of Henry II, love and poetry both received countenance from that gallant monarch. His amours with Rosamond Clifford of Woodstock, have been the theme of many a popular ballad. Richard Coeur de Lion, the knight errant king, and king of knight errants, invited the most famous of the Provencal bards to his court. _Ubi mel ibi apes_, and London was soon a theatre crowded with troubadours warm from the feet of the Pyrenees and banks of the Rhone. The whispers of the sunny Provencal love-ditty were breathed upon the rough ballad spirit of an earlier time,--mellowing that spirit, and adding to its former dauntlessness the gloss of polish and refinement.--Richard was himself a troubadour; and though at the present day his deeds of verse would damn a schoolboy, they were then thought worthy of being coupled with his deeds in arms.
[Footnote 11: Richard was truly a king _errant_,--for he spent scarcely one out of the ten years of his reign, in England.]
Many romantic traditions have been handed down to us of that adventurous monarch and Blondel de Nesle, his favorite minstrel. We read in the records of our ancient chroniclers, a simple tale of the latter's long pilgrimage in search of the captive king his master. How Blondel came one evening as the sun went down among the hills of the Rhine, to the solitary castle of Trifels, where the monarch lay in a damp cold dungeon. How he seated himself at the dungeon grate, and taking his harp from his shoulder, began a song which Richard and he had made together in Palestine; and how the overjoyed king took up the words as they reached his ear, and chanted to the top of his full voice in answer. And farthermore, how Blondel returned to England, and went 'shoonless and unhooded' through all parts of the land, until the captive's loyal subjects were aroused; and until the great ransom was gathered together by which those subjects bought his freedom. Many such stories are told of the time of the chivalric Richard; and the devoted fidelity of his dependents will ever be a bright spot on the page of that history into which their names have stolen, and through which they are now receiving--reward dearest to noble spirits,--virtuous and stainless renown.
In the reign of John Lackland, the minstrels were the means of saving the life and fortunes of an Earl of Chester, by stirring up the rabble, who had gathered to a fair in the border of Wales, to go to his rescue. This they did under one Dutton, at sight of whom and his followers, the Welsh besiegers retired from before the Earl's castle.
In the time of Edward I, "a _multitude_ of minstrels attended at the knighting of his son."
Under the reign of Edward II, such privileges were claimed by this class, that it became necessary to restrain them by a particular statute. Yet notwithstanding this, towards the latter part of this reign, we find that the minstrels still retained the liberty of entrance at will into the royal presence, and were still remarkable for splendor of dress.
During the short rule of Richard II, John of Gaunt instituted a court of minstrels at Tutbury in Staffordshire. They had a charter, empowering them variously, and bestowing _inter alia_ the right of appointing "a king of the minstrels with four subordinate officers."
Under the usurper Bolingbroke--Henry the Fourth--the profession maintained its dignity and importance, and met with favor from king and noble, notwithstanding the contempt of the stuttering Hotspur.
I had rather be a kitten and cry--mew, Than one of these same metre ballad mongers; I had rather hear a brazen canstick turned Or a dry wheel grate on an axletree, Etc.
Alcibiades cried down lute playing--because, though he excelled his comrades in beauty, eloquence, and gallantry, in this one little thing his skill failed him. Percy "spoke thick" and so song did not suit him. Even as late as Henry VIII, we find minstrels attached in licensed capacities, to the households of the great nobles. But the profession was fast sinking into disrepute; and in the great entertainment at Kenilworth Castle in 1575, a caricature copy of the old minstrel appeared among the sources of amusement prepared by the gallant Leicester for his royal mistress.
Thus had the profession completed a circle, and, in name at least, returned to its primitive state. Centuries before among the Saxons the singer was called _mimus_, _joculator_, _histrio_, indiscriminately. And though these words, like _parasite_, _demagogue_, _tyrant_, _sophist_ and others, bore a respectable meaning at the period of their first use, the minstrel in the course of time adapted himself to the meaning which time and change had given them, and in the reign of Elizabeth had become a mere '_jester_.' He turned the circle and went back to the titles of his progenitors, adding to the ignominy of those titles by wearing them. An act was at length passed, in the thirty-ninth year of the queen just mentioned, classing "all wandering minstrels, with rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars," and ordering them to be punished as such. From this severe judgment, however, those, attached by peculiar circumstances to the house of that Dutton spoken of above as the preserver of Ranulph the last Earl of Chester, were particularly excepted. This statute was the death blow to the few remnants of the genuine old minstrelsy.
I can now proceed undividedly in tracing out my slight sketch of English classic poets and written poetry.
Before I end this chapter, however, let me make a few remarks upon the spirit prevalent among the English after the conquest.
In the scrap of Saxon poetry quoted above, the reader will perceive that the chronicler mentions William's severe restrictions upon the exercise of woodcraft in the wide waste lands of the escheated manors. Following the same lines farther, we find in the old chronicle the winding up words, which I will translate from the original. After remarking that "he forbade men to kill harts or boars," the chronicler adds, "Rich men bemoaned it and poor men shuddered at it. But he was so stern and hot that he recked not the hatred of them all."
In consequence of these laws, Robinhoods and Littlejohns gathered in the matted thickets, and among the oak glades on the banks of every obscure lake and river, from the Thames to the Tweed. There was something alluring in the romantic life of an outlawed forester, and many a tall deer and bristling boar, died on the 'green shawe,' against whom that law, intended as a shield, pointed the arrow.
Thus sprung up a race of men of whom the ballad makers delighted to sing--coupling their names with 'Hereward the hardy outlaw' and the patriot heroes of the ground and trampled Saxons.
That the introduction of Norman manners brought with it more softness--a fact mentioned more than once--we may discover by comparing the productions of those bards who in the same age, sung in the rugged north country, and those who grew up in Kent and on the Thames. These latter were for years before the Norman's coming, receiving polish from their neighborhood, while those of Northumberland retained much of their early rudeness ages after. The bard who sings of the reyde on which
"The Perse out off Northumberland"
went to be killed among the Cheviot hills, has more roughness as well as more strength than any of his compeers on the Thames. This old poem is an important stone in the temple of English literature, and I will treat of it in due season, as coming within the pale of English classic poetry. This polish and increased softness introduced by the Normans, opened the eyes and ears of all to "the soother and honeyeder" style of poetry. And, indeed, unless Lord Bacon's remark,--that verse is a better balm than any the Egyptians knew, "for that it not only preserveth the stateliness of the form and the color of the face--which the Egyptian preservative doth not--but giveth to the one tenfold stateliness and borroweth from the rose for the other,"--be true, their women were passing stately and very beautiful. There were the three Mauds, all queens and all heroines. There was the proud yet "fair Rosamond," who forgot her pride in the arms of a royal lover; and many another fitting sharer in immortality with the Elgivas and Ediths of an earlier time.
Superstition too gave a tinge to poetry.--The Druids had left their foot marks upon the soil, and the ancient rites and feelings cherished in Wales--the last place of refuge for the injured Britons--still held an undefined influence over the hearts of their neighbors. This feeling blazed out for awhile, when the partisans of Henry slew Thomas a-Becket, the "child of love and wonder," before the altar of St. Bennet. And the murdered Archbishop was doubly canonized, in the holy ritual of Rome, and in the songs of those whom his death had made worshippers.
[Footnote 12: Sir J. Mackintosh tells an odd romance of the mother of the celebrated Archbishop, whom he calls the "child of love and wonder."]
But the greatest characteristic of the ballad, as used among the Norman successors to the Saxons in England, was a love for the legendary. Britagne--that country lying between the Loire and the Seine, had been peopled by a body of British emigrants about the time of the Saxon invasion under Hengist, and these calling themselves _Armoricans_, settled quietly down in a strange land. They retained many of their old British feelings, and when in the course of time they became nearly amalgamated with their Norman neighbors, and followed them into England, the old love of country revived and they sung of King Arthur and his knights as champions of their forefathers. The strange legends of the early contests between Angles and Britons, were mere clews to the discovery of a thousand others, wholly unfounded in truth, yet none the less palatable to the ignorant. This love of the legendary remains to this day among the descendants of these people, and will, perhaps, never be obliterated.
[Footnote 13: "The words _Konung_, _Kyning_, _King_, _Kong_, _Koenig_, and others like them in the Teutonic languages, denoted every sort of command from the highest to that of a very narrow extent. It would be a gross fallacy to understand these words in their modern sense, when we meet them in Anglo-Saxon history."]
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
MR. WHITE,--I offer a very threadbare excuse for the publication of the following verses. They are published "at the request of a friend," for whom, indeed, they were written. You have accused me of obscurity, and to prevent a repetition of your censure, I will here add a scrap of explanation. "The Last Indian" is something of a Salathiel; he has survived his whole race. Stanza VI, refers to the Aztecs and other tribes long ago extinct, and supposed to have lived once upon a time, among the higher valleys east and west of the Mississippi. A second and more hardy people, referred to in stanza V, perhaps drove the Aztecs, as the Huns drove the Goths, southward, upon the rich regions of Mexico. These dead Mexican tribes are described on their return--led by a kind of _amor patriæ_ instinct--to their early homes in the north.
Before ending this scrawl, I would correct an error into which you have fallen with regard to my signature. "Zarry Zyle" should be
THE LAST INDIAN.
Once more, and yet once more, I give unto my harp a midnight-woven lay; --I heard the ebon waters roar, I heard the flood of ages pass away.--_Kirke White_.
I slept beneath a tree one Summer eve, My couch a bed of blossom-beaded thyme, My roof the bough which spirit fingers weave, My slumber-song a brooklet's mellow chime: I dreamed--and far away thro' space and time, My liberated spirit joyfully Forth went--a pioneer well skilled to climb The cloudy crags and cliffs of mystery. I dreamed--I speak my dream; and canst thou read it me?
On the jagg'd summit of a mountain range, More azure than the blue sky, sternly stood-- Like Sathanas of old--a wanderer strange, Drinking deep grief, as one who meets the flood Of bitterness in some parched solitude; Before him spread, in undulations vast, A Prairie sea, all isled with rock and wood; And young winds closed their wings above its breast, As faint bees close their wings when Summer days have passed.
The Sun had come--a weary traveller-- Up o'er the hills of ether, for methought 'Twas many thousand years since Lucifer Fell from his glory, and, with trial fraught And leaden labor, Time had weakness brought To Sun and Moon. Men saw the Sun upcome, And marvelled at its lustre: Sages sought That lustre's source, and said "at point of doom Mysterious fires full oft the closing eye illume."
Methought a change came o'er the face of earth; Hill, plain, and hollow shook as with the throe Of mortal agony. The mountain girth Shrunk, heaved, then burst asunder. In mad flow The waters of great lakes foamed, battling through Far scattered crags; and mighty rocks, down hurled From mountain tops, laid bare the volcano-- The great volcano! and its flame unfurled, Streamed redly, wrathfully, above the reeling world.
A voice went forth, far louder than the roar Of bounding rivers; and the summons broke The deep sleep of earth's dead. Each burial shore And tree-robed mound in groaning travail shook, And giant skeletons from death awoke. Barbarians seemed they, armed with spear and bow; And thro' their ribs as thro' the winter oak Winds whistled; while from bone lips evermo' Uptrembled hollowly, horn murmurs, faint and low.
And, from the charnel valleys of the South, A multitude, vast, vast beyond compare, Moved darkly onward. Song and shout uncouth, Betokened their wild joy; while on the air, Forgotten instruments breathed music rare-- Sweet unknown tunes, as soft as hymn of rills. The Mammoth and the Mastodon were there, All yoked;--and then I heard far-groaning wheels: The tomb had gaped--the dead tribes sought their early hills!
Amid the groan and rumbling heave of earth, And noise of waters, came each silver tone. But ere my wonder ceased, a storm had birth, And rattling thunder mingled with the moan And sob of nature. O'er car--skeleton-- A cloud-veil passed and hid them from my sight; While o'er that cloud, far on a mountain throne, A city rocked--illumined by the light Of its own burning towers--fit type of frail man's might!
And then the Sun waxed dim. The red Moon rode Above the trembling nations, with an eye Of wrath and anguish, and a brow of blood-- While one by one, afar, in the dun sky The stars went out, as dew-drops, when winds sigh, From grass and flower and thin leaf disappear. Then no man saw the Sun! but still on high The great Moon rode; and, ever redly clear, Glared thro' thick fog and mist, till men grew dumb with fear.
The wanderer looked forth tremblingly, and lo! A wide winged Eagle on the darkness came. Her brood had died,--all died! and wild with wo And reckless wrath, that terror might not tame-- Chasing the swart cloud from her eye of flame-- She sought the summit of that lonely peak. She saw the Red Man, and with joyous scream, Claimed fellowship; but to her iron beak A single death-flash leapt, and wreathed her scornful neck.
Innumerable mounds belched lurid streams, And poured, in hot black showers, the cinder-rain; I gazed and saw, as high the forked gleams Sprang piercingly thro' volumed smoke again, Earth's wan-faced myriads. From the Ocean-plain Her living tribes had flown, to seek the light And safety of that adamantine chain, In shivering crowds; and wildered with affright, They toiled in throngs to reach the mountain's farthest height.
And one, more daring, stood upon the brink Of a volcano,--and his scathed hand raised, Dripping with hissing lava. Some would shrink; And many called on God; while some, amazed, Stood statuelike: and some in madness seized With Vampyre tooth, and laid their full veins bare. And one--a blue-eyed maiden--upward gazed In speechless wo, while gleamed her long fair hair And ghastly cheek, beneath that flame's unearthly glare.
Methought, pale girl, that thou wert of the line Of her I loved; and tears flowed full and fast, To see a form so beautiful as thine In the Volcano's death-light. This soon passed! Again with strength I heard and saw. A blast From unseen horn, rang wildly o'er the herd Of dead and living men: The myriad vast Wailed moaningly when each the strange blast heard, And dead and living stood with stony brows upreared.
Earth heaved anew, and toppling crags fell down In darkness. Rivers turned and fled the main-- And galloping--like startled steeds back thrown By some strong rampart--rushed in fear again To their far founts, o'erwhelming rock and plain. The fiend Tornado shrieked and wrung the wood, Old Earth's scorched locks--until her ory brain Lay shelterless and bare: while beryl-hued And bubbling streams, breast, cheek, and cloven brow imbrued.
Mine eye waned slowly into wakefulness; The wild forms of my dream waxed faint and dim; But ere they fled, methought the pallid race Had crumbled into ashes; while o'er him, Last of the injured, twin in death with time-- A strong joy swept. Woe's furrow had been ploughed Deep in his heart; he was avenged! As swim O'er Autumn skies the fleets of shattered cloud, So swam those scenes and passed. I turned and sobbed aloud.
A purfled Oreole sate upon a bough Above me, and with gentle carollings Shook the still air; e'er raining on my brow The dewy globules, with her restless wings: I love the bird,--I love the song she sings! For that I heard it by a lonely stream In days, when love and hope were rainbow things: The sweet bird soothed me, but my brain will teem Full many a mirthless eve, with fragments of that dream!
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
WILLIAMSBURG BIRTH NIGHT BALL.
MR. WHITE,--From all I can learn, your "Messenger" seems to give general and increasing satisfaction in this quarter: to use a French phrase, _tout le monde en dit du bien_. Though it is not probable any thing so light and playful, (and particularly at this late period of the month,) should obtain admission into its columns, yet, as one or two stanzas of the annexed _metrical_, have some how or other found their way into the newspapers, I have at last succeeded in procuring a copy of _the whole_, that you may exercise your own discretion in respect to its insertion. It originated as follows: Some young ladies of your place, during a visit to Williamsburg to attend the _Birth-night Ball_, &c. received from an accomplished female friend at Richmond, a charming poetical letter, describing _a musical party_ at which she had assisted; and narrating in a familiar, agreeable manner, the principal incidents that had occurred in their absence. The following lines were composed, as a _response_ to this lively and entertaining communication:--
WINTER SCENES AT WILLIAMSBURG.
Your letter, dear Mary, tho' resting so long, Without a response, gave us infinite pleasure; For seldom indeed, in the language of song, And verse of so beautiful, smooth-flowing measure, Have we met with the news and events of the day, Reported and told, in so pleasing a way-- Is it _thus_, that the _Muses_ to each other write, And render e'en _absence_, a source of delight?
_Euterpe_, perhaps, (ever partial, they say To a _musical_ fête,) your concert attended, And pleased with your talent to sing and to play, Thought _music_ with _poetry_ happily blended-- And so, when you took up the pen to prepare An account of your party, to make it more rare, Bade you write it _in verse_--and _assisted_ you too, To get up a style, so romantic and new.
Be this as it may--'tis certain that such As have been indulged with a sight of your letter, _Sans compliment_, all, have admired it much, And say, of its kind, that they never read better. But how can _we_ answer, in similar style, A missive like yours?--we are sure you will smile At our awkward and feeble attempt to compose, An answer in verse, in our accent of prose.
But smile, if you please--even laugh, if you choose-- We _must_ make an effort to put rhymes together, To give you some _items_ of Williamsburg news, And tell you how well we got thro' the cold weather: In converse and reading, we passed with delight, The keen winter morning, the long winter night, With a family never surpassed upon earth, In kind hospitality, virtue and worth.
'Tis said, this _old city_ has seen its best days-- We cannot think so--its present possessors Are subjects of just admiration and praise-- Whether _Judges_ or _Lawyers_, or learned _Professors_-- All mingle with freedom and ease in the throng, And move in the current of fashion along; At the _ball_, or the _board_, or the cheery _fire side_, Society's ornament, pleasure and pride.
"And are there no _Doctors_ (perhaps you exclaim) Distinguished by talents and virtues and merit?" O yes, there are several; whom if we but _name_, Or mention their liberal and generous spirit, "The Messenger's" Critic may cry out--"O fie! _Who ever blamed Hercules?_" Subjects so high, Like Washington, need not a line to exalt Their virtues and worth--_Who ever blamed G----?_
The fear we suggest, of the "Messenger's" lash, As you well may imagine, is merely pretension; Its _Critics_ at monarch-like _Hickories_ dash, And smile at _flowret_ or _shrub's_ apprehension-- _Palmettoes_ escape too! but, _Party_, away! 'Tis time, to the _birthnight_ our homage to pay; E'en _the Critic_ himself, we hope may agree To spare our "_Sic semper_--PATRI PATRIÆ!"
The ball of the _birthnight_, on Monday took place, And, once more, the hall of the _ancient Apollo_, Assembled a train of youth, beauty, and grace, In which, well escorted, we ventured to follow: _Professors_ and _students_, the _bench_ and the _bar_, The _single_ and _married_ of both sexes, _there_, In mirth and good humor, the hours employed, Partook of the _dance_, or the _music_ enjoyed.
The _supper_ was _superabundant_--in fine, No _gourmand_ complained of a scanty provision Of flesh, fish, or fowl--or of excellent wine, Which _Bacchus's_ tribe thought a charming addition; But the _nymphs_ and the _graces_ impatiently flew To the ball room again, the _dance_ to renew; And thoughtless of sleep or repose, in their glee, Kept it up, it is said, till full _two_ or _three_.
Of the cake, fruit, and wine, there yet was such store, Laid in and prepared for the festive occasion, That the Managers thought of _a hop or two_ more, As a matter of justice and easy persuasion; So, on several nights, the beauty and grace Of the young and the old that distinguish the place, With music and dancing enlivened the hall, Till the close of the week, gave repose to us all.
All needed it much; for a deep fall of snow, Fatigued as we were, to _sleighing_ invited-- And who could refuse, pray, a gallant young _beau_, _Alcibiades_ like, with _driving_ delighted?-- Thro' the streets, and _around and around_ on the _square_, For the _belles_ and the _bells_, were all gathered _there_, What racing--what contests _Olympic_ were seen, On the snow-white expanse of the _cidevant_ green!
We have not half finished the _sleighing_ affair, With some other topics of social diversion, But here we must stop--as we now must prepare For a trip to old _York_, on a pleasure excursion-- We _wish_ you were with us. Your eloquent pen Might _there_ find a scene to amuse us again, With lively description of things "old and new"-- But the carriage is waiting; so, dear girl, _adieu!_
The subjoined _morceau_ is worthy notice. Many grave essays have been written upon the vanity and unreasonableness of human wishes; but it would seem, without much effect. The rhapsodies of lovers in the olden time were thought sufficiently extravagant, and their wishes have been quoted as the very essence of inordinate imaginations: in fact, Shakspeare has classed the lover and the madman together:
"The lunatic, the lover and the poet, Are of imagination all compact: One sees more devils than vast hell can hold-- That's the madman--the other all as frantic Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt," &c.
Yet the old fashioned lovers kept some rule in their imaginary desires, when compared with the vast conception of our correspondent.
"Ye Gods! annihilate both time and space, And make two lovers happy"--
and the passionate exclamation of Romeo,
"Oh that I were a glove upon that hand! That I might kiss that cheek!"
were thought wild enough for those more stoical times. But it seems that the march of improvement is onward in love-making, as well as in road-making, as we will trust our correspondent's effusion to show.
* * * * *
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
TO MISS S---- S----
Would that thou were some isle, my love, And I the wave that bound thee, With naught but Heaven's pure sky above, And I sole guard around thee.
Then in one fond and long embrace, Through calm and storm I'd cheer thee, And bless the wind, that face to face, Had brought me still more near thee.
_Norfolk, April 9, 1835_.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
THE BROKEN HEART.
I come, a stricken Deer, Bearing the heart midst crowds that bled, To bleed in stillness here.--_Mrs. Hemans_.
I come to my home in the forest shade, By the summer boughs in their minglings made, To my own bright hills and their clear blue sky, With a broken heart in their stillness to die.
I come from the midst of a changing world, And the banners of Hope in my bosom lie furled; I bring from the spoiler a mournful token,-- The unfledged wing of my soul is broken.
There is weight on my spirit too painful to bear-- A feeling of gloom that corrodes like despair; And the Rose's rich hue and the Violet's bloom, Whisper we're nursed but to fade at thy tomb.
And there comes a sound on the murmuring breeze, As it creeps thro' the boughs of a thousand trees, And it echoes back from the stars of night And the placid lake, like a mirror bright,
"Thou art not for earth! thou art not for earth! And thou bearest no part in its gladness and mirth; Its moments of pleasure have ages of care! And the love which thou seekest is never found there!"
And Spring shall return with its leaves and flowers, And the song of birds to the woodland bowers; To me they shall be as to one that's departed-- There is rest in the grave for the broken hearted.
S. W. W.
_Raleigh, N. C._
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
On the Progress of Philosophy, and its Influence on the Intellectual and Moral Character of Man; delivered before the Virginia Historical and Philosophical Society, February 5, 1835. By _George Tucker_, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Virginia.
_Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the Society_:--
I feel the weight of the task I have undertaken to perform, the more sensibly, when I recollect the brilliant qualifications of the member who was the first choice of the society, and that I must disappoint the expectations which that choice so naturally raised. The grave and sober speculations which I am about to submit to your consideration will, I fear, but poorly compensate those who hear me, for the graces of elocution, the rich, but chaste imagery, and the rare felicity of diction by which that gentleman is distinguished; and I regret on your account, as well as my own, that he has thus unexpectedly failed to fulfil the wishes of his associates.
[Footnote 1: James McDowell, Esq. of Rockbridge.]
I have thought it would not be unappropriate to the occasion, to present to the society some views of the influence which philosophy has exercised, and must continue to exercise, over civilized man. Amidst the din of political controversy, and the bustling concerns of life, it is well sometimes to withdraw our thoughts from the tumultuous scenes around us to the calm views of rational speculation. Our minds may be not merely refreshed by the change, but they are likely to acquire elevation and purity in being thus severed from sordid and selfish pursuits, and made to contemplate human concerns in the transparent medium of truth and philosophy.
_Philosophy!_ a term to which some attach a mysterious import, as implying a kind of knowledge unattainable except by a few gifted minds--whilst others regard it as more an object of aversion than of affection,--inculcating a system of thought and action equally at war with nature and common sense,--as a perversion of human reason and feeling, at once cold and repulsive to others, and profitless to the possessor. This is not the philosophy of which I propose to speak, but her counterfeit; which, being as bold and forward as the other is modest and retiring, has made herself more known to the world than the character she personates, and has thus brought discredit on the name.
By philosophy, I mean that power of perceiving truths which are not obvious--of seeing the complicated relations of things, and of seeing them as they really are, unperverted by passion or prejudice. So far from being repugnant to nature and common sense, it constantly appeals to these for the justness of its precepts. It is indeed _Reason_, exercising its highest attributes in the multifarious concerns of human life. Such was the philosophy of Newton and Locke, and of our own illustrious Franklin.
It will be the object of the following remarks to show, that this philosophy is gradually increasing and diffusing itself over the world; that it now mingles in all human concerns, and gives to the present age its distinguishing characteristics; that its progress must still continue, and more and more influence the character of man and civilized society; and that in no country is its influence likely to be more extensively or beneficently felt than in this.
The most superficial observer must be struck with the prodigious advancement of the human intellect, when he compares the opposite extremes of society. The savage, when his mind is roused from a state of apathy, passes into one of strong emotion; for he is capable of intense feelings, but not of profound and comprehensive thought. He knows but few facts; and they have not that variety and complexity which distinguish the knowledge of the civilized man. All that he sees and hears, is heard and seen by the men of civilization; but to this the latter is always adding the perception of new and intricate relations, of which the former is incapable. Thus, compare the knowledge of the relations of numbers possessed by one who barely knows how many fives there are in twenty, with that of him who can mark out the paths of the planets, calculate their mutual attractions, and predict a distant eclipse to a minute; or the few and simple rules of justice among a tribe of savages, to the intricate and multifarious codes of civilized society; nay, extend the comparison to any other department of human knowledge, and there will be found the same difference between the two, as exists between the wigwam of mud or bark, without a door, window or chimney, and the solid and spacious hall in which we are assembled. Nor is this all; for as the reason, in common with every other faculty, is strengthened by exercise, the severer and more incessant exercise to which it is subjected by the multiplication of new relations, is constantly increasing the authority of reason, and weakening the dominion of the passions and prejudices.
The mind therefore becomes, with the progress of civilization, more capable of perceiving relations--more imbued with a knowledge of these relations--more comprehensive--more capable of making remote deductions. It perceives more truths that are complex and difficult--and has more capacity to detect illusion and error. We thus see human reason gradually extending its empire, successfully assailing former prejudice, and fashioning human institutions to purposes of utility. We see men more and more inclined to value every object only in proportion as it conduces to the happiness of the greater number; and to consider nothing as permanently connected with that happiness, but what gives gratification to the senses without debasing them; to the intellect without misleading it; and to the passions when fulfilling their legitimate objects. It is thus we see each succeeding generation regarding with indifference, and even with contemptuous ridicule, what commanded the veneration of a former age.
It would exceed the limits of such a discourse as the present to give even an outline of the advancement of reason, as exhibited in the various branches of science. Nor is it necessary. It will be sufficient for us to give our attention to some few striking facts in the progress of science and art, especially in those cases which being more recent, are at once better known to us, and have a nearer relation to our interests. Let us turn to any department of human knowledge or inquiry, and we see the clearest manifestations of the growing philosophical spirit of which I speak.
If we look at the character of civil government, we find that every revolution--every important change--is the result of the progress of philosophy--of the extension of the empire of reason. Once kings were regarded as deriving their power not from the consent of the people, but immediately from the Deity. They were said to be the Lord's anointed; and implicit obedience--unresisting submission to the mandate of the sovereign, was enjoined not merely as a civil, but as a religious duty.
In two out of the four quarters of the world, we all know how much these opinions are changed; and that there, with the thinking portion at least, government is now regarded as an institution created solely for the happiness of the people; that they are the judges of what constitutes that happiness; and that government may be changed, either as to its form or agents, whenever it is proved incapable of fulfilling its main purpose. This principle of reason and common sense caused and justified the establishment of the Commonwealth in England; the restoration of the monarchy; the subsequent revolution in 1688; the American revolution in 1776; the French revolution of 1789, under all its various phases; and that which produced a change of dynasty in 1830. We have seen the operation of the same principle in separating the Spanish provinces on this continent from the mother country. We have seen it in the separation of Belgium from Holland, and in the liberation of Greece from the Turkish yoke.
Every subordinate institution too, is now judged according as it tends to promote the welfare of the community; and the notion of rights of particular classes and orders of men, farther than they can be shown to rest on this foundation, is deemed presumptuous and absurd. Even the rights of property itself, the most sacred of any, because they are the most obvious and are possessed by a greater number, are derived from the same source, and are regulated and controlled by it. Every tax in a popular government--every restriction on the free use of one's own,--whether it be in the form of a prohibition against gaming, or of laying out a new road, or of an inspection law, recognizes this principle. It governs legislatures in conferring rights as well as abridging them. They all find their authority and justification in the public good; nor does any one now attempt to resist a tax or defend a privilege, but by appealing to this great test of right, the interests of the community.
You see too in jurisprudence, that all those principles which grow out of barbarous usages, or were the result of accident, or of mistaken theory, are gradually made to give way to the light of reason and the spirit of philosophy. They conform more and more to the common sense and common feelings of mankind. Crimes which once incurred the severest penalties of the law, are crimes no longer; modes of trial originating in superstition have been abolished; many of the frivolous niceties of pleading, or rules founded on a state of things which no longer exist--such as that which excluded written testimony from the common law courts, and which, like noisome weeds, choked up the administration of justice, have been eradicated, in spite of the cry which always will be raised against innovation, and which some of our best principles, as well as our weakest prejudices, concur in raising.
Nor have we yet reached the end of this course of salutary reform. The administration of justice may be still more simple; and though the rules of property and of civil rights must always be numerous and complicated in a civilized community, yet this necessity furnishes a further reason why the modes of investigating truth and the rules of evidence should possess all practicable simplicity. The spirit of philosophy has been actively at work here. In some instances, perhaps, it has been too far in advance of the age, and under the influence of the pride of discovery and reform, or provoked by opposition, it may have been urged farther than reason and propriety would warrant. It has, however, arraigned the whole system of judicial evidence, and endeavored to show that the rules for the examination of contested facts are so erroneous or defective, that the truth is commonly discovered better out of court than in it; and that questions about which all the world is satisfied, when technically examined by tribunals created purposely for their investigation, either receive no answer, or a wrong one. The official expounders of the law, partaking of the liberal spirit of the age, have of late years greatly narrowed the objections to the competency of witnesses; but it is only the legislature and public opinion which are adequate to a complete reform, and they will one day assuredly bring it.
There is much seeming force in many of the other objections of the reformers to the present very artificial and complicated system of jurisprudence; but whether their views are satisfactory or otherwise, they equally serve to show the prevalent disposition of men to bring all human concerns to the bar of reason, and make them submit to her decrees.
There is nothing in which the progress of reason and philosophy are more shown, than in the subject of religion. A large part, perhaps I may say, the best part of religion, as it is most productive of good results, is the religion of the heart; and consists in a profound and thorough sense of the wisdom and beneficence of the Creator--of thanksgiving for the blessings he has vouchsafed to frail and humble beings like ourselves--to vigorous self-examinations by our own conscience--to fervent aspirations after moral excellence in this life, and a purer and higher state of existence hereafter. But all of these are impulses of the feelings, rather than the cold dictates of the reasoning faculty; and being dependant on the laws of our emotions, which are as unchangeable as our forms, and probably as much the result of organization, are the same in character, if not in degree, in every stage of society.
But while philosophy has not altered, and could not alter these impulses of the heart, we may see here also its benignant operations. It has driven away from religion the superstitions which fraud and credulity combined had gathered around it. Man no longer imputes to the Deity the same violent and ignoble passions by which the baser part of his own nature is agitated; and instead of regarding cruelty and vengeance as attributes of the Supreme Being, he is invested with those qualities which appear to our feeble conceptions more consonant with divine perfection. Thus mercy to human frailty and pity for human suffering, are regarded as divine attributes no less than wisdom and power. On the part of its votaries, humility is invoked to take the place of pride; forgiveness of injuries to supersede resentment; meekness and patience and long suffering are held to indicate a truer devotion than pompous rites and vain ceremonies; and instead of incense and sacrifices, good deeds to his fellow mortals, and a lowly and penitent spirit, are deemed the most acceptable offerings which man can make to his Creator. In this transformation, Mr. President, you recognize the leading precepts of christianity, which may well be called the most philosophical of all religions.
It is true that after this religion became the creed of those northern barbarians, who poured like an avalanche over the south of Europe, christianity became greatly perverted from its original simplicity and purity; but it was not destined to remain forever shrouded in these mists of barbarism. After the growing spirit of philosophy prepared men's minds for its reception and welcome, it broke forth in its pristine beauty and splendor. The further continuance of the abuses of the christian church was inconsistent with the increase of general intelligence; and the reformation must have taken place had Martin Luther never existed, or had the Dominican friars never carried on the traffic in _indulgences_; though it might not have happened at the precise time, or in the precise manner in which it did occur.
In truth, man's religion, as well as every thing else relative to his opinions and feelings, partakes of the character of the age; and we are warranted in saying, that the christian religion in the middle ages must as necessarily have been subject to its corruptions, its superstitions, and its persecutions, among a people so rude as that which then swayed the destinies of Europe, as that after the discovery of the art of printing, the revival of letters, and the general progress of science and philosophy, these foul exhalations should disappear.
It has been supposed, that the spirit of philosophy which has been so hostile to superstition, is also unfavorable to true religion; and many, listening to their fears rather than their reason, have readily yielded to that opinion. But they have been too hasty in drawing general conclusions from particular facts. It is true that many of the philosophers of France, and some of those of Great Britain, during the last century, were not only opposed to the prevailing creeds of their country, but seemed to have no very fervid religious feelings of any kind; but they were led first to make war on what they regarded as the abuses of religion, and then their attacks appear to be levelled against every thing which bore its name. It is highly probable that, by a natural process of the mind, from coming to hate the corruptions of christianity, they felt a prejudice against every thing which was associated with it. But on the other hand, we have seen some, occupying the very highest places in the scale of philosophers, who were sincere and zealous christians. Besides, the present age, which is the most philosophical the world has ever seen, is also the most generally and ardently devoted to christianity, as is evinced by the extraordinary number of Churches, Bible Societies, Missionary Societies, Sunday Schools, &c. Let then the sincerely devout and pious dismiss their fears. The foundations of religion are seated in the very nature and constitution of man; in the deepest recesses of his heart. It is a want of his moral nature, as indispensable as food to his physical; and philosophy tends only to separate it from a part of the dross with which every thing earthly more or less mingles, and to leave its own pure essence undiminished and untouched.
Let us now pass to the subject of literature, where we shall see the same evidences of the growing influence of philosophy and reason over the minds of men. Thus poetry, in its efforts to please and elevate the mind, by exciting the imagination and feelings, now never addresses us unattended by philosophy. Her favorite occupation of late has been to delineate the dispositions and characters of men; to reveal the secret workings of the passions and the sources of human sympathy; to exhibit the human mind, in short, under its most impressive phases. The prevalent taste of the age is for metaphysical poetry; by which I mean, poetry imbued with philosophy,--poetry which lays bare the anatomy of the human heart, and discloses all the springs and machinery by which it is put in play. Those who are gifted with this beautiful talent, have conformed to the ruling taste, and their success has been proportionate. It is to this circumstance that Byron owes part of his popularity; for in exhibiting the most subtle processes of human passion, its energies and its susceptibilities, he is superior to any of his predecessors; though in the mere embellishment of smooth and felicitous diction, and of agreeable and varied rhythm, or even in the higher attributes of lively imagery and lofty conception, he can boast of no superiority. Perhaps it would be more correct to say, that the metaphysical character of his poetry proceeded not so much from his wish to adapt it to the public taste, as because he himself partook of the character of his age; that he wrote metaphysically and philosophically because he spoke and thought in this way, and he so spoke and thought from the very same causes as his contemporaries.
This inference is the more warranted, when we find the same tincture of philosophy in the poetry of his contemporaries,--Southey, Wordsworth, Campbell and Coleridge. Even Moore infuses into his amatory poems as much philosophy as the subject will admit, though it is of the sensual school of Epicurus. Sometimes we see the spirit of philosophy controlling the poetic spirit, as was the case with Shelley, Coleridge and some others, in whose poetry the precepts of philosophy were more obscured by the restraints of verse than aided by its ornaments. It is an unnatural alliance, and both the poetry and the philosophy are the worse for the union.
[Footnote 2: The recent poetry of continental Europe exhibits the same psychological character; as for instance, that of Alfieri and Monte in Italy, of Goethe and Tieck in Germany, and of Beranger in France.]
In other works of imagination, those intended for the stage, and in the region of romance, we see the same proofs of the progress of philosophy. Walter Scott's novels are, throughout, the same exhibitions of man, whether acting, speaking or thinking, which a philosopher would take. We are made to see, not by the formality of an instructor, or the impertinence of a _cicerone_, but by the consummate fidelity and skill of the representation, every motive and passion of the actors laid open to our view, and in strict conformity to what we had often previously observed, though we may not have made it the special subject of reflection. There never was before so much philosophy taught by one writer, or taught in so pleasing a mode, or taught to so many disciples.
Such a gallery of moral pictures could not have been created before the nineteenth century; and though they had been, they would not have met with the same unbounded popularity, but, like Milton's Paradise Lost, would have been in advance of the spirit of the age.
In the drama, the plays of Joanna Baillie, and of Byron, are the most metaphysical of all dramatic productions--so much so, as to make them unsuited either to the tastes or capacities of a promiscuous audience. The tragedies of Voltaire are of a more philosophical character than those of Racine or Corneille, and these again more philosophical than the earlier productions of the French drama.
But it is in history that we most clearly perceive the spirit of the age. Formerly it consisted in little more than a recital of the actions of princes, public or private; and no occurrence in the annals of a nation was deemed worthy of commemoration, except battles and conquests, revolutions and insurrections--with now and then the notice of a plague, famine, earthquake or other general calamity. Now, however, the historian aims to make us acquainted with the progress of society and the arts of civilization; with the advancement or decline of religion, literature, laws, manners, commerce--every thing indeed, which is connected with the happiness or dignity of man; he does this, not only because he deems these subjects more worthy the attention of an enlarged and liberal mind, but also because we can, from a faithful narrative of these events, traced out from their causes, and to their effects, learn the lessons of wisdom--and seeing the approach of evil, be better able to avert or mitigate it. It is in this spirit that all history must now be written, to be approved or even read.
In the study of language, we perceive the same evidences of our intellectual advancement. By arranging the elements of speech according to the physical organs employed in their utterance, great light has been thrown on etymology, and in this way, affinities have been traced, first among languages, and through them among nations apparently unconnected. And as all language consists of _signs_ of our mental operations, the general principles of grammar have been sought in the laws of the mind; while language in turn, has been sometimes successfully invoked to explain those laws; and thus philology and mental philosophy have assisted in elucidating each other.
This branch of philosophy (which treats of our mental faculties) has not indeed made as much progress as many others; for it admits not the discovery of new facts. But neither has _this_ been stationary. Great improvements have been made in analyzing its compound states; in separating its original from its derivative properties; in tracing many seemingly diverse operations to one simple principle. To be convinced of this improvement, we have only to regard the theory of associations as it now is, compared with the slight and vague notice of it by Locke; or advert to the opinions of the same eminent man on the foundation of morals. He maintained that there was no original propensity in mankind to approve one action as virtuous, and another as vicious; and that there was no practical principle which was approved or condemned by all nations. He even denied that parental affection, the strongest feeling in the maternal bosom, was an original feeling. He refers to the inventions of travellers in support of his theory, and was as credulous of the anomalous facts they related, as he was skeptical of innate propensities. Thus he says: "It is familiar among the Mingrelians, a people professing christianity, to bury their children alive without scruple; he asserts that the Caribbees were wont to fat and eat their own children;" and that a people of Peru who followed this practice, used, when by the course of nature they no longer had a prospect of more children to eat, "to kill and eat the mothers."
A more intimate acquaintance with the people of this globe, and juster modes of reasoning, have dissipated these illusions; and if I mistake not, the laws of the mind will, in no distant day, be traced with an accuracy and precision little inferior to those which prevail in most branches of physics.
In the science of political economy too, we see the advance of the light of philosophy. The errors which were the result of general and deep-rooted prejudices, have yielded to the force of reason; and all enlightened men now agree that nothing is so injurious to national prosperity as too much regulation; and that the desire which mankind have to increase their means of enjoyment, operates more unceasingly, and sagaciously, and beneficially, than any schemes of the government, however vigilant, intelligent and free from bias; since governments at best can operate only by general rules, which injure some in benefiting others,--while the sagacity of individuals, with few exceptions, devises the best rules for each particular case.
It was for philosophy also to discover the connection between good government and the national prosperity, and that a community will have the most industry, skill and thrift, where property is best protected--where every one can freely exercise his talents or his capital, and securely enjoy the fruits they have yielded. Philosophy, or unprejudiced reason, if you prefer it, also refuted an error once prevalent, that one country, or one part of a country, was injured by another's welfare; and proved both by reasoning and example, that every accession of wealth or prosperity, experienced by one portion, radiates light and heat to all around it.
If the progress of philosophy, or human reason, has done so much in the moral sciences, it has done yet more in the physical branches of knowledge for the material world--more invites our attention and speculation--is more within the reach of experiment, and the benefits it confers are more direct and obvious. It would be foreign to my purpose, if I were competent to the task, to mark the steps by which man has passed from conjecture to certainly--from rash hypothesis to theories founded on cautious observation and experiment--from inquiries which, if successful, had only gratified curiosity, to discoveries and improvements immediately conducive to the benefits of society. To enable us to appreciate the advance of science, it is sufficient for us to look at what the condition of man now _is_, compared with what it _was_.
In whatever direction we turn our eyes, we behold some triumph of mind over matter. We cannot see a ship, a book, a gun, a watch--scarcely the commonest implement or utensil--without being made sensible of the wonders achieved by human science and art,--the result of the combined efforts of a thousand minds and ten thousand hands, embodied in a form that has added incalculably to man's power and enjoyment. If we take the departments of knowledge separately, we are filled with admiration at the labor by which it has climbed, and the elevation it has attained. Astronomy, not content with teaching us the motions of the planets and moons of our system, and by them, enabling us to traverse the pathless ocean with the certainty with which we travel by land--of itself a glorious achievement of science--now undertakes to estimate the weight and density of these bodies--their influence on one another--of the smallest on the largest--the flight of comets, and even some of the changes of position in the stars themselves. Optics has taught us new laws of light, and has subjected the most subtle and the most rapid body in nature to measurements, of as much certainty as the gross portions of matter. We now know the weight, density, motions, elasticity of the air we breathe, and which encompasses the earth; the laws of sound--its velocity, force, repercussion, musical tone. By electricity, magnetism, galvanism, are revealed to us new fluids of the existence of which we did not formerly dream. Their laws have been investigated with all the accuracy, acuteness and unwearied diligence which belongs to modern science; and though this branch of physics is every day receiving new accessions, it already forms a copious science of itself. While yet in the full career of discovery, it affords persuasive evidence of the close affinity if not identity of light, heat, magnetism, electricity and galvanism.
The progress of chemistry, shows us the growth of the human intellect in its numerous useful results. In the power it has acquired over brute matter, it has added infinitely to our means of comfort or enjoyment, by improving the useful arts of husbandry, metallurgy, dying, bleaching, tanning, brewing and medicine. Some of these improvements have, indeed, been the effect of accident; but many, nay the most of them, have been the result of human inquiry and sagacity. And the _atomic theory_, which gives us an insight into some of the primary laws of matter, is a pure deduction of reason.
By chemical discoveries, useful processes which once required months, or even years, are now effected in a few days. The chemist has found means to separate one of several properties from a drug, so that its medicinal effect may be undiminished and unaffected by other combined properties originally with it. Light, which formerly was furnished only by the valuable substances of wax, tallow, spermaceti or oil, has been supplied of a better quality, from the cheapest and most abundant objects in nature; and these improvements are but the precursors of the more splendid retinue which are hereafter destined to make their appearance. This science gives us assurance that all those substances which are most indispensable to man, because they repair the waste which is unceasingly going on in his bodily frame, are dispersed in boundless profusion throughout the universe, but under forms and combinations which conceal them from our unassisted senses; and that it may be within the scope of human art to separate those which are nutritious, and assimilate with our system, from those that are of a noxious or neutral character, and thus to modify the law which has hitherto limited the numbers of mankind. It is now thought whatever vegetable substances can be made soluble can be made digestible, in proof of which, a German chemist has already succeeded in converting ligneous substances into wholesome aliment; and it has long been known that sugar may be made by a similar chemical conversion. What would have been the transmutation for which the alchemist of former days consumed so many anxious days and sleepless nights, compared with these? Gold owes its extraordinary value to its scarcity, and had the adept succeeded in making it at pleasure, he would have lessened its value in the same proportion as he increased the quantity. If he could have converted copper into gold, the gold would have been worth no more than the copper, except for the expense of the transmutation. And if society had gained some advantage in being able to substitute it for metals that are liable to rust, yet it would have lost as much by the destruction of its property of containing great value in a small bulk, and its consequent unfitness to perform the functions of money.
[Footnote 3: Professor Autenrieth of Tubingen.]
It is not improbable that some of these splendid visions of science may never be realized: but then other discoveries and improvements may take place of equal and greater importance; and should those hopes be verified, would they exhibit a greater triumph of art than has been witnessed in our day? they are certainly not more beyond the bounds of seeming probability than balloons, and diving bells, and rail roads, would have appeared to a former age.
The most extravagant fancy in which the man of science has indulged would scarcely exceed the wonders now wrought by steam, whether we consider the simplicity of the means, or the magnitude of the results. When in every vessel of heated water mankind had always seen a vapor arise, who could have supposed that in this simple fact, nature had furnished an agent, which by skilfully managing, he could multiply his natural strength a thousand fold, and move from place to place with the swiftness of a bird? By the alternate production and condensation of this vapor, which he is able to do by the very common agents of fire and water, he is able to extract the ponderous minerals from the bowels of the earth, having made it previously drain off the water which put them out of his reach. By the same power he fashions the metal he has made, into bars, or sheets, or rods, according to his various purposes. By it he performs all those operations which require incessant action as well as preterhuman strength; and thus it is made to spin and weave, to saw and bore and plane. By this he grinds his flour, cuts and polishes marble, prints newspapers, and transfers both himself and his commodities from place to place, by land or by water, with a rapidity which had existed only in the creations of an eastern imagination; and what is no less admirable, with a diminution of fatigue equal to the increase of speed.
The kindred sciences of geology and mineralogy have undergone the same improvements as that of chemistry. And by a course of inductive reasoning, founded on careful observation, the changes which the outer crust of our earth, to the small comparative extent that we are able to penetrate it, have been most satisfactorily shown, and referred to their several chemical or mechanical agents. It has also afforded data from which important facts in the history of organized beings have been deduced, and thus it has shed a light on a branch of knowledge from which it seemed most remote. The notion which once prevailed, that no species of animals is extinct, has been incontestibly disproved; and it has shown not only that there were many species which not only do not now exist, but which could not subsist in the present state of the world. Where important facts have not been discovered by human reason, we see its power exerted in profiting by those which accident has suggested; as in Galvani's discovery and that of Haüy in crystallography, of vaccination and many others.
Of all the branches of human knowledge there is no one which sooner exercised the understandings of men than that of medicine, first as a practical art, and then as a science, as there is none to which he is impelled by stronger motives; and accordingly we find it practised by a separate clan, in some of the rudest nations. Yet long and diligently as it has been cultivated, it has made prodigious advances of late years, and human reason has here too achieved its accustomed triumphs. In the surgical branch diseases are cured every day, often too by young and inexperienced operators, that were once deemed immedicable, and often proved fatal. The materia medica has been improved both by happy accidents, and the scientific labors of the chemist--and the science, trusting only to cautious observation and experiment, has profited as much by what it has rejected from the catalogue of sanative remedies, as what it has added. Reason has here taken the place of superstition and blind credulity, and few prescriptions are now made on purely empirical grounds. We have the most conclusive evidence of the advance of the medical science, in the greater average length of life now, compared with former periods. It has in England increased in 31 years from 1 in 33 to 1 in 58. A similar increase has been found to have taken place in every nation of Europe. In Great Britain, France and Germany, the average increase has been from 1 in 30 to 1 in 38 in less than two generations. And if a part of this melioration may be attributed to the moral improvement of men, to the greater wealth and comfort of a greater number, the diminution of intemperance and other vices, a part also seems fairly attributable to the medical science; but in either way it attests the progress of reason and philosophy.
The progress of those sciences which exercise no other faculty but the reason, also attest the increase and vigor of the human faculties. Algebra is not only more generally cultivated than in a former age, but it is now applied to every species of regular form and motion that matter can assume, and has thus reached conclusions which seemed unattainable by human skill; and the calculus which one generation readily performs, was scarcely intelligible to that which preceded it.
Even our most familiar and household concerns show the increased influence of reason over our actions. The dress of both sexes is more conformable to nature than formerly, and less biassed by caprice and arbitrary or accidental forms. I need only, by way of proof, refer to hair powder and buckles, and the tight ligatures which once bound our limbs or bodies, but bind them no longer. Forms have been discarded or abridged and made subservient to convenience--our modes of eating, drinking and sleeping--all the ordinary habits of social life prove the growing ascendancy of reason over habit and prejudice. Though in all of these we may occasionally see some retrograde steps.
The more philosophical spirit of modern, compared with ancient times, is illustrated by what was then considered as the seven wonders of the world. They boasted of magnitude or costliness--of some enormous expenditure of human labor in a pyramid, a statue or temple, which was fitted to make a strong impression on the senses. But what are the objects which now fill men's minds with admiration and astonishment? They are such as are addressed to their powers of reflection--great moral changes like the American or French revolutions; the liberation of Greece or of Spanish America; or if they be of a physical character, then they are of some successful effort of science and art which directly conduces to the benefit of mankind; such, for instance, as the application of steam to manufactures and navigation--the New York Canal, the Manchester Rail Road, and the Thames Tunnel. These, and such as these, are the world's wonders in our day.
Such then, Mr. President, is the character of the changes which the mind of man has wrought on physical nature, as well as in the improvement of his own condition; and these in turn have effected an immense change in the character of his mind. _He has become less subjected to the dominion of his senses and more to that of his reason._ He is necessarily made to perceive an infinite number of new and intricate relations, which the progress of knowledge and civilization are ever adding to those which previously existed, and his reasoning faculties have acquired strength in proportion to their exercise. From particular facts he is continually deducing general laws; and from those general laws, laws still more comprehensive. The consequence of which is, that the elaborate deductions of one age become the obvious truths of that which succeeds it, and each succeeding generation is more capable of intricate processes of reasoning than its predecessor.
In the same proportion too, as reason acquires strength, the dominion of the passions becomes weaker. They are less likely to be excited by unworthy causes, and less violent when excited. Reason obviously tends to prevent those mental perturbations which arise from false views of things, as from mistaken notions of right--from the exaggerations of future good or evil, and wrong estimates of their probability. Many objects which a more ignorant age has deemed important, the light of philosophy exhibits in their real insignificance. And in addition to all these direct causes, it seems not improbable that our minds being now so much more occupied in noticing causes and effects, and other important relations, will be less prone to strong emotions, except so far as they may have the sanction of reason. Let me not be understood to favor the dream of some speculatists, that philosophy will ever eradicate the passions. This result is neither possible nor desirable. It is in their proper indulgence that consists all that is called either happiness or virtue, and all that deserves to be so considered by a moral and intellectual being. They are
"The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife Gives all the strength and color of our life."
The passions have been aptly compared to the winds which impel the ship on the ocean of life, but reason performs higher functions than "the card." It sits at the helm, and guides the course of the bark when the gale is not too strong, and takes in sail when it is.
[Footnote 4: On life's vast ocean diversely we sail, Reason the card, but passion is the gale.--_Pope_.]
One of the consequences of this growing ascendancy of reason is, that there will be less inequality in the civil condition of mankind; and happy are they whose political institutions enable them to accommodate themselves to the change, without going through the process of blood and violence. Whatever may be the advantages, real or supposed, of a difference of ranks, the institution originated in accident, and is supported by illusions, which natural enough in a certain stage of society, the light of philosophy tends to dissipate; and as ghosts, witches and other shadows of the night have vanished at the approaching dawn of reason, the further progress of day will extinguish hereditary rank, which, when it does not, like faux-fire, shine by its own corruption, emits an ineffectual ray at best.
If the preceding views are correct, it would follow that in our reasonings from the past to the future we must take these changes of the human character into account, and if we do, that they would sometimes lead us to expect different results hereafter from those which formerly took place under similar circumstances. The failure to make allowance for these changes, has produced much groundless _apprehension_, much _mistaken confidence_, and much _false vaticination_.
In thus speaking of the gradual progress of reason and philosophy, I do not mean to say that the advancement is uninterrupted. Far from it. Though the tide may be rising, each individual wave does not always reach as far as that which preceded it: so man, in his onward progress to a higher state of existence, does occasionally make oblique and even retrograde steps. By the influence of those prejudices which have not yet been dislodged from their strong holds--under the sway of our passions, which indeed may be regulated, but can never be extinguished, reason for awhile succumbs and philosophy disappears. Thus, in the Reformation, the struggle between those who sought to get rid of the ancient abuses, and those who endeavored to maintain them, was accompanied with ferocity, cruelty and injustice; and men were often hated and persecuted in proportion to their sincerity in avowing their real sentiments, and their firmness in maintaining them. Then too, we beheld those who had been the victims of oppression, when power changed hands, becoming persecutors in turn; and this, not on the principle of retaliation, but because the new persecutors were impelled by the same blind fury as their predecessors, in regarding a mere difference of opinion as synonymous with crime.
Philosophy had not then advanced far enough to teach them that men were responsible only to their own conscience and their God for their modes of faith; and that punishment tended to make hypocrites of the bad and martyrs of the good, but converts of none. They had yet to learn that the unadulterated common sense of that portion of mankind, who were less frenzied by zeal, revolted at such injustice; and that their sympathies acted more powerfully in favor of the sufferer, than their fears in favor of their persecutors; a truth which has suggested the maxim that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
The French revolution also furnished a signal instance of the retrograde steps of philosophy. The oppressions, the injustice, the absurdities of the French monarchy, and above all, the incongruities of many of its institutions with the state of knowledge and of private society in France, could not be corrected without calling forth all the strongest impulses of our nature--the worst passions of the worst men, as well as the nobler feelings of the best. The advanced state of reason and philosophy among the educated classes, acting on the sense of justice, indelibly stamped on the heart of man, made the mass of the nation see and feel the odium of their civil institutions, and determined them to attempt a remedy. They were prompted in their schemes, and quickened in their sensibility by the superior social condition of their neighbors, the English, and yet more by the American revolution and its happy issue. Before this great event, their notice of the defects or abuses of their government was confined to philosophical speculatists--to rhetorical declaimers--or to those who wielded the lighter, but no less efficient weapons of ridicule--to all of whom many of those classes who most profited by the existing abuses, bowing to the resistless force of truth, and not foreseeing the danger to themselves, gave their cordial support. Public opinion was thus gradually gaining strength and unanimity; and when accident afforded a favorable occasion for the _reformers_ to act, every one was astonished at the rapidity and force with which they acted. But there were strong interests and passions arrayed on the other side, and the shock of the conflict was violent in proportion.
As soon as the cry of reform and change was sounded, every furious and ignoble passion--every sordid and profligate and depraved motive, hoping to profit by the confusion, entered into the strife, and corrupted the whole mass. Then it was that in the heart of Christendom, we saw a city, associated in our minds with every refinement of civilization--the emporium of science, literature and the arts--suddenly transformed into a moral desert. The annals of mankind had recorded no such metamorphosis. To the _senses_ indeed, all the monuments of science and art and social improvement remained, but they seemed to belong to other times. Every thing relative to the human character was forcibly overturned, or wrested from its natural position. Women without humanity or timidity, at one moment braving death, and at another thirsting for blood. Science and practical art employed in devising new modes of taking away life. Statesmen and legislators engrossed by the one great subject of how they might exterminate citizens no less than foreign enemies. Speculative minds racking their inventions to frame excuses for these enormities, or in making frivolous changes in the names of streets and provinces--of the months and days--while _Religion_, finding nothing congenial to her own mildness and purity, fled from the country, and the infuriated multitude hallooed and exulted in her retreat: and in the metropolis of fashion, which had given the laws of dress to all Europe, and one of whose most distinguished literati had asserted that the apparel was a part of the man, an attention to outward appearance was deemed presumptive evidence of aristocracy. Nor was there a more certain mode of awakening suspicion of _incivism_, than to seem to be devout, or moral, or gentlemanly, unless these obnoxious qualities were redeemed by some accompaniment of crime.
[Footnote 5: The Count de Buffon.]
There have been those who would make philosophy responsible for these extravagances and excesses, because it had been assiduously cultivated in Paris, just before the Revolution, and some of its maxims were appealed to in justification of the excesses. But nothing can be more unjust. There was mingled with the enlightened part of the Paris population, a far larger portion which was immersed in the grossest ignorance. They had been brought up as it were in a prison house, into which the surrounding light of heaven could never penetrate; and, when set free from the restraints of law, they were powerful instruments of mischief in the hands of those who were at once skilful and unscrupulous in using them. There were also those who partook of the intellectual light of the age, but who from a faulty education, or accident, or the unjust institutions of society had not proportional moral improvement--men who saw the inequality with which the goods of life were distributed; that those who had the smallest share were the most numerous; and that they might be prompted to the inclination, as they already had the ability, to be their own carvers. An alliance was thus formed between cunning and ignorance--the cunning few and ignorant many--and no wonder that in a short time, all that was venerable and virtuous and generous, as well as all that had been tyrannical and oppressive, were furiously assailed and beaten to the ground. The progress of knowledge had no other agency in producing this result, than that a portion of society borrowed its _intellectual light_ without approaching near enough to profit by its _moral warmth_: and it is as unreasonable to blame philosophy for these outrages, as to blame religion for the bloody massacres and merciless persecutions which were perpetrated in her name. With far greater reason may the moderation observed by the mob of Paris, in the three day revolution of 1830, be ascribed to the influence of the liberal and philosophical spirit, which had been gaining ground throughout the civilized world, and particularly in France for twenty years before: and it deserves notice, that this moderation, as well as the occasion on which it would be exercised, was confidently predicted in this country, by a French gentleman, now enjoying an elevated rank in France; and he founded his prediction on the improved character of the population of Paris.
[Footnote 6: General Bernard, whose anticipations of the leading events of that revolution, in a conversation with the author, had all the accuracy of history.]
Having thus taken a view of the past effects of the progress of philosophy, let us now look before us, and endeavoring to scan the future, learn what are hereafter to be its effects on the world, especially on that portion of it, in which we are most interested.
We are sometimes reproached with being more disposed to look at what our country will be, than at what it is; but when the changes are so rapid and great, we should not only betray a strange insensibility to our future destiny, but be grossly wanting in prudence, not to keep the fact constantly present to our minds. It should affect our policy, legislation, and even our individual contracts and schemes of profit; and while we do not object to other nations seeing, in the mirror of the past, interesting memorials of their former glory, they may suffer us to look at ours, through the prism of hope, in which objects are a little distorted without being exaggerated, and appear in hues delightfully gay and diversified. Let us see then how the certain progress of population, and the probable progress of reason and philosophy are likely to affect us.
Of the rapid advancement of the United States in numbers, powers and wealth, we have now a moral certainty. After the lapse of forty years, we have seen that their population continues to double at the rate which Franklin long ago assumed, and we have full confirmation of the views taken by Malthus more than thirty years ago, and by Franklin long before him, that mankind continue thus to increase where the means of subsistence are easy. There will hardly be any change in this particular here, before our numbers have reached 60 persons to a square mile. Perhaps when we consider the remarkable fertility of the larger part, not before we have reached 100: but with the former limit, our country would contain 100 millions of inhabitants, in three periods of doubling, or in 75 years. Some doubts have been entertained whether our future increase will not diminish in an increasing ratio; and a very general error as to the rate of increase, exhibited at the last census, has favored that opinion. But in point of fact, the increase for the ten years ending in 1830, was a fraction more than 34 per cent., instead of a fraction more than 33 per cent., as our almanacs and other periodicals have stated, because they did not attend to the fact, that the last census shewed the increase only for nine years and ten months. This result is so unexampled and so great, that it requires an effort for us to conceive its reality; yet it rests upon as satisfactory grounds as any future event whatever: and it is not a remote improbability, that some who now hear me will live to see our population amount to 100 millions.
For our political organization we have nothing to desire, if our present government continues. The self-healing power, which more or less pervades all bodies, politic as well as natural, has unrestricted vigor here, and may be expected to bring an adequate remedy for every political disease likely to arise.
But one of the evils apprehended by some, is a dissolution of the Union; and it is asked, if this has already been seriously threatened, how will it be when the sources of collision and rivalship shall be multiplied--when all fear of foreign aggression, which now operates as a band to keep us together, shall be removed--when personal ambition shall seek, by a separation, that field for its enterprises which the Union does not afford--and the natural increase of an indigent and ignorant class shall furnish him with ready tools for his selfish projects?
But I do not see the probability that the proud hopes, which dictated a perpetual league among the states, are to be disappointed. It seems to me that the occasions in which their interests clash are few, compared with those in which they coincide, and that one of the strongest ligaments of union is the diversity of pursuits among the states, by which they are all benefited by a free commercial intercourse. Thus, some produce grain and cattle, others, fish, or sugar, or rice and cotton: some are exclusively agricultural in their pursuits, and are of course venders of raw produce, whilst others are manufacturing states, and purchasers of raw produce: some are largely concerned in navigation, whilst others are inland. Thus all are gainers by an interchange of their respective commodities and species of industry; and this mutual commerce, founded in mutual interests, will less and less require aid from the government.
We may, moreover, reasonably expect, that these sources of mutual benefit and intercourse will increase, and that new products of agriculture and manufactures will arise under some propitious accident or kindness of nature, will extend the mutual dependence of the states, and proportionally multiply the bonds of union. Each state will be important to the rest for its useful products, and they in turn will be valuable to it, both for affording a market, and for the products they give in exchange. The commerce, too, will be the more profitable, and likely to be the more extensive, by its being free from imposts or vexatious restrictions. Under the fostering care of this freedom, we may expect that wine, and silk, and the olive may be added to the products of the south--and that whenever labor shall fall to the point of merely earning a subsistence, tea may be also cultivated; as no doubt some part of our country is similar in climate to China, since it is not only in a correspondent latitude, but on the same side of its continent.
The time will come when most of our manufactures can be procured from the northern or middle states cheaper than from Europe, and when those states will also furnish a larger market for the products of the south. The time has already come when cotton, and rice, and tobacco, if that pernicious weed shall always constitute one of man's artificial wants, can be procured more cheaply from the southern states than elsewhere; and though there is not, within the present limits of the United States, as much land adapted to the cane as will supply its future inhabitants with sugar, without that increase of price which must greatly diminish its rate of consumption, yet the trade in this useful commodity will not therefore be less important, either to the states which sell, or those which purchase it.
This commercial intercourse will be greatly extended by the numerous canals and rail roads, which are destined to intersect our country in every direction. By the greater cheapness of transportation, the commerce will be extended, not only because more distant points will be brought into connection, but also because there will be a greater number of articles which may be advantageously transported. All the canals and rail roads from one state to another, which shall be sufficiently used to compensate for their construction, will be so many sinews to knit together our wide spread and diversified republic. New York and Pennsylvania have already thus bound themselves to the west. Maryland and Virginia, and, without doubt, Georgia and the Carolinas, will follow the example.
When we shall be thus connected by the golden chain of mutual interests instead of the iron fetters of power, and by that homogeneousness of manners which an increased intercourse will produce, what will be likely to effect a separation? Let us suppose any state, considering itself aggrieved by some measure of the federal government, was to withdraw herself from the confederacy, and that the other states were to acquiesce in her course, either because they felt no interest in the matter, or because they were willing to surrender up those interests to a claim of right. It can scarcely be doubted that such seceding state would find the disadvantages of its new situation so great, surrounded by rival and hostile and taunting neighbors--attended with so much contingent danger and certain expense, that after the first irritation had passed away, it would sue to be re-admitted.
But when it is recollected that, in no distant day, every state will either be an outlet for other states to the ocean, or the medium of communication for those lying on each side of it, it would be according to all experience to presume that they will not regard a question thus directly affecting their _interests_, as one also affecting their _rights_, and will vindicate both, by an appeal to force, if necessary: and thus the question of _separation_ will always be a question of _war_. The _constitutional_ question, which may have been previously agitated, will be drowned in the din and tumult of arms, and finally decided by the issue of the war. _Victory_ is the great arbiter of right in national disputes, and that scale of justice on which she happens to light, is almost sure to preponderate.
I have been supposing the case of a single state, or even a small section of states to desire a separation. But it may be asked whether all the states may not voluntarily consent to a dissolution; or at least so large a portion as to make resistance on the part of the rest hopeless. I answer that I am not able to conceive any such general and powerful cause, nor do I know of any example of a similar voluntary disseverance in history. In every case in which an integral community, whether consolidated or confederate, has been separated, it has been by violence, and commonly external violence--either by one nation, subjugating another, or by some successful leader succeeding by his arts and talents in arraying one part against the rest: or the parts of a great empire have been partitioned among the descendants or legatees of the last occupant--none of which causes of separation can be expected to operate here. It is indeed a conceivable thing for some prominent and popular individual to excite a particular state to discontent, and finally to civil war; and although we have happily had no example of such flagitiousness, we have seen enough to make us think it possible: yet whatever may be the supposed success of such men at home, there will always be many counteractions to their influence in the adjoining states, and in the same degree that the agitator is a popular idol in his own state, he will be an object of suspicion in the adjoining states, who will judge of him by his actions, unaffected by his arts or the imposing lustre of his personal qualities.
Our own past history affords some confirmation of these views. It is, for example, now seen, since the veil which once concealed the acts of the Hartford Convention, has been partially raised, that the power of the agents in that combination to separate the union was far less than had been supposed, and that they could not have led on the states there represented to make that shew of resistance to the general government which excited apprehensions for the union, if they had professed any other than the moderate and legitimate objects of making their peculiar interests more respected, and of providing additional guards against the invasion of those interests in the time to come. It now appears, that however we may disapprove the _means_ used to effectuate their objects, the _ends_ were blameless; and there is much reason to believe that the moment the separation of the states had shewn itself to be the ultimate object of their leaders, that moment they would have been deserted by the larger part of their followers.
The case of him whose history has been so pregnant of instruction to lawless ambition, and who eighteen years ago was arraigned in this very capitol for the highest of all crimes, affords another instructive example. So long as his object was believed to be the settlement of the Washita lands, he may have ranked among his followers the most honest and patriotic of the land. So long as he merely proposed to emancipate the Mexicans from the Spanish yoke, the generous and enterprising youth of the west, as unsuspicious of guile in others as they were incapable of it themselves, might have flocked to his standard, and even gloried in the act of self-devotion: but no sooner was it known that the infatuated man was pursuing the phantom of individual aggrandizement, at the expense of his country's peace and in violation of her laws, than he was "left alone in his glory." Most of his followers abandoned him from principle, and the few who were without principle, deserted him from cowardice. It is peculiarly gratifying that both of these examples so strikingly exhibit the attachment of the American people to the union, as it will probably be only in one or the other of these modes that its integrity will ever be assailed.
The event by which the union was still more seriously threatened, has been too recent for me to say much of it on the present occasion. Yet I may be permitted to remark, without opening wounds hardly yet cicatrized, that both those who apprehend disunion and those who dread consolidation may draw salutary lessons from that event; and that each party may, by a course of imprudence, promote the very evil of which it is most apprehensive. I will add, that it affords additional evidence of the strength of the ligaments which bind us together, for if those who felt themselves aggrieved by the general government, had been less sensible of the _value_--of the _necessity_ of the union--then the master pilot, who at the critical moment seized the helm, and steered the ship of state through the breakers that threatened her on either side, had interposed his consummate skill in vain.
[Footnote 7: Henry Clay, who was thus thrice mainly instrumental in giving peace to his country.]
But when it is considered that the continuance of the union is indispensable to our peace, prosperity, and civil liberty--that on it rest our hopes of national greatness, it would hardly seem consistent with prudence to rely altogether on the natural securities I have mentioned. We should also sedulously guard against whatever may tend to weaken our attachment to it; and should therefore confine the functions of the general government to those objects which are most indispensable to the prosperity of the whole, and to which the powers of the separate governments are incompetent. And while it should exercise no power which was not clearly beneficial, as well as constitutional, it should forbear to exercise such powers as come under this description, when they may prove sources of discontent, or of collision with local feelings and interests. The advantages of such a course will be to give the federal government greater efficacy in the execution of its remaining powers, and especially in our foreign concerns; and it will afford us the best security, not only against disunion, but the opposite danger of consolidation. The continuance of our present complex system of government--the only one in which the highest degree of civil liberty can be reconciled with the greatest extent of territory--depends on its maintaining a just equipoise between the general government and the governments of the separate states; and that equipoise may be disturbed no less by enlarging the capacity of conferring favors than that of doing mischief--of appealing to the hopes no less than to the fears of the community.
There is another safeguard against both disunion and consolidation, to be found in the diffusion of instruction among all classes of people; to which object all the states have given encouragement. Besides the general moral effects which such mental culture is found to produce, wherever it has been tried, it will make the mischiefs of a single national government or of several disunited governments, which are already so obvious to those who have reflection and forecast, intelligible to all. The diffusion of intelligence will operate advantageously to the same end in another way. It will raise the self-respect and honest pride of the indigent classes, and these sentiments afford the best security against an over-crowded population and its deleterious consequences, for they naturally tend to raise the ordinary standard of comfort, and the higher _that_ is, the sooner do the checks to improvident marriages begin to operate.
Supposing our federal union to be thus enduring, the progress of philosophy may be expected to continue with our advancement in numbers and wealth, and to exhibit itself in the increased vigor of the reasoning faculties; the greater purity of religion; the better government of the passions; an enlarged dominion over physical nature; a deeper insight into the multifarious laws of mind and matter; and a general amelioration of our condition, social, intellectual, and moral. But dangers and evils are apprehended by some, when we shall have a large class of manufacturers. This must eventually be the condition of the greater part of the population of every civilized country, since in no other way can the greater part of a dense population find employment. A small proportion of the community is sufficient to cultivate the soil, especially with so fertile a territory as the greater part of the United States; and the rest must be employed in manufactures, or starve. Besides, the products of this species of industry are as essential to our comfort and enjoyment, if not to our subsistence, as raw produce. We must have clothes, furniture, utensils, and books, as well as food: and when our numbers shall be sufficiently great to consume the whole of our raw produce, as in time it certainly will be, we shall cease to export; and the great mass of its consumers here, must fulfil the inevitable ultimate destiny of man--he must labor for his subsistence, either in tilling the earth, or in giving to its products some new form, which by ministering to the wants of others, may enable him to satisfy his own. The people of the United States must therefore become a manufacturing people, as well as their progenitors, and that too at no very remote period. At present, most of our citizens are agriculturists, because they find a ready sale for their redundant products; but while it may be easy to obtain a market for the surplus produce of fourteen millions of people, it may not be equally easy to find a vent abroad for the products of the one hundred millions before spoken of; or even of the fifty millions which our numbers will certainly reach in less than another half century. It must be recollected that while we increase at the rate of three per cent. per annum, our customers do not increase beyond the rate of one per cent., and some scarcely increase at all. Those therefore, who will be thus spared from agriculture, must be employed in manufactures.
The political effects of so large a class of manufacturers in our country, has suggested two very opposite theories. According to one, the influence of property will be increased by the change; according to the other, its rights will be endangered. The advocates of the first opinion say, that capital has the same relation to manufactures that land has to agricultural labor; for it is only large capitals that can be advantageously employed in the principal manufactures; and that the laborers in both species of industry, will feel their dependence on their employers. It will therefore happen that the votes given immediately by the laboring class, will be substantially the votes of the rich landlord or capitalist.
But on the other hand, it has been apprehended, and not without some show of reason, that the working class, having the power in their own hands, by the preponderance of numbers, need only to act in concert, to control the course of legislation. It is further urged, that if the means of popular instruction can become general, or though that should be found impracticable, if the intelligence of the community should increase with the progress of society, that this class will more readily feel its power, have stronger inducements to exercise it, and be better able to devise the means. Admitting concerted action practicable, as it would be obviously desirable, what, it is asked, is to hinder these men from ridding themselves of their proportion of the taxes?--of appropriating to themselves the property of the rich by various legislative devices, as in limiting the prices of provisions, in planning expensive schemes in which the utility would be exclusively to themselves, or not in proportion to the cost,--or even in some moment of madness and reckless injustice, of passing an Agrarian law? It is vain to urge that as such a violation of the rights of property would have the ultimate effect of injuring all classes, or at least a far greater number than it would benefit, it is contrary to the general instinct of self interest to suppose the greater portion of the community would pursue it; for these remote interests might not be perceived, and though they were, they would not prevail against the force of present temptation.
But the argument assumes that there will be a majority of the community who will feel a present interest in such violations of the rights of property, and this proposition may well be questioned. In our country, where industry and capital are free to exercise themselves in any way, there will always be a gradation of classes from the richest to the poorest, so as to make the line which separates them an imperceptible one. We have no political institutions, and few prejudices to make such a separation. Every one is estimated according to his individual merits, little affected by those of his ancestors: and although somewhat of the honor or discredit of parents attaches to the child, yet it is probably little more than is warranted by the presumption that there is a resemblance between them. We are not distinguished into castes as in India, where one portion of society engrosses all the more honorable and agreeable employments of life, and the other is allotted to its most irksome and debasing offices; nor into Patrician and Plebeian, as in Rome; nor into lords and commons, as in England; nor _noblesse_ and _canaille_, as formerly in France and the rest of Europe; distinctions which at once provoke combination and make it more practicable.
Nor is the indigent class likely to be as large in this country as in most others. Our institutions, in many ways, favor both the acquisition and the diffusion of property. In the first place, by their being more exempt from restrictions. No trade or occupation is fettered by monopolies or corporation laws, or laws of apprenticeship, so that industry and talent being free to act, wherever and however they please, are likely to find the situations in which they can be most profitably exerted.
In the next place, all offices and professions which are means of acquiring property, or are of themselves a valuable property, while they last, are thrown open to the competition of all; and we see them as often, or more often, won by those who were born in poverty, and who have been accustomed to rely on their own resources, than by the pampered sons of wealth and luxury.
And lastly, the diffusion of property is the greater by the practice of dividing an estate among all the children of a family; which, either by the act of law, or the will of the deceased proprietor, has become almost universal. The law of primogeniture, by artificially damming up property to prevent its natural diffusion, must increase the number of the poor in the same degree that it increases the number of the rich. The estate which remains in the same family in England for three generations, and continues throughout the property of a single individual, is here distributed among twenty or thirty, and often a far greater number. _This single change_ in our municipal law, would necessarily have the effect of converting the property holders into a majority of the community.
Whenever, then, the line between the rich and the poor is drawn in this country, it will always comprehend a far smaller proportion of the last class than in any other, so long as our civil institutions retain their present character; and the number of people who have property to some amount, and who have the hope of acquiring it, will always be much greater than those who have none. When it is further recollected that those who have made their own fortunes--a very numerous class in all free countries--are likely to possess energy and intelligence; they may also be expected to possess an influence more than proportionate to their numbers. To these considerations we may add the connections which arise from favors received or expected, by the poor from the rich; the influence of habit; the protection of the laws; the restraints of morality, of indolence, and fear, and they seem sufficient to assure us that apprehensions of a mischievous combination of the poor against the rich, are groundless; and that all which the indigent class can effect for their own advantage by combination, may not prove a sufficient antagonist to the influence the rich will be able to exert over them.
I know of no instance of a successful combination of the indigent classes, except in the case of the Agrarian laws at Rome. But this subject has been greatly misunderstood, and there never was a more well founded complaint than that which the poor made against the rich, on that occasion. Modern historians seem to have followed up the injustice, by misrepresenting the facts, and assailing the character of those who had been previously defrauded of their property. The diligent researches of German scholars have shewn incontestibly that the Agrarian laws, for which the Gracchi lost their lives, concerned only the _public_ lands, which had been obtained by conquest, and not those which formed part of the territory of the ancient republic. As these public lands were charged with a very moderate,--merely nominal rent,--it was necessary to impose some limit upon the portion which a single individual could obtain, which was accordingly fixed at 500 _jugera_--equal to about 312 of our acres. But the Patrician class soon found means to evade this law, and having engrossed these lands, the purposes for which they were set apart--of affording the means of support to the poor, and of rewarding those by whose bravery and toils they had been won--was thus completely defeated: and the redundant population, unprovided with the means of subsistence, were obliged to become the bondsmen of the rich. Tiberius Gracchus endeavored to have this flagrant wrong, which was a political mischief, as well as a moral injustice, corrected: and whatever may have been his motives, he so evidently had right on his side, that he finally prevailed. But because he succeeded in defending the unquestioned rights of the injured party, does it follow that he would have had equal success in defending injustice? Because he was able to sustain the violated rights of property, would he have been also able to destroy them? Certainly not: For he with difficulty succeeded, even at the cost of his life: and success would have been impossible but for the dauntless intrepidity and the zealous support which the goodness of his cause inspired.
[Footnote 8: Heeren and Niebuhr.]
To the progress of our literature and science we may look with unalloyed hopes. In many branches, both ornamental and useful, we are still behind the country from which we are descended; and we fall as far short of her in the quantity of original productions as in the quality. But this, we confidently trust, is but a temporary inferiority. Our whole faculties are now engaged in cultivating the choicest fruits of civilization, and by and by we shall turn our attention to its flowers. Our late rapid advancement in letters affords a sure presage of future excellence, and symptoms of this gratifying change gladden our eyes in every direction. As soon as the more imperious wants of the country shall be satisfied, and men of superior powers and attainments shall have filled the learned professions, and offices requiring science and talent, then we shall begin to form a class of men of letters, who will devote their leisure and genius to minister to our intellectual wants: And they will find here a wide field both for speculation and description, political, physical and moral. We are justified in pronouncing that our literature will have freshness, boldness, richness and variety, and I would fain hope, the crowning grace of simplicity. Poetry, though not destined again to receive divine honors, or even the same profound homage as in a later day, will always occupy a high place in the world of letters: for the pleasure which can be conveyed to the mind by rhythm, imagery and fervid sentiment combined, are immutable; but the higher province of intellect will be to instruct and convince; to aid us in the arduous duties of life--whether as members of a profession, as citizens of the state, or as moral and responsible beings. Until that day arrives, let us cherish those institutions which best serve to preserve and diffuse a knowledge of science and letters, as well as to increase a taste for them; and never relax in our exertions until we are at least upon a level with the highest. Next to an elevated moral character, this is the most proper object of national ambition: and while I should be content that this country may never give birth to a Phidias, or Canova, a Raphael or Titian--that it should not produce as good musicians as Italy or Germany--as beautiful millinery as Paris--as cheap or good cutlery as Sheffield--I should be mortified to think that we should never be able to boast of such poets as Byron or Pope, such historians as Hume or Gibbon, such moralists as Johnson, such novelists as Walter Scott, or such mathematicians as La Place.
In looking into our future destiny, I have not allowed myself to travel into the regions of fancy, but have confined my attention to those results which seemed fairly deducible from causes now visibly operating; and which are in conformity with the past experience of mankind. I have not indulged in those overstrained speculations with which some have contemplated the future progress of philosophy, but have endeavored to avoid on the one hand, those views of future evil, which it is the nature of gloomy tempers to entertain, and on the other, those visions of future excellence or perfection incompatible with our past experience; such, for example, as the dreams, first of Condorcet, and afterwards of Godwin. Of a similar character, I fear, are the predictions of those who think that war may be banished from the civilized world. Without doubt it is the tendency of the progress of reason and philosophy, to lessen the chances of war: in the same way as refinement of manners checks personal conflicts among individuals. But it will, probably, no more put an end to them in one case, than in the other; and the time may never come, when the interests of nations will not clash, when they will not differ in opinion about their respective rights; when they will not be willing to resent supposed injustice, and hazard their lives to gratify their resentment. Nor can occasions be wanting at any time to call forth these motives to war. Nations may have rivalship in trade; rivalship in fisheries; they may differ about boundaries, or the construction of treaties; or they may be involved in the disputes of others. These causes must be regarded as inseparable from the condition of man, even if he should no longer be exposed to the danger of war, from mere differences of opinion on some speculative points in religion, politics or morals. It may then prove in all future time, as it has proved in all time past, that it is man's nature to quarrel and fight, no less than to love or to hate, and the only difference may be as to the occasions of war, and the mode of carrying it on: in short, that this ultimate argument of republics as well as kings, will continue to be appealed to, as it always has been, when all others have failed.
If this is to be regarded as a part of man's inevitable destiny, let us not indulge in vain repinings at it--but endeavor to prevent it as far as we can, by a course of justice, and moderation, and forbearance: and if, nevertheless, our efforts should be unavailing, let the philosophic and patriotic mind find consolation in the fact, that though war is the cause of much human misery, it calls forth many virtues, and affords occasion for the display of some of the noblest traits of our character--courage, patriotism, generosity, disinterestedness and every form of virtuous self-denial. It gives a stimulus to all the more elevated and severer virtues. It breaks up the icy frost of selfishness, which in the still times of peace may congeal about the heart. The love of country never burns with a purer or stronger flame than in the bosom of the patriotic soldier: nor can any thing but war enable a citizen to make the same sacrifices, or so prove his self devotion to his country. It may then be among the dispensations of the ruler of the universe, that war, as well as peace, is necessary for the development and the preservation of some of our highest qualities, and to fulfil our destiny. Nor let us vainly hope to extinguish national more than individual resentment, but merely to regulate it--to reserve it for those occasions which a sense of justice prompts and reason sanctions: and although it is but a blind arbiter of disputes, it is the only one, in some circumstances, that can be appealed to.
Having thus, Mr. President, brought to your notice, with less of condensation than I could have wished, the great and rapid strides which human reason is now making in the civilized world, as exhibited in every field of intellectual exercise: having noticed the unequivocal signs that this progress will yet continue, that we cannot assign to it any precise limits, and that in all estimates of the future, we must take it into consideration: having endeavored to infer its probable effects on our condition, taken in connection with the other changes to which we are destined, I have discharged my main purpose. Yet I do not feel that I have entirely fulfilled my duty as a member of the Society, unless I say something of its particular objects.
One of these objects was to collect and preserve the perishable memorials of the past history of Virginia, from the time it was a colony to the present day. While this is a subject which must always be one of lively interest to her citizens, it is also one in which diligence will be amply rewarded. Our early colonial history more abounds in events of a striking and diversified character, than that of any of the other colonies; and this state, moreover, has a sort of parental relation to nearly all the states to the south and west. Full justice has never yet been done to this subject. There are indeed points in the history of the settlement of the colony, which require elucidation, and for which the materials are to be found, if at all, only in the archives of England. But on our later history much light has been thrown by a diligent examination of the laws of the colony; and somewhat may be further gleaned from a search into those records of the county courts, which have yet escaped the ravages of war and time. The records of these courts, whose duties were always of a very miscellaneous character, may communicate much information concerning the state of society, the habits, manners and ways of thinking of the people. The authentic details of the public offences and their punishment, is no insignificant portion of a nation's history. Much has been done in this way by Hening's Collection of the Statutes at Large; and though a large portion of the treasure has already been drawn from this mine, it has not been exhausted. After paying a just tribute to the industry and general accuracy of that work, it also suggests a caution to future inquirers against a spirit of skepticism towards preceding narratives, merely because some inaccuracies have been discovered. Of this I may be allowed to mention one or two examples, as in the endeavor to shew (in which Burke concurs,) that the account of all preceding historians of the loyalty of Virginia towards the House of Stuart, immediately before and after the Commonwealth, was erroneous--and that because Robertson in his posthumous historical sketch was plainly mistaken in saying that no man suffered capitally "for his participation in Bacon's rebellion," he is not entitled to credit: or, when Bacon, according to all previous accounts, had, during a wet spell, at the most sickly season of the year, in the county of Gloucester, been seized with a dysentery which proved mortal, to suggest that a death so little violating probability, should be deemed mysterious, and warranted the _suspicion of poison by his enemies_.
The history of the settlements of the west exists only in tradition or family letters, and its materials ought to be collected and preserved, while it is not too late. The contest between the pioneer of civilization and the native savage, is full of daring adventure and romantic interest. If the command of gunpowder, and the use of iron ultimately gave victory to the former, it was one always dearly bought. The Indians defended their native rights with desperate valor and consummate address, and it was only inch by inch that they yielded their native soil to the invaders.
The origin of some anomalous enactments in the statute book, also invite inquiry. Thus in the year 1647, lawyers were forbidden to take any fees whatever, and in 1658 they were excluded from the legislature. For this uncourteous act, it must be confessed that their descendants have made the _amende honorable_. The medical profession seemed also an object of jealousy with the planter; as by another law, physicians were required to swear to the value of their drugs.
[Footnote 9: Passed in 1646.]
There is too, a good deal of uncertainty and inconsistency in the statistical accounts of the state. On the duty of the present generation to collect and preserve every thing relative to the revolution, I need not lay any stress. There are still numerous papers in many families, of no sort of value to them, that may yet shed light on that interesting era.
In all that concerns the other object of this Society, the physical history of the state, every thing is yet to be done. The records here are before us, and are indestructible in any reasonable term of time; but we must first labor to remove the rubbish which conceals them, and then study to decipher them. This is a tempting field of research, as it may not only add to our stock of information, but also to our store of worldly wealth. The great Appalachian chain of mountains, which traverses the United States from Maine to Alabama, is broader no where than in Virginia, or consists of a greater number of distinct ridges, and no where has it given as clear indications of abounding in mineral wealth. We have found in it already gold, copper, lead, iron, manganese, gypsum, salt, coal, nitre, alum, marble in great variety, besides other minerals that are useful in the arts; and a more diligent and scientific search than has yet been made, may by increasing their number increase the profit of those canals and roads that are now projected, and give rise to others not yet contemplated. Our demand for fossil coal is of growing importance; for our increasing population at once increases the demand for fuel, and diminishes the supply of wood. I was happy to see last evening, the specimen of anthracite coal from the county of Augusta; and the value of that mineral deserved the high eulogy it received. We may form some idea of the importance of fossil coal, from the fact that steam engines in England are now computed to perform annually, the work of four hundred millions of men! a number nearly double to that now living on the whole globe.
Nor is the geology of the state to be disregarded. Ever since a careful examination of the materials of the earth's surface has been found to afford indications of its past changes, this science has been diligently and successfully cultivated in Europe, and has not been neglected in some parts of the United States. It is high time that Virginia should contribute her quota to its researches. We should be the more stimulated to cultivate this branch of science in the United States, in consequence of the remarkable regularity of the different formations on this continent. Thus along the coast below the falls, we have south of Long Island the tertiary formation; between the falls and the Blue Ridge, the primitive; and the great Mississippi Valley, from the Alleghany to the Rocky Mountains, if principally secondary. There are however, occasional exceptions to these general rules, and they should be noticed with care. As our useful minerals lie near the surface, our observations will, for a long time to come, be principally confined to that; but as there are instances of shafts being sunk in search of salt water or gold, the strata should be carefully noted; and where any pit of unusual depth is sunk, it would be well to make experiments on the heat of the earth, before the admission of the ordinary air has altered its temperature. It has long been asserted that there was an internal heat in the interior of the earth, and further observation seems to confirm it. This fact has lately had a seemingly conclusive verification in England. A shaft had been sunk there in pursuit of coal, to the extraordinary depth of nearly fifteen hundred feet; and by a number of careful experiments, the heat at the bottom was found to be 28° hotter than the average heat of the earth in this latitude, which would seem to show an increase at the rate of a degree of Fahrenheit for every sixty feet. Should this correctly indicate the measure of the earth's internal heat, then at the depth of something less than two miles, we should come to the temperature of boiling water. When we recollect that this heat is not farther removed from us than a two thousandth part of the distance to the centre, (bearing about the same proportion to the earth as the parchment stretched over it, does to an ordinary globe,) it seems to afford a ready solution for volcanoes, earthquakes, and many geological phenomena; and may even excite our wonder, that some of these results of so mighty an agent are not more frequent and terrible than they are. And when we recollect that the confines between organized matter, and that form of it which is inconsistent with animal or vegetable life, approach so near each other, it is calculated to humble the pride of man, that he has been upon this globe all but six thousand years without a suspicion of the fact.
[Footnote 10: See London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine for December 1834. This experiment coincides with the theory regarding the internal heat of the earth, promulgated by a member of the French Institute (Mons. Cordier,) in a memoir presented to that association about six years since, in which he gives a detail of numerous observations and experiments on which he founded his theory, now fully confirmed by the more decisive experiment in England.]
There are also problems concerning our climate which well deserve solution. The acknowledged difference between the eastern and western coasts of climates, has been attributed, with a great show of reason, to the prevalence of the westerly winds; and of the fact of their greater prevalence there, is the most satisfactory general evidence--but it is discreditable that the amount of the difference should not be as well ascertained as the fact itself. The average difference can be ascertained only by repeated and accurate observations.
It has also been asserted that the temperature of the Mississippi Valley is higher than that of the Atlantic coast. Mr. Jefferson long ago advanced this opinion, and it was adopted by Volney; but there is strong reason to believe that the direct contrary is the fact. It is, however, high time that this question should be settled by a series of thermometrical observations, and a comparison of facts derived from the vegetable world.
We have, Mr. President, been three years in existence, and as yet have done little. Let us bestir ourselves in the cause of science and of our country; and endeavor, under some disadvantages, to give Virginia the same rank in science and literature that she has always maintained in her devotion to civil liberty and political integrity. Though borne along with the rest of the world, by the great current of philosophy of which I have been speaking, we should not fold our arms in listless apathy, but diligently ply our oars, lest we should be left further behind by those in advance of us, and be overtaken by those now in our rear.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
LETTERS FROM NEW ENGLAND--NO. 5.
BY A VIRGINIAN.
Scholars in Virginia are not generally aware, that the classical Greek pronunciation is thought to exist still in Greece; and that (connecting this fact with the close resemblance of the ancient, to some of the modern dialects _as written_) that rich and elegant language is no longer to be regarded as _dead_. Thus confidently think two intelligent and accomplished natives of Greece, now in Connecticut, who are reputed (no doubt deservedly) to be thorough masters of both the ancient and the modern tongue. In a gratifying interview with one of them (Mr. _Perdicaris_ at New Haven), being curious to hear Homer in his native melody, I prevailed on Mr. P. to read me a few lines of the Illiad. They were by no means musical to my ear--vitiated, doubtless, by the faulty pronunciation to which I had been accustomed, and destitute of those associated ideas, which conduce so largely to the beauty of poetry. He sounds _oi_ dipthong, like _e_; _d_ like TH soft; _g_ like a mere aspiration, as our _h_. The word _poluphloisboio_ ([Greek: poluphloisboio]) so expressively sonorous to our ears when pronounced with the full, swelling _roll_ of the dipthong, he would attenuate into _poluphleesbeeo_--to me much more like the whistling of the wind through a key-hole, than the hoarse, multitudinous roar of an agitated ocean. I spare you, here, a speculation that is passing in my mind, as to how far this diversity between different ears, proves the notion of the _sound's echoing to the sense_ to be merely fanciful; and as to the influence of previous association upon our relish of poetical, and of other beauty--how much, for example, of the native Greek's rapture at Homer, is owing to love of country, and how much of an American's ecstacies to classical enthusiasm, the pride of learning, or the influence of names. Yes, I spare you--partly, because I have not _much_ that is new to say upon the subject; and partly because, if I had, it would be wholly out of season.
By special invitation, I attended a lecture (one of a series) delivered by Mr. Perdicaris, upon the literary and political history of modern Greece. It was marked by a rich yet chaste imagination, a generous glow of patriotic enthusiasm, and the eloquence which they naturally inspire. You may feel a curiosity, as I did, to know somewhat of the _outer man_ of a modern Greek. Mr. P. is about the middle height, or five feet nine; shoulders broad, and a stout frame; black hair, disposed to curl; large black whiskers, flanking a broad oval face, the complexion whereof is a darkish olive--as dark, at least, as Mr. Webster's. Having been eleven years in this country, he speaks our language fluently and intelligibly: indeed, as is usual with those who learn a foreign tongue from books, and from enlightened native speakers, his _English_ is remarkably pure. A few rhetorical and grammatical faults there were--for instance, "_he left Athens_" was curtailed (_a la Yankee_) to "_he left_." This is a New England-ism not confined to the vulgar: neither is the phrase "he _conducted well_," for "he conducts _himself_ well;" nor "considerable _of_ a place," for "a considerable place." We hear Yankees of respectable literary pretensions, too, saying _shall_, where the English idiom certainly requires _will_; as, "shall you visit Boston during your tour?"--and clipping the infinitive mood, in a way equally contrary to the good customs of the realm--thus--"I have not written yet, but to-day _I intend to_." But I am chasing game that is hardly worth the powder.
[Footnote 1: If I mistake not, I have heard Mr. Webster himself use _shall_ in this manner. It is an innovation, sustained by no eminent authority or precedent in England; and is confined, in America, to the north side of the Potomac, if not to the east of the Hudson. With that still grosser affectation, "the house is _being built_," "a war is _being waged_," it should be promptly arrested, before it shall have become inseparably mingled in the "well of English undefiled." By the way, this latter _refinement_ prevails more in the south than in the north.]
I owe to Mr. P. another intellectual treat: the inspection of an Illiad, edited by Mr. Felton, Professor of Greek at Harvard. Of all the editions that I have examined, this is by far the best adapted to schools; and the most likely to gratify the taste, or to aid the study, of a retired scholar. The _character_ is a _fac simile_ of Porson's M.S. Greek--surpassingly neat, simple, and distinct. The text seems to be given with exemplary fidelity. And it is interspersed with _Flaxman's Illustrations_; engraved cuts, of all the principal scenes: which, though mere hints of incidents, and too meager outlines of persons, greatly heighten the interest of the work. But its crowning merits, are the Editor's English Preface and Notes. I read the former, and most of the latter--much more, I dare say, than is usually deemed needful for a reviewer. They do Mr. F.'s learning, judgment, taste, feeling, and eloquence, very high honor. He does not make much ado about the trivialities of _dialect_, _quantity_, and _various readings_, like the cumbersome annotators upon the classicks, criticised in the Spectator; nor does he, like "piddling Tibbald," 'celebrate himself for achieving the restoration of a comma,' or the correction of an accent. But beauties are pointed out and commented on, with a critical taste and elegance, calculated to make the learner's task a luxury; while difficulties are cleared up with a fulness that leaves little need for oral instruction. The edition is in one volume; and I hope soon to see it supersede the clumsy affair of the too learned Samuel Clarke, which now has such fast foot-hold in our schools.
[Footnote 2: Johnson's Preface to Shakspeare.]
You perhaps think it odd, that I have said nothing of the _judicial systems_ of New England; and ascribe it either to my acting on Young Rapid's maxim--"sink the shop, Dad!"--or to my being cloyed with courts at home, and so, loathing them amid the countless attractions of my journey. Neither, neither--be assured. 'Though last, not least'--they have formed a leading subject of my inquiries: and to judge speculatively, as well as from what is told me of their practical operation (which I have had no opportunity to witness) they have some points worth _considering_, if not _imitating_.
The judiciary power of Rhode Island is vested in a supreme court, consisting of a chief and two associate justices; and a court of common pleas (composed of five judges) for each of the five counties. _All the judges are appointed annually by the legislature_. This feature alone suffices to stamp the whole system with insignificance: for what skill in jurisprudence--what independence of popular excitements and party influences--could be expected from judges whom the breath of a party leader can make and unmake, at each year's end? When to this we add, that the chief justice of the supreme court receives a salary of $650, and each associate $550, we need not wonder that no decision of the Rhode Island bench is ever quoted in other states. The governor's salary is $400; the lieutenant governor's, $200. But if, in scantiness of territory and a corresponding scantiness of means, this state is ordained by nature to be the San Marino of America, yet it is purely her own fault if, by the precarious tenure of her judicial offices, she reduces one of the most important departments of _mind_ to the same diminutive scale, and goes far to make herself morally and intellectually also, the insignificant miniature of a commonwealth.
In Connecticut, justice is administered in causes of small amount by county courts, whose judges are chosen annually: and in larger causes, by superior courts. The latter are held semi-annually in each county by one of five judges, who also form the supreme court. They hold office during good behavior, or until seventy years of age: and have both law and chancery jurisdiction. The supreme court sits once a year _in each county_. I do not know what actual loss of valuable services Connecticut has suffered, by her rule which drives judges from the bench just at the juncture when their faculties are in many instances the most happily ripe for its functions: but, that she has lost and will lose, no one can doubt who remembers, that thirteen of the best years of Mansfield's judicial life, and fourteen or fifteen of Wythe's and Pendleton's, were after the age of seventy; and that such a rule would have deprived the United States' judiciary, ten years ago, of its present gigantic Coryphæus--confessedly one of the purest and most powerful minds that ever filled any judgment seat. But what heightened or adequate terms of censure can be found for the New York rule, which displaces every judge at sixty? A rule which prematurely discarded Spencer and Lansing; and which, for more than ten years, has made Kent employ the full vigor and maturity of his intellect in writing abstract treatises, and selling _chamber_ opinions, instead of going on as he had begun, to build up for his state a system of jurisprudence hardly inferior to that which Mansfield reared for England?
In Massachusetts, are some very striking peculiarities. The _supreme court_, consisting of four judges, sits once a year _in each county_, to decide questions of law, in the last resort. Some one of these judges, besides, holds annually a _Nisi Prius_ term in each county, to try appeals from an inferior grade called "courts of common pleas," original suits in chancery, and upon the bonds of executors and administrators. The appeals to them from the common pleas, are _as to both law and fact_: a jury being empanneled, witnesses examined, &c., as if it were an original proceeding. The latter courts are held twice a year in each county, by some one of four judges; who hold office (like those of the supreme court) during good behavior. They have cognizance of all causes, except what I shall designate as vested elsewhere.
Presentments and indictments for all offences, are found only in the _common pleas_; where, also, they are tried--_except in capital cases_. These, after the indictment is found, are certified and removed from the common pleas to the _supreme court_; at whose bar the culprit is tried by a jury: a special term being held on purpose, in any county where the judges are notified that a prisoner awaits trial for life or death. _En passant_--though _eight crimes_ are, by the laws of Massachusetts, punishable with death, _only twenty-six persons_ in the whole state have been capitally convicted, _in thirty years!_ The number of trials (I do not exactly remember it) bears an immense disproportion to the number of convictions: so immense, as to prove that either an undue severity in the laws, or the unreasonable and too common lenity of juries, aided by the overwhelming superiority of defending advocates--or (what is most probable) all three causes together--have well nigh made those laws a dead letter. Prosecutions are conducted by _district attorneys_, of whom there are four in the state; each prosecuting within his allotted district. In the supreme court, however, the attorney general is counsel for the commonwealth.
_Chancery_, or _equitable relief_, is rarely sought in the Massachusetts courts. Indeed it was unknown, until, within a comparatively recent period, two or three statutes empowered the supreme court to administer it, in a very few specified cases--_mortgages_, _trusts_, _accounts between partners and co-executors_, _waste_, _nuisance_, and two or three others: omitting the fruitful subjects of _fraud_, _accident_, _dower_, _et cetera_--and especially the sweeping power to relieve _wherever there is no remedy at law_--subjects which, by the multiplication of cases, have made _our_ chancery, like that of England, the dormitory if not the grave of justice. And even as to the few specified subjects of jurisdiction, those statutes rigidly restrict the relief to cases in which there is _not a plain and complete remedy at law_. Before these enactments (and _since_, too, in cases without their scope,) the rigor of the law was mitigated only by the sense of justice in juries; and by sundry expedients--curious enough, to Virginian eyes--which seem to have left few _wrongs_ unremedied. For instance--if I am unjustly cast in a trial at law, by accident or surprise, or for want of testimony which I did not know of till the term was over; not a bill of injunction, but a petition to the judge in vacation, within a limited time, will procure me a new trial. If my debtor fraudulently dispose of his property; instead of a bill in chancery to ferret out the fraud, I may have, along with my execution (if I have obtained judgment) a _summons_ to the colluding purchaser as _garnishee_, to disclose orally on oath, in open court, what effects he has, of the debtor.
Roads are laid off by a board of commissioners, established for that purpose in each county; and invested with judicial powers, in controversies on the subject.
The probat of wills, the granting of administrations, the appointment of guardians, and the supervision of the accounts and conduct of guardians, executors, and administrators, are confided to an officer, called the _Judge of Probat_, appointed in each county for those purposes only; and holding his court monthly, in several convenient places of the county, to hear motions and decide disputes on those subjects. His records and proceedings are kept by a distinct clerk, called the _Register of Probat_; and an appeal lies from his decisions immediately to the supreme court. We, in Virginia, sorely need some tribunal like this; specially charged with the interests of widows and orphans.
Equally worthy to be copied, is the Massachusetts mode of constituting _juries_. Lists of all persons qualified to serve, are kept by the town-clerks; from which, just before a court, the town quota of jurors is drawn by lot: and no one is compellable to serve oftener than once in three years. _They are paid for their service._ Against juries thus formed, I heard no complaints, of partiality, corruption, or undue ignorance. They receive a compensation, which at least defrays their reasonable expenses; and if there be still some burthen, it is borne equally by all, and recurs at such long intervals, as to be absolutely unfelt. How different is our plan, of sending out the sheriff just before a trial, to gather in the sweepings of the court-yard! Suitors and witnesses, attending perhaps for the tenth time, in hopes of having their causes determined--strangers from other counties, nay, travellers from other states--tipplers from the tavern porch--the nearest merchants, mechanics, and farmers, torn suddenly and capriciously from their employments--such is the medley, produced by a system as oppressive to most of the jurors themselves, as it is subversive of the important ends for which they are empanneled. One is really tempted to believe, that in adhering so pertinaciously to a system so obviously defective and so easily remedied, our statesmen have been governed by a fixed design to bring jury-trial itself into disrepute.
Wiser in another respect also than we, these "Bay folk" have no courts (except for cases of twenty dollars or less) held by _men who have not themselves studied the science they are to expound_: no parallel to our county courts--those _crack_ tribunals of some great men, whose admiration arises either from the want of intimate knowledge--they having ranged generally in a higher sphere--or from their enjoying over that bench an _influence_, flattering to their vanity, and blinding to their judgments. How long will the public attention sleep--how long will the hand of reform be palsied--when will an attempt be made to cure the unfitness of these courts for the weighty, multifarious, and difficult functions entrusted to them?--the ludicrous, if it were a less mischievous, uncertainty of their decisions, owing to their ignorance of any fixed rules by which to decide?--the delays, so fatal to justice, that attend their unsteady ministration?--the ruinous accumulation of costs, besides harassment and loss of time in dancing attendance upon them through years of litigation?
The Massachusetts and Connecticut plan, of an _itinerant supreme court_, cannot be commended to imitation. The common arguments, of _bringing justice home to the people_, and _enabling suitors to see in person to their causes_, are not pertinent, where the whole case is contained in the record; where no witnesses are to be summoned or examined--no counsel to be instructed in the cause. Then, the loss of time in travelling, and the want of so extensive a library and so able a bar, as would be formed if the court sat always in one place, must essentially impair the correctness of its decisions, and lower the superiority of its intellect.
The common-law of England is made the basis of Massachusetts law, not, as in Virginia, by a legislative declaration that it shall be so, but by adjudications of the courts, recognizing and adopting it as such. By a still bolder stretch, the courts have acknowledged as generally binding, English statutes made in amendment of the common-law--not only before, but _since_ the foundation of the colony: nay, the terms of the decision do not exclude English statutes subsequent to the American revolution. This comprehensive grafting of a foreign code upon the domestic, not by professed and authorised law-givers, but by mere judges, is perhaps one of the most remarkable instances of judicial legislation, any where to be found: and must have arisen from a licentious spirit of _construction_, which, when it acts upon written laws, may naturally be expected to make them mean almost any thing that the interpreters choose. The admirers of an _unwritten law, reposited in the breasts of judges and to be sought only in precedents and decisions_, may vaunt, if they will, its happy _elasticity_, dilating and contracting to fit every conceivable emergency: but I doubt if (among other evils) it does not nurture habits of latitudinous interpretation, destined to be well nigh fatal to one of the great boasts of modern times--written forms of government. Minds accustomed always to make the law adapt itself to the particular occasion; to regard that _as law_, which the immediate case requires; naturally fritter away constitutions with as little ceremony, as children demolish or alter their sand houses and dirt pies.
[Footnote 3: Hardly less startling an exercise of legislative power by the judiciary, was in the abolition of slavery. The Bill of Rights prefixed to the constitution of Massachusetts, adopted in 1780, asserts, as most of our state constitutions do--substantially copying the Declaration of Independence--"_that all men are born free and equal_, and have certain natural and unalienable rights;" namely, the right of enjoying their lives and liberties, &c. On this, some masters spontaneously yielded freedom to their slaves; others, on its being demanded of them. In 1781, a master who refused, was sued by his slave for a trespass, assault and battery, and false imprisonment; and pleaded, that the plaintiff, being his slave, had no right to sue him. The court held, that slavery was contrary to the first article of the Bill of Rights; and that therefore the plea was bad, and the plaintiff was free. This decision virtually abolished slavery in Massachusetts, without any legislative act for doing so. Some other suits were brought; but in most cases, masters yielded at once. There were then not quite five thousand slaves in the state. Abolition was similarly effected in New Hampshire. It was by legislation in New York, where there were twenty-one thousand slaves, in a whole population of three hundred and forty thousand.]
The chief court of Massachusetts has tasked the readers of law-books, as heavily as our's has done. Its decisions fill twenty-seven or twenty-eight octavo volumes--about our number. The supreme court of New York has issued more than thirty; the supreme court at Washington eighteen or twenty; Pennsylvania, Connecticut, South Carolina--but I forbear the appalling list. Every good law library, however, should have at least the five sets first named; and they are as yet but just begun. If the monstrous increase be not checked, what purse can buy, what head can read (much less remember,) nay what room can hold them, a century hence? Already, indeed, we are grievously over-tasked: for besides the thousands of tomes, English and American, now accumulated, it is impossible to keep pace with the daily accessions, poured forth from a hundred manufactories of legal oracles. Some powerful condenser, or another Caliph Omar, is our only hope. The oppressive bulkiness of law-reports is owing partly to the reporters; but more, to the judges--who, apparently more intent on the display of learning and ingenuity, than upon adjusting the rights of the parties, often swell the simple and clear page or two, which the case requires, into a rambling and voluminous disquisition of twenty pages. Nay, not content with _one_ such disquisition in each case, each judge presents his own; and the reporter spreads them all at length in his next volume. I wish that both judges and reporters could be obliged to study, as models of lucid brevity, Yelverton's Reports, and the still more admirable decisions of Chief Justice Tindal, of the English Common-Pleas--who frequently compresses into half a page or less, what our American judges would wire-draw into half a dozen pages.
[Footnote 4: "Immenso aliarum super alias acervatarum legum cumulo."]
[Footnote 5: In the late "English Common-Law Reports."]
Lawyers are very numerous in Massachusetts--somewhere about seven hundred; of whom one hundred and sixty or one hundred and eighty are in Boston. Their intercourse appears to be marked by the same fraternal spirit, which strews the toilsome path of the profession in the south with so many sweets and flowers. Admission to the bar is procured, not by examination, but by leave of court, on recommendation of those who are already practising there; provided the candidate have studied five years in some lawyer's office; or have so studied three years, and be a graduate of some college. He has, besides, to pay for admission into the supreme court, a fee of thirty dollars, and for the common-pleas, twenty dollars; to be expended towards a joint library, for the use of the bar in each county. These libraries are sometimes large, and well selected. The emoluments of practice, except to the very leaders of the profession, seem far inferior to those of practisers occupying correspondent grades of talent and fame in Virginia: indeed, I doubt whether any but Mr. Webster receives an amount comparable to the incomes of several there, whom I could name. Yet the life of a lawyer is probably more pleasant in Massachusetts. From the pre-requisites to admission, you may infer that well-stored minds abound more with the fraternity: at least it was so, till our university, and our several excellent law-schools, began to give a clearer and more expanded ken to the mental optics of our young lawyers. Then, in society at large--certainly in the towns and villages--there is more literature afloat in Massachusetts: amusements are of a more rational cast. Where _we_ have a horse-race, a barbecue, a whist-party, or a _pool_ at back-gammon, our Yankee brethren have a meeting of some lyceum, or other society for mutual improvement, at which a lecture is given or a debate held, upon some interesting subject, of economy or morals: or an unceremonious evening visit is dedicated to conversation, in which politics engross no unreasonable share. The newspapers--even the most violent political ones--at once attest and foster the prevalent taste for general knowledge, by devoting a considerable part of their sheets to literary and useful matter: unlike the two giants of the press in Virginia, that can hardly ever spare a column, and never a page, from the embittering--aye, the brutalizing--themes of party strife, to topics which might exalt, enlighten, purify, innocently amuse, and humanize the public mind. There is less locomotion in the practice of a Massachusetts lawyer: he rarely attends more than two counties; for the most part, only one. This, if he loves domestic life, is a great point for him. And in the ordering of a New England home-stead, there is a quiet, smooth despatch--a neatness--a happy fitting of means to ends--a nicety of contrivances for comfort--an economy of trouble in every thing--all calculated doubly to endear it to a home-loving man. When to all this we add, that though the prime necessaries of life are cheaper with us, those elegancies and luxuries which as the world goes have become necessaries, are so much more accessible in New England, as to make a smaller income yield a larger store of comfort; it will not seem wonderful, that the balance of enjoyment is on the Massachusetts lawyer's side. I take for granted, you see, that he is not insensible to intellectual pleasures; and that _they_ conduce the most of all to happiness.
This is probably the last time you will hear from me before we meet; as my tour is drawing near its close. The six weeks it has occupied, have been crowded with more mind-stirring incident, than any six months of my previous life. Vivid indeed is the contrast, between the plodding, eventless tenor of the preceding eight years, and the exciting, the feverish interest of these six weeks. Yet they have afforded scarcely a describable adventure; nothing, at all calculated to make an auditor's eyes stretch wide, or his hair stand on end. In truth, the interest is explicable in great part by the simple case of a plough-horse, turned loose to kick up his heels for an hour. He enjoys the recreation (if his spirit is not broken by excessive work,) five fold more than a daily roamer of the pasture could do. Judge how the sport has kept my faculties aroused, by the fact, that though habitually a great sleeper, requiring seven or eight hours in the twenty-four, my sleep, since leaving Virginia, would hardly average five hours. Even while on foot--walking from twenty to thirty miles a day--my nightly allowance was sometimes less than five, never more than six hours.
Let me commend to tourists, _foot-travelling_--if they wish to see a country thoroughly: I do not mean its rivers and mountains, cities, forests, and churches, but its MEN and WOMEN. _These_ "constitute a State." Whoever would see _them_ in their truest, every-day garb--of dress and manners--upon occasions and amid scenes, where refined disguises are laid aside, and life appears with the least sophistication possible in our state of society; should walk among them without equipage and in very plain clothes; call in at their houses--partake of their meals--nay, find some excuse for tarrying a day or two at one place--enter their schools, and their public meetings--see them at their work--and hold "various talk" with them. In two or three weeks thus employed, he will obtain a deeper insight into their customs, character and institutions, than from months spent in whirling along the highways, and attending formal dinner parties. Unless he is a hardened pedestrian, he should take care to begin by short journies, of only eight, ten, or fifteen miles a day; and not till after five or six days, stretch away at thirty miles daily. Otherwise he may cripple himself, so as greatly to mar the pleasure of his jaunt. I speak from sore experience on this point.
Though I have been obliged to concede to the Yankees, a superiority in some respects over ourselves, you will not suspect me of having over-colored my limnings, or of having wantonly--much less ill-naturedly--disparaged our good old commonwealth. Without wishing to lower the generally just and salutary, (though sometimes amusing) pride her children feel at the bare mention of her honored name, I have aimed to draw their attention to some traits of Yankee life and character, which we may advantageously copy--nay, the _want of which_ is the main cause of our lagging march in the numberless improvements, that distinguish this age, and appear so fruitful of blessings to mankind. My aim too has been, to disabuse them of a few of the prejudices, which ignorance and misrepresentation have fostered against our Northern brethren. Let any one who thinks I have exaggerated their excellencies, only come among them, and see for himself; bringing to the scrutiny _a candid mind_, prepared to _allow_ for unavoidable differences.--Indeed our people ought to travel northward oftener. It would be a good thing, if exploring parties were frequently sent hither, (as to a moral _terra incognita_,) to observe and report the particulars deserving of our imitation. Our independent planters, and shrewd, notable housewives, could not make such an excursion, without carrying home a hundred _notions_, for which they and their neighbors would be the richer and better all their days. Nor might they profit less, by sending their statesmen and law-givers, to take lessons in civil polity. There are admirable things of every magnitude; from TOWNSHIP GOVERNMENTS, COMMON SCHOOLS, and COURTS OF PROBAT, down to _closed doors_, _splayed_ and _rumfordized_ fire-places, _seasoned wood_, and _cold light-bread_. Some things, too, they would see, to be shunned: I need only name excessive _banking_,--enormously multiplied _corporations_, for manufacturing, and other purposes--and, what strikes yet more fatally at the foundation of popular government, the _caucus_ system. But the strongest reason for a more frequent intercourse, is the liberalizing of mind that would result; the unlearning of our long cherished prejudices, from seeing the Yankees _at home_--that place, where human character may always be the most accurately judged. They too, have some (though fewer and less bitter,) reciprocal prejudices, to be cured by a more intimate acquaintance. No mind but must see the unspeakable importance of weeding away these mutual and groundless dislikes. The perpetuity of our union--and the liberty, the peace, the happiness of its members--in a great degree depend upon the accomplishment of that expurgation. There cannot be a simpler _recipe_. _The North and the South need only know each other better, to love each other more._
[Footnote 6: When the sides of a fire-place are slanting, instead of being square with the back, they are said to be _splayed_. When the back leans forward at top, approaching the inner side of the arch or front top, so as to make the flue only six or eight inches wide, it is said to be _Rumford-ized_, If my readers pardon me for being thus elementary, I will presume further upon it, and add, that the latter term comes from Count _Rumford_, who invented that improvement. The sides of a New England fire-place often slope at an angle of 120 or 130 degrees with the back; so as to make the width _behind_, not more than half the width in front. The wood is usually sawed, to fit the hinder part of the fire-place.]
[Footnote 7: The wood is cut 12, sometimes 15 or 18 months, before it is burned. If cut in the summer, it is suffered to lie out for a few months, and then put away till the second winter, in the _wood-house_; a constant and close appendage to every dwelling. Southrons have no idea, though Yankees have experimental knowledge, of the saving and comfort there is in using this, instead of green wood--how vastly further any given quantity of the former will go, in producing heat. It has been satisfactorily shewn, that in a cord of green wood, there are about 140 or 150 gallons of _water_; all of which must be changed to steam--that is, _evaporated_--before the particles of the wood in which it is lodged can burn: and in doing this, just so much _heat_ is expended, which would otherwise be employed in warming the room. The time spent in this process, makes our people fancy that green wood actually _burns_ longer than dry: and because a dozen billets of green, when the water is entirely evaporated, give out more heat than four dry ones, they think that hotter fires can be made of green wood!]
[Footnote 8: The bread should not be eaten till it is _cured_, or stale; i.e., at least twenty-four hours old; and it is _good_, for several days more. The superior wholesomeness of _cured_ bread is explained by the fact, that on coming out of the oven, it has an over-proportion of carbonic acid gas--well known to be poisonous when unmixed; but by lying in the open air, the bread parts with most of this noxious gas, and imbibes instead of it, oxygen gas--the wholesome, vital _principle_ in the atmosphere.]
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
THE WALTZ AND THE GALLOPADE.
MR. WHITE,--Although a short time only has passed since I wrote you a long letter, partly to fulfil a promise made before your Messenger began to perform his most welcome peregrinations, yet the spirit moveth me irresistibly to address you again. The immediate cause of this second tax upon your patience being so soon levied, is the perusal of an article published some time ago in that spirited paper, the "Constitutional Whig" of your city,--wherein, to my great gratification, its talented editor has lashed in well merited style, that outrage upon the yet unsophisticated manners and customs of our country, seen, I believe, for the first time in the city of Washington last winter, as if in mockery of the character and memory of its illustrious founder. I mean the "Fancy Ball," as it is styled by those who have undertaken to describe it; although with all due deference to their superior taste and knowledge, I would venture to suggest "the frantic hurlyburly" as a more appropriate term. I do this from having some reason to believe, that a more deplorable caricature of what was designed to be represented, was never perpetrated by the would-be fashionables in any country--either _in_ or _out_ of Christendom. This foreign and apish intruder has not yet, thank heaven, gained such footing among us, as altogether to preclude the hope of extirpating it from the land, if a few such pens as that wielded by the editor of the Whig, could be exerted for so laudable a purpose; and therefore it is that I venture to cry--"to the rescue," in the hope that several others will obey the call. Let it once be deemed "_the fashion_" to have "Fancy Balls," and even the greatest clodhoppers among us are sufficiently acquainted with the despotism of this tyrant, to know that _his_ behests will bid defiance alike to reason, ridicule, and reproof--to good sense, good manners, and good principles.
I am much gratified, Mr. Editor, at another circumstance brought to my notice incidentally by this article in the "Whig." It is, that our language, copious as it certainly is, does not yet afford terms of its own to express several of the foreign fooleries and attempts to corrupt our yet simple, unaffected character, described as a part of this extraordinary exhibition, "the Fancy Ball;" such, for example, as the waltz and the gallopade. For the benefit of those who may wish to know the literal meaning of these outlandish terms, without the means of gratifying such wish, I beg leave to offer the fruit of my researches--aided, as I confess myself to have been, by far better scholars than I am.
The first term--"_waltz_," is evidently of German extraction, being plainly derived from the verb "_walzen_" which, with the adjunct "_sich_," means to roll, welter, or wallow oneself; and with the prefix "_das_" becomes the participle rolling, weltering, wallowing; from which selfish process the transition is quite easy, to roll, or welter, or wallow another. In either case the predominant idea is, that the term describes some action natural to an animal of the order Belluæ; for our English correlative terms are never applied to human beings, but by way of derision or contempt expressed in figurative language. Quere: how does it accord with human pride and vanity--how far is it reconcileable to the lowest aspirations that we are ever willing to acknowledge ourselves capable of feeling, to be ambitious of imitating either hogs, horses, or monkies in our actions?
If there could be any doubt in regard to the derivation of the first term "_waltz_," or the object of the practice of _waltzing_, the etymology of the second term "_gallopade_," must settle the question beyond farther controversy; and must prove that an imitation of certain belluine gambols and gesticulations most be the grand desideratum in adopting these exotic fashions. "_Gallopade_" is manifestly from the French word "_galloper_," and that again from the Greek "_kalpazein_" to gallop like a horse. From all this it seems perfectly clear, that this latter dance at least, (if it may be so called,) in order to honor its Greek Etymon, should be performed on _all fours_; since for a biped successfully to imitate any action of a quadruped, in which all its limbs are used, the biped must make its arms, if it has any, execute the function of legs. The quadruped resemblance then, which seems to be the thing coveted, would be brought as near to perfection as the nature of the case could possibly admit. Add to this, it is the best imaginable expedient for working off that dissatisfaction at the ways of Providence which these gallopading or galloping gentry appear to feel, at perceiving that all the genera of the Belluæ order, (unless, perhaps, the Kangaroo may be excepted,) have been so much more liberally dealt with, as to be provided with one more pair of legs than they have. It may however be well questioned, how far it is _good policy_ (to say no worse of it,) to encourage this downward tendency, since the natural proclivity of our species to indulge brute appetites and passions is generally allowed to be already much greater than becomes us who claim to be the only rational part of God's visible creation. Heaven knows that we even _now_ approximate far too closely to the lower order of animals in many of our propensities and practices, not to take any particular pains, nor to use any extraordinary exertions to render this approximation still more striking. If we can not prevail upon ourselves to cherish higher aspirations, to act in a manner more worthy of our exalted station among living and sentient beings, let us at least strive hard _not to retrograde_.
So much, Mr. Editor, for _the degradation_ of these foreign fooleries. But their _demoralizing tendencies_ are matters of much higher concern--of infinitely deeper interest. Let me endeavor to point them out. The perfection of the "_waltz_" consists in exhibiting to the gaze of a numerous company of both sexes, the female form in every variety of position and attitude into which activity of body and suppleness of limb can throw it--short of what all would exclaim against as absolutely indecent, continually however verging to that point. No modest woman ever beheld it for the first time, without the burning blush of shame and confusion. As to the horse galloping dance, I know not what allurement _that_ may in time be capable of producing, since it is not yet sufficiently domesticated to be well understood, nor very skilfully executed--to say nothing of the very reasonable doubts yet entertained by many nice calculators on such intricate subjects, whether such a thing be possible as either an alluring or graceful gallop performed by horse, man, or woman. But that which I have said of the "_waltz_," none can deny, however some may be disposed to palliate it, by alleging that all its numerous postures and gyrations are still practised under that powerful sense of decorum which the ladies of our country, (God bless them,) who venture to indulge in it, have not yet been able entirely to subdue. But the anxious question is,--_can this always last?_ Can a sense of _decorum_ or of _any thing else_ continue under the constant operation of causes tending powerfully, nay, inevitably, to annihilate it? There is nothing so great that time cannot destroy--nothing so small that it may not increase to an almost inconceivable magnitude. Thus it is, comparatively speaking, with our best principles--our most approved manners. Injuries too slight at first to be regarded or feared, accumulate by unperceived or neglected degrees, until at last they grow past remedy, and all is lost that was worthy of preservation. Can our beloved wives and daughters--beloved, because still uncontaminated by foreign corruptions--can _they_ suffer themselves to be continually whirled about in all the giddy, exciting mazes of the licentious waltz, like so many French or Italian Opera girls, without impairing or losing all self-respect--all that most lovely and endearing modesty for which they have ever been so justly celebrated, so highly prized? Can not polished manners, easy carriage, graceful deportment, be taught at less sacrifice, less risk, than by calling in for the purpose these deleterious foreign auxiliaries? Surely--_most surely_ they may; for all, I think, will admit, that no more admirable and perfect examples of these qualities _can_, or probably ever _will_ be found, than among the ladies of what may be called _the old school_, many of whom to our own great happiness, are yet spared to teach their daughters, among numerous useful lessons, that neither waltzing nor horse-like-galloping is at all necessary to gain for them all the esteem, regard, and devoted love which they can possibly deem essential to their happiness in the present life. Thoughtless as too many of our young men are, and desirous as they may often be to choose waltzing and gallopading young ladies for _partners in a dance_, most rarely do they yet commit the egregious folly of seeking them as _partners for life_. However giddy, rash, and improvident some of them may be in other respects, they are too well aware that a fondness for these indecorous displays of the person--these ridiculous, antic gambols, will do any thing rather than fit their practitioners for the various, complicated, and arduous duties of the married state--through _not one of which_ can either a waltz or a gallopade carry them with the least credit to themselves or benefit to their families. Better--far better would it be for these daughters to live and die utterly ignorant of what dancing is, than to be qualified to participate in its pleasures, at the hazard of soiling, in the slightest degree, that spotless purity of feelings and character, which _we men_ rank (and long, very long may we have a right to do so,) as the richest, the most precious by far of all our moral possessions. Deprive us of these, and we shall be poor--miserably poor indeed! Rather let our beloved girls be subject forever to the ridicule and contempt of all the infatuated votaries of these modern and foreign corruptions, both of our manners and principles, than to be longer exposed to their deeply pernicious influence.
[Footnote 1: That your readers may know what our English friends think of waltzing and gallopading, I take the liberty to add the following extract from an article in the New Monthly Magazine, "on the Revolutions of the 19th century." Here it is--
"Look at our balls: In 1800, modest woman danced modestly; and let the conversation which passed between two partners, standing as far distant from each other as people ordinarily do in a drawing room, be what it might, it could do no harm in the way of example. Within this century it has become the fashion for a delicate girl, who would, as Fielding's 'Huncamunca' says--'shudder at the gross idea' of man's advance, to permit herself, and be permitted by her mother--aye, or her husband, to flourish about a room to a wriggling German air, with a strange man's arm round her waist, and her delicate hand upon his brawny shoulder. This thing is called--_a waltz_: there is another of the same character, called--_a gallopade_, where the same operations are performed, and in which, instead of turning the woman about until she gets giddy, the fellow makes no more ado, but claps her up in his paws, and hurries right on end from one corner of the room to another."
Thus speaks one of the most popular periodicals in England of these foreign abominations; and it is for Virginia parents and heads of families to say, whether they shall be naturalized among us, or banished from our society as a moral pestilence.]
I am no enemy, sir, to dancing; for I believe it to be not only an exhilirating, healthful, and joyous amusement, but also entirely innocent, when not carried to excess: quite as innocent as any other imaginable thing that can properly be called amusement, in which the two sexes participate together. But at every hazard of incurring the ridicule and scorn of our American exquisites, I denounce waltzing and gallopading, because, from my inmost soul, I dread any thing and every thing that threatens, in the slightest degree, to change, for the worse, the character of _the Virginia lady_; for upon _that character_ I most conscientiously believe, the happiness both of ourselves and our children--aye, and of our children's children, vitally depends. I cling to _it_ therefore as our best, our last hope, to guard us against all corrupting innovations. Those upon which I have ventured to address you, will probably be deemed very trivial matters, I dare say, by thousands; but many of our ladies, I trust, whose opinions have still much influence in all our social circles; many who will acknowledge me for their true, devoted friend, although quite too old to be their beau, will decide, that I have not ascribed too much power to these exotic fashions. Like all other corrupting influences, they have gradually insinuated themselves into favor; their approach has not been so sudden and violent as to excite alarm. Of this fact, there is no stronger evidence, than that which is furnished by the history of the waltz itself, which, trifling as it may seem, _will and must_ have a powerfully demoralizing effect, especially when followed up by its congenial ally, Masquerades,--of which the fancy-ball-folly is the certain precursor. Mark the prediction, sir, for I know it will be laughed to scorn by all the fashionables of the present day, although I ask only two years for its fulfilment, but expect it much sooner.
When the waltz first made its appearance in this country, it was exhibited only on the public stage, and _even there_ met with almost universal reprobation, except from a few reckless profligates, whose sole object in life is mere sensual indulgence. None so much as surmised that such a dance could ever be introduced into private society. At last, a few adventurous foreigners succeeded in introducing it into private parties: but, for a considerable time, _they themselves_ were the only performers. It was long before our country-women could so far forget the early lessons of decorum, self respect, and modesty, taught them by their mothers, as to make that public display and spectacle of their persons, which must unavoidably be made, in waltzing at all, if executed as the fashion required. But these most natural and laudable feelings, which caused them to revolt at such an innovation, such an outrage against all their preconceived notions of propriety, have gradually yielded to the almost resistless force of example "_in high places_," until the waltz has not only domiciliated itself permanently in nearly all our towns and cities, but has enlisted in its defence many bold country advocates. The few ladies, (comparatively speaking,) among us, who yet have firmness and moral courage enough, to resist what they deem a very pernicious example, cannot, I fear, long maintain their most laudable opposition, against such a host of assailants. Even _you_, Mr. Editor, (if you will pardon my freedom in making the remark,) seem a little inclined--judging by some late comments of your's upon waltzing--to submit to the practice without further resistance.
Having made up my mind, Mr. Editor, to meet as I can, for this attack upon foreign fashions, the sneers and scoffs of all our American exquisites, should any condescend to notice me--a class of bipeds (by the way,) who bear the same sort of resemblance to their European prototypes, that the buffoon does to the head performer in a company of tumblers and rope dancers--I shall say nothing to deprecate their displeasure. But I must still beg leave to assign a few of my chief reasons for addressing you on this occasion, lest that numerous and highly respectable portion of your readers, whose good opinion I am anxious to retain, may mistake my motives. Without some satisfactory explanation, some of them might even be tempted to exclaim at me, as old Edie Ochiltree did at the Antiquary--"Lordsake! he's gaun gyte!"--"he has run crazy, to venture upon taking by the horns this mad creature, Fashion, as if his feeble arm could at all check the wild headlong course of such an animal." To prevent such comments, if possible, I will urge in my own justification, should any be necessary, that I have done this deed, because I deem it an essential part of every aged person's obligations to his fellow men, as long as life lasts, to oppose either orally or in print, for the benefit of the youth of our country, every innovation, be it what it may, which threatens to affect them injuriously. Whether they will listen to him or not, depends upon themselves; _his duty_ in this behalf will have been fulfilled. I have done it too, because I believe, that the most feeble laborer with honest intentions, in a good cause, may accomplish some good which will amply compensate him for his efforts. I have done it, because apparent trifles are rarely noticed in books, although many of these trifles have a most powerful and deleterious influence, not only on our principles of action, but over our manners and conduct. And lastly, I have done it, because I believe, without the most remote possibility of this conviction ever being changed, that the happiness of _the present_, as well as of _every future generation_, depends upon preserving unsullied the purity of the female character. _The matrons_ of our country are the first, the most watchful, the best guardians of our children, where they themselves have been virtuously educated. _They_ form the manners and character of these children: _they_ sow the seeds of all their good qualities: _they_ first discover and cherish with boundless affection and solicitude, the earliest dawnings of each amiable disposition; and never relax while life lasts, their anxious efforts to fit them both for their present and future state of existence. How momentous then! how vitally important it is! that, when the mothers depart hence to another and a happier world, their surviving daughters should be qualified to take their places, with equal capacity to fulfil all their duties. But this, alas, cannot possibly be, without the most zealous, unremitting and assiduous care, to guard them, as we would the most inestimable of our possessions, against all demoralizing influences whatever. Corrupt the source, and what will be the effect of its streams? Poison the fountain, and who can drink of its waters without death--death, both in a figurative and literal sense? An atom of dust in itself is unworthy of notice; but in reference to the great planet we inhabit, it is a constituent and essential part. A drop of water alone, is apparently valueless; yet the mighty ocean itself is composed of individual drops, without which its bed would be an arid desert.
The application of these general remarks to our subject, is too manifest, I hope, to be mistaken. Let nothing, therefore, however trivial it may appear on a cursory view, be deemed unworthy of serious attention, which either directly or indirectly, can injuriously affect the yet distinctive, still unsullied character of our justly and dearly beloved country-women.
Having thus thought and felt, as long as I have been at all capable of serious reflection, it is quite too late to change: I am consequently prepared to submit unmoved to whatever sentence may be pronounced against this second communication, from your friend, and constant reader,
[The following amusing incident, is related in the lively manner for which its author is much celebrated. The moral predicated upon the bashfulness of his visiter, seems however disproportionably serious. There are few cases of such extreme _mauvaise honte_ in the present day, when an excess of _modest assurance_ (by some denominated impudence,) is rather to be complained of.]
From the New York Mirror.
A BASHFUL GENTLEMAN.
BY M. M. NOAH.
Modesty, diffidence, and a proper humility, are jewels in the cap of merit; but downright bashfulness, your real _mauvaise honte_ is terrible, and is a distinct mark of ill-breeding, or rather of no breeding at all. Your dashing impudent fops, who say a thousand silly things to the ladies, and flutter around them like butterflies, are yet more endurable than your bashful fellow who sneaks into a corner, terrified to catch a look, or exchange a word with a pretty woman.
Such an identical person paid me a visit on one of the cold days last week, and broke in upon me with a thousand bows and apologies, while busily engaged with pen in hand, thinking of a whig candidate for president, who would not run the risk of being knocked on the head by our friends the moment his name was announced.
"Sit down, sir, if you please; make no more apologies; sit down and tell me your business." "Well, sir, I'm come for a curious business, quite an intrusion, I'm sure, but so it is; necessity knows no ceremony. Some time ago I read in your paper a description of the miseries of an old bachelor, and it was so to the life--so true, and so exactly my condition, that I have made bold to call on you for advice; for misery, they say, loves company, and one wretched bachelor may be able to counsel another--thus it is.--" "Stop, stop, my friend; before you proceed, let me correct an error in which you have, no doubt, inadvertently fallen. Though I may be able from memory to describe the misery of single wretchedness, I had not the courage constantly to face it. You must not be deceived, I am no longer a bachelor; do you want the proofs, look there; that black-eyed, ruddy cheeked fellow on the carpet, employed in cutting out ships and houses from old newspapers, is my oldest; he designs himself to be an editor, for he contends that nothing is easier; it is only, he says, cutting out slips from one paper and putting them into another. That little one who struts about in a paper cocked-hat and wooden sword, with which, ever and anon, he pokes at my ribs, while deeply engaged in considering how the nation is to be saved, is my second hopeful; he is a Jackson man; all children, sir, are Jackson men; he goes for a soldier if there be wars. That little golden-haired urchin, with a melting blue eye, who is sure to ask me for candy, while I am describing, in bitter terms, the tyranny of the Albany regency, is my youngest; and there, with a basket of stockings near her, sits my better half; there is the sparkling fire, and here are my slippers: does all this look like the miseries of a bachelor?" "Well, I beg your pardon, sir, for believing that you were as wretched as I am; but still when you hear my story you may possibly advise me what is best to be done." "Go on, sir." "Well, sir, thus it is: My father realized a handsome property by his industry, which he left to me; but such were his rigid notions of the necessity of constant occupation to prevent idleness and other evils, that my time was employed, after I had left school, which was at an early age, from sunrise to bed-time. It was an incessant round of occupation--labor, keeping books, and making out bills. Behold me now, at the age of twenty-three, with a good constitution, correct principles, and a handsome income. I have lost my parents--am alone in the world. I wish to marry, but really, sir, to my shame I confess it, I have no acquaintance among young ladies. I do not know any. My secluded manner of living has prevented my cultivating their acquaintance; and if by accident I am thrown into their society, my tongue is literally tied. I do not know how to address them--I am not conversant with the topics which are usually discussed. In short, sir, I wish to advertise for a wife, and not knowing how to draw up such an advertisement, I came to beg that favor at your hands."
"So, so," said I to myself, "here's a little modesty tumbled into decay--'Coelebs in search of a wife.'" He was a good-looking young fellow, and had a quick eye, which led me very much to doubt his reserved, retired and abashed condition before the ladies.
"Have you, sir, considered the risk in taking a wife in this strange way? How very liable you may be to gross imposition? What lady of delicacy or reputation would venture to contract an alliance so very solemn and obligatory, through the channel of a newspaper advertisement?" "Very probably, sir; but a poor honest girl might be struck with it; a clever, well-educated daughter, ill-treated by a fiery step-mother, might, in despair, change her condition for a better one; nay, a spirited girl might admire the novelty, and boldly make the experiment." "Well, sir, and how are you to conduct the negotiation with your native bashfulness? You have no superannuated grandmother or old maiden aunt to arrange preliminaries." "That's very true; but, sir, necessity will give me confidence, and despair afford me courage."
I wrote the advertisement for him, which he thankfully and carefully placed in his pocket-book, and bade us good morning. "Poor devil," said I, "here's a condition--here's a novelty--here's a _rara avis!_ a fellow of twenty-three, with a good character and income, and not sufficient impudence to ask for a wife. I know lots of young ladies who would have sufficient charity to break him of his bashfulness in a few lessons."
However, his case is not a novel one. It shows the necessity of parents accustoming their sons in early life to cultivate the society of respectable females. They should be encouraged in any disposition they may manifest for good female society, although they may incur the charge of being either a beau or a dandy. Boys should go to dancing-school, not only because it teaches them grace, but it accustoms them in early life to the society of women. They dance with those girls, whom, in later periods, they may admire and respect as ladies. The lives of children should be checkered with innocent amusements--study and labor require such relief; and they should not be brought up in close confinement, in a doggerel way which unfits them for society when they are men; nor be driven to the dire necessity of advertising for a wife, and taking the risk of such a desperate adventure.
From the Knickerbocker.
A SCENE IN REAL LIFE.
'The facts not otherwise than here set down.' _Wife of Mantua_.
Amidst the exaggerations of modern literature, and the fictions of that exuberant fancy, which in these latter days is tasked to gratify a public taste somewhat vitiated, it is useful to present occasional views of actual existence. Such are contained in the following sketch, which is studiously simple in its language, and every event of which is strictly true. We have this assurance from a source entitled to implicit credit.
There is a vast amount of suffering in the world that escapes general observation. In the lanes and alleys of our populous cities, in the garrets and cellars of dilapidated buildings, there are pregnant cases of misery, degradation, and crime, of which those who live in comfortable houses, and pursue the ordinary duties of life, have neither knowledge nor conception. By mere chance, occasionally, a solitary instance of depravity and awful death is exposed, but the startling details which are placed before the community, are regarded as gross exaggerations. It is difficult for those who are unacquainted with human nature in its darkest aspects, to conceive the immeasurable depth to which crime may sink a human being,--and the task of attempting to delineate a faithful picture of such depravity, though it might interest the philosopher, would be revolting to the general reader. There are, however, cases of folly and error, which should be promulgated as warnings, and the incidents of the annexed sketch are of this character. Mysterious are the ways of Providence in punishing the transgressions of men,--and indisputable is the truth, that Death is the wages of Sin.
* * * * *
Twenty years ago, no family in the fashionable circles of Philadelphia was more distinguished than that of Mr. L----: no lady was more admired and esteemed than his lovely and accomplished wife. They had married in early life, with the sanction of relations and friends, and under a conviction that each was obtaining a treasure above all price. They loved devotedly and with enthusiasm, and their bridal day was a day of pure and unadulterated happiness to themselves, and of pleasure to those who were present to offer their congratulations on the joyous event. The happy pair were the delight of a large circle of acquaintances. In her own parlor, or in the drawing-rooms of her friends, the lady was ever the admiration of those who crowded around her, to listen to the rich melody of her voice, or to enjoy the flashes of wit and intelligence which characterized her conversation.
Without the egotism and vanity which sometimes distinguish those to whom society pays adulation, and too prudent and careful in her conduct to excite any feeling of jealousy in the breast of her confiding husband, Mrs. L----'s deportment was in all respects becoming a woman of mind, taste, and polished education. Her chosen companion noticed her career with no feelings of distrust, but with pride and satisfaction. He was happy in the enjoyment of her undivided love and affection, and happy in witnessing the evidences of esteem which her worth and accomplishments elicited. Peace and prosperity smiled on his domestic circle, and his offspring grew up in loveliness, to add new pleasures to his career.
The youngest of his children was a daughter, named Letitia, after her mother, whom, in many respects, she promised to resemble. She had the same laughing blue eyes, the same innocent and pure expression of countenance, and the same general outline of feature. At an early age her sprightliness, acute observation, and aptitude in acquiring information, furnished sure evidences of intelligence, and extraordinary pains were taken to rear her in such a manner as to develope, advantageously, her natural powers. The care of her education devolved principally upon her mother, and the task was assumed with a full consciousness of its responsibility.
With the virtuous mother, whose mind is unshackled by the absurdities of extreme fashionable life, there are no duties so weighty, and at the same time so pleasing, as those connected with the education of an only daughter. The weight of responsibility involves not only the formation of an amiable disposition and correct principles, but in a great measure, the degree of happiness which the child may subsequently enjoy. Errors of education are the fruitful source of misery, and to guard against these is a task which requires judgment, and unremitting diligence. But for this labor, does not the mother receive a rich reward? Who may tell the gladness of her heart, when the infant cherub first articulates her name? Who can describe the delightful emotions elicited by the early development of her genius,--the expansion of the intellect when it first receives and treasures with eagerness, the seeds of knowledge? These are joys known only to mothers, and they are joys which fill the soul with rapture.
Letitia was eight years old, when a person of genteel address and fashionable appearance, named Duval, was introduced to her mother by her father, with whom he had been intimate when a youth, and between whom a strong friendship had existed from that period. Duval had recently returned from Europe, where he had resided a number of years. He was charmed with the family, and soon became a constant visitor. Having the entire confidence of his old friend and companion, all formality in reference to intercourse was laid aside, and he was heartily welcomed at all hours, and under all circumstances. He formed one in all parties of pleasure, and in the absence of his friend, accompanied his lady on her visits of amusement and pleasure,--a privilege which he sedulously improved whenever opportunity offered.
Duval, notwithstanding his personal attractions and high character as a 'gentleman,' belonged to a class of men which has existed more or less in all ages, to disgrace humanity. He professed to be a philosopher, but was in reality a libertine. He lived for his own gratification. It monopolized all his thoughts, and directed all his actions. He belonged to the school of Voltaire, and recognized no feeling of the heart as pure, no tie of duty or affection as sacred. No consideration of suffering, of heart-rending grief, on the part of his victim, were sufficient to intimidate his purpose, or check his career of infamy. Schooled in hypocrisy, dissimulation was his business: and he regarded the whole world as the sphere of his operations,--the whole human family as legitimate subjects for his villainous depravity.
That such characters,--so base, so despicable, so lost to all feelings of true honor,--can force their way into respectable society, and poison the minds of the unsullied and virtuous, may well be a matter of astonishment to those unacquainted with the desperate artfulness of human hearts. But these monsters appear not in their true character: they assume the garb and deportment of gentlemen, of philosophers, of men of education and refinement, and by their accomplishments, the suavity of their manners, their sprightliness of conversation, bewilder before they poison, and fascinate before they destroy.
If there be, in the long catalogue of guile, one character more hatefully despicable than another, it is the libertine. Time corrects the tongue of slander, and the generosity of friends makes atonement for the depredations of the midnight robber. Sufferings and calamities may be assuaged or mitigated by the sympathies of kindred hearts, and the tear of affection is sufficient to wash out the remembrance of many of the sorrows to which flesh is heir. But for the venom of the libertine, there is no remedy,--of its fatal consequences, there is no mitigation. His victims, blasted in reputation, are forever excluded from the pale of virtuous society. No sacrifice can atone for their degradation, for the unrelenting and inexorable finger of scorn obstructs their progress at every step. The visitation of death, appalling as is his approach to the unprepared, were a mercy, compared with the extent and permanency of this evil.
Duval's insidious arts were not unobserved by his intended victim. She noticed the gradual development of his pernicious principles, and shrunk with horror from their contaminating influence. She did not hesitate to communicate her observations to her husband,--but he, blinded by prejudice in favor of his friend, laughed at her scruples. Without a word of caution, therefore, his intercourse was continued,--and such was the weight of his ascendant power,--such the perfection of his deep laid scheme, and such his facility in glossing over what he termed _pardonable_, but which, in reality, were grossly licentious, indiscretions of language and conduct,--that even the lady herself was induced, in time, to believe that she had treated him unjustly. The gradual progress of licentiousness is almost imperceptible, and before she was aware of her error, she had drunk deeply of the intoxicating draught, and had well nigh become a convert to Duval's system of philosophy. Few who approach this fearful precipice are able to retrace their steps. The senses are bewildered,--reason loses its sway,--and a whirlpool of maddening emotions takes possession of the heart, and hurries the infatuated victim to irretrievable death. Before her suspicions were awakened, the purity of her family circle was destroyed. Duval enrolled on his list of conquests a new name,--_the wife of his bosom friend!_
An immediate divorce was the consequence. The misguided woman, who but late had been the ornament of society and the pride of her family, was cast out upon the world, unprotected, and without the smallest resource. The heart of the husband was broken by the calamity which rendered this step necessary, and he retired, with his children, to the obscurity of humble life.
* * * * *
At a late hour on one of those bitter cold evenings experienced in the early part of January, of the present year, two females, a mother and daughter, both wretchedly clad, stood shivering at the entrance of a cellar, in the lower part of the city, occupied by two persons of color. The daughter appeared to be laboring under severe indisposition, and leaned for support on the arm of her mother, who, knocking at the door, craved shelter and warmth for the night. The door was half opened in answer to the summons, but the black who appeared on the stairs, declared that it was out of his power to comply with the request, as he had neither fire,--except that which was furnished by a handful of tan,--nor covering for himself and wife. The mother, however, too much inured to suffering to be easily rebuked, declared that herself and daughter were likely to perish from cold, and that even permission to rest on the floor of the cellar, where they would be protected, in some degree, from the 'nipping and eager air,' would be a charity for which they would ever be grateful. She alleged, as an excuse for the claim to shelter, that she had been ejected, a few minutes before, from a small room which, with her daughter, she had occupied in a neighboring alley, and for which she had stipulated to pay fifty cents per week, because she had found herself unable to meet the demand,--every resource for obtaining money having been cut off by the severity of the season. The black, more generous than many who are more ambitious of a reputation for benevolence, admitted the shivering applicants, and at once resigned, for their accommodation for the night, the only two seats in the cellar, and cast a fresh handful of tan upon the ashes in the fire place.
It was a scene of wretchedness, want, and misery, calculated to soften the hardest heart, and to enlist the feelings and sympathies of the most selfish. The regular tenants of the cellar were the colored man and his wife, who gained a scanty and precarious subsistence, as they were able, by casual employment in the streets, or in neighboring houses. Having in summer made no provision for the inclemencies of winter, they were then utterly destitute. They had sold their articles of clothing and furniture, one by one, to provide themselves with bread, until all were disposed of, but two broken chairs, a box that served for a table, and a small piece of carpeting, which answered the double purpose of a bed and covering. Into this department of poverty were the mother and daughter,--lately ejected from a place equally destitute of the comforts of life,--introduced. The former was a woman of about fifty years, but the deep furrows on her face, and her debilitated frame, betokened a more advanced age. Her face was wan and pale, and her haggard countenance and tattered dress, indicated a full measure of wretchedness. Her daughter sat beside her, and rested her head on her mother's lap. She was about twenty-five years of age, and might once have been handsome,--but a life of debauchery had thus early robbed her cheeks of their roses and prostrated her constitution. The pallidness of disease was on her face,--anguish was in her heart.
Hours passed on. In the gloom of midnight, the girl awoke from a disturbed and unrefreshing slumber. She was suffering from acute pain, and in the almost total darkness which pervaded the apartment, raised her hand to her mother's face. 'Mother,' said she, in faltering accents, 'are you here?'
'Yes, child: are you better?'
'No, mother,--I am sick,--sick unto death! There is a canker at my heart,--my blood grows cold,--the torpor of mortality is stealing upon me!'
'In the morning, my dear, we shall be better provided for. Bless Heaven, there is still one place which, thanks to the benevolent, will afford us sustenance and shelter.'
'Do not thank Heaven, mother: you and I are outcasts from that place of peace and rest. We have spurned Providence from our hearts, and need not now call it to our aid. Wretches, wretches that we are!'
'Be composed, daughter,--you need rest.'
'Mother, there is a weight of woe upon my breast, that sinks me to the earth. My brief career of folly is almost at an end. I have erred,--oh God! fatally erred,--and the consciousness of my wickedness now overwhelms me. I will not reproach you, mother, for laying the snare by which I fell,--for enticing me from the house of virtue,--the home of my heart-broken father,--to the house of infamy and death: but oh, I implore you, repent: be warned, and let penitence be the business of your days.'
The hardened heart of the mother melted at this touching appeal, and she answered with a half-stifled sigh:
'Promise me then, ere I die, that you will abandon your ways of iniquity, and endeavor to make peace with Heaven.'
'I do,--I do! But, alas my child, what hope is there for me?'
'God is merciful to all who ----'
The last word was inaudible. A few respirations, at long intervals, were heard, and the penitent girl sunk into the quiet slumber of death. Still did the mother remain in her seat, with a heart harrowed by the smitings of an awakened conscience. Until the glare of daylight was visible through the crevices of the door, and the noise of the foot passengers and the rumbling of vehicles in the street had aroused the occupants of the cellar, she continued motionless, pressing to her bosom the lifeless form of her injured child. When addressed by the colored woman, she answered with an idiot stare. Sensibility had fled,--the energies of her mind had relaxed, and reason deserted its throne. The awful incidents of that night had prostrated her intellect, and she was conveyed from the gloomy place, A MANIAC!
The Coroner was summoned, and an inquest held over the body of the daughter. In the books of that humane and estimable officer, the name of the deceased is recorded,--'LETITIA L----.'
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
It is a grand desideratum in all the affairs of life, to hold fast what we get. The business of evangelizing the world, is like the stone of Sisyphus, continually recoiling upon each successive generation. We want something like what the sailors call a Paul to the Capstan,--a sort of Ratchet. This is the business of Christian Education, and the problem is to devise such a system of religious training and instruction, as shall be best adapted to that end.
It must be admitted that hitherto but little has been done, notwithstanding that the blessings of the gospel are promised to believers and to their children also. It is not found that the care of pious parents, to infuse religious sentiments into the hearts of their children, is attended with any remarkable success. Indeed, there is often found a prejudice against religion, which seems to have grown up with them, and is eradicated with the more difficulty, because it has sprung up and rooted itself in a soil cleared from the rank weeds of vicious indulgence, and prepared to receive the seed of the spirit of God. This seed the enemy snatches away, and scatters the tares of enmity and rebellion in the place of it. They spring up in the night. They grow in darkness, shaded by the pall of a staid demeanor and assumed sobriety of deportment.
The promise is nevertheless often fulfilled in a remarkable manner, long after the anxious parent has gone to his rest, and the child, grown up to manhood, has taken his station among his fellows, in the affairs of life. Then it is, that the recollections of his youth, of the discipline and habits of his childhood come upon him, like a confused and troubled dream. Softened by time, as by distance, objects lose their asperities; any harshness which had once estranged him is forgotten, and he now comes to dwell, with sad and self-reproachful feelings, on his departure from the example of strictness, sobriety and gravity, which he had once renounced:--
"How gladly would the _man_ recall to life The _boy's_ neglected sire, whose sternest frown Was but the graver countenance of love."
Under the influence of such feelings, he often turns back into the path from which he strayed. But how much better never to have left it! How many sorrows has he in the mean time brought upon himself, by vicious self-indulgence! How much matter of repentance has he provided for his future life! How many has he led astray by evil counsels and evil example, who are still wandering in the mazy wilderness of sin, and may never recover the way that leads to heaven!
It is surely well to consider, whether there is no remedy for these evils. Every man is a priest in his own house, and is not only charged with the care of the souls of his children; but is bound also, as far as possible, to make them instruments of good to others. What should we say to him who should make his house a menagerie of ravenous and destructive beasts, to be turned out as they grow up to prey upon the flocks and herds of his neighbors? And what better is he who carefully adorns and accomplishes the persons and minds of his children, with all the graces of manners, intelligence and address, which give them so much power over the principles and conduct, and happiness, of their associates, without guarding against the abuse of this power, by impressing their hearts with the love of religion and virtue, and a sense of the value of the souls of others? They go forth as fiends of darkness, in the garb of angels of light, and contamination, and misery, and death, are the fruits of their intercourse with the children of men.
Of this fault, it is not pretended that christian parents are willingly guilty. They are not even careful in many instances, to impart the ornamental parts of education, which so much enhance the power of seduction, but they innocently supply an instrument hardly less powerful, in the familiarity with the language of the Bible, which is often acquired by those who have no taste for its doctrines. When the devil cannot robe himself in the rainbow garment of Ithuriel, he can, at least, "quote scripture for his purpose," and many a heart has been corrupted, and many a mind confounded by scraps and ends of texts, torn from their connexion, and uttered in derision by those who have been taught to get verses by rote--but not, as the good old phrase is, _by heart_. O! ever while we live, let us make our children learn the Bible BY HEART, or not at all, that when they speak its language, they may speak as one whose "mouth speaketh out of the fulness of his own HEART."
This is the great point to be accomplished. How is it to be effected? The answer is plain. By addressing the gospel to the HEART. By the same means which a judicious and affectionate parent uses to infuse into the bosom of his child, the spirit of cheerful and willing obedience to himself. Let him carefully show both himself and his Maker to the infant's mind, as the personification of love. While he anxiously contrives to make him feel that to the love of his earthly parent, he owes all the benefits that he receives, let him point his attention also to that Father who is in heaven, and from whom he himself derives all the means of ministering to the wants and pleasures of the child. When he gives a bit of bread to the hungry urchin, and asking if it is good, receives an answer which shows that the little fellow's heart is full of grateful love, let him tell him what it is made of, and while he shews him the green blade from which, by a wonderful and mysterious contrivance, the grain is to be elaborated, and marks the half-incredulous wonder with which the information is received, let him tell him that this is the work of God, who causes the rain to fall, and the sun to shine, and matures the fruits of the earth for the benefit of his children. Such occasions of calling the attention of a child to the goodness, and bounty, and love of God, are continually recurring. He is never too young to receive impressions of love. Before he knows the meaning of the word, he takes them from his experience of the care and fondness of his mother; and long after he has begun to prattle, this feeling thus early implanted, continues to flourish alone, and affords the only sanction of parental authority. How happy is he, and how sweet to behold his happiness, while in the pursuit of his little foolish joys, the "todlin wee thing" needs no restraint from mischief, but the playful look, half-smile, half-frown, and the admonishing voice which warns without alarming. Well might our Saviour say, "that of such is the kingdom of heaven," where love is the only law, and love the only duty, and love the only sanction. Under this sweet engaging discipline, love becomes the habit of his mind, and long before he is capable of comprehending any but the simplest ideas, the foundation is laid in his heart, of those affections, by means of which he is to be formed to virtue, honor and happiness. What idea (next after those derived from things present, to the senses,)--what idea is more simple, more easily apprehended, than this; that while he receives all good things from the hands of his parents, they are sent to him by a friend he has never seen, whose name is God. What occasion for telling him who God is, or where he dwells, or any thing more than that he is good, and loves good boys, and will continue to love him and send him good things as long as he is good? Is it not easy to impress his mind with the same feeling which is cherished towards his dear Aunt or kind Grandmama, of whom he is reminded every morning, when he drinks his milk out of a pretty cup, on which he is taught to read, "a present for my dear boy?" There is no time lost. The idea of the spiritual nature of God cannot be communicated until the mind is ready to receive it, and then it is uttered in one word, and comprehended in one moment. The vanity of a parent may be mortified, that his child does not know any thing of these high mysteries, at an age when other children of whom we read in good books, have been found disputing with the doctors about the trinity and the compound nature of the Redeemer. But this vanity, like many other human errors, needs the restraint of reason. For if it be asked, how long should this state of things be kept up? I would answer, as long as possible. If man is never to enter into the kingdom of heaven but as a little child, I would gladly keep him as a little child to the day of his death. But as this is not possible, I would apply my answer to the actual state of facts, and say that the discipline of love should be continued as long as love continues to supply the necessary motives to necessary restraint.
I would therefore venture to recommend the imposition of no restraints, and no tasks, but such as are necessary; and if possible, I would impose only such upon an infant as are obviously necessary, and, on an older child, such as he can be clearly made to see the necessity of. Such a system not only prolongs the reign, and confirms the habit of love, but prepares the mind to acquiesce with entire confidence in the wisdom and discretion of the parent. Let care therefore supply, as much as possible, the place of authority. Let the mother's eye be on her child, and then, instead of turning him loose with a code of unexplained laws upon his back, she will have it in her power to draw his attention from unlawful to lawful objects, and to lead him away unconsciously from forbidden places. The beautiful story of the mother who bared her bosom to draw away her child from the edge of the cliff, illustrates this idea.
I would say then to christian parents, prolong as much as possible the season of childhood--the empire of endearment and love; prolong that season when the hearts of your children are all your own, and divide them with God. Let their heads alone. No one ever teaches a child to talk. He learns it of himself more readily and more perfectly, than he can ever afterwards acquire a new language under the most skilful instructor. He has enough to do in acquiring those ideas which are necessary to him, and are suggested by the objects around him. He learns a great deal, and it is easy to help him to learn, without giving him lessons. He may have nothing of what we would dignify by the names of _knowledge_ and _wisdom_, but he will acquire a great deal of _sense_, and may have very just notions of what it is to be a good boy, without having his mind perplexed with definitions of sin. The spirit of imitation will keep him busy. Teach him to love you, and he will need no command to make him try to do what he sees you do. Let him crawl. He will not long be content to go on all fours, when he sees his beloved and honored father walking erect. Curiosity will make him eager enough to know the meaning of letters, and he will esteem it a privilege to be allowed to look at round O, and crooked S, and to be taught to read for himself in the pretty picture books, out of which his dear mother is in the habit of reading entertaining stories to him. Keep bad examples from before his eyes, and the opportunities of mischief out of his way, and keep his heart alive to a sense of the love of his parents and the love of God, until his mind has time to settle into a HABIT of love, obedience and virtue.
For reasons of the same sort, I would refrain from presenting in the second stage of education, any views of religion that to the literal and unpractised mind of a child, _might seem_ at variance with his earlier conceptions of the divine character. I am very sure that any doctrines _actually_ at variance with them must be false; and though I believe that none such may be entertained by any sincere and intelligent christian, yet it has somehow so happened, that many modes of expression have obtained currency in the world, which a novice would be startled at. I should therefore be careful, not to go beyond the plain letter of scripture in explaining to him religious truth.
The well digested form of sound doctrine as it is there set forth, would be almost my sole reliance. I would be careful to accompany this with appeals to his own experience and observation for the truth, that, as a general rule, it is our own fault if we are not happy. That occasionally, indeed, we receive injury at the hands of others, and that therefore it is that we are so often led to fall into pits of our own digging, that we may be not so fond of digging them in future. I would endeavor thus to familiarize him with a sense of the necessity of punishment, as the preventive of evil, and to enable him to comprehend to what lengths of mischief the simple principle of self-love would impel the best imaginable finite being, if he could feel perfectly sure that no manner of harm to himself could possibly arise from the indulgence of any desire. This idea, as it seems to me, is capable of being placed in plain colloquial language, in so clear a light, that any ingenuous mind would be readily brought to acquiesce in the necessity of God's moral government of the moral universe, in the necessity of punishing sin in order to prevent it, and the true benevolence of resolutely inflicting the necessary punishment, as the preventive of the far greater sum of suffering which the impurity of sin would produce. I should not fear that a mind habituated throughout to cherish the sentiments of gratitude and love, would be slow to understand, or reluctant to believe a plan of comprehensive and _general utility_ devised by the spirit of universal benevolence for the _greatest possible good_ of the whole, or impatient to endure such portion of evil, as, in the execution of such a plan, it might be called to bear.
I should anxiously endeavor to make my pupil sensible, that a plan of coercion, intended to procure a cheerful, affectionate and happy obedience, (and no other obedience can be happy,) must be understood by those who are made subject to it, to be so intended, and to explain to him the decisive proof of such intention which is afforded, when the ruler himself condescends to endure a portion of the punishment due to the sins of his people, and graciously pardons all whom this exhibition of his goodness brings to sincere repentance.
With these suggestions, gently insinuated from time to time, and containing as I verily believe the pure milk of the word, the best aliment for youthful minds, I should content myself, and leave him to seek the confirmation of these ideas in the Bible; nor would I suffer him, until on the verge of manhood, to puzzle his understanding and _afflict his spirit_ with the perusal of works of theology.
In confirmation of the ideas I have suggested, let me beg the reader to observe how much more readily, and more frequently, the principles of religion take root in female minds, than in those of men. How many examples do we see among them of the most tender and fervent piety, and how seldom do we find it incumbered with the heavy lumber of theological learning, or frittered down into nice and shadowy distinctions. Yet are they wise unto salvation, possessing that faith by which the _heart_ believeth unto righteousness, though perhaps unable to give any other reason for their faith, than that God is love, and in proof of his love gave himself to die for the sins of the world. Whence comes this tendency among them to imbibe this simple and saving faith, unless it be from the peculiarities of their education? The discipline of infancy is prolonged with them. They are kept under the eye of the mother, whose unsuspected vigilance supplies the place of commands, imposes an unperceived restraint, and renders the habits of decorum, propriety, meekness and obedience, a sort of second nature. Restrained only by the silken cord of love, whose weight they feel not, they never strain against it, nor try to throw it off. Their minds and tempers are formed rather by habit than precept, and their obedience is secured, not by punishment or the fear of it, but by prevention. They are accustomed to do right, because they have no opportunities of doing wrong, without violating that instinct of propriety, which makes it painful to do what we feel to be wrong in the presence of those we love. When left to themselves, they do what is right, because they have been long accustomed to do it; and they know it to be right, because thus acting, they have always lived in the enjoyment of those peaceable fruits which an upright conduct can alone produce.
It will be seen that many of my remarks on the subject of instruction, apply also to that of discipline. I have already shown that the discipline, whose purpose is to prepare the child for his duties to his parents, should be modified by a proper regard to his duties to God. In like manner, that which may be called religious discipline, should be so regulated as not to counteract what has been already done. _Parental_ training, if I may so distinguish it, should be so managed as to cultivate the love of the child for his parents; _religious_ training, so as to cultivate his love for God. It would be strangely inconsistent, that we should be careful not to offend and estrange a child by imposing on him, of our own authority, any harsh, unexplained and inexplicable commands, and at the same time load him, by the alleged command of God, with burthens grievous to be borne. Duties which he is not old enough to understand the nature of, are not his duties. There is no more violation of God's law in a child of a certain age playing on the Sabbath, than in the sports of a puppy. Yet long before he is old enough to be capable of a violation of this law, it is a matter of great importance that he should be gradually and carefully trained, and prepared to obey it. In this training, I would carefully avoid any thing like austerity. I would familiarize his infant ear to the name of _Sunday_, and accustom him to regard it as a day of privileges. Put on his best clothes, caress him, praise him, warn him to keep himself sweet and clean, make him take notice that every body else is so, and that nobody is made to do any work, and all because it is Sunday; make him observe the staid and quiet behavior of every body about the house, and see how soon he will get his little stool, and set up with his hands before him, and try to _behave pretty_ too. When this is done, enough is done for the beginning. When he is tired of imitating the grave demeanor of others, let him go. The spirit of imitation will return again and again; the habits it induces will make a deeper and deeper impression, and if he is carefully imbued with a love for his parents, and a love for God, without being taught to dread and hate the Sabbath, he will be thus well prepared to submit cheerfully to its restraints, by the time he is old enough to know the reason of them. Let him see that you too, submit to them cheerfully. Let him miss nothing of your accustomed kindness or amenity of manner on that day. Do not let him learn to think of it as "a day for a man to afflict his soul, and hang down his head like a bull-rush," a day of fault-finding, and formal observance, and Judaical austerity. In short, let him see that you esteem the Sabbath as a day of privilege, and leave the rest as much as possible to the spirit of affectionate imitation.
I would say the same of other religious duties. Do not force the little drowsy urchin to sit up to family prayers. When he happens to do so, let him hear you thank God in simple terms for the privilege of being permitted to pray to him, and implore of him blessings whose value he feels and knows. If you find occasion to preach in your prayers, (a bad practice by the way,) do not preach about matters which none but a Doctor of Divinity can be expected to understand.
On the interesting subject of fashionable amusements, as they are called, I own I feel more difficulty. It chiefly arises from the consideration that the youth who is old enough to take an interest in such amusements, is at a more unmanageable age than formerly. It is not so easy to restrain him, without letting him be conscious of the restraint. It is not so easy to draw him off from a pernicious pursuit, to one less dangerous. He is no longer to be satisfied with those cheap equivalents for forbidden gratifications, which made it easy to command his obedience, without estranging his affections. The whole business of education at this stage, is a difficult and delicate operation. I cannot imagine any general rule for a class of cases as various as all the infinite varieties of the human character. Let us suppose some of them.
If, in spite of all the care that had been taken to soften and subdue his heart, and beguile him from self-love to the love of his friends, and of God his best friend, if in spite of all this he continued obdurate, wilful and rebellious, I am conscious that I should be at my wit's end. I do not know but that in such a case, it would be the part of wisdom to yield to those feelings which a parent would naturally experience, and, acting as in obedience to the unerring instincts of nature, to resort to severity instead of tenderness, and endeavor to bring down his heart with sorrow. As a part of such a system, it would be a matter of course, to deny him this indulgence.
A different case would be that of a youth of mercurial temper, and warm feelings, who had grown up in habitual love and reverence for his parents and his Maker, and whose buoyant spirit and restless temper, and keen appetite for enjoyment, might render him impatient of such restraint. Even in this case I should not too readily relax it. I should endeavor if possible to ascertain whether it might be enforced without impairing those tender and reverential sentiments. If so, I should enforce it. If not, I would yield with undissembled reluctance, but without reproach. I should endeavor to draw him into a contest of generosity, with a hope that he would not long consent to be outdone. But in no case would I surrender the end for the means, and do violence to the best, and kindliest, and holiest affections of the human heart, and run the risk of destroying them, by restraining a youth from things not evil in themselves, but only evil in their tendencies. The only antidote to the love of pleasure, is the love of God. In truth the great evil of the love of pleasure, is that it is an antidote to the love of God, and when the authority of God is used to force one away from a much coveted enjoyment, there is danger that it may but make him love God less, and pleasure more. But it is the saying of a wise man, that where an appetite for any thing actually exists, the best security against excess, is in a regulated indulgence; and to this indulgence I would resort with an humble hope that my pupil might find wisdom to add this too to the list of blessings experienced at the hands of his Maker, until the victory should at last result to him to whom it belongs.
For the remaining case of a young man having no taste for such pleasures, and content to spend his time in reading and meditation, I would prescribe nothing more than this; that he should not be encouraged to bless God that he was not as other men, but be kept on the alert by a warning that sin enters into the heart by more avenues than one.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
EXTRACTS FROM MY MEXICAN JOURNAL.
Festival of San Agustin de Las Cuevas--El Paséo de Las Vigas.
MAY 23d, 1825.--Yesterday and to-day we attended the festival at _San Agustin de las Cuevas_. The avenues leading to this little town, were thronged with people on foot, on asses, on mules, on horses, and in coaches drawn by six or eight mules. The whole population of Mexico seemed flocking to it and to _Istapalapa_, at which latter place is the feast of the Indians. Most persons take lodgings for the three or four days of the _Pascua_, for which they pay enormous rent. From day-light until ten o'clock, these pious christians hear mass in the parish church. We had to travel four or five leagues, and, therefore, did not arrive in time to witness these religious solemnities; but at twelve, we were introduced into the cock-pit--a rough, circular building, with seats around it rising one above the other--and in the centre, an area serving as an arena for the combatants. Its roof, high and open to admit light and air, was decorated with long wide shreds of various colors--diverging from the centre--all in scenic taste. The seats were soon filled with spectators of all ages, sexes and classes. The most fashionable ladies of Mexico were present, and the most distinguished men of the republic were engaged in betting heavily on the champions of the pit. The noisy clamor of fifty voices, seeking bets with stentorian cries, warned us of the approaching fight. The cocks, armed with sharp slashers, like double edged sabres, are arrayed before us--suddenly the pit is cleared--an awful silence prevails--they rush to the conflict--a few moments decide the fate of one--and all is again confusion. For three hours the sport continues, to the great diversion of the spectators, who appear to take an eager interest in the cruel scene. The women around me were betting and smoking, and two friars sat at my right hand. What a picture of Mexican customs is before us! Women--fashionable women, and priests in a cock-pit on a Sunday! 'Tis quite bad enough for us to be seen here, but we are curious travellers, and must observe every thing we can. After witnessing a few fights, we visited the gambling rooms, to see the game of _monte_, which resembles faro. The tables were loaded with doubloons and dollars, and surrounded by players, who, in a few minutes, won and lost many hundreds. Here I saw no women betting, but there was one a looker on like myself, but I don't know if the scene was as novel to her as to me. On walking next through the plaza, I observed all species of games, at which the blanket gentry--male and female--young and old--were trying their fortune, invited in many instances by an image of the Virgin or of some patron saint. Gambling is, I may safely conclude, the general vice of this nation. Drunkenness is not common in these assemblages, and is confined chiefly to the Indians.
[Footnote 1: Whitsuntide is the period for this festival.]
[Footnote 2: Mr. Ward, who is good authority, states that "the bank at these tables varies from 1,000 doubloons (16,000 dollars) to 3,000 doubloons, (48,000 dollars.) Fifty or sixty of these (800 or 1,000 dollars,) are an ordinary stake upon the turn of a card; but I have seen as many as six hundred and twenty, (9,920 dollars,) risked and won."--_Ward's Mexico_.]
After dinner, we walked to a green plot without the village, where the ladies were dancing to the music of two or three guitars. At this amusement we left them each evening, and returned to the Hacienda. At night the cock-pit is carpeted, and converted into a ball room. Thus the fashionable people of the city of Mexico, celebrate for three successive days this religious feast.
In choosing San Agustin for these amusements, the selection is certainly a good one. Conveniently situated at the edge of the plain of Mexico, about twelve miles from the city, to the south, the site is very pretty, and the scenery is extremely gay in contrast with the sterility which immediately surrounds the capital. Water is so abundant in this village, that every garden is irrigated, and the trees and plants always possess a freshness of verdure which is rarely seen upon the table land. The mountain of _Ajusco_ rises behind the town--the tallest peak of this southern ridge--its top is rugged and barren. It is sometimes sprinkled with snow during the winter. A remarkable bed of lava from an adjacent peak, overlays a large corner of the plain near _San Agustin_, round the point of which the road leads from Mexico--so distinctly is it defined, that it is easy to imagine the melted mass flowing from the furnace of the volcano till it gradually congealed.
[Footnote 3: The _Cerro_ of Ajusco is, according to Humboldt, 12,119 feet above the sea--consequently 4,649 feet above the plain on which the city of Mexico is situated.]
* * * * *
FEBRUARY 26th, 1826. I have just returned from witnessing the gayest sight which Mexico ever presents. This is the promenade of _Las Vigas_.
_El Paséo de Las Vigas_ is a beautiful road just without the inhabited part of the city, at its south-eastern extremity. It is bordered by double rows of aspins and willows; and upon one side of it, passes the canal which connects the lakes of _Chalco_ and _Tescuco_. Though it is the month of February, nature has assumed the gay mantle of spring--all is verdant--all is smiling with luxuriant sweetness. The temperature of the shade is most delightful.
At the moment when the sun, sinking behind the mountains, has lost its oppressive warmth, the population of Mexico pours itself upon this charming spot. Hundreds of coaches roll along amid multitudes on horseback and on foot. These ponderous vehicles, uniform in shape, are various in their decorations, showing the several fashions which prevailed at the time of their construction;--some adorned with paintings commemorative either of heathen mythology or of remarkable historical events; the pannels of some tell us of sieges or of battles in days long gone by; some represent the perils of the deep; others exhibit Neptune riding gently upon his subdued waves, or perhaps the "pale Diana" or the "laughing Venus," or Calypso in her grotto using her bewitching sorceries to win the youthful hero. These, and similar devices, mark the period of vice-regal magnificence, and are now peculiar to the hackney coach. Those of modern date, are in better taste, being painted modestly, of a uniform color, but the wheels and carriage part are generally richly gilded.
The coaches are filled with well dressed women--I won't say that many of them are beautiful--who recognize their acquaintances by a coquetish quirk of the fan--(a never-failing attendant even in coldest weather)--or an active play of the fingers, at which the Mexican ladies are very dexterous, and which might be misconstrued by the uninitiated as a beckon to approach. Horsemen, in the characteristic costume of the country elsewhere described, pass and repass, exhibiting their proud and gallant steeds; and the multitude on foot display their Sunday dresses, in which there has been of late a manifest improvement.
The canal is strewed with boats, crowded with passengers of the lowest class, who are amusing themselves with guitars, to which they sing and dance. They return decorated with flowers woven into a chaplet, which, contrasted with the black hair hanging down in a single plait behind, of a pretty Mestiso girl, renders her quite interesting, notwithstanding her copperish color.
All these in themselves present a highly exhilarating picture; but added to the fine prospect of the mountain barriers of the Mexican plain, and especially of the snowy peaks of the volcanoes of Puebla which rise in full view to the south-east, this scene can scarcely be equalled.
As pleasing however, as the scene is, and though we meet none but smiling faces, yet I cannot refrain from observing that remarkable inequality so revolting to the feelings of a republican. Marchionesses and countesses with the richest jewels, are seen at one glace with the poor _lepero_, whose all is the single blanket which hides his nakedness. Nor is it agreeable to see a strong guard of cavalry, whose attendance it must be presumed, is necessary to prevent disorder. Sentinels, indeed, are posted around and in all the public buildings of Mexico--they are posted at the entrance to the halls of Congress and to the galleries, in various parts of the palace, (a name by which the government house is still known,) where the President resides, and in which are the public offices--and they are posted even in the theatre. I am sorry thus to detract any thing from the scene which I witnessed this evening with so much pleasure, but candor requires it.
Lent has now commenced. Public amusements (except occasionally a concert at the theatre,) and large parties are suspended for a while. The ladies complain occasionally of ennui. Their present diversion is stupid enough. They assemble in small _tertulias_ every night at each others' houses, and play an uninteresting game with cards, called lottery. The sole object achieved is to kill time, of the value of which Mexicans have no idea, for in themselves they have no resources whatever. Reading is so irksome they cannot endure it--and work of any kind costs labor. They can do naught but eat, sleep, smoke, talk, and visit the theatre.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
NATURE AND ART.
There is extant a beautiful tradition relative to the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, when she "proved him with hard questions," in order to ascertain the greatness of his wisdom and the acuteness of his ingenuity. She ordered before him two vases of elegant flowers--one natural, the other artificial, but of workmanship and colors so exquisitely beautiful, that to detect in them any unlikeness or inferiority to the genuine ones, seemed beyond the power of the human eye. They were placed in a lattice which opened on a parterre of the royal palace, the appropriated residence of swarms of bees, which were engaged in gathering their delicious food. The King ordered the lattice to be opened, and the gathering and nestling of the bees among the honied petals of the natural blossoms, developed at once the eye-defying secret and the ingenuity of the monarch.
The wily Queen at the lattice placed Twin vases, rich and rare, Each with a cluster of blossoms graced, Beautiful, bright and fair. Roses, the glory of Sharon's vale-- Lilies of thousand hues, Such as are rock'd by Judean gales And nursed by her crystal dews, Mingled in beauty their tints of light;-- "Which," said the royal dame, "Are the fresh-born buds of the day and night? And which from the artist came?" The Tyrian dyes and the Tyrian skill, Glow'd in the art-made flowers,-- Those that were nursed by the gurgling rill Or petted in Flora's bowers, No grace of fashion or shade could show With the beauteous things to vie; Alas! for him who the truth must know Alone by his own keen eye. But the lattice ope'd on a soft parterre That blushed to the sun's warm kiss, And Bees at their nectar banquet there Revelled in summer bliss. "Open the lattice," the Monarch cried-- Sweet in the melting ray The humid blossoms the Bees descried, And pilfered the sweets away. Trembled in pride on their wiry stems The flowers that the artist made, But show'd not a cup where the honied gems Or soft farina laid. _Fragrance was not!_ oh! the blighted heart, Lured in a fatal hour, By the dazzling glow of deceptive art, Like a Bee to the scentless flower,-- How it turns in the blight of its grief away From the figure that _looks_ so fair, But in Love's own blessed, unclouded ray, Is soulless and senseless there!
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
A TALE OF THE WEST.
FOUNDED ON FACT.
The course of true love never did run smooth.--_Shakspeare_.
The incidents which I am about to relate, suggest some very natural reflections. He who now migrates to the mighty west, in pursuit of wealth or fame, encounters none of those innumerable hidden and open dangers which thronged the way of those who turned their faces thitherward half a century ago; he feels not, nor need he possess, the adventurous spirit, the intrepidity, and the astonishing resoluteness and daring of those brave and hardy pioneers. They ascended the lofty Alleghany, and looked off upon the ancient and almost unbroken forest, extending far beyond the Mississippi, and covering the vast valley which lay between them and the Rocky Mountains; while only here and there a small settlement, composed of a few families collected together for mutual convenience, and defence against their common enemy, disturbed its solitary reign. So soon as they entered upon it, they met with a foe the most wary and subtle, the most sleepless and untiring in his hostility, the most vigilant to seize every opportunity to satiate his bloodthirsty disposition, inflicting the most cruel and merciless tortures, and murdering indiscriminately every age and sex; the bold and dauntless husband, who met him hand to hand in murderous conflict, the helpless imploring wife, and the innocent babe sleeping upon her bosom, ruthlessly torn from her dying grasp, fell alike beneath the deadly blow of the savage, as he smiled with a fiendish satisfaction over his bloody deed. And is there no cause to mitigate our anger when contemplating such scenes? Is there no excuse for the wild, uncivilized Indian, though pursuing with a hatred the most vindictive his enemy, yet displaying towards his _friend_ a noble and disinterested conduct which puts to blush the enlightened white man? Yes! They had discovered the designs of the whites; oppressed with a thousand wrongs, driven from their homes and the tombs of their ancestors, to which they are more fondly attached than any other people,--"hunted down like the partridge upon the mountain," they had formed a deadly hostility, an undying revenge against those, whom, when few and defenceless, they had received with open arms, and by whom they were now, viper like, stung to the heart; and they had stationed themselves upon the verge, and lurked throughout what they believed to be their own possession, their own inheritance,--determined to dispute every foot of it with those who were encroaching upon them, and pursuing with a steady purpose their extermination.
Slowly would the emigrant plod his weary and fearful way, for months, before he could reach the place of his location, his thoughts frequently recurring to the peaceful and quiet abode he had left, for a home in the wilderness filled with multiplied hazards. Here a small hut was erected to shelter his family, while he labored from morn till night, with his rifle by his side to protect him from his insatiate enemies, bent upon the destruction of all who invaded their territory. Almost every day, reports of aggravated murders perpetrated by the Indians reached his ears, filling his family with alarm and terror lest they should become the next victims; and himself liable at every moment to be hurried off from them upon an expedition to drive back the enemy, and check for a while their invasion of the settlements. No one ever felt secure; and never did they retire to rest without taking all necessary precaution to repel an attack, and barring securely every entrance into the house. And even in the more dense settlements, should they collect together for the purpose of divine worship, it was necessary that every one should meet well armed, lest even _there_ they might be attacked by their relentless and implacable enemy.
Now how changed the scene! What wonders have fifty years effected! The mighty tide of emigration has rolled on rapidly, diffusing prosperity and every convenience in its train. The vigorous and powerful arm of the government, after all other proffered terms had been rejected, has forced the savage hordes beyond the limits of the Union, or reduced them to a tame submission, and subdued their natural warlike and ferocious disposition by the introduction among them of the arts and principles of civilization. The inhabitant upon the most extreme western frontier, feels as secure in his log cabin as the wealthy farmer upon the seaboard. Under the fostering protective wing of a free constitution, the population has swelled to an astonishing amount. _States_ have sprung up, exercising a large degree of weight and influence in the government, where but yesterday the red man, now constrained to retire, pursued through the tangled woods the wild deer, secure and undisturbed in his enjoyment by the presence of one single envious _pale face_. Where once the savage held his frantic revels or pitched his wigwam, now stands the populous and flourishing city, whose spires pierce the clouds, and where arts, science, and literature, flourish in all the vigor of maturity. Cultivated farms and splendid mansions, occurring at short intervals, beautify the interior, where but lately the wild beasts roamed their native forests. Upon the placid bosoms of the most noble and beautiful streams, where once naught was seen or heard but the rough hewn canoe of the Indian and the dip of his paddle, now may be constantly heard "the puff of the engine and flutter of the wheel" of that most beneficial production of Fulton's immortal genius, as it rides majestically by, wafting to a profitable market the productions of a fertile and alluvial soil. For the advantage of commerce and the facility of communication, distant waters have been united and noble thoroughfares constructed from one section of the country to the other; mountains have been levelled and plains elevated. An energetic government sends with unrivalled rapidity, and unerring certainty, intelligence of every kind from one end of the Union to the other, so that the most distant friends scarcely realize their separation. The whole region now teems with industry and enterprise. Independence, ease, contentment and hospitality characterize the inhabitants. The emigrant from the eastern states now leaves his home and his friends with a light heart, for a country where merit receives its reward, where he will meet with success in every undertaking, and where wealth or fame will crown his labors. And all this in fifty years! The valley of the Mississippi, _then_ a wilderness, _now_ a populous and mighty empire! What unbounded resources, what powerful energies do the people of this country possess! What glorious and encouraging fruits are these, of self government--of a republican constitution.
Among the emigrants to Ohio, just after the revolution, were a Mess. Claiborne and Newton, who removed, with their families, from one of the tide-water counties of Virginia, and settled upon the beautiful banks of the Scioto, some distance above its mouth. Mr. Newton selected as a site for his dwelling, a small hill upon the west side of the river, gently descending to the water's edge, sparsely covered with the tall majestic trees of the forest, and commanding a delightful prospect of the river, as it lay like a polished mirror reflecting the sunbeams from its smooth surface, or gently rippling as the soft breezes of evening played upon its bosom; also, of the extensive rich bottoms on either hand, and of the extensive woodland in front. Behind, the country gracefully undulated, presenting the pleasing variety of hill and dale, of wood and prairie. It was, in fact, a charming situation. And long since that time, the enterprise of another owner has made it the most handsome country seat in the state. A noble mansion now crowns the hill with every ornamental appurtenance, while the flats on each side, regularly divided, wave in golden plenty, or are clothed in living green, on which hundreds of cattle graze, or repose beneath a few of the old trees which are yet standing. It fails not to arrest the attention and call forth the admiration of the passenger along the Scioto. 'Twas here Mr. Newton built him a tolerably convenient cabin, and commenced his labors. He had taken up a large tract of country, sufficient to present each of his children with a handsome patrimony. To the bank was moored a graceful sail boat, such as had never floated on those waters before, and which glided upon their even current as "a thing of life." This was kept principally for the purpose of visiting Mr. Claiborne, who had selected a level grove about half a mile above, on the other side, in full view of Mr. Newton's. Directly to the rear, a frowning cliff reared itself to the clouds; the river laved the rocky bank in front, down which there was a descent by a flight of steps hewn out of the limestone, where also was tied a small sail boat. There was, however, a broader and better way a little above. Mr. Claiborne too, had made extensive surveys in the country, intending to divide his large possessions among his children. Modern improvements have also made this a spot upon which the eye of the delighted and tasteful traveller is pleased to linger.
An undisturbed intimacy had ever existed between these two families; and now that they were separated entirely, as it were, from the rest of the world, exposed to a common danger, and were pursuing no clashing interests, it had refined into a warm and steady friendship. A constant intercourse was kept up between them, and means provided to communicate immediately the alarm, should danger threaten. These two gentlemen being in the prime and vigor of manhood, labored with untiring industry. As there was no underwood, and the trees were tall and did not grow very thick together, _girdling_ sufficed, and they soon had a considerable farm prepared for planting Indian corn.
The woods abounded in excellent game, and they frequently accompanied each other in hunting excursions, but never venturing too far, for fear of accidents or attacks from the Indians; and always taking along their eldest sons, in order to gratify their anxiety; but principally to instil into them a bold, fearless, and adventurous spirit,--to teach them some of the rudiments of the arts and stratagems of border warfare,--and to train them to a skilful management of their rifles,--all qualifications indispensably necessary for the inhabitants of an unsettled and hostile country.
Among all the youths of these two families, Charles Claiborne had early attracted notice. He displayed indubitable evidences of a superior intellect, the most gratifying to his father, and which at the same time won for him the respect and love of his associates. No envious feelings rankled in their pure bosoms; they sincerely admired him, and felt that in hours of peril to his skill, intrepidity and bravery, they must principally look for safety. He had now nearly attained his eighteenth year, tall and erect as an Indian Chief, possessing an ease and grace the most simple and natural. No mark of effeminacy was visible about his manly frame; compact, nervous, and as active as the wild panther which he hunted. His high, broad and open forehead, over which his smooth dark locks fell in neglected richness, betokened the freeness and equability of his disposition, and at the same time his resoluteness and determination; and a slight wrinkle betrayed the existence of busy thought. Beneath an arched projecting brow, his dark gray eye shot forth the fire of youth and genius. It shone with a peculiar lustre; it would kindle with indignation or contempt, as he contemplated crime or baseness, or soften down to tenderness as a tale of woe or distress enlisted his sympathies. The whole contour of his face was of a perfect mould. Devotedly fond of intellectual culture, of acquiring information, he soon made himself master of the little library which his father had brought with him, composed of a few standard histories, Shakspeare and the Spectator; and was now, at every spare interval, drawing rich stores of legal knowledge from a musty old Coke, which he found among the rubbish brought in his father's wagon, determined to "offer his professional services" to the litigious part of the community when the country should become more densely populated.
Several other families had already settled in the neighborhood, and Charles was deservedly the favorite of them all. But there was _one_ to whom I shrewdly suspect he was even now _peculiarly_ agreeable, and for whom the kind and obliging neighbors,--who will have their young acquaintances in love or engaged, any how, and who arrange all such matters in their gossiping conclaves without the conusance of the parties,--had already allotted him. In this case they were not (as usual) without some ground for their suspicions.
Eliza Newton was now arrived at that most interesting period in a woman's life, just sixteen, when combined with the simplicity and coyness of the girl, she possesses many of the graces and charming attractive attributes of maturer womanhood. Like the opening rose, which displays its crimson folds at morn before one sunbeam has kissed the dew-drop from its leaves of softest texture, or dimmed its fresh rich tints, her loveliness was unfolding every day. Like the wild flowers which she loved to gather from the meadow, she had grown up without any artificial culture of fashionable _hot beds_, in all her native sweetness, unpretending beauty, and unaffected modesty. Roaming at will among the delightful groves around her father's dwelling, brushing the early dew with her pretty feet from the fragrant herbage, or wandering at even along the silent banks of the gentle Scioto, when each zephyr
Offered his young pinion as her fan,
she acquired all the freshness and buoyancy of perfect health. Agile as the young roe upon the mountain, she moved with the ease, elegance and elasticity of a Sylph. Not too low to want a sufficient dignity of mien, she was not so tall as to exceed the proper stature of her sex. "Her hair's long auburn waves," curbed by a silken fillet, rolled back from her small white forehead, flowed upon a chiselled neck white as an Alpine mountain top; her dark blue eyes lay sleeping behind long raven lashes, until roused, when they betrayed every sentiment of her soul, beaming with affection or melted with pity; the transcendent hue of her cheeks contrasted finely with the pure, healthful whiteness of her complexion, and her sweet moist lips, just curved out enough to bespeak her mild and even temper. In fine, she was so perfect a model that
The eye might doubt if it were well awake, She seemed so like a vision.
Amiability and kindness were the prominent traits of her character, accompanied with the other female graces. Of a most delicate and acute sensibility, she was keenly alive to the slightest insult, and would repel it in a firm and dignified manner; but was ever ready to pour the balm of reconciliation into a wound mistakenly inflicted. She carefully forebore to speak disrespectfully of any one, and always endeavored to place their conduct in the fairest light, which sprang from the pure benevolence of her heart. And yet withal, she had no little of the pride of her sex, ready to tear herself from a heart where she had reason to believe she reigned not sole empress; slightly imbued with jealousy, which is frequently a concomitant of the most ardent and devoted attachment, as the deadly viper oft lays encoiled under the bed of violets upon which we are tempted to repose. From the small stock of substantial literature which her father's poorly filled book case afforded, she had cultivated her mind to a degree which thousands fail to do who have _skimmed_ over an Alexandrian library.
Let no one deem these portraitures exaggerated in any respect, for these families were among the most respectable and intelligent on the eastern shores of the Old Dominion; but the barrenness of their sandy plains yielded them but a small quantum of what was necessary to sustain them in their high and expensive mode of living. They found that vast retrenchments were to be made, or they must experience the pinchings of poverty; and, too proud to endure the mortification of either in the midst of their old associates and visiters, they determined to emigrate to the west, where the rich soil affords, with but little labor, abundance of the necessaries of life, while the woods and rivers furnish many of its luxuries.
The parents of Charles and Eliza themselves, had marked with satisfaction and pleasure their growing attachment, and failed not by evidences of approbation to encourage it. And for _once_ the designs of prudent parents and the inclinations of inconsiderate, confiding youths coincided, and promised to result in the happiest of consequences. Would that it _could_ be always so! How many gray hairs would it save from going down to the grave loaded with a weight of sorrow! how many tender hearts would it preserve from an early and hopeless blight! How many lovely and interesting females would it save from tortures worse than the fabled one, of being linked to dead bodies, those of being wedded to rich fools, or sots, or knaves, upon whom they can never place their affections, and whom they frequently hate from their inmost hearts.
Though they had ever been in habits of constant intimacy, taught to view each other in the light of brother and sister, and mingling freely for years in every sport of their childhood, yet a year or two having almost magically brought Eliza to womanhood, she began to feel a strange restraint in the company of Charles, which the presence of no one else produced. As rapidly as the sweet accents might be falling from her active tongue, his entrance hushed them completely; and even he would _labor_ for some time, through a few short sentences. Yet notwithstanding these unusual effects, each felt that the cause which produced them was not unwelcomed; and when _plagued about it_, (as the phrase is) the crimson blush that mantled their burning cheeks, indicated too clearly where arose this sudden alteration in their deportment towards each other,--what had put an end to all the little familiarities before so frequent. Gradually, however, would the leaden weight fall from Charles' tongue; and as he would relate to the company in most graphic and thrilling terms his dangerous pursuit of the fierce panther or infuriated wolf, following them into the most retired recesses, encountering them in their darkest caverns, and drawing them forth dead, to the astonishment of his less venturesome associates,--or his "hair breadth escapes" in wresting from the infuriated she-bear her whelps, the very great interest vividly manifest in Eliza's countenance, the breathless attention with which she hung upon every word and caught each syllable as it fell from his lips, and the quickly averted glance, her color slightly heightening as he _frequently_ directed his eye towards her, soon convinced Charles that he was the object of something more than an ordinary regard in her bosom; nay, that he had actually won her affections. As for himself he had long since been enthralled; nor could it be otherwise. There is in every bosom, susceptibilities for all the emotions; and so soon as causes calculated to excite them are presented, quick as an electric flash the emotions succeed. Thus in love, there is a susceptibility in every mind to be pleased with certain virtues or actions; and when we perceive them, it is as impossible not to admire them as to believe that they have never existed. And when a combination of such qualities without a blemish is discovered in any person, he had as well try to drive back the current of the Mississippi as to resist the inevitable consequence. The emotion of _love_ involuntarily arises; he _must_ love, for such is his mental constitution; the feeling becomes a part of himself; he had no agency in effecting it; he feels not, nor can he feel a disposition to divest himself of it. Circumstances may induce him to check it, to trample it down, to clip each bud as it appears, but he can never extinguish it; he cannot destroy it. But let him give himself up to be bound in its pleasant fetters; let him suffer it to sway an undivided sceptre over him; let him give loose reins to it; let him plunge himself into its delicious tide, and drink with a quenchless thirst its intoxicating draughts; and then let him be thwarted, and no one may safely predict the consequences to even the most powerful intellect, that contemns every other loss or reverse of fortune. Until something is done to excite a contrary emotion, ages of separation cannot dim or extinguish it. For as in some fluids the application of heat may entirely alter their qualities, so in love, a deception or disappointment in some admired or prominent qualification, frequently changes every feeling of regard for the object, into the most bitter and relentless hatred.
A very short time intervened, before Charles summoned the resolution to communicate the existence of his passion. Upon a mild evening in May, as the shadows stretched their gigantic lengths across the plain, Charles moored his little boat at the foot of the hill, and ascended to Mr. Newton's. Eliza (as usual) met him at the door, and ushered him into an apartment denominated the parlor, though appropriated to various uses. They were seated by an open window toward the west, along the frames of which a honey-suckle twined its clinging tendrils; the mild, red rays of the setting sun peered through its thick foliage, and added a brighter tint to Eliza's fine complexion; the evening dews were falling upon the blooming honey-suckle, which breathed its fragrant odors upon the happy pair. She seemed to look peculiarly sweet and lovely. A few desultory remarks upon the serenity and pleasantness of the evening, and then--in language which I shall not detail--he poured out his heart's fulness into her ear. At this avowal, her face budded into a rich rubescent glow, and the veins in her clear, round neck, swelled almost to bursting. She replied not; but a yielding of her soft little hand, which be involuntarily pressed to his lips, confirmed the happiness of the enraptured swain--and blew into an inextinguishable flame, that spark of love, which he had long cherished within his heart, and fanned with a sleepless assiduity. He soon departed for his father's; he rowed slowly up the river, whose waves reflecting the moonbeams, seemed like molten gold, while the stars twinkled brightly above him: the scene was enchanting, and his already excited feelings caught the inspiration. A plunge against the bank awakened him from his reverie, and he discovered that he was far above his father's. The delighted girl retired to her room, and wept herself to sleep--when she dreamed incessantly of Elysian fields, and happy islands upon the bosom of the deep blue sea, through which she and her Charles roamed happy as their fabled inhabitants. Very _frequently_ after this, was Charles' little boat seen gliding, in the cool of the evening, towards Mr. Newton's; and he seemed much more addicted to hunting of late, particularly on the _west_ side of the river, especially as he never failed, on his return from his fatiguing rambles, to meet at Mr. Newton's the best refreshments, prepared in Eliza's most tasty style.
Thus a year marched onward in the track of time, unmarked by any unusual incident. The parties heeded not its rapid flight, but enjoying together every amusement and innocent pleasure which their imaginations could devise, they lived in a state the nearest to bliss they ever saw on earth.
Early however, in the following summer, as Mr. Claiborne's family were sitting beneath a large oak in the yard, being refreshed by the pure, cool breezes from the river, Charles espied Eliza wandering, with a little sister, along the meadows on the opposite side, gayly and joyously taking her accustomed recreation, and plucking the innumerable wild flowers that decorated her path. So long had this settlement been undisturbed, that a dread of the savages no longer existed; both children and females walked miles unaccompanied, and without the least apprehension of danger, relaxing their precaution in many particulars. While Charles was eyeing with delight Eliza's graceful movements, he saw two Indians dart suddenly from the edge of a thick copse of pawpaw, and seizing the frantic girl and child, bear them off, shrieking, into the woods. Charles distinctly heard the screaming, which pierced his inmost soul. "My God!" he exclaimed, "she is taken;" and springing from his seat, he rushed into the house. The affrighted family followed him, to learn the cause of his conduct; but all he said was, "the Indians have taken her! have taken her!" Excited almost to madness, seizing his rifle, he flew to the stable, mounted his fleet hunter without his saddle, and calling his faithful bloodhound, went as fast as his charger, urged on by every incentive, could carry him; and at the same time crying, "Indians! Indians!" He swam the river, and the astonished family soon saw him entering the woods, his fierce dog upon the track. The alarm was soon given, and the whole neighborhood was in commotion. Charles pursued, as well as he could through the trees, the course of his unerring bloodhound. Swift as the wind, had the Indians run over hill and dale towards the lakes, until long after midnight; thinking they had not been seen, and had eluded pursuit; weary with bearing upon their backs their helpless captives, and reaching a deep ravine, they determined to kindle a fire and prepare some refreshments. They bound each of the girls to a sapling with a strip of bark, and commenced their culinary operations. Scarcely had they been seated an hour, before Charles approached, and seeing the light, called in, softly, his hound, and dismounted to reconnoitre. A moment's observation satisfied him. He could see but one of the Indians, and he sat just beyond Eliza, his _head_ only perceptible above her's. The least tremor or precipitancy might defeat his purpose--kill the prized object which he wished to rescue, or place them both at the _mercy_ of the savages. With deliberation, a firm and steady arm, he levelled his rifle, and fired,--the impatient dog at the same time springing forward with the fierceness of a tiger. Charles rushed to the spot, with a drawn knife. One Indian lay senseless weltering in his blood; and seizing a tomahawk, he plunged it into the head of the other, who was engaged in mortal strife with the eager hound, which clung to his throat with an iron grasp. He severed at a stroke the cursed cords that bound the pretty form of his Eliza. As the truth opened to the vision of the enraptured girl, overpowered with joy, she fell insensate into his arms: he drew her closely to his bosom, felt the wild fluttering of her little heart, and kissed to life again her bloodless lips. Gradually she revived, and in the bewildered consciousness of waking, threw her arms around his neck, calling his name in the most tender, affectionate accents. "Could all the hours of hope, joy and pleasure in Charles' previous life, have been melted down and concentrated into a single emotion, that emotion would have been _tame_ to the _rapture_ of Eliza's momentary embrace." Upon complete restoration, she wept with real pleasure; poured out upon her benefactor, her deliverer, her own Charles, ceaseless expressions of gratitude and love--renewed her faithful vows, and "plighted them upon her heart." Ah, why not, in such a moment, let the bright spirit wing its upward flight, nor keep it here to feel the stings of remorse or pain. Day had dawned. This was the first human blood Charles had ever shed; and as he left this eventful spot, yet pointed out to the traveller, he cast an eye of pity upon the senseless corpses, and even then a sigh of regret escaped his tender bosom. Taking Eliza behind him, and her sister before, he pointed out the way to his hound, and commenced his return. He soon met with some of the party who had commenced the pursuit, and with them, returned to bear the precious, rescued captives, to their anxious, miserable parents. Such a day of rejoicing, the settlement had never seen before, when the glad tidings were made known; and the heroic adventure of Charles received the merited applause of all.
[Footnote 1: Bulwer.]
Of late years, there had been a rapid influx of emigrants from the east to this part of the Ohio; and a small village had sprung up, as a mushroom in the night, a few miles below this settlement. To this place all the produce of the country was carried, by the inhabitants, to be exchanged for such articles of necessity or luxury as they wanted. It soon became a flourishing little town. Its necessities called for a post office, to which there was a weekly mail on horseback from the East, and from Fort Washington, (now Cincinnati.) A very respectable merchant of that place was appointed, with general satisfaction, the post master. His name was Bryant, a native of Pennsylvania. He was considered a very honorable and active young gentleman--very prepossessing in his appearance, easy and agreeable in his manners, intelligent, and quite popular. His evident fondness for drinking was not _then deemed_ a disgrace, and his tendency to extravagance was attributed to his generous and liberal disposition; and every body sagely predicted, that age would lop off these excrescences from a character otherwise very good. He had seen Miss Newton several times, and had become enamored of her, and his visits to her father's became very frequent; for though he received no encouragement whatever from the daughter, he was always treated politely and respectfully, and with true old Virginia hospitality, by the parents.
The earnest efforts of the President of the United States, to give security to the northwestern frontier by pacific arrangements, having proved unavailing, it became evident that vigorous offensive operations only would bring the Indian war to a happy conclusion. Accordingly, in 1791, General Harmer was ordered to leave Fort Washington with a considerable body of troops, and to bring the Indians to an engagement, or at least to destroy totally their villages upon the Scioto and Miami rivers. A general call was made upon the militia of Ohio and the surrounding states, to join in this expedition, which if successful, would permanently secure them against the dreadful incursions of their savage foes. Fired with indignation at the late outrage committed in the neighborhood, and impelled by a noble ambition for distinction, young Claiborne commenced enlisting a company of volunteers. He soon succeeded in obtaining a hundred signatures to his list, from the extensive county of Ross, and was unanimously elected their captain. The first of October was appointed as the day for commencing their march.
As much as Eliza admired this manifestation of bravery and patriotism in Charles, and how highly soever she might be pleased to hear of his distinction, this resolve of his was a source of real pain to the affectionate and devoted girl. The innumerable dangers and hardships of Indian warfare, magnified by her attachment to him who was to be subject to them, overwhelmed her with grief and sad apprehensions. Charles' visits to Mr. Newton's were no less frequent than heretofore, and his efforts to console his weeping Eliza, and relieve her fears, were unceasing. He painted to her, her own late fortunate escape, and told her of the salutary consequences to their own security and prosperity, which must ensue from a subjugation of the enemy. She was partly reconciled and resigned. But banish she could not, her forebodings of ill, so natural. Ah! love, why
"With cypress branches hast thou wreathed thy bowers?"
Why is the brimming cup of bliss dashed down just as it touches the opening lips? Why are all our fond hopes delusions--all our realities as fruit of the dead sea, beautiful to the eye, but turning to bitter ashes on the tongue--but to loosen the already too tenacious hold with which we cling to this world, and fasten it on the skies? Who reads not this in every day's experience? Yet who, alas! obeys the warning? With painful, tortured feelings, did this devoted pair note the merciless rapidity with which time bore off the two short weeks yet remaining, before his departure. The last day of September had arrived, and to-morrow Charles must meet his company at the village. Towards evening he rowed over to Mr. Newton's, with a heavy heart; yet fearful of no consequences from his absence, but the pain of a separation from one whose being constituted a part of his own existence. Charles had given up his whole heart, and loved with an ardency stronger than death itself. A melancholy sadness sat upon Eliza's countenance, and a crystal tear-drop glistened in her pensive eye,--which made her appear peculiarly interesting to the devoted Charles. The reader must imagine the thousand mutual vows of unaltered and unalterable affection--the unreserved surrender of the whole heart--the frequent oaths by the immoveable hills--the pressing importunities never to forget or forsake--to casket in each other's heart but one jewel, each other's image--and the innumerable other such things which lovers are wont to pour forth on far less serious occasions. He promised to write frequently; and to insure her of his purpose, he said that should he not, she might properly think that he had forgotten her, and that all his vows were false; for there would be a constant intercourse between the army and Fort Washington,--to which place he could forward his letters, and thence they would certainly come safely by mail. When about to leave, he took her pretty little hand, and drawing a plain gold ring from his pocket, placed it on her slender, tapered finger; and knowing that the blood which flowed beneath his grasp, came warm from a heart that throbbed for him alone, he impressed it with a thousand kisses, and washed them off with his manly tears. Let not the callous, cold-hearted worldling, curl his worthless lip in derision--or the _proud_ man made of sterner stuff, "blush for his sex." Unfeeling indeed, would he have been, had he done otherwise; for there stood the prettiest creature in the world, who had enriched him with an enviable affection, one arm around his neck, her aching head leaning against his breast, and her pure, innocent bosom, which never yet felt the piercings of sorrow's icy dart, heaving with the most convulsive sobs. Who has not felt that the thought of a month's separation from one we love, though conscious of its short duration, sickens the heart? But hope, the mild soother of every ill which betides us, and which brightly gilds our darkest forebodings, could here scarcely administer its delusive consolation; and they were to separate, pained and tortured by the "undying thought, that they _no more_ might meet." He who can look with scorn or coldness on such a scene as this, or calling it weakness, laugh at it,--may keep his poor enjoyment for me, and without my envy, go along his cheerless path, unillumed by a single ray of true and warm affection, himself a stranger to one tender emotion.
The volunteers commenced their march on the morrow, intending to unite with the main body of forces on the Miami; but in a few days met General Harmer on his way to reduce the savages upon the Scioto, and did much brave service in the severe but fruitless conflict on that river,--Claiborne gallantly and heroically distinguishing himself at their head, and obtained a particular notice in the public despatches of the commanding officer. He returned with the troops to Fort Washington, and addressed a letter to his father, and one to Eliza, giving a glowing description of the deadly engagement.
In the disastrous battle upon the Miami, under General St. Clair, he was among the bravest of those who, under General Darke, so daringly charged at the point of the bayonet the concealed Indians, and drove them from their covert twice, but without material advantage; and among those who greatly distinguished themselves for fearlessly fronting the most threatening danger, was Captain Claiborne--and justice was done to his intrepidity and cool bravery in the official despatches. In the glorious battle upon the Maumee, where General Wayne commanded--refusing to surrender the station of commandant of his own brave and hardy volunteers, now greatly reduced, for the office of Colonel in the regular army, he was in the front rank of that legion, which advanced with trailed arms, and hunted the Indians from their concealment, which produced the utter route of the enemy, terminated in their overthrow, and forced them to a tame submission--which eventuated in a definitive treaty of peace in 1795, and brought joy and gladness to the heart of every western citizen.
Four tedious and eventful years had Charles been absent from one, around whom his heart's tenderest affections clung with a deathless tenacity, and for whose sake not one hour in the day o'erslipped him, that he sighed not. Why he never returned while the army was stationed at its various winter quarters, I am unable to say. But unnumbered times had he written the most passionate and affectionate letters; and to them all he had never received an answer. For this he consoled himself with the thought, that they had supposed it fruitless to send letters to one whose situation was so uncertain, or to Eliza's delicacy to entrust her communications to so precarious a mode of conveyance, which was rendered probable by his _father's_ not having written. Any excuse satisfied him, and quelled every doubt of the fidelity of one whose constancy it was painful to _suspect_. 'Twas the thought of her--the thought that the unyielding opposition of these savages so long detained him from her presence, that drove him upon their unshrinking ranks with a tiger-like ferocity, and nerved his arm for the resistless stroke. And now that his object was accomplished, at the head of the few remaining volunteers who started with him, he took up his line of march for the peaceful valley of the Scioto, where he flattered himself he should close his life in tranquillity and with honor, possessed of a treasure, richer far
"Than all the trophies of the victor are."
How false, alas! all human calculations! What a cheat our every hope!
After a long and painful journey, he reached a hill which overlooked his home--that silent valley, where he had enjoyed his only bliss unmixed with grief.
"He stopped. What singular emotions fill Their bosoms who have been induced to roam, With fluttering doubts if all be well or ill?"
He reached his father's house, and was received with the greatest joy by its inmates. They had almost despaired of his return, so long had they been ignorant of his very existence; and his arrival dissipated the cloud of grief which had frequently overshadowed them. The bustle of first greetings over, he had some excellent refreshments set out for his companions; and when they drank his health with repeated cheers, he addressed them for a few minutes in the most feeling strains, expressed his gratitude for the noble and faithful manner in which they had discharged their duties, and wished them years of prosperity and happiness to compensate them for their toils and dangers. When he finished, each one pressing his hand, shouldered his knapsack and left for his own _home_.
And now he hurried to his mother's apartment to gather some intelligence concerning his friends; and to his first inquiry about Eliza, the old lady rather pleasantly remarked, "you staid too long--she's married!" Little did she anticipate the effect this communication produced. With an incredulous air, he replied, "you jest. Eliza Newton, married! dead, rather! no, never. But to whom!" "To Mr. Bryant?" At once the fatal truth flashed upon his mind, and pierced his brain like a hot fire-brand. "_Eliza Newton_, so forgetful, so ungrateful, so inconstant, so _deceitful!_" His heart sunk within him. The object which he adored, _unworthy!_ Suddenly his head drooped to his knee, and one convulsive groan told the anguish of his soul. His mother called to him in soothing accents. He lifted himself, deadly pale, his lips all dabbled with blood, a vein had burst, his fiery eyes gleamed with a wild and unnatural glare, and gazing with a piercing stare upon his petrified mother, he shrieked in a thrilling, fearful tone, "impossible, _she_, false! then where is truth?" and springing to his feet, he fell senseless on the floor. His distracted mother just recovered from her alarm, flew for assistance; he was soon consigned to a bed, and a messenger despatched to the village for a physician. He gazed on all with a vacant stare--his old broken-hearted father sat beside him, and he turned himself away. His weeping sisters sat around his pillow, but he knew them not. His temples throbbed furiously, and his blood coursed through his veins in rapid, boiling waves. All feared that his manly intellect had been shivered by this sudden and tremendous stroke. The physician arrived,--and assured them, that he had hopes that his mind was not irreparably impaired, and by keeping him still and quiet, with the help of some cooling draughts, he might yet recover, though his brain was considerably affected. He remained a while to watch the symptoms, and then leaving such directions as his skill suggested, he left this afflicted family. He returned and reported the case and its cause. The report soon reached the ears of Mrs. Bryant--when with a chilling effect, the remembrance of early affection came across her--the ghosts of by-gone joys stalked around her--but no distraction ensued--_tears_ came to her relief, and quenched the fires that seemed to consume her heart. Frequently the stroke which crushes the stout and stubborn mind of man, only bruises the more pliable and yielding intellect of woman, as the storm before which the slender reed bows to the ground, but rises when it is past, tears up by the roots, and dashes to a thousand pieces the gnarled oak. There was one consoling thought, however, which mitigated the pains that Mrs. Bryant felt. There was another reason which calmed her troubled bosom. Whenever there appears an object of pity, or charity, every feeling of woman is enlisted to administer relief; and as the lighter bodies float upon the surface, self, with all its concerns and every other consideration, for the present, sinks to the bottom,--while tenderness, sympathy and kindness, direct every sentiment and exertion in favor of the sufferer. Such was the case in the present instance. Her husband was from home, and Mrs. Bryant loaded with every thing suited to Claiborne's situation, hastened to her father's, and then to Mr. Claiborne's. She was kindly and affectionately received by the family. Pale and agitated, she entered the apartment of her unfortunate Charles. He turned an unmeaning glance upon her, but recognised her not. This she scarcely regretted, as she might administer each healing potion, or bathe his burning temples, without his knowing the hand which did it. For a week or two she remained at her father's, going over every day, and frequently sitting beside his bed through the long silent watches of the night, ruminating with a bleeding heart, upon her own unfortunate situation, all her affection revived for one she had driven to madness, and whom she could never possess--keen despair and biting remorse, her only reward for the part she had acted in this sad tragedy. As memory retraced upon her mind with a burning finger each happy moment of her youth now gone, and her fond hopes disappointed--she cursed bitterly the hour in which she first saw the light. Unspeakable anguish!--Mr. Bryant returned, _and thought her presence necessary at home_. Reluctantly she obeyed, she feared to see his face. She was deceived--she had never rendered him her whole heart, and even that little seemed now to quit its hold. Censure her not, but listen further. With a sharp reproof for her _imprudence_, Bryant suffered her no more to visit her father's. Submissively she obeyed. She endeavored to respect and appear agreeable to her husband. And by her unceasing exertion she partly succeeded, and he seemed reconciled, but from her heart of hearts, his image was excluded. 'Twas true the nuptials had been celebrated, the troth plighted, but it was all a sacrilege, they had never been united "heart in heart." Her affections had never been _wholly_ estranged from Claiborne. Assidiously after his departure, did Bryant urge his suit, but without the least prospect of success: yet the ardency of his love, suffered no denial to frustrate his designs. He however grew apace, in favor with her father; his bland, and agreeable manners, and business habits, made him quite acceptable to the old gentleman. Two years had now gone by, and yet not one word in any shape from Charles. The defeats of Harmer and St. Clair had reached their ears, and probably he had fallen among the heroic officers, who met their fate in those calamitous engagements. So thought Mr. Newton,--if not, he had treated them very disrespectfully. Eliza was loath to think so. But we have observed that she was acutely sensible, and possessed of some of the pride of her sex. She remembered Charles' last words, and began to suspect they were designedly spoken, and that probably he had gone on this expedition for the express purpose, else why would he have staid so long unnecessarily, as she supposed; and not a syllable had he written her, though two years had elapsed. Even to a less jealous mind these incidents would have been strong confirmations. And dwelling upon them, she wrought herself into the belief that Charles had deceived her--and she determined to be independent, and to tear her affections from him, cost what it might. She sighed that it was so, but gave him up without an effort. Had he never returned, she might probably have lived at least a contented life.
Bryant was scrupulously silent on the subject of Charles' absence or his neglect, suffering it to produce its own effects. Yet Eliza loved _him_ not. But since she had loosed her hold on Charles, she seemed to be out on the boundless sea--without a spot on which to cast hope's anchor; and woman must love something--she loves to love. And yielding to the importunities, the frequent suggestions of her father, who thought it would be a very _prudent_ match, and a very agreeable one with a little exertion on her part--she determined to _hazard_ the throw, and granted Mr. Bryant her hand. Would that parents grown prudent with age, and thinking only of _wealth_, would recall for a moment their own youthful sentiments, and not urge their children into engagements against which every feeling revolts--for however small the defect objected to, or how groundless soever each little prejudice, yet they may produce jars and schisms the most disagreeable and painful, and for which no splendor of equipage or name can ever compensate. The nuptials of Eliza and Bryant were celebrated the fall before Charles' return, with considerable eclat for that quiet settlement. And though the bride seemed calm and contented, yet she had lost her former gaiety and buoyancy of spirits. With the exception of a slight ebullition of anger, occasionally, things had glided on smoothly till Charles' return, and thus they stood at that time.
Slowly and gradually Claiborne recovered his senses and health. After three months close confinement he was so far improved as to be able to ride a little on horseback, or take short excursions upon the river in the sail boat. The presence of old scenes revived his memory, and seemed to strengthen his other faculties. Though pensive ever, yet his alienation returned not. After he had fairly recovered, for the first time, he inquired, if they had never heard from him. When told _never_, he said it was mysterious, as he had written hundreds of times, and first from Fort Washington itself. He said a black deed might yet develope itself. And when informed that Eliza had kindly waited on him, until prohibited by her husband, he exclaimed, "deception! I am satisfied. But let me not stay where every scene sends a dagger to my heart." All preparations were soon made and the unhappy Claiborne left his home, his weeping friends, the haunts of his early youth, and the theatre of his only blissful hours, for the territory of Mississippi, where he practised law. He soon became popular throughout the whole country, and was finally elevated to the Chief Magistracy of the state. After having filled his term of office with distinguished honor, he retired to private life; and soon after sunk to an early grave, "unregretting--regretted by all." Like the meteor flash, his career was brilliant, but transient. With his health he never regained his natural gay and lightsome temperament. Gloomy and melancholy he shunned the abodes of pleasure or merriment--lived in retirement, and cherished within his bosom an unextinguishable flame, that "finally corroded each vital part," and sunk him to the tomb.
Not long after Claiborne's departure, Bryant went upon a trading expedition, and for the first time left his keys with his wife, with the charge, that if a certain person called for some money, to let him have it out of his desk. While there for that purpose, her curiosity--I might say her suspicions--led her to examine the contents of the drawers, when in one, oh! blackest deed on memory's record! oh! most base and villainous deception! She met with a large packet of letters addressed to herself and Claiborne's father. Pale and motionless she stood, struck with amazement and horror. She saw herself the _wife_ of a vile hypocrite--the author of all her own misery and sorrow--the demon of the desolation and blight of happiness she had witnessed in an excellent family--the injurer and almost _murderer_ of the noble and generous Charles Claiborne. The idea froze the blood in her very heart. She read Claiborne's repeated declarations of increasing affection in every letter--the irksomeness of all his pursuits uncheered by her smiles,--his kind but touching reproofs for not writing--his marked effort in every line to please and delight--they were all unsealed and had been read by this cool-blooded villain. The blackness of the deed was aggravated by the deliberation with which it was done, and that too, while he perceived the anxiety and painful suspense of the dearest friends of one, whom he was thus so deeply injuring. The poor Eliza had borne up under all but this; and now that she saw her _husband_ a fiend at heart--her anguish was insupportable--her bosom was racked with every conflicting emotion--her eyes swam--her bewildered brain whirled, and she sank to the floor. How long she lay in this state she knew not; but when she recovered, she replaced every thing carefully, and retired. Ten thousand agonizing reflections inflicted their torments upon her mind. She soon resolved upon her course. Erring on the better side, she determined to endure every suffering, to preserve her _husband_ from ignominy, but to cherish her sorrows, which she hoped would very soon wear out the little of life that remained--
But life's strange principle will often lie, Deepest in those who long the most to die.
And she _did_ live, to be chained yet longer to one she could but hate--she lived to receive the abuse of one who by a hell-engendered artifice seduced her from the sheltering, peaceful roof of her father--she lived to see him a beastly slave to intoxication--she lived to see her whole family reduced to want and misery by becoming sureties for this now unprincipled spendthrift--she lived to see the just retribution of heaven poured out upon the defenceless head, of this serpent, which wound his way into Paradise and brought its inmates to shame and poverty--she lived to see him die in want and disgrace, raving with the agonies of despair. And she herself survived but a short time, a pensioner upon the bounty of a few friends, who received her into their houses, to cheer, if possible, the approaching close of her painful and wretched existence;--which blind, presumptuous man, ignorant of the wise designs of Providence would fain pronounce too severe a fate, for a flower so tender and beautiful in its first buddings.
_Lovingston, Virginia, March 25, 1835_.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
A TALE OF A NOSE.
BY PERTINAX PLACID.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.--_Byron_.
The story which I am about to relate may by some be considered extravagant. I shall not argue the point; but content myself with the reflection that mankind have never yet been unanimous in their opinions in relation to any subject which admitted of a question. There are two special merits which I claim for my story, viz: that it is _brief_, and that it has a _moral_. Such as it is I offer it to the consideration of the reader.
It was a beautiful night in July.--The noble steamer "Dewitt Clinton" was speeding her way through the moonlit waters of the Hudson, thronged with passengers. We had left Albany late in the afternoon; already we had passed the majestic Cattskill, and were entering among those gorgeous scenes of nature which have been celebrated by an hundred pens.--Julia and myself had escaped from the crowd below, to the upper "round house" or roofing of the boat, which commanded an unobstructed view of the objects on either side of the river, and where we were secure from interruption, the myriads below being too busily engaged in contending for berths, and preparing for their night's lodging, to seek out our retreat or participate in the enjoyment of the beauties we were contemplating.
After paying due homage to the magnificent scenery around us, our conversation took a more common-place turn, and, as we had met that day after a long separation, during which Julia had paid a visit to some of our old friends in the north, she detailed to me the many happy meetings and amusing incidents of her excursion. She had gone through a long narration of the sayings and doings of aunts and cousins, and had given me a full list of new members of several families which we remembered in their simple elements, when the fathers and mothers were girls and boys, innocent of all thoughts of matrimony, and ignorant of its joys and sorrows. She enumerated the births, deaths and marriages of a whole village, in each individual resident of which we had felt more or less interest in our early years, and detailed their various changes of fortune and situation. In fact she brought up many years' arrearages of information, to me of more importance than the result of the Kentucky election, or the fate of the prime match on the Union Course between the best horses of the north and south. The private history of the old associates of my youth, as thus narrated to me, might have afforded a moral to adorn a tale of much higher interest than this I am now writing.
"And you saw my Aunt Deborah," said I. "Pray how does she look, and what did she say? I remember the eccentric old soul, as if the ten long years since I have seen her had been but as many months. Many a lecture did she utter on the extravagance, the impetuosity, and the recklessness of my boyhood; and much did she preach to me of prudence and moderation, I fear, in vain. Does she still remember my wild pranks?"
"Oh yes--but her censure of your wildness was so mingled with praises of your good qualities, that I doubt whether she would have permitted another person to speak ill, even of those points in your character which she blamed the most."
"Kind old woman! It was so when I was a boy. She was perpetually lecturing, and yet she was most kind to me. And somehow, in spite of her irksome admonitions, for which I had then no great relish, I soon discovered that I was a favorite with her."
"On one point she was particularly urgent. She questioned me whether you had as yet learned the value of money, observing, that in your younger days you had been a good-for-nothing little spendthrift."
"I hope you did not deceive the good old lady. It would be but fair that she should know that the prudence with which I was not born, has failed as yet of obtaining a lodgment in my head. It would have been a pity to deprive her of the glorious consolation of knowing that her predictions of my improvidence have been fully realized."
"Well, I did not think it necessary to inform her of the full extent of your delinquency; but I admitted to her that you had not the gift of _saving_, which she admires so much."
"She often told me that I would never acquire it."
"Oh, now I remember, she charged me to deliver to you a renewed admonition to prudence and economy. 'Tell E----,' said she, with great solemnity, made still more solemn by the huge pinch of snuff which she disposed of at the moment, 'that he must look forward to the future, and now, while he is prosperous, prepare for a less plentiful time, which may come. Tell him that, unless he studies prudence and economy, sooner or later, _his nose must come to the grindstone_.' I hope you will profit by the exhortation."
"I wish I could, I hope I may," said I, with something like a sigh interrupting for a moment the laugh, which I could not resist, at the expense of my good-hearted aunt Deborah.
Some further conversation occupied us for a short time, when we were admonished by the comparative quiet which had taken place of the bustle below, that it was time to seek such rest as we might find among the crowd.
Those persons who have not travelled in a "night-boat," as a steamer is called which performs its trips during the night, are probably not aware of the kind of lodgings which it affords when the number of passengers is large. The disposal of five hundred lodgers on board a steam boat is no trifling task. The berths are of course limited in number, and when crowded, the floors of the cabins are covered with sleeping contrivances of various descriptions. Settees, cots, and a kind of oblong box, having thin mattresses spread over them, with a sheet and blanket perhaps, are wedged together, each calculated to hold the body of a human being, by the most scanty and economical measurement. The berths are first exhausted by those who are most prompt in looking after their own comfort; and then comes the scramble for the cots, settees, &c. In this contest high words often occur, and in some instances I have heard of serious conflicts for the possession of one of these miserable dormitories.
On this occasion I had enlisted the good offices of the younger Captain Sherman, who promised to secure me a lodging, and when I entered the cabin it was pointed out to me. Numbers had been less fortunate, and unable to procure a place of rest below, had accommodated themselves upon benches, chairs, &c. above,--or wrapped in cloaks, had stretched themselves on the deck. Clambering over those who had already retired, I stretched myself on my pallet. In doing so I awoke my next neighbor, a gigantic Kentuckian, who lay cramped up in his scanty cot, like a stranded leviathan among a shoal of porpoises.
He cast his eyes upon me, and with an ineffectual attempt to extend his limbs, muttered, "Close stowing this, stranger."
I assented to the truth of his remark; but he seemed in no mood for conversation, and was soon fast asleep. The heat was suffocating from the effusions of so many human bodies lying in rows, almost touching each other,
"Thick as the autumnal leaves which strow the brooks In Vallombrosa."
I found it impossible to sleep. The feverish state of the atmosphere, and the tumult around me, scared the drowsy god from my pillow--[I had no pillow by the way, but made my great coat serve as a substitute for one.] The thundering and crashing of the engine,--the dashing of the paddles in the water--the stamping of feet above our heads--the uproar of many voices, heard at intervals when some order was given to the crew--the _banging_ of the wood upon the planks, at it was transferred from the pile to the engine-room--the rumbling of ballast-boxes, as they were occasionally transferred from side to side, for the purpose of _trimming_ the steamer--the harsh rattling of the tackle, as a boat was lowered, to land or take off passengers by a _tow line_, and the simultaneous rush to the gangway of those who were to go on shore, while the subtile fluid which gave motion to our floating caravan, being partially restrained, emitted a wheezing and uncomfortable sound.
[Footnote 1: This method of landing and taking off passengers was practised for many years on the Hudson, but finally abolished by law, on account of its risks, several fatal accidents having been caused by it. The steamer was not brought to during the operation; but a tow line attached to the small boat, was out from the steamer, and drawn in by the machinery with great velocity.]
But who shall describe the varied and terrific music of the steam engine? I do not attempt it, not doubting that in the march of improvement, the poet will hereafter make it a special theme; and that some American Mayerbeer or Mozart, will consider the composition of a passage by steam from Albany to New York, as affording facilities for expression and contrast, equally sublime with the March in Saul or the Battle of Prague.--Occasionally we came to a dead stop at some principal landing place. For a moment the engine was hushed, as silent as death; then a feeble whistle was heard from the steam pipe, (sweet, shrill and almost plaintive,) followed by a roar of the imprisoned element, fiercely exulting at its recovered liberty, as it was _let off_ from the engine, and rushing forth with such gigantic impulse as to shake every timber in the vessel.--Gradually the roar subsides; slowly, slowly, until a humming sound succeeds, as though all the bees of Hybla were swarming around our heads. Suddenly it ceases, and for a moment the steam is silent. Then again, the hoarse thunder of the machinery commences, the paddles dash the water from beneath them, with giant strides, and the motion of the vessel is distinctly felt, as she rushes onward in her course.
Such were the sounds above which afforded to the hundreds of sleepers a discordant lullaby, sufficiently hostile to repose, one would think, to drive slumber from the eyelids of Somnus himself. But all this "mortal pudder o'er our heads," was less distracting than the concert of discords which was in a coarse of performance immediately around me, comparatively, it is true, in a _minor key_.--One hundred and fifty _wind instruments_ of various constructions and dimensions, were playing _ad-libitum_, in every diversity of tone and time, concertos, fantasias and airs, which breathed of any thing but heaven. Here could be heard the mournful strain of a proboscis which seemed attuned to melancholy--there, the fierce blast of a nostril which emulated the magic horn of the wild huntsman; while in ludicrous contrast, hard-by were heard the stifled eruptions of a snout, which might have been taken for the rehearsals of an inexperienced porker. One drew in his breath with a painful squeel and a low whistle, and puffed it forth as he would have done in extinguishing a candle--another, began in a gentle strain, "like the sweet south, breathing upon a bed of violets"--gradually rising to a full and manly tone--still gaining strength as it advanced--now louder and more rapid--dashing onward with alarming impetuosity--louder, louder still; and now, the very brink of this musical cataract having been reached--a _crash_ ensues, like the termination of that terrific passage in the overture to Der Freyschutz, which almost freezes the blood. The explosion past, this fantastic nose commenced again its tender strains, and again rose to its climax. Another rolled forth a heavy bass, deep, solemn and monotonous, like the muttering of distant thunder, or the roar of the vexed ocean heaving its waves on the shore after a storm. Another, with teeth compressed, seemed to draw in breath repeatedly without respiration, and suddenly to disembogue this over supply of air with a single emphatic snort, which threw his mouth open to its full extent. Some squeeled continuously; some groaned; and others whistled through their mouths in drawing in breath, and through their noses, in respiring it.
It will not be wondered that I could not sleep, yet my fellow travellers seemed unannoyed. I fell into a train of profound thought upon the causes of the various cadences of different noses, and puzzled myself upon the shapes and dimensions suitable to produce certain simple or compound tones in the concert. In following out these reflections, I wondered what description of music I must make myself, and could not but wish to hear myself snore--(a thing I believe impossible.) I could not avoid handling my own nose, to fix according to my imperfect theory, the extent and character of its musical capacity. By an association of ideas, the consideration of this question brought back to my mind the prophecy of aunt Deborah. I pondered upon it until the reflections which it suggested became painful. I endeavored to banish it from my thoughts, but could not entirely succeed. After a considerable time, I fell into a kind of _snooze_--a state which was neither absolute sleeping or waking--a kind of conscious unconsciousness, partaking of both in nearly equal degrees. Visions of imaginary objects glanced before me, which seemed to partake of or to be blended with the scene and sounds around me. Dim figures came and went between me and the lamp, hanging at the extremity of the cabin, on which my eye was fixed. Among these beings my aunt Deborah two or three times made her appearance; her starch'd cap, peaked nose, and keen grey eye, were not to be mistaken. I could identify even her tortoise snuff-box, which seemed as new as when I saw it ten years ago. Her look was rigid and menacing, and seemed to bode me no good--for I dreaded a lecture. These objects were the materials of dreams:--active thought and volition had nothing to do with their production. Yet my eyes were open,--my senses were awake. I could see and mark the motion of the red curtains, swinging to and fro--I still heard the unwearied nasal minstrelsey to which I have alluded, as distinctly as before.
The philosophers, I believe, have explained this contradictory state of the body and mind. I fear I have not described it so as to make myself clearly understood; but I am no philosopher, unless it be a laughing one. Those who have experienced a visitation of the "night mare," will I presume, comprehend my meaning.--I am not aware that this state of things had ceased, but believe the combat between real and unreal impressions was still going on in my mind, when I plainly perceived two large, gaunt blackamoors (whom I well remembered to have seen when at home in Richmond, pursuing their daily toil in Myers's tobacco factory,) descend the cabin stairs, and approach the spot where I lay. The obstacles of a crowded room did not seem to impede them; and I soon felt their iron grasp on my limbs. I was lifted by them from my pallet, and borne, I know not how, up the stairs, past the engine, to the forward deck. I endeavored from the moment they laid hands on me, to struggle with them; but my limbs were powerless: I endeavored to call out, and awaken my fellow lodgers; but my voice had lost its sound, my tongue seemed paralyzed: I could not articulate a syllable. The cold sweat of terror stood upon my brow. I had a presentiment that some awful fate awaited me, but I could form no conception what it was to be.
At the place where they halted in their progress, I saw a huge grindstone, from behind which a little black urchin leaped up, and seizing the handle, commenced turning it with surprising velocity, looking into my face and laughing with that hearty glee so peculiar to the cachinations of his race. I knew the imp too well, for I had seen him in his tatters an hundred times, hopping the gutters in front of the Eagle Hotel. A horrible consciousness of my fate now flashed upon me. The prophesy of my aunt Deborah came into my mind, and I felt that it was to be fulfilled. I cast my eyes around me in despair, when they fell upon the figure of the old lady herself, standing upon the prow of the vessel. Her look was severe and reproachful. The finger of her right hand was uplifted, as if she would have said, "I have warned you in vain!"--while her left hand conveyed a pinch of snuff to her nostrils, which they received with an inspiration so keen that it hissed in my ears like hot iron. My glance at this figure was but momentary. Scarce had the imp commenced turning the instrument upon which I had now become aware that I was to be tortured, when the Titans in whose gripe I was held, forced my head downward, until my proboscis rested upon the revolving stone, and I felt its horrid inroads upon that sensitive member. The first excoriation was severe. I writhed and struggled to free myself, but the power which held me was indomitable. Gradually the urchin relaxed in the rapidity of his motions--the stone revolved slowly, and I saw that my torment was to be a lingering one.
In the midst of their task the inhuman wretches began to chaunt songs and incantations adapted to the horrid ceremony. I remember some snatches of the ballads they sung. Never shall I forget them, for the cruel mockery of their fiendish merriment was more galling than the pain I endured, or the awful reflection that I must pass the rest of my days the noseless object of pity and contempt. One of the stanzas ran thus:
De man who hold he nose too high Mus' be brought low: Put him on de grinstone And grind him off slow. Wheel about, and turn about, And wheel about slow; And every time he wheel about De nose must go.
I was at no loss to recognize in this a parody on a popular ballad by James Crow, Esquire, very skilfully arranged for the piano-forte by Mr. Zephaniah Coon; and I despised my tormentors the more for their plagiarism and want of originality. At the end of each _refrain_, the barbarians sent forth as a kind of supplementary chorus, shouts of laughter, which seemed to come from their very souls. It was none of your civilized _ha ha's_--nor your modish _he he's_--but the hearty, pectoral _yeoh yeoh yeoh_ of the unsophisticated "_nigger_."
All this time my nose was gradually diminishing. The imp at the handle turned it slowly but steadily; the grasp upon my shoulders was firm, and the pressure upon my head was so heavy, that the inexorable stone was fast penetrating flesh, cartilage and bone, and reducing to a level the inequalities of my visage. This could not last forever; and at length I felt that the sacrifice had been consummated--the friction of the stone upon my cheeks, gave fearful evidence that what had been a nose, existed no longer, and brought the horrid reflection that I was noseless! That the pride of my countenance was gone, and forever!
The awful consciousness of my bereavement made me desperate, and strung up my sinews to a gigantic effort for freedom and revenge.--Suddenly the grasp upon my body was loosened, and as suddenly the agents and the instrument of my torment vanished.
I awoke, covered with perspiration and in a mortal tremor. The cabin was dark, and but for the snoring of my neighbors, I should not have known where I was. My nose was still suffering a most uncomfortable sensation, and I breathed with difficulty from some unknown obstruction. Although instantly aware that, to use the language of Molly Brown, I had merely "dreampt a dream," I instinctively lifted my hand to my face to reassure myself that my nose remained in undiminished amplitude and longitude. In searching for that interesting feature, I found that it was eclipsed and borne down by some weighty substance, which the sense of feeling soon informed me was the ponderous fist of my Kentucky neighbor, who had in shifting his position during his slumbers, unceremoniously thrust it into my face. I was cramped for room, and tugged to rid myself of the incumbrance, when its owner awoke.
"Halloo stranger!" said he, "you kick about like an eel out of water."
I explained to him the cause of my uneasiness, for which he briefly asked my pardon; and re-adjusting himself, again fell asleep. I could not follow his example, my mind being occupied in recalling the incidents and sensations of my dream, which fully engaged my thoughts until I was made aware, by the shouting and scampering upon deck, that we had reached New York.
And now for the _moral_ which I promised my readers. It is this--Do not think too much of your nose--or hold it too high,--lest it should be brought to the grindstone in good earnest; and moreover, never sleep in a steam boat cabin, where men are planted, like Indian corn, _in rows_--if you can avoid it.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
BY EDGAR A. POE.
Auto kath' auto meth' autou, mono eides aei ou. Itself--alone by itself--eternally _one_ and single. _Plato_. _Sympos_.
With a feeling of deep but most singular affection I regarded my friend Morella. Thrown by accident into her society many years ago, my soul, from our first meeting, burned with fires it had never known--but the fires were not of Eros--and bitter and tormenting to my eager spirit was the gradual conviction that I could in no manner define their unusual meaning, or regulate their vague intensity. Yet we met; and Fate bound us together at the altar: and I never spoke of love, or thought of passion. She, however, shunned society, and, attaching herself to me alone, rendered me happy. It is a happiness to wonder. It is a happiness to dream.
Morella's erudition was profound. As I hope to live, her talents were of no common order--her powers of mind were gigantic. I felt this, and in many matters became her pupil. I soon, however, found that Morella, perhaps on account of her Presburg education, laid before me a number of those mystical writings which are usually considered the mere dross of the early German literature. These, for what reasons I could not imagine, were her favorite and constant study: and that in process of time they became my own, should be attributed to the simple but effectual influence of habit and example.
In all this, if I err not, my reason had little to do. My convictions, or I forget myself, were in no manner acted upon by my imagination, nor was any tincture of the mysticism which I read, to be discovered, unless I am greatly mistaken, either in my deeds or in my thoughts. Feeling deeply persuaded of this I abandoned myself more implicitly to the guidance of my wife, and entered with a bolder spirit into the intricacy of her studies. And then--then, when poring over forbidden pages I felt the spirit kindle within me, would Morella place her cold hand upon my own, and rake up from the ashes of a dead philosophy some low singular words, whose strange meaning burnt themselves in upon my memory: and then hour after hour would I linger by her side, and dwell upon the music of her thrilling voice, until at length its melody was tinged with terror and fell like a shadow upon my soul, and I grew pale, and shuddered inwardly at those too unearthly tones--and thus Joy suddenly faded into Horror, and the most beautiful became the most hideous, as Hinnon became Ge-Henna.
It is unnecessary to state the exact character of these disquisitions, which, growing out of the volumes I have mentioned, formed, for so long a time, almost the sole conversation of Morella and myself. By the learned in what might be termed theological morality they will be readily conceived, and by the unlearned they would, at all events, be little understood. The wild Pantheism of Fitche--the modified [Greek: Palingenesia] of the Pythagoreans--and, above all, the doctrines of _Identity_ as urged by Schelling were generally the points of discussion presenting the most of beauty to the imaginative Morella. That _Identity_ which is not improperly called _Personal_, I think Mr. Locke truly defines to consist in the sameness of a rational being. And since by person we understand an intelligent essence having reason, and since there is a consciousness which always accompanies thinking, it is this which makes us all to be that which we call _ourselves_--thereby distinguishing us from other beings that think, and giving us our personal identity. But the Principium Individuationis--the notion of that Identity _which at death is, or is not lost forever_, was to me, at all times, a consideration of intense interest, not more from the mystical and exciting nature of its consequences, than from the marked and agitated manner in which Morella mentioned them.
But, indeed, the time had now arrived when the mystery of my wife's manner oppressed me like a spell. I could no longer bear the touch of her wan fingers, nor the low tone of her musical language, nor the lustre of her melancholy eyes. And she knew all this but did not upbraid. She seemed conscious of my weakness, or my folly--and, smiling, called it Fate. She seemed also conscious of a cause, to me unknown, for the gradual alienation of my regard; but she gave me no hint or token of its nature. Yet was she woman, and pined away daily. In time the crimson spot settled steadily upon the cheek, and the blue veins upon the pale forehead became prominent: and one instant my nature melted into pity, but in the next I met the glance of her meaning eyes, and my soul sickened and became giddy with the giddiness of one who gazes downward into some dreary and fathomless abyss.
Shall I then say that I long'd with an earnest and consuming desire for the moment of Morella's decease? I did. But the fragile spirit clung to its tenement of clay for many days--for many weeks and irksome months--until my tortured nerves obtained the mastery over my mind, and I grew furious with delay, and with the heart of a fiend I cursed the days, and the hours, and the bitter moments which seemed to lengthen, and lengthen as her gentle life declined--like shadows in the dying of the day.
But one autumnal evening, when the winds lay still in Heaven, Morella called me to her side. There was a dim mist over all the earth, and a warm glow upon the waters, and amid the rich October leaves of the forest a rainbow from the firmament had surely fallen. As I came, she was murmuring in a low under-tone, which trembled with fervor, the words of a Catholic hymn:
Sancta Maria! turn thine eyes Upon the sinner's sacrifice Of fervent prayer, and humble love, From thy holy throne above.
At morn, at noon, at twilight dim, Maria! thou hast heard my hymn. In joy and wo, in good and ill, Mother of God! be with me still.
When my hours flew gently by, And no storms were in the sky, My soul, lest it should truant be, Thy love did guide to thine and thee.
Now, when clouds of Fate o'ercast All my Present, and my Past, Let my Future radiant shine With sweet hopes of thee and thine.
'It is a day of days'--said Morella--'a day of all days either to live or die. It is a fair day for the sons of Earth and Life--ah! more fair for the daughters of Heaven and Death.'
I turned towards her, and she continued.
'I am dying--yet shall I live. Therefore for me, Morella, thy wife, hath the charnel house no terrors--mark me!--not even the terrors of the _worm_. The days have never been when thou couldst love me; but her whom in life thou didst abhor, in death thou shalt adore.'
'I repeat that I am dying. But within me is a pledge of that affection--ah, how little! which you felt for me, Morella. And when my spirit departs shall the child live--thy child and mine, Morella's. But thy days shall be days of sorrow--that sorrow which is the most lasting of impressions, as the cypress is the most enduring of trees. For the hours of thy happiness are over, and Joy is not gathered twice in a life, as the roses of Pæstum twice in a year. Thou shalt not, then, play the Teian with Time, but, being ignorant of the myrtle and the vine, thou shalt bear about with thee thy shroud on earth, like the Moslemin at Mecca.'
'Morella!'--I cried--'Morella! how knowest thou this?'----but she turned away her face upon the pillow, and, a slight tremor coming over her limbs, she thus died, and I heard her voice no more.
Yet, as she had foreseen, her child--to which in dying she had given birth, and which breathed not till the mother breathed no more--her child, a daughter, lived. And she grew strangely in size and intellect, and was the perfect resemblance of her who had departed, and I loved her with a love more fervent and more intense than I believed it possible to feel on earth.
But ere long the Heaven of this pure affection became overcast; and Gloom, and Horror, and Grief came over it in clouds. I said the child grew strangely in stature and intelligence. Strange indeed was her rapid increase in bodily size--but terrible, oh! terrible were the tumultuous thoughts which crowded upon me while watching the development of her mental being. Could it be otherwise, when I daily discovered in the conceptions of the child the adult powers and faculties of the woman?--when the lessons of experience fell from the lips of infancy? and when the wisdom or the passions of maturity I found hourly gleaming from its full and speculative eye? When, I say, all this became evident to my appalled senses--when I could no longer hide it from my soul, nor throw it off from those perceptions which trembled to receive it, is it to be wondered at that suspicions of a nature fearful, and exciting, crept in upon my spirit, or that my thoughts fell back aghast upon the wild tales and thrilling theories of the entombed Morella? I snatched from the scrutiny of the world a being whom Destiny compelled me to adore, and in the rigid seclusion of my ancestral home, I watched with an agonizing anxiety over all which concerned my daughter.
And as years rolled away, and daily I gazed upon her eloquent and mild and holy face, and pored over her maturing form, did I discover new points of resemblance in the child to her mother--the melancholy, and the dead. And hourly grew darker these shadows, as it were, of similitude, and became more full, and more definite, and more perplexing, and to me more terrible in their aspect. For that her smile was like her mother's I could bear--but then I shuddered at its too perfect _identity_: that her eyes were Morella's own I could endure--but then they looked down too often into the depths of my soul with Morella's intense and bewildering meaning. And in the contour of the high forehead, and in the ringlets of the silken hair, and in the wan fingers which buried themselves therein, and in the musical tones of her speech, and above all--oh! above all, in the phrases and expressions of the dead on the lips of the loved and the living, I found food for consuming thought and horror--for a worm that would not die.
Thus passed away two lustrums of her life, yet my daughter remained nameless upon the earth. 'My child' and 'my love' were the designations usually prompted by a father's affection, and the rigid seclusion of her days precluded all other intercourse. Morella's name died with her at her death. Of the mother I had never spoken to the daughter--it was impossible to speak. Indeed during the brief period of her existence the latter had received no impressions from the outward world but such as might have been afforded by the narrow limits of her privacy. But at length the ceremony of baptism presented to my mind in its unnerved and agitated condition, a present deliverance from the horrors of my destiny. And at the baptismal font I hesitated for a name. And many titles of the wise and beautiful, of antique and modern times, of my own and foreign lands, came thronging to my lips--and many, many fair titles of the gentle, and the happy and the good. What prompted me then to disturb the memory of the buried dead? What demon urged me to breathe that sound, which, in its very recollection, was wont to make ebb and flow the purple blood in tides from the temples to the heart? What fiend spoke from the recesses of my soul, when amid those dim aisles, and in the silence of the night, I shrieked within the ears of the holy man the syllables, Morella? What more than fiend convulsed the features of my child and overspread them with the hues of death, as, starting at that sound, she turned her glassy eyes from the Earth to Heaven, and falling prostrate upon the black slabs of her ancestral vault, responded 'I am here!'
Distinct, coldly, calmly distinct--like a knell of death--horrible, horrible death, sank the eternal sounds within my soul. Years--years may roll away, but the memory of that epoch--never! Now was I indeed ignorant of the flowers and the vine--but the hemlock and the cypress overshadowed me night and day. And I kept no reckoning of time or place, and the stars of my Fate faded from Heaven, and, therefore, my spirit grew dark, and the figures of the earth passed by me like flitting shadows, and among them all I beheld only--Morella. The winds of the firmament breathed but one sound within my ears, and the ripples upon the sea murmured evermore--Morella. But she died, and with my own hands I bore her to the tomb, and I laughed, with a long and bitter laugh as I found no traces of the first in the charnel where I laid the second--Morella.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
A VERITABLE HISTORY.
BY PERTINAX PLACID, ESQUIRE.
CONTENT once dwelt in humble cot Beside a stream with music flowing, Embower'd in shade--a verdant spot-- Woodbines and wild flowers round it growing.
There NATURE lavish of her store Breath'd fragrance over plain and mountain; A soft entrancing aspect wore, And sang sweet strains by brook and fountain.
Within the cot where dwelt the maid PEACE ever reign'd, with mild dominion, And LOVE, reform'd, no longer stray'd, But loos'd his bow, and furl'd his pinion.
There PLENTY crown'd each savory meal With simple food from NATURE'S bounty; And HEALTH contemn'd the boasted skill Of all the Doctors in the county.
One morning PRIDE, a city belle, In FASHION'S gaudiest trappings glaring, The fragrant meads for once to smell, That way had driven to take an airing.
By chance, a vagrant cloud sent down A shower to cool the sultry weather, When PRIDE protested with a frown, 'Twould spoil her riding-hat and feather.
CONTENT'S snug dwelling stood hard by, And thither PRIDE her car directed: Welcomed with homely courtesy, She smiled to find her dress protected.
The first brief salutations o'er, PRIDE view'd with scorn the humble cottage, Its narrow rooms, its sanded floor-- And turn'd her nose up at the pottage.
Then thus, to meek CONTENT she spoke: "I wonder so genteel a maiden Should dwell in this secluded nook, As dull as ever hermit pray'd in.
'Tis shameful such a form and face Should hide themselves in this mean hovel: That so much loveliness and grace Should with such stupid people grovel.
How would you grace those splendid halls Where I and PLEASURE lead the million! There you would shine at routes and balls, Queen of the _waltz_ and gay _cotillion_.
These humdrum folks you live with now Are _cut_ by all who aim at fashion: To see you so beset, I vow, It puts me quite into a passion.
Here's PEACE, a tiresome, dowdy thing, Fit only for the chimney corner, To listen while the crickets sing, And teach the brats their _Jacky Horner_.
PLENTY is well enough 'tis true, Where hungry peasants gorge their rations; But her rude fare would never do, For FASHION'S delicate collations.
And LOVE,--who once was all the rage, And turn'd the heads of half the city, Dealing his shafts on youth and age, As you have learnt from many a ditty--
Has long been voted quite a bore, He made so many a sad miscarriage; And now, the part he play'd before, CONVENIENCE takes at every marriage.
This rustic-looking, sheepish boy I ne'er should dream was master CUPID,-- Whom once I knew so full of joy-- He looks so quiet and so stupid.
I cannot bear that you should dwell In such a lonely sequestration, When you might reign a city belle, And taste the sweets of admiration.
Come then, nor longer tarry here In this retreat so lone and dreary: In PLEASURE'S brilliant throng appear, Where TIME'S bright pinions never weary."
The artless nymph, ta'en unawares, Was dazzled by PRIDE'S invitation; But still she fear'd the City's snares, And answer'd with great hesitation.
She said a happy life she led, That care had ne'er her bosom enter'd Tho' tenant of an humble shed, Here all the joys she ask'd for centred.
But PRIDE protested 'twas a sin, That so perversely she should prattle, When HOPE, (the jade) who just dropp'd in That moment--closed the wordy battle.
HOPE whisper'd in the maiden's ear-- What 'twas I never could discover,-- But from her beaming eye, 'twas clear CONTENT'S resistance all was over.
Suffice to say, the car was brought, The ladies in it soon were seated: PRIDE took the reins, and quick as thought, The valley from their vision fleeted.
'Tis true CONTENT some sorrow felt At leaving PEACE and LOVE behind her; But HOPE sat by, and fondly dwelt On all the happiness design'd her.
* * * * *
Soon by Dame FASHION'S mystic aid CONTENT became another creature; Such _art_ was in her form display'd, She needed not the charms of nature.
* * * * *
Behold our country maiden now! In PLEASURE'S train a gay attendant; Before her throng'd admirers bow; Her beauty was pronounced transcendent.
In every scene where PLEASURE reign'd CONTENT was found, a radiant charmer; And while the novelty remain'd, Her wild career did not alarm her.
Months pass'd in one continued round Of parties, balls, and routes and levees, And tired CONTENT at length had found No happiness in PLEASURE'S bevies.
Jaded in this unceasing maze, Her eye grew dim, her cheek grew pallid: PRIDE only could her spirits raise, And oft her melancholy rallied.
But long even PRIDE could not hold out; Sorely the maid her change repented-- Her dreams had all been put to route-- CONTENT was sadly discontented.
One morning HOPE, who scarce had seen The maiden since she sought the City, To make a flying call, popp'd in,-- And saw her alter'd looks with pity.
"Ah faithless HOPE!" exclaim'd CONTENT: "Why did you flatter and deceive me-- Why urge the step I now repent, And be the first to scorn and leave me.
Oh, but for you, deceitful friend, I still had lived untouched by SORROW, Where beauteous flowers their fragrance blend, Nor blushes from cosmetics borrow.
I might have dwelt, a happy maid, With PEACE and LOVE, in blest seclusion, Afar from FASHION'S dull parade, Her endless throngs of gay confusion.
Fain would I to my cottage fly, But PRIDE resists, and SHAME upbraids me; And PLEASURE, ever hovering nigh With some delusive tale dissuades me."
HOPE, with a woman's ready wit, From all reproach herself defended; And forced her listner to admit Her counsel "_for the best_" intended.
* * * * *
CONTENT at length "made up her mind" ('Gainst PRIDE'S usurp'd control rebelling,) To leave the bustling town behind, And seek again her humble dwelling.
'Twas a bright morn in early Spring, When, HOPE her languid steps attending, Through vales where birds were on the wing, To that lone cot the maid was wending.
The sun shone bright on hill and lea, The flowers from leafy shades were peeping; The brook ran murmuring merrily, And flocks were in the valleys leaping.
The Cottage reach'd, she met once more The smile of PEACE, and LOVE'S embraces; JOY lit the maiden's eye again, And from her brow chased sorrow's traces.
Soon HEALTH return'd, with genial glow, Her languid frame with strength induing, The blood resumed its wonted flow, The roses on her cheeks renewing.
HOPE views the change with fond delight; Vows from CONTENT she ne'er will sever; Controls each wild impassion'd flight, And points where mercy beams forever.
What more could Providence bestow To yield CONTENT an added blessing? Each hour her heart's pure offerings flow, To Heaven its gratitude addressing.
And ever since, CONTENT has dwelt From the gay crowd, in vale secluded:-- Their joyless strife she once has felt, And cannot be again deluded.
Oft have I seen the humble roof, Where, with PEACE, LOVE and HOPE uniting, She dwells, from worldly cares aloof, Even while her story I am writing.
The following beautiful reply to the stanzas of Mr. Wilde, published in the first number of the Messenger, is attributed to Mrs. Buckley, the wife of a distinguished physician of Baltimore, a lady whose fine taste and poetic capacity are most happily displayed in these touching lines. The answer is a very perfect counterpart of Mr. Wilde's stanzas, and if we were called on to decide upon their relative merits, we do not know which of the two would most demand our admiration.
To "_My Life is Like the Summer Rose_."
The dews of night may fall from Heaven, Upon the wither'd _rose's_ bed, And tears of fond regret be given, To mourn the virtues of the dead: Yet morning's sun the dews will dry, And tears will fade from sorrow's eye, Affection's pangs be lull'd to sleep, And even love forget to _weep_.
The _tree_ may mourn its fallen _leaf_, And autumn winds bewail its bloom, And friends may heave the sigh of grief, O'er those who sleep within the tomb: Yet soon will spring renew the flowers, And time will bring more smiling hours; In friendship's heart all grief will die, And even love forget to _sigh_.
The _sea_ may on the desert _shore_ Lament each _trace_ it bears away; The lonely heart its grief may pour O'er cherish'd friendship's fast decay: Yet when all trace is lost and gone, The waves dance bright and gaily on; Thus soon affection's bonds are torn, And even love forgets to _mourn_.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
TO ---- ----
We parted--not as lovers part-- No tear was in thine eye; No mantling blush was on thy cheek, Thy bosom heaved no sigh; Yet there was something in thine air That seemed to all unmoved,-- Something that told my bursting heart, Dearest, that I was loved.
For, when I took thy gentle hand To bid a short adieu, Methought within my trembling clasp, That white hand trembled too; And when too, from my faltering tongue The parting accents fell, Thou didst not, dearest--can it be Thou couldst not say farewell!
Forgive, if I have boldly erred-- If fancy 'twere alone, That check'd thy voice, and lent thy hand The tremors of my own. Forgive, forgive the daring thought-- Forgive the hopes--the love-- That bids me seek thee soon again, My bliss or wo to prove.
T. H. T.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
WHAT I LOVE.
I love to stray at early morn, 'Mid flowers along the verdant dale, Inhale the fragrance of the thorn, And hear the Dove's low plaintive wail.
I love within some forest deep, At sultry noon reclined to lie, And watch the fleecy clouds that creep, With quiet pace along the sky.
I love at quiet eve to go, Far from the noisy crowd, and dream Of all the glorious hopes which throw Their sunshine o'er life's gloomy stream.
But more than all, at silent night, I love with one fair form to rove, Beneath the pale moon's pensive light, And whisper burning words of love.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
TO ---- ----
Let not your heart be troubled.--_John_ 14: 1.
Let Ocean swell with angry spite, And yawn and lash the heedless shore; And billows rage with mount'nous height, As if they'd be at peace no more. Let storm 'gainst storm their fury hurl, And loudly roar with fearful might, Till sea and land--yea, all the world-- May seem to grope in trouble's night.
But let _thy heart_ thy Saviour know, Whose word once calmed the troubled deep, Who spake to winds that dared to blow, And _hushed_ them in the lap of sleep. Tis He can quell each rising sigh, And calm thy heart from cruel fears, As when the storms in silence lie, And not a wave the Ocean mars.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
AN ITALIAN EXTRAVAGANZA.
Addressed to a beautiful lady.
Se tutti gli alberi del mondo Fossero penne-- Il cielo fosse carta, Il mare, inchiostro-- Non basterebbero a descrivere La minima parte della vostra perfexione!
AN ATTEMPT AT TRANSLATION.
Could we the sky's unbounded range, To paper all convert-- And had we power, miraculous, to change, To _pens_, the _trees_, To _ink_, the _seas_-- These would not all suffice to paint, in part, The rich perfections of thy mind and heart-- Thy _graces_--thy _desert_!
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
WHERE IS MY HEART?
BY ALEX. LACEY BEARD.
Where is my heart? Its place of rest is not within this aching breast;-- Where does it dwell? It is not in the glittering hall, Where sunbright glances gaily fall 'Neath pleasure's spell.
Where is my heart? Not in the crowd 'mid mirth and wine and revel loud;-- It is not there. Nor is it where the summer's sky Gives birth to flowers of brightest dye And balmy air.
Where is my heart? Upon the sea, where dwell the joyous and the free, It has not gone. My withered heart, it has not flown Where love or hope or joy is known, Or pleasures dawn.
Where is my heart? To the cold grave, where yew and cypress darkly wave, My heart has fled. Yes, where the form it worshipped sleeps, My blighted heart its vigil keeps, Beside the dead.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
Come my love--O! come with me, We will wander wild and free,-- Where the pale moon sheds her light, And the dew-drops glisten bright;-- Where is heard the gurgling flow Of the streamlet, we will go, And our joyous feet shall tread, Near the humble violets bed. We will breathe the rich perfume, Born of fragrant flowers in bloom; All that's sweet and all that's fair, From green earth or scented air, Nature brings in vesture gay, Laughing strews around our way.
We will seek the shady grove, Through its mazes we will rove, Sit upon the moss-grown seat, And our youthful vows repeat. Years have passed since we were there, Still thy cheeks are fresh and fair, Not a single care-worn line, Mars that lovely brow of thine. Many gay and gladsome hours, We have spent in sunny bowers; Not one cloud of care or strife, E'er has dimmed our path thro' life,-- And our pilgrimage doth seem As one long and happy dream.
Come my love the Moon's on high, Sailing o'er the summer sky, And the stars are twinkling through Boundless fields of azure-blue-- Faintly from the leafy trees, Sighs the balmy southern breeze. Down the valley we will stray, Where the night-flowers scent the way; Arm in arm we'll wander o'er Many a scene beloved of yore; Tell the oft repeated tale, By the fountain in the vale,-- Talk of deep, confiding love, And of hearts that never rove.
ALEX. LACEY BEARD.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
Come to the forests, while the leaves are falling In rustling showers from every yielding bough-- Seek the wild haunts, where, save some lone bird calling Its mate departed, all is silence now.
Leave the bright hearth, where love and peace are smiling, To dream awhile 'midst Autumn's falling leaves, To watch her power the Summer's charms despoiling As time of early joys the heart bereaves.
There, as the year's bright glories fade around thee Bring home the lesson to thy saddened heart; Muse on the loves and friendships that have bound thee, Which thou hast seen like autumn leaves depart.
Or if the Past yield no sad recollection, Upon the Future let thy thoughts be cast; Nor check the current of the sad reflection That whispers, human life is fleeting fast.
Then bow to Him, in meek and low contrition, Whose Wisdom, full of Mercy, doth ordain To man a second spring in realms elysian, Where the bright hues of Summer ever reign.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
Aye! there he lies,--the mighty one! Death's hand is on him now; And fearfully he puts his seal Upon that haughty brow.
What boots it that his own proud name In foreign lands has rung? That orators his fame have spoke, That bards his deeds have sung?
What boots it that the hills of Spain Shook 'neath his lordly tread-- That with the blood of her best sons, Her vallies' streams ran red?
That over Moscow's battlements, His flag-folds he shook out-- That e'en the lofty pyramids Rang with his charging shout?
He who subdu'd so many lands, Must now from England crave (Although she is his deadliest foe) What man last wants--a grave!
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
MR. WHITE,--You have published at page 199 of your January number, four outlandish-looking lines, with a hope that some one of your numerous readers may not only be able to inform your correspondent who furnished them, in what language they are written, but let him still further into the secret by giving their meaning. Happening to know a little of the Gaelic, I have no hesitation in saying that that is the tongue in which they are written; and further, I think I have succeeded, after a good deal of trouble, in discovering to a certainty that they are a translation of the first stanza of Sappho's celebrated Ode addressed "_To the Beloved Pair_," and commented upon at some length by Longinus, in the tenth section of his De Sublimitate. The stanza in question runs thus:
[For want of proper type we cannot give it in the Greek.--_Ed._]
Videtur mihi ille æqualis Diis Esse Vir, qui oppositus tibi Sedet, et prope te dulce loquentem audit Et rides amabiliter.
Blest as the immortal Gods is he The youth who fondly sits by thee, And hears and sees thee all the while Softly speak and sweetly smile.
An interesting critique upon the Ode, with the whole of Ambrose Philips' spirited translation of it, is to be met with in the two hundred and twenty-ninth number of the Spectator. Yours, &c.
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
THE FINE ARTS.
----If the painter saw Naught but the prose of things, and dared but draw The literal, aged, uninspiring truth, And saw not nature in her winged youth Her rainbow aspect, when she stands array'd In floods of sunshine and in nights of shade, What would he gain?--_Barry Cornwall_.
In my last number, I undertook to show, that "uncultivated taste, is incapable of estimating excellence in art" and that, "the beautiful in nature, like philosophy and science, can only be comprehended by those who study it profoundly and observe it habitually." But those who think nature an unveiled beauty to be gazed upon by every wanton eye, or that the arts aspire no higher than the "prose of things;" those who are resolved to admire what they like, rather than learn to like that which is admirable, may spare themselves the trouble of reading this article,--as my object is, to instruct the teachable, to ramble with the lover of nature amidst the shades of rural life, and converse with the amateur of art, about all that is excellent in ancient or modern works.
Before we can perceive what is beautiful in art, we must comprehend what is beautiful in nature; and without entering into the abstruse question of _beauty_, which has so much divided the erudite in all ages, we may say, that every thing from the hand of the Creator is beautiful in its _proper place_: and it is precisely this, that is beautiful in art. But to know the place where beauteous nature lurks, and to trace the harmony and fitness of every object to the part it supplies in the picturesque of scenery, requires a mind
"----by nature's charms impress'd, An ardor ever burning in the breast, A zeal for truth, a power of thought intense; A fancy, flowering on the stems of sense; A mem'ry as the grave retentive, vast That holds to rise again, the imprison'd past."
Beauty is not confined to the waving line of Hogarth, or to objects smooth and soft, as Mr. Burke thought, but is multiform in nature, and therefore admits of a diversity of tastes; yet it is not an arbitrary principle subject to the fancy of every individual, but like harmony in music, it vibrates on the imagination and affections of a cultivated mind, as doth the octave in a well tuned instrument;--the tutored ear perceives the slightest discordance in sounds, and the cultivated eye detects with equal facility the want of harmony in art or nature. It has been said "that the peasant youth, would require more red in the cheek of his beauty, than would be agreeable to a man of cultivated taste," and the inference was, "that the delicate is more beautiful than the florid," but in fact, they are each beautiful in their _place_. In rustic life, amidst the scenes of the vintage, in the hay field, or milking the cow--how beauteous is the flush and healthful bloom of the cottage maiden! The ruby lip and liquid laughing eye bespeak the joyous heart, pleased with its vocation. Here, the delicate and courtly dame of polished life would appear unequal to the task; would be incongruous to the scene, and as much out of place as epic verse in pastoral poetry;--yet in her proper sphere
"----those downcast eyes, sedate and sweet Those looks demure, that deeply pierce the soul, Where, with the light of thoughtful reason mix'd Shines lively fancy and the feeling heart,"
she moves the attractive star of cultivated taste.
The choice of these subjects, constitutes the difference between the Dutch and the Italian schools of art. The former painted pastoral scenery with a fidelity incomparably superior to the Italians, yet greatly inferior in the higher excellencies of art. They are justly admired for their attention to detail, to exact finish, and all the results of "mere mechanic pains," but are void of classical taste, of moral instruction, and the poetry of the imagination, that highest effort of genius. Their works may therefore be beautiful, but never sublime, and their attempts at historic painting degrade it to something worse than caricature. I remember to have seen in the Louvre, a little painting of this school, designed for "Peter denying his Lord in Pilate's house." The interior was a _Holland kitchen_; boors _were smoking_ before a _chimney_ place, or _playing at cards_ on a tub reversed; a coarse looking woman held Peter by his collar, and chanticleer sat perched on a beam of the house. The costume and furniture were equally out of keeping, but executed with the most harmonious tone and finest touch of the pencil. Now the same subject in the schools of Italy would represent a hall becoming the governor of Judea, soldiers in Roman costume would be grouped around an antique vase of embers, placed upon a tripod, and Peter would quail under the pert recognition of a beautiful damsel; the grey dawn would appear through the intercolumniations of the portico, and the warning clarion of the cock would be expressed on the brow of the conscience-stricken Apostle.
This may not be considered a fair comparison, but rather the antithesis of the two schools. What then shall we take as the highest effort of Dutch genius? The Bull of Paul Potter! As well might we compare a wax figure of Tecumseh with the Apollo Belvidere, or the Sleeping Beauty with the Venus de Medicis. But, if indeed, it be the highest effort of genius to produce an _exact representation_ of things, the modeller in wax, is superior to the sculptor in marble, and the Bull at the Hague, to the Transfiguration in the Vatican. As no one of any pretension to taste will ever assent to this conclusion, I must again insist, that art aspires to a higher attainment than the mere portraiture of nature, and claims poetic honors; it is the poetry of form and color: it selects the agreeable from the discordant parts of the great prototype--combines and disposes them--and without changing the features, elevates and ennobles them; it seizes upon incidental effects to cast a shadow over the asperities of objects, and throws a broad and brilliant light on the more beautiful parts. When Dominichino was asked what obscured a part of his picture, "_una neblia si passa_," was his reply; and by thus imagining a passing cloud, he was enabled to preserve that breadth of light and shade so remarkable in the English school at present. The Italians however, did not often seek after _effect_; they did not address themselves so much to the eye, as to the judgment; and their distinguishing excellence is _correctness_ of _design_ and _dignity of character_. It was this that acquired for them the praise of a "grand gusto," or sublimity of style, superior to all other artists.
[Footnote 1: This is esteemed the greatest of the Dutch school.]
For the Southern Literary Messenger.
----The inventor of a new word must never flatter himself that he has secured the public adoption, for he must lie in the grave before he can enter the Dictionary.--_D'Israeli_.
_Mr. White_:--I am an odd old fellow, and fond of etymology, and frequently amuse myself with tracing to their roots, words in familiar use. Having been confoundedly puzzled of late by the term CAUCUS, which is in every body's mouth, and not being able to satisfy myself as to its origin, I have determined to have recourse to you, and will be infinitely obliged to you or any of your readers for a solution of the difficulty. If it be true as D'Israeli says, that the inventor of a new word cannot be secure of its adoption by the public, for he must lie in the grave before he can enter the Dictionary--the man who made the aforesaid word must be still living, though at a very advanced age. I rather suppose however that D'Israeli is mistaken, and that the inventor has been dead a long time, and lived to see the general adoption of his word, notwithstanding it has as yet no place in any Dictionary that I have seen. Supposing it to be an English word, I consulted Walker, and was mortified to find that he took no notice of it. I then made sundry combinations of other terms, but could light upon none that seemed at all plausible, except the words _calk us_, which, united into caucus, may produce a kind of _onomatopoeia_, descriptive of the assemblage in question; for to calk, is, according to the abovementioned lexicographer, "to stop the leak of a vessel;" and inasmuch as a caucus is urged by the admirers of Mr. Van Buren, to be the means of stopping all leaks in our political vessel, there seems to be some show of reason in this derivation. Upon further reflection, however, I concluded that the word must be Greek, and having recourse to Schrevelius, found the paronymous term _kakos_, malus. This I presently rejected, though apparently descriptive of the pernicious tendency of a caucus, because the institutors of that pestilent oligarchy would hardly have selected so barefaced an epitheton, such a cacophony, if I may so speak. On further search, upon meeting with _kaukis_, I was so much delighted with the near resemblance of sound, as to jump up and cry out _eureka_; but moderated my rapture on discovering that "_genus calceamenti_," the explanatory terms in Latin, could not be tortured to any manner of application, unless indeed it was intended to indicate that the members of a caucus would be willing to stand in the _people's shoes_, upon the occasion of electing a President of the United States; or unless we observe further the _aliter baukos, jucundus_; for it is literally a very pleasant and right merry way of getting rid of the difficulty of a choice by the people. So far the Greek. As for the Latin, I have consulted every Dictionary in my possession, from Ainsworth and Young, up to _old Thoma Thomasius_, printed _Coventriæ Septimo Idus, Februarii 1630_, and can find nothing resembling our Caucus, but the three headed robber _Cacus_, who by paronomasia, might be considered as the grand prototype of that modern monster, which has stolen, if not the _cattle_, at least the property of the great American Hercules, and will keep it, unless he rise in his might, and crushing the political thief, resumes his original rights. Now, Mr. White, I am disposed to rest here; though not quite so well satisfied as Jonathan Oldbuck was about the locality Of Agricola's camp, from those mysterious initials which the mischievous Edie Ochiltree so wickedly interpreted to mean "_Ailie Davy's lang ladle_," and not "_Agricola dicavit libens lubens_," as _Monkbarns_ would have it;--but do observe, sir, the singular coincidences between Cacus and Caucus; the one a three headed rogue--the other a sort of political Cerberus; the first slily taking away the cattle of another--the second insidiously cajoling the people of their rights; the former hiding them in a cave, where they were discovered by their bellowing--the latter betrayed by a bellowing from Maine to Georgia; and finally Cacus demolished by Hercules, and Caucus easily demolished by the Herculean force of public sentiment.
I acknowledge, however, that I am not entirely satisfied, notwithstanding this "_confirmation strong_," and hope you will speedily relieve the perplexity of
Your most obedient,
P.S. A friend facetiously suggests that Caucus is nothing more than a corruption,--Caucus, quasi cork us; that is, shut close the doors that nobody may hear us.
We will do all in our power to assist our esteemed friend Nugator in his etymological researches.--We remember to have read in a work of a New England author, some years since, an elaborate inquiry into the origin of the word which so much puzzles our correspondent. If our memory serve us faithfully, that writer fixes the nativity of the term in the city of Boston, and the date of its birth previous to the revolution. The circumstances out of which it sprang he asserts to be these. In that stormy period, when every class of citizens was agitated by the sentiments which exploded shortly afterwards in the thunders of revolution, public meetings were frequently held by the different trades and professions. For reasons which we now forget, particular attention was attracted to one called by the _Calkers_, a large body of citizens in so commercial a town. Their proceedings being peculiar, (perhaps in exclusiveness or secrecy,) caused this assemblage to be much talked of; and every subsequent meeting characterized by similar peculiarities in its formation or proceedings, was called a "_Calker's Meeting_." Gradually, in the lapse of time, although the term continued to be used, its origin was forgotten; and a knowledge of its etymological parentage no longer preserving it from corruption, an erroneous pronunciation, and consequently an erroneous manner of spelling it, gave to it the form and shape which it now wears--a change not at all surprising in regard to a word which was probably _unwritten_ during the first thirty years of its existence. We give this derivation from memory alone; we cannot even recall the work in which we saw it. If it be the true one, our friend will perceive that in one of his surmises he is not far wrong. It is high time that the birth, parentage and early condition of a particle of our language, which has of late become a word of power, equal in its magic influence to the fabled spells of ancient necromancers, should be settled beyond dispute. Seeing what Caucus now means, it is natural that we should desire to know from what beginnings it has arisen to its present stupendous importance in the ranks of our modern political vocabulary.
THE CRAYON MISCELLANY. By the author of the Sketch Book. No. 1. Containing a Tour on the Prairies. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard. 1835.
A book from the pen of Washington Irving, is a _morceau_, which will always be eagerly sought after by literary epicures. He is decidedly one of the most popular writers in this country: his sketches of character and scenery, are always true to the life, full of freshness and vigor; and there is usually a clear stream of thought pervading his pages, in fine contrast with the crude and indistinct conceptions of ordinary writers. The volume before us cannot be said indeed to rival some of its predecessors from the same pen, but the cause is not so much in the author as in his subject. In spite of an agreeable and highly descriptive style, the mind becomes wearied with the monotony of a journey through the solitudes of the Western Prairies, and after we have once formed a tolerably distinct idea of a buffalo hunt, and the lasoing of the wild horse, we become tired of the repetition of adventures, which possess so little variety. Considering his materials, however, Mr. Irving has contrived to sustain his narrative with his usual ability. It is true, that most readers will somewhat regret that he did not present more finished portraits of some of the personages who accompanied the expedition. We have quite satisfactory sketches of that "swarthy, meager, braggart" Tonish, and of the "sullen saturnine" half breed Beatte, but we desire to know something more of the wild young Swiss Count, of his travelling companion and mentor, the virtuoso, and of the hardy old hunter, Ryan, a true member of the leather-stocking family.
Notwithstanding the famed perspicuity and purity of Mr. Irving's style, he occasionally adopts a form of expression which creates some surprise. We will give one instance, in particular, because the inaccuracy, if we may so term it, is repeated several times in the volume before us:--"The horse, which was fearless as his owner, and like him, had a considerable spice of devil in his composition, and who beside, had been familiar with the game, no sooner came in sight and scent of the buffalo, than he set off _like mad_, bearing the involuntary hunter," &c. &c. &c. (Page 232.)
We should have supposed the expression, "_like mad_," a typographical error, if it had not been frequently used.
We copy for the reader's amusement, a short chapter, containing an account of "_A Republic of Prairie Dogs_," a kind of quadruped, with which we, at least, in this portion of North America, are not very familiar. The harmony, vigilance and energy, with which these little brutes rally around their rights and their laws, might whisper a sage lesson even to the wisdom of rational and intellectual beings:--
A REPUBLIC OF PRAIRIE DOGS.
On returning from our expedition in quest of the young Count, I learned that a burrow, or village, as it is termed, of prairie dogs, had been discovered on the level summit of a hill, about a mile from the camp. Having heard much of the habits and peculiarities of these little animals, I determined to pay a visit to the community. The prairie dog is, in fact, one of the curiosities of the far West, about which travellers delight to tell marvellous tales, endowing him at times with something of the politic and social habits of a rational being, and giving him systems of civil government and domestic economy, almost equal to what they used to bestow upon the beaver.
The prairie dog is an animal of the coney kind, and about the size of a rabbit. He is of a sprightly mercurial nature; quick, sensitive, and somewhat petulant. He is very gregarious, living in large communities, sometimes of several acres in extent, where innumerable little heaps of earth show the entrances to the subterranean cells of the inhabitants, and the well beaten tracks, like lanes and streets, show their mobility and restlessness. According to the accounts given of them, they would seem to be continually full of sport, business and public affairs; whisking about hither and thither, as if on gossiping visits to each other's houses, or congregating in the cool of the evening, or after a shower, and gambolling together in the open air. Sometimes, especially when the moon shines, they pass half the night in revelry, barking or yelping with short, quick, yet weak tones, like those of very young puppies. While in the height of their playfulness and clamor, however, should there be the least alarm, they all vanish into their cells in an instant, and the village remains blank and silent. In case they are hard pressed by their pursuers, without any hope of escape, they will assume a pugnacious air, and a most whimsical look of impotent wrath and defiance.
The prairie dogs are not permitted to remain sole and undisturbed inhabitants of their own homes. Owls and rattlesnakes are said to take up their abodes with them; but whether as invited guests or unwelcome intruders, is a matter of controversy. The owls are of a peculiar kind, and would seem to partake of the character of the hawk; for they are taller and more erect on their legs, more alert in their looks and rapid in their flight than ordinary owls, and do not confine their excursions to the night, but sally forth in broad day.
Some say that they only inhabit cells which the prairie dogs have deserted, and suffered to go to ruin, in consequence of the death in them of some relative; for they would make out this little animal to be endowed with keen sensibilities, that will not permit it to remain in the dwelling where it has witnessed the death of a friend. Other fanciful speculators represent the owl as a kind of housekeeper to the prairie dog; and from having a note very similar, insinuate that it acts, in a manner, as family preceptor, and teaches the young litter to bark.
As to the rattlesnake, nothing satisfactory has been ascertained of the part he plays in this most interesting household; though he is considered as little better than a sycophant and sharper, that winds himself into the concerns of the honest, credulous little dog, and takes him in most sadly. Certain it is, if he acts as toad eater, he occasionally solaces himself with more than the usual perquisites of his order; as he is now and then detected with one of the younger members of the family in his maw.
Such are a few of the particulars that I could gather about the domestic economy of this little inhabitant of the prairies, who, with his pigmy republic, appears to be a subject of much whimsical speculation and burlesque remarks, among the hunters of the far West.
It was towards evening that I set out with a companion, to visit the village in question. Unluckily, it had been invaded in the course of the day by some of the rangers, who had shot two or three of its inhabitants, and thrown the whole sensitive community in confusion. As we approached, we could perceive numbers of the inhabitants seated at the entrances of their cells, while sentinels seemed to have been posted on the outskirts, to keep a look out. At sight of us, the picket guards scampered in and gave the alarm; whereupon every inhabitant gave a short yelp, or bark, and dived into his hole, his heels twinkling in the air as if he had thrown a somerset.
We traversed the whole village, or republic, which covered an area of about thirty acres; but not a whisker of an inhabitant was to be seen. We probed their cells as far as the ramrods of our rifles would reach, but could unearth neither dog, nor owl, nor rattlesnake. Moving quietly to a little distance, we lay down upon the ground, and watched for a long time, silent and motionless. By and bye, a cautious old burgher would slowly put forth the end of his nose, but instantly draw it in again. Another, at a greater distance, would emerge entirely; but, catching a glance of us, would throw a somerset, and plunge back again into his hole. At length, some who resided on the opposite side of the village, taking courage from the continued stillness, would steal forth, and hurry off to a distant hole, the residence possibly of some family connexion, or gossiping friend, about whose safety they were solicitous, or with whom they wished to compare notes about the late occurrences.
Others still more bold, assembled in little knots, in the streets and public places, as if to discuss the recent outrages offered to the commonwealth, and the atrocious murders of their fellow burghers.
We rose from the ground and moved forward, to take a nearer view of these public proceedings, when, yelp! yelp! yelp!--there was a shrill alarm passed from mouth to mouth; the meetings suddenly dispersed; feet twinkled in the air in every direction; and in an instant all had vanished into the earth.
The dusk of the evening put an end to our observations, but the train of whimsical comparisons produced in my brain, by the moral attributes which I had heard given to these little politic animals, still continued after my return to camp; and late in the night, as I lay awake after all the camp was asleep, and heard in the stillness of the hour, a faint clamor of shrill voices from the distant village, I could not help picturing to myself the inhabitants gathered together in noisy assemblage, and windy debate, to devise plans for the public safety, and to vindicate the invaded rights and insulted dignity of the republic.
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_North American Review_.--The April number is for the most part excellent. But we are forcibly reminded by it of a defect in the Reviews of this country, which it seems to us, might with some little exertion, be remedied. The fault to which we allude, is their tardiness in noticing the publications of the day. In this number of the North American, we find several pages devoted to a review of _Burkhardt's Travels in Africa_, which have been before the public _sixteen years_, while the crowd of new works of undoubted merit which fill our book stores, have not as yet, with but few exceptions, attracted the attention of the reviewers. In this book-making age, we are aware that it is impossible for a Quarterly to review the twentieth part of the productions constantly issuing from the press: but if, as we suppose, it is the design of these periodicals to direct the taste of the public in every department of science and literature, surely they should contain reviews of such works selected from the mass, as are best worthy attention; and should endeavor to keep pace with the stream of publication. We can see little value in a review of a book after every reading man in the community has perused it, and formed his opinion upon its merits. Thus to lag behind the march of current literature, deprives the criticisms of the reviewer of much of their value and weight. In the instance to which we have alluded, it might well be asked whether the travels of Burkhardt, English reviews of which we read ten or twelve, or more years ago, could have the same claim upon the public interest as the newer works of Burnes, Jacquemont, Bennet and many others, whose books possess the charm of novelty? We subjoin the contents of the April number: 1. Politics of Europe: 2. Coleridge: 3. Mineral Springs of Nassau: 4. Life of G. D. Boardman: 5. National Gallery: 6. Italy: 7. Last Days of Pompeii: 8. Immigration: 9. Burkhardt's Travels in Africa: 10. Popular Education.
The first article contains a spirited review of the political events in France since the revolution of 1830, and of the foreign and internal policy of Louis Philippe. The progress of the _juste milieu_ system is well delineated, and a forcible picture is drawn of the present posture of the French government. We do not entirely coincide with the writer's ideas of the onward course of the cause of liberty, (or perhaps more correctly, of revolution) in France; but consider the article generally correct and instructive. That on Coleridge is admirable: and we heartily rejoice that in a work so much looked up to in England as is the North American, for the expression of our literary opinions, justice so ample should have been done to that extraordinary mind. A Baltimore newspaper, in allusion to the article in question, speaks of "the pitiful shifts to which the reviewer is driven to account for a fact which he admits, viz.--that there is but here and there an individual who understands him," [Coleridge.] "What stronger proof do we want," says the journalist, "of that confusion of thought and mysticism with which he has been charged?" We think _far_ stronger proofs are necessary to support the accusation. That but few comprehend the metaphysical treatises of Coleridge, is owing to the simple fact, that few are so thoroughly versed in psychological knowledge as to maintain a position in the van of the science, the post universally acceded to Coleridge by the learned in ethics. It is for this class of men that he has written, and in whose applauses he has received a plentiful reward. These, at least, will not hesitate to say that so far from being justly charged with confusion of thought, and its consequence confusion of expression, no man who ever lived thought _more distinctly even when thinking wrong_, or more intimately felt and comprehended the power of _the niceties of words_. That his philosophical disquisitions are abstruse, is the fault of the subjects, and not of the language in which he has treated them, than which none can be more lucid or appropriate.
The article on Italy is interesting--also that on the National Gallery. In the notice of the _Last Days of Pompeii_, justice is by no means done to that most noble of modern novels.
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The _London Quarterly Review for February_, American Edition, No. 1. Vol. 2. is printed on good paper, with excellent type. It contains, 1. Wanderings in New South Wales, by George Bennet, Esq. F. L. S. Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons: 2. Correspondence of Victor de Jacquemont: 3. Population of Great Britain and Ireland: 4. Coleridge's Table Talk: 5. Egypt and Thebes: 6. Rush on the Prophecies: 7. The Church and the Voluntary System: 8. Recent German Belles Lettres: 9. England, France, Russia and Turkey: 10. Sir Robert Peel's Address. The eighth article contains much information on a subject with which Americans are, for the most part, indifferently conversant. Coleridge's Table Talk is highly interesting, as every authentic fragment of his sentiments and opinions must be. The work reviewed in this article, is published by Mr. Henry Coleridge, a near relative of the departed philosopher and poet, and is made up from notes of numerous conversations, taken down by the publisher immediately after their occurrence. They bear the impress of Coleridge's mind, will be read with interest by all classes, and probably do more to make the general reader acquainted with him and his opinions, than all else that has been written.--We take this opportunity of noticing the excellent American Edition of the London, Edinburg, Foreign and Westminster Reviews, combined. It does much honor to Mr. Foster of New York, the publisher; and the compression of matter is such, without being printed too fine, as to give to subscribers for the sum of eight dollars, these four periodicals for which upwards of twenty dollars was formerly paid. The paper, type, and execution, are good.
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_The Life of Samuel Drew_, the shoemaker and philosopher of Cornwall, by his son, is published by Harper & Brothers, and consists of 360 pages. Drew was an extraordinary man, whose works, especially his theological ones, have gained him no little celebrity. It now appears that he had much to do with the writings attributed to Dr. Coke.
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_The Life of the Emperor Napoleon, Vol. 1, by H. Lee. New York, Charles De Behr._ This work has great merits and remarkable faults. Published ostensibly as a corrector of the numerous errors of other biographers of Napoleon, and especially those of Sir Walter Scott and Lockhart, it cannot but be read with interest. The errors detected and set right, are numerous and important. In most instances Mr. Lee clearly makes out his charges--in some we are sorry to see that he seems to be governed by a spirit of captiousness: And we cannot but object to the tone of his strictures upon Sir Walter Scott. Milder language would better have graced his cause. We have prepared a review of this work, which we are compelled to postpone to the next number of the Messenger.
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_Celebrated Trials of all Countries, and remarkable cases of Criminal Jurisprudence, selected by a Member of the Philadelphia Bar. Philadelphia, E. L. Carey and A. Hart._ Such a book as this was much wanted. The records of criminal trials were scattered through the newspapers or buried in some huge tomes of antique law reports, almost inaccessible to the ordinary reader. And this book seems fitted to supply the deficiency to a considerable extent. It is a large octavo, and contains a selection of criminal trials from the early period of 1588, down to the present day, among them some of the most celebrated cases on record, such as that of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1602, of the Earl of Strafford in 1643, of Alexis Petrowitz Czarowitz in 1815, of the rebels, Kilmarnock, Cromartie, Balmerino, &c. in 1745, and others of equal interest--the judicial proceedings in relation to which, belong to history. The contents of the work are highly interesting, but we cannot withhold our censure of their arrangement. The trials are huddled together without the slightest attention to chronological order; and it would seem that the gentleman of the Philadelphia Bar, who is made responsible for the compilation of the work, could merely have selected the several cases leaving the printer to arrange them as he pleased. The consequence is, that the reader finds himself shifting backward and forward, from century to century, in a complete medley of dates. This is to be lamented, because the history of criminal jurisprudence is a history of the progress of civil liberty, and of the expansion of the human mind. And the interest which we find in tracing the progress of just and equitable rules in the trials of malefactors, is marred by this defect of arrangement. As future volumes of this work are partly promised, it is to be hoped that in them this fault will be amended.
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_No Fiction_. _A Narrative founded on recent and interesting facts, by the Rev. Andrew Reed, D.D._ has been republished by the Harpers. With a plot of great simplicity, and with diction equally simple, this work has attained much celebrity. It is indeed thrillingly interesting. _Martha_, a more recent effort by the same writer, is however, in every respect a book of greater merit.
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_Memoirs of Celebrated Women of all Countries. By Madame Junot. Philadelphia, Carey, Lea and Blanchard._ These memoirs are amusing, and so far we can recommend them highly, but no farther. Their morality is questionable indeed; and they bear upon their face, in a certain pervading air of romance, sufficient evidence of their own inauthenticity. There is a sad mistake too in the title of the work. These are not memoirs of celebrated women in _all_ countries: they are merely Madame Junot's celebrated women in a few particular regions. The greater part of them have no pretensions to celebrity. It has been remarked that the sketch of Marina Minszech will afford a fair sample of the Duchess's biographical style. In this opinion we concur, and as it is a pretty fable, we advise all to read it who have no inclination for the book entire.
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_Influence, a Moral Tale, by the author of Miriam. Philadelphia, Key and Biddle._ There is an air of modest tranquillity about this book which we admire. It is a pleasing tale addressed to the young, to serious parents, and to friends--and it pretends to be nothing more. Its style too is unobjectionable. If the work developes in the author no extraordinary capabilities, it is, we think, because there was no intention of developing them.
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_Lives of the English Pirates, Highwaymen and Robbers, by Whitehead. Philadelphia, Carey and Hart._ These lines will be read in spite of all that a too fastidious taste may say to the contrary. We see no very good reason why they should not be.
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_Confessions of a Poet, 2 vols. Carey, Lea and Blanchard._ The most remarkable feature in this production is the bad paper on which it is printed, and the typographical ingenuity with which matter barely enough for one volume has been spread over the pages of two. The author has very few claims to the sacred name he has thought proper to assume. And indeed his own idea on this subject seem not to satisfy himself. He is in doubt, poor man, of his own qualifications, and having proclaimed himself a poet in the title page, commences his book by disavowing all pretensions to the character. We can enlighten him on this head. There is nothing of the _vates_ about him. He is no poet--and most positively he is no prophet. He is a writer of notes. He is fond of annotations; and composes one upon another, putting Pelion upon Ossa. Here is an example: "_Ce n'est pas par affectation que j'aie mis en Francais ces remarques, mais pour les detourner de la connoissance du vulgaire._" Now we are very sure that none but _le vulgaire_, to speak poetically, will ever think of getting through with the confessions: thus there the matter stands. Lest his book should _not_ be understood he illustrates it by notes, and then lest the notes _should_ be understood, why he writes them in French. All this is very clear, and very clever to say no more. There is however some merit in this book, and not a little satisfaction. The author avers upon his word of honor that in commencing this work he loads a pistol, and places it upon the table. He farther states that, upon coming to a conclusion, it is his intention to blow out what he supposes to be his brains. Now this is excellent. But, even with so rapid a writer as the poet must undoubtedly be, there would be some little difficulty in completing the book under thirty days or thereabouts. The best of powder is apt to sustain injury by lying so long "in the load." We sincerely hope the gentleman took the precaution to examine his priming before attempting the rash act. A flash in the pan--and in such a case--were a thing to be lamented. Indeed there would be no answering for the consequences. We might even have a second series of the Confessions.
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_The Language of Flowers, embellished with fine colored engravings. Philadelphia, Carey, Hart and Co._ This is a book which will find favor in the eyes of the ladies, and thus, _par consequence_ in the eyes of the gentlemen. Its motto is pretty and apposite:
By all those token-flowers that tell What words can never speak so well.
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_Mr. and Miss Edgeworth's Practical Education_ has been republished by the Harpers. Its character is well established.
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_The Highland Smugglers. By the author of Adventures of a Kussilbush, &c. 3 vols. Carey, Hart and Co._ This book is very much praised and we think justly. It is full of exquisite descriptions of that region of romance the Scottish Highlands, and has _a manner of its own_.
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Mr. Lockhart's excellent novel _Valerius_ is republished by the Harpers. The scene is in the time of Trajan, and the subject is managed in that masterly style which we look for in Lockhart. We have heard objections urged to the antique nature of his tale--ill-mannered sneers, and by men who should know better, at travelling back to Roman history for interest which could as well be found at home. _Procul--O procul este profani!_ Valerius is a book _to live_.
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_An Account of Col. Crockett's Tour to the North and Down East, written by himself. Carey, Hart and Co._ We see no reason why Col. Crockett should not be permitted to expose himself if he pleases, and to be as much laughed at as he thinks proper--but works of this kind have had their day, and have fortunately lost their attractions. We think this work especially censurable for the frequent vulgarity of its language.
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_Illorax de Courcy, an auto-biographical novel, by Josiah Templeton, Esq., 2 vols. Baltimore, William and Joseph Neal._ We have looked at this book attentively--for we confess it was impossible to read it. A glance over one or two pages will be sufficient to convince any reasonable person that it is a mere jumble of absurdities. The gentleman should not have thrust his name (if it be not a _nom de guerre_,) into the title page.
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_A Winter in the West, by a New Yorker. New York, Harper and Brothers._ This is a work of great sprightliness, and is replete with instruction and amusement. The writer evinces much talent in producing an interesting narrative of a journey performed in the most unpropitious period of the year. His observations on life in the backwoods are sensible, and we should imagine correct, and his details in relation to Michigan particularly interest us. The adventures of the road are told with great vivacity, and although there are no thrilling scenes or surprising incidents in the book, it cannot be read with indifference. The traits of Indian character scattered through its pages are vivid and striking, and the reflections on the condition of that fast failing race mark the philanthropic spirit of the author. Mr. Hoffman, formerly connected with the New York American, and now Editor of a Monthly Magazine, is the reputed author of this spirited work.
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Note: The journal of Mrs. Frances Ann Butler, better known as Miss Fanny Kemble, has, after a long delay, made its appearance; but at so late a period that we are unable to present our readers with our opinions at large of its merits, which we regret the more, as the work has created much excitement in the literary and fashionable world. Numerous extracts from its pages have been published in the newspapers, and the daring authoress has received but little mercy from any quarter. It will be reviewed in our next.
We recommend the contents of our present number with entire confidence, to our readers.
The article on the "_Influence of Free Governments on the Mind_," is from the same gifted and exuberant pen which produced the "_Impediments to Literature_," republished in our fifth number, from the Western Monthly Magazine.
The selection from Mr. Mitchell's Manuscripts, or the story of the "_White Antelope_," will, we doubt not, be read with zest enough to create a strong desire for future contributions from the same source. The peculiarities of those wild sons of the forest who have never been _corrupted by civilization_, (we hope the solecism will be pardoned,) cannot fail to attract the curious. The story we publish is truly _unique_ and excellent of its kind.
Chapter I. on "_English Poetry_," tracing as it does the rude and early dawnings of that divine art in our own venerable vernacular, will deeply interest by its antique spirit, and by the accurate and profound investigation which its author has evinced. We shall look for the remaining chapters with much eagerness.
We hope that no one will be deterred, by the length of Professor George Tucker's discourse on the "_Progress of Philosophy_," from reading it attentively. We acknowledge the value our pages derive from its insertion, and we earnestly desire that all should share in the pleasure and improvement which it will undoubtedly impart. Besides that some of its views possess all the freshness of originality, the whole address is couched in that felicitous diction for which its author has been already justly distinguished, ennobling the subject, while it familiarizes it to readers of all classes.
The 5th "_Letter from New England_" is full of thought, and deserves the serious consideration of every man who claims to be a patriot. When will the disastrous conflicts of party strife so far subside, as to authorise a thorough, if not exclusive devotion to our own state institutions and concerns? There are many things in our own internal policy which might be judiciously reformed: The allusions of the letter writer to the system of fixing the age by law at which judges shall leave the bench, are expressed in his best style, and forcibly remind us of the veneration and respect due to the "gigantic Coryphæus of the United States' Judiciary."
Our excellent and able friend who writes the article on "_The Waltz and Gallopade_," is mistaken if he supposes that we have favored those outlandish innovations upon Virginian simplicity. We are advocates for new inventions, only when they contribute to human happiness and virtue; and we heartily join with him in censuring those of the votaries of fashion who would corrupt the purity of our manners and the innocence of our amusements, by introducing among us practices of even doubtful effect upon the morals of the rising generation.
In "_Christian Education_," much wholesome admonition will be found, directly addressed to the consideration of parents. The writer shows in this article, that the spirit of a christian renders the much neglected exhibition of childish intellect worthy the attention of an accomplished and masculine mind.
The "_Extract from a Mexican Journal_," contains much valuable information in relation to a country but little known.
The Tales, of which we publish several in the present number, comprise a variety of talent. "_A Tale of the West_," written as we are assured, by a novice in composition, certainly displays much ability, although a little more experience would have taught the writer the value of compression. But amplification is generally the fault of youth and inexperience, and in this case it does not conceal the talent unequivocally displayed by the writer.
"_Morella_" will unquestionably prove that Mr. Poe has great powers of imagination, and a command of language seldom surpassed. Yet we cannot but lament that he has drank so deep at some enchanted fountain, which seems to blend in his fancy the shadows of the tomb with the clouds and sunshine of life. We doubt however, if any thing in the same style can be cited, which contains more terrific beauty than this tale.
The favors and contributions of our friend Pertinax Placid, Esquire, are particularly welcome; and we hereby give him due notice that we adopt him as a member of our literary family. In the "_Tale of a Nose_," he has illustrated with admirable humor the curious philosophy of dreaming; and in "_Content's Mishap_," he has clothed a fine moral in the charms of flowing verse.
No. II. on the _Fine Arts_ will be read with more than ordinary pleasure, by all who can estimate glowing descriptions of beauty and grace, and the enthusiasm of an artist. The style of the article is most captivating.
We are pleased to welcome again to our columns, our old and much respected friend "_Nugator_," and equally so to learn that he is convalescent from a severe illness which has kept his pen idle for some time. His letter contains some allusions to politics, which in general we deem an unsuitable subject for a journal on the plan of the Messenger. But his remarks are expressed in so good humored a manner, that we are convinced they can afford no offence. The detail of his researches is highly amusing, and given in his usual agreeable style.
The selected article, a "_Scene in Real Life_," is characterized by deep and impressive pathos. We are happy to say that its author will probably become a contributor to our columns.
It would be uncourteous and in violation of our feelings, to omit noticing the poetical contributions to this number. We particularly recommend to our readers the "_Apostrophe of an Æolian Harp_," a strain of harmony and sentiment struck by a master hand from the chords of a truly poetic lyre.--"_The Last Gift_" is also the product of a fertile and glowing spirit. It comes to us wrapt in the mists of the anonymous; but if, as we trust, Corydon has not wept himself to stone, we should gladly receive his further favors. "_Nature and Art_" is from a feminine hand, which has before awakened strains of rich music and sentiment in our pages. "_The Last Indian_" by our valued friend Larry Lyle, is a magnificent description of a somewhat extravagant dream. It exhibits even a greater degree of _power_ than his former contributions. The "_Winter Scenes at Williamsburg_," give a pleasing and vivid description of the gaiety which reigned at that interesting place during the past season. There are also several minor pieces in which we doubt not our readers will perceive much merit.