The Project Gutenberg eBook of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 58, No. 359, September 1845

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Title: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 58, No. 359, September 1845

Author: Various

Release date: June 8, 2010 [eBook #32738]
Most recently updated: January 6, 2021

Language: English

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English Landscape—Constable,257
Mahmood the Ghaznavide. By B. Simmons,266
Marston; or, the Memoirs of a Statesman. Part XIX.,272
Waterton's Second Series of Essays,289
Warren's Law Studies,300
Margaret of Valois,312
The Baron von Stein,328
The Historical Romance,341
A Few Words for Bettina,357
North's Specimens of the British Critics. No. Viii.—Supplement to Mac-Flecnoe and the Dunciad,366




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[Pg 257]






The appearance of the second edition of Leslie's Life of Constable invites attention to this truly English and original artist. We have read this volume with much interest. It is a graceful homage paid by a great living painter to the memory of one who is no more: a kindly, and, as we believe, an honest testimony to the moral and professional worth of one whose works stand out with a striking and distinct character in the English school of landscape-painting, and which, we are confident, will retain the place which they have slowly gained in public estimation, as long as a feeling of pictorial truth, in its more elevated sense, and as distinct from a mere literal imitation of details, shall continue to endure. Mr Leslie has accomplished his task with skill as well as good sense; for, keeping the labours of the editor entirely in the background, he has made Constable his own biographer—the work consisting almost entirely of extracts from his notes, journals, and correspondence, linked together by the slenderest thread of narrative. Story indeed, it may be said, there was none to tell; for, among the proverbially uneventful lives of artists, that of Constable was perhaps the least eventful. His birth—his adoption of painting as a profession (for he was originally destined pulverem collegisse in the drier duties of a miller)—his marriage, after a long attachment, on which parents had looked frowningly, but which the lovers, by patient endurance and confidence in each other, brought to a successful issue—his death, just when he had begun to feel that the truth and originality of his style were becoming better appreciated both abroad and at home; these, with the hopes, and fears, and anxieties for a rising family, which diversify the married life with alternate joys and sorrows, form, in truth, the only incidents in his history. The incidents of a painter's life, in fact, are the foundation of his character, the gradual development to his own mind of the principles of his art; and with Constable's thoughts and opinions, his habits of study, the growth of his style—if that term can be applied to the manner of one whose great anxiety it was to have no distinguishable style whatever—with his manly, frank, affectionate, and somewhat hasty disposition, with his strong self-reliance, and, as we may sometimes think, his overweening self-esteem—his strength of mind and his weaknesses—this volume makes us familiarly acquainted.

Constable was born in 1776, at East Bergholt in Sussex. His father was in comfortable circumstances, as may be gathered from the fact, that the artist (one of six children) ultimately[Pg 258] inherited £4000 as his share of the succession. He was thus entirely exempted from the res angusta with which artists have so often to labour; although, with the characteristic improvidence of his profession, we still find that he had enough to do to make both ends meet. Born delicate, he grew up a strong and healthy boy, and was intended by his father, who had succeeded by purchase or inheritance to sundry wind and water mills, for a miller. Nay, for about a year, Constable actually performed that duty at one of his father's mills, and, it is said, faithfully and assiduously. Yet he contrived to turn even this episode in his life to some advantage. He treasured up a multitude of mental studies of clouds and skies, which, to the wind-miller, are always objects of peculiar interest, and acquired that familiarity with mills and their adjuncts which justified his brother's observation—"When I look at a mill painted by John, I see that it will go round, which is not always the case with those by other artists."

Even before his short trial of a miller's life, his love of drawing and painting had shown itself; but, receiving little countenance from his father, he had established a little sanctuary of his own in a workshop of a neighbouring plumber and glazier, John Dunthorne, a man of some intelligence, and himself an indefatigable artist on an humble scale. His mother, who seems from the first to have had something like a prophetic anticipation of his future eminence, procured him an introduction to Sir George Beaumont, who frequently visited his mother, the dowager Lady Beaumont, then residing at Dedham. The sight of a beautiful Claude—"The Hagar"—which Sir George generally carried with him when he travelled, and of some water-colour drawings by Girtin, which Sir George advised him to study as examples of truth and breadth, seem to have determined his wavering resolution to become a painter; and the combined influence of Claude and Girtin may, indeed, be traced more or less during the whole course of his practice. His father appeared at last to have given a reluctant consent, and the mill was abandoned for the painting-room, or rather for the study of nature in the open air, among the forest glades and by the still streams of Suffolk.

Suffolk, certainly, might not appear at first sight to be the place which one would choose for the education of a great painter. Mountains it has none; to the sublimity arising from lake or precipice, or the desolate expanse of moor and fell, it has no pretension; from the spots where Constable chiefly studied, even the prospect of old ocean was shut out; the country presented, as he himself describes it, only gentle declivities, luxuriant meadow flats, sprinkled with flocks and herds, quiet but clear streams, villages, farms, woodlands—

"The slow canal, the yellow-blossom'd vale,
The willow-tufted bank and gliding sail."

What influence scenery of a higher class might have had on Constable's mind, it is not easy to decide; as it was, the narrow circuit of a few miles round Bergholt, within which the materials of his pictures are chiefly found, became for him the epitome of English nature; and he associated the very ideal of beauty with those quiet nooks and scenes of tranquillity and amenity, where he had first exercised his pencil, and amidst which in after life he loved to linger.

And in truth, to a creative mind—for "it is the soul that sees," and renders back its vision—how much of beauty, picturesque variety, nay, under certain aspects and conditions of the atmosphere, how much of grandeur existed within this narrow circle! A friend of ours has maintained an ingenious thesis, that there is no such thing as a bad day in nature; though whether, after the aspect of the present summer, he retains his opinion, we think may be questioned. Constable certainly held a similar theory with regard to beauty in landscape. "Madam," said he to a lady who had denounced some object as ugly—"there is nothing ugly. I never saw an ugly thing in my life; for let the form of an object be what it may, light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful." This, indeed, was the talisman with which he worked; light and shade—the magic of chiaro-scuro applied to the simple elements of form[Pg 259] which the rich pastures and woods of Suffolk afforded, and a power of exhibiting the varied influences and character of the skies, which, if it has been equalled by Turner, Calcott, and Fielding, has certainly never been surpassed by any British landscape-painter.

Let us glance at some of those pictures of tranquil English nature which Constable's landscapes afford;—not professing to follow the details of any particular picture, but embodying from recollection a few of their leading features, as exhibited under those lights or atmospheric effects, which he generally selected as in harmony with the sentiment of his scenes.

We are standing, for instance, on a broken foreground, across which the brier, the dog-rose, and the white bindweed have clasped themselves in fantastic tendrils. The white hemlock shoots up rankly by the hedge, and the tall bulrush and water-lily mark the course of the little stream which is sliding noiselessly past among the grass. It is early morning, as we see by the long oblique shadows. Yet industry is already at work. The wheel of that weather-stained and lichen-covered mill—call it Flatford if you will—is in motion, and the dripping water, glancing in the morning sun, descends from the cogs in a shower of diamonds. The stream that supplies the mill is crossed further down by a rustic bridge, as picturesque as it is inconvenient. Beyond, and towards the centre, a long wooded lane stretches out towards the horizon, close and overarching at top, but with the sunbeams straggling in between the trunks, and checkering the cool road with a network of light and shadow. About midway, a small spring, trickling from a bank, has been collected in a rude stone trough, for the refreshment of panting horse and wayworn traveller; beside which two market wains—the one on its way to the neighbouring town, the other returning from it—have stopped. The horses are watering; the waggoners gossiping over the news, or smoking together the calumet of peace; while a group of urchins, in whom the embryo ostler or future strapper are easily detected, are looking on with that interest in all that concerns horseflesh which distinguishes the rising members of an agricultural population. Beyond the lane are gentle hills, "rounded about by the low wavering sky"—some smoke indicating the market-town, and the spire of the village church leading the eye out of the picture, and crowning the cheerful serenity of the landscape.

The day advances, and the scene is changed. In the foreground we have a building-yard by the river. Boats and barges are seen in their rise, progress, decline, and fall;—some completed, some exhibiting merely their skeletons upon the stocks; some blistering in the sun beside the broken pier; some, which have seen better days, now entirely out of commission, and falling to pieces among the mud;—placed in all attitudes, and projecting broad and picturesque shadows along the ground. But these shadows are soft and transparent, not dark and cutting; for the sultry haze which rises steaming from all around, makes the summer sunshine veiled and dim. All nature is in a state of indolence. The lazy Stour sleeps beneath his fringes of elm and willow: a deep-laden barge comes leisurely along, as if anxious not to disturb his slumbers: the horse has plainly enough to do to make out his four miles an hour; and there is a dog on deck who seems nervous about hydrophobia. The man at the bow, depressing his head and elevating the lower part of his person to an American angle of elevation, has thrown his sturdy limbs across yon well-stuffed sacks of wheat, on their way to Flatford mill. Mercy on us! what can that fellow in the stern be about, pretending to steer? Just as we suspected—fast asleep, with his hand on the helm.

Another change—from the building-yard to the corn-field. The wind has risen as the day advanced, and driven off to the west the veil of vapour which had concealed the sun. The clouds ride high in heaven; and we see by their roll and motion that there is a refreshing air astir;—and there is need of it in this field of golden grain, framed, as it were, in the solid green of those groves, and over which the gray tower of Dedham church (which somehow or other finds its way into all these combinations of scenery) rises straight and motionless against[Pg 260] the rounded forms of the ever-shifting sky. All here speaks of bustle and cheerful activity, peace and plenty. It is impossible to look at the scene, and think for a moment of the repeal of the corn-laws. Behind the stalwart band of reapers lie the heaps of sheaves that have already fallen beneath their sickle; the tall grain, swept by the wind, waves firm before them like a hostile rank yet unbroken; while the lord, as he is called in Suffolk, or leading man among the reapers and mowers, stands in advance of the rest, as if urging a final charge. In truth, there has been rather a lull among the workmen; for, breezy as the day is, still it is hot—the dinner-hour is nigh, and there is a visible anxiety evinced for the arrival of the commissariat. At last it is seen in the offing: the reapers, "sagacious of their quarry from afar," gather new vigour from the sight; and yonder tall fellow—an Irishman, we are positive even at this distance—seizing his sickle like one inspired, is actually working double tides.

But stay, we have got into wilder quarters, and here has been a storm. Ay, we thought the clouds, after such a sultry morning, were not rolling themselves into those ominous grey volumes for nothing. Broken ground lies before us in front, seemingly part of an old gravel-pit, down which winds a break-neck path, lost at yonder turning. Beneath us, a level flat, where the sullen verdure of the vegetation betrays the marshy, reedy, sterile character of the soil. Pools of water, here and there set amidst the swampy green, reflect the dark and watery clouds that are scudding above them. The lavender, the water-lily, the mallow, the fern, the fox-glove, luxuriate here; abundant food for botany, but not exactly in the place one would choose for botanizing—particularly, as is the case this moment, within an hour of sundown. Beyond the flat, the traces of a range of low hills, their outline at present lost in rain. Overhead, a spongy sky, darkening into a lurid gloom to the right; for there the laden thunder-clouds are about to discharge their freight; and right underneath, in the middle distance, an unhappy windmill, which has shortened sail during the preparatory blast, stands glimmering like a ghost through the gloom, obviously on the eve of the deluge. What may be the probable fate of the miller and his men in this conjuncture, humanity, of course, declines to contemplate; but, turning towards the left, sees the sun struggling through the opening eyelids of the clouds, the leaden hue of the sky on the right breaking off into a lustrous haze, and a rainbow growing into form and colour, which, as it spans the dripping landscape from east to west, gives token of a goodly day to-morrow.

These are but a few of the combinations which even this limited range of scenery evidently presented to the eye and fancy of a man like Constable; nor is it wonderful, after all, that to such materials, unpretending as they seem, an artist embued with a genuine love of nature should have succeeded in imparting a peculiar charm, and a never-ending freshness and variety. Amidst scenes of the sane tranquil cast did Hobbima and Waterlo find the subjects of those soothing pictures, the spell of which is acknowledged equally by the profound student of art and the simple admirer of nature. Scenes not materially different in their character did Ruysdael envelope in grandeur, depicting, as Constable expresses it in one of his lectures, "those solemn days peculiar to his country, and to ours, when, without storm, large rolling clouds scarcely permit a ray of sunlight to break the shades of the forest." And amidst the selfsame scenes—the same forest-lanes, and brooks, and woods, and waters—with the same happy accompaniments of rustic incidents, occupations, or amusements—did Constable's predecessor, Gainsborough, find his academy.

Very early in Constable's career, he adopted the principle which regulated through life the character of his painting. "There is room enough," he writes, after considering the Exhibition of 1802—"There is room enough for a natural painter. The great vice of the present day is bravura—an attempt to do something beyond the truth. Fashion always had, and always will have, its day; but truth in all things only will last, and can only have just claims on posterity." Here, indeed, he felt, and justly, that there was an opening for him in the school of English landscape. Gainsborough,[Pg *257] who had first communicated truth and life to the treatment of the genuine scenery of England, was no more. It is true, the grosser absurdities of the Smiths of Chichester, and the other compounders of landscapes secundum artem, with which we are familiar in the engravings of Woollet, in whose performances a kind of pictorial millennium appears to be realized; where the English cottage stands side by side with the Italian villa, and Norfolk bumpkins are seen making love to Arcadian shepherdesses knitting beneath the pillars of a Doric temple—these noxious grafts of a conventional taste upon the healthy stem of our native landscape-painting had disappeared. But still, the influence of this conventional taste in a great measure remained—shown in the established belief that subject made the picture, and necessitating, as was supposed, the exclusive adoption of certain established modes of composition, colouring, and treatment, from which the hardy experimentalist who should first attempt to deviate was sure, for a time at least, to encounter opposition; or, what was more probable, entire neglect.

"In art," says Constable, writing in 1829, "there are two modes by which men aim at distinction. In the one, by a careful application to what others have accomplished, the artist imitates their works, or selects and combines their various beauties; in the other, he seeks excellence at its primitive source, nature. In the first, he forms a style upon the study of pictures, and produces either imitation or eclectic art; in the second, by a close observation of nature, he discovers qualities existing in her which have never been portrayed before, and thus forms a style which is original. The results of the one mode, as they repeat that with which the eye is already familiar, are soon recognised and estimated; while the advances of the artist on a new path must necessarily be slow—for a few are able to judge of that which deviates from the usual course, or are qualified to appreciate original studies." In this passage is contained, both the principle of Constable's painting, and the history of its results: for, strange as it may seem, so little do general observers look at nature with an observing and pictorial eye—so much are their ideas of what it contains received at second-hand, by reflection from pictures—that the forms under which artists have combined to represent her (forms representing, it may be, a portion of the truth, but certainly not the whole truth) have, in the great majority of cases, superseded the stamp and authority of nature; and truth itself, where it did not steal in under a conventional garb, has been refused admittance by more than one committee of taste. "What a sad thing," Constable writes to Leslie, "that this lovely art is so wrested to its own destruction! Used only to blind our eyes, and to prevent us from seeing the sun shine, the fields bloom, the trees blossom, the foliage rustle; while old black rubbed-out and dirty canvasses take the place of God's own works!"

With his mind made up as to the course to be adopted, Constable betook himself to the study of nature on the spot. Careful drawing was his first object, as the substance to which the embodiment of colour and chiaroscuro was to be applied, and without which, though there might be effect, there could be no truth. His studies of trees and foreground are said to have been eminently beautiful. These, however, he loved to exhibit in their vernal, rather than their autumnal character. "I never did admire the autumnal tints, even in nature—so little of a painter am I in the eye of common connoisseurship. I love the exhilarating freshness of spring." Buildings he did not court, but rather avoided—though in later life he grappled successfully even with architectural detail, as in his pictures of Salisbury Cathedral;[2] but, in general, he dealt with it sparingly. Shipping[Pg *258] and coast-scenes he considered "more fit for execution than for sentiment." What he luxuriated in was the study of atmospheric effects, and the principles of light and shadow as applied to his sylvan and pastoral landscapes. "I hold the genuine pastoral feeling of landscapes," said he, writing in 1829 to his friend Archdeacon Fisher, "to be very rare, and difficult of attainment. It is by far the most lovely department of painting, as well as of poetry." "Painting," he says in another letter, "is with me but another word for feeling, and I associate my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour. These scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful." "Whatever may be thought of my art, it is my own; and I would rather possess a freehold, though but a cottage, than live in a palace belonging to another."

Thus feeling intensely the charm of nature—and confident that by the vivid representation of pastoral English landscape, he could enable it to exercise upon other minds something of the same spell which it produced on his own—his whole efforts, as he says himself, were directed to forget pictures, and to catch if possible the precise aspect which the scenery which he endeavours to portray presented at the moment of study. And here particularly it is, that the genius of Constable is visible. A man of less reach of mind, beginning, as he did, with this minute attention to the vocabulary of detail, would probably have ended there. We should have had a set of pictures perfectly painted in parts, but forming no consistent whole. All general effect would have been sacrificed to the impression to be produced by particulars. The very love of nature often leads to this error—as in the once-popular Glover, and many others. But no one had a fuller sense than Constable, that by this means pictures never can be created; that literal imitation of the details of nature is a delusion; because not only is the medium we use entirely inadequate, but paint as we may, with the most microscopic minuteness of detail, the thousand little touches and reflexes of light and shade, which soften and harmonize all things in nature, are essentially evanescent, and incapable of being transferred to canvass. He felt that a certain substitute for nature, awakening a corresponding impression upon the mind, was all that he could be afforded by painting—that the spirit and not the letter of her handwriting was to be imitated. The object of painting, as he himself expressed it, "was to realize, but not to feign: to remind, but not to deceive."

Hence, while he perfectly succeeded in catching the spirit of the spot—so much so, that Mr Leslie, visiting the scenes of his pictures for the first time after his death, declares, "that he was absolutely startled by the resemblance"—he yet exercised over the whole that creative, at least compounding art, which arrayed the objects in the forms most harmonious to the eye, and grouped the details into a whole, telling in the most effective manner the story, or conveying the impression it was intended to create. The composition of a picture, he used to say, "was like a sum in arithmetic—take away, or add the smallest item, and the whole was certain to be wrong."

As a consequence, we think, of this conviction, that nature is not to be literally imitated in her colours or forms, but that some compromise is to be found, by which, though on a lower key, a similar impression is to be made on the eye, and through that on the mind, is the general abstinence from positive colour, which distinguishes Constable's paintings. It was not that he adopted the conventional orange and brown of the continental school, or shrank from endeavouring to carry the full impression of the dewy verdure of English landscape. For these subterfuges in art he had an abundant contempt. "Don't you find it very difficult to determine," said Sir George Beaumont, (who, with all his fine feelings of art, certainly looked at nature through a Claude Lorraine medium,) "where to place your brown tree?" "Not in the least," was Constable's answer, "for I never put such a thing into a picture." On another occasion, when Sir George was recommending the colour of an old Cremona fiddle as a good prevailing tone for every thing, Constable answered the observation by depositing an old Cremona on the green lawn in front of[Pg *259] the house at Cole-Orton. But what we mean is this—that to produce the effect which green or red produces in nature, it does not follow that green or red are to be used in art, and that the impression of these colours will often be better brought out by tints in which but a very small portion of either is to be found.

Mr Leslie has remarked this peculiarity in several of Constable's pictures. Speaking of Constable's Boat-building, he observes—"In the midst of a meadow at Flatford, a barge is seen on the stocks, while, just beyond it, the river Stour glitters in the still sunshine of a hot summer's day. This picture is a proof, that in landscape, what painters call warm colours are not necessary to produce a warm effect. It has, indeed, no positive colour, and there is much of gray and green in it; but such is its atmospheric truth, that the tremulous vibration of the heated air near the ground seems visible." Again, with regard to a small view from Hampstead heath. "The sky is of the blue of an English summer day, with large but not threatening clouds of a silvery whiteness. The distance is of a deep blue, and the near trees and grass of the freshest green; for Constable could never consent to patch up the verdure of nature to obtain warmth. These tints are balanced by a very little warm colour on a road and gravel-pit in the foreground, a single house in the middle distance, and the scarlet jacket of a labourer. Yet I know no picture in which the mid-day heat of summer is so admirably expressed; and were not the eye refreshed by the shade thrown over a great part of the foreground by some young trees that border the road, and the cool blue of water near it, one would wish in looking at it for a parasol, as Fuseli wished for an umbrella when standing before one of Constable's showers."

It was probably the manner of Constable's execution, as much as any thing else, which for a time interposed a serious obstacle to his success; particularly with artists or persons accustomed to attend to the executive detail of painting. "My pictures will never be popular," he said, "for they have no handling; but I do not see handling in nature." His aim, in fact, though we must admit it was not always successful, was to exhibit art, but not artifice—to efface all traces of the mere mode of execution—to conceal the handwriting of the painter, and to imitate those mysterious processes by which nature produces her effects, where all is shadowy, glimmering, indefinable, yet pregnant with suggestion. In Turner more than any other modern artist—for in this respect we think he far excelled Constable—is this alchymy of art carried to perfection. Look closely at his pictures, and a few patches, dashes, and streaks only are visible, which seem a mere chaos of colour; but retire to the proper distance, what magnificent visions grow into shape; how the long avenue lengthens out for miles; how the sun-clad city brightens on the mountain—the stream descends from the eye—the distance spreads out into infinity!—all these apparently unmeaning spots or accidents of colour, in which it is difficult to detect the work of the hand or pencil at all, being, in fact, mysterious but speaking hieroglyphics, based on profound combinations of colour and light and shadow, and full of the finest harmonies to all who can look at nature with the eye of imagination.

Constable, a we have said, was not always successful in this, the most hazardous of all attempts in painting. If the touches of pure white, which he seemed to scatter on his trees as if from a half-dry brush, sometimes assisted the dewy effect which he loved to produce, they very often, from the absence of that power of just calculation which Turner seems so unerringly to possess, produced a spotty effect, as if the trees had been here and there powdered with snow. Very frequently he exchanged the pencil for the palette knife, in the use of which he was very dexterous, but which, Mr Leslie admits, he occasionally carried to a blamable excess, loading his pictures with a relievo of colour, and provoking the remark, that if he had not attained breadth, he had at least secured thickness.

On the whole, Constable, though now and then missing his object—sometimes, it would seem, as in his skies, from overlabouring his effect, and trying too studiously to arrest[Pg *260] and embody fleeting effects—was eminently successful in the result at which he aimed—that of conveying vividly, and almost irresistibly, the sentiment and delineative character of the scene. We have already quoted Fuseli's well-known remark, when standing before one of his showery pictures. "I feel the wind blowing on my face," was honest Jack Banister's remark, (no bad judge by the by,) while contemplating another of his breezy scenes, with the rolling clouds broken up by means of sunshine, and the bending trees turning out their lighter lining to the gale. "Come here," was the remark of a French painter, in the exhibition of the Louvre in 1824; "look at this picture by an Englishman—it is steeped in dew." "We never ask," said Mr Purton, "whether his figures be well or ill placed; there they are, and unless they choose to move on, there they must remain." This truth and artlessness, and natural action or repose of his figures, only equalled in the English landscape by those of Gainsborough and Collins, he probably owed, in some measure, to an observation of an early acquaintance—Antiquity Smith, as he was nicknamed by his brother artists, who, at the commencement of his studies, had given him this judicious advice:—"Do not set about inventing figures for a landscape taken from nature; for you cannot remain an hour on any spot, however solitary, without the appearance of some living thing, that will, in all probability, accord better with the scene and time of day than will any invention of your own."

With Constable's strong natural tastes, and his long-considered views of landscape—at least that landscape for which he felt a vocation—it may be doubted whether he would have gained any thing by an acquaintance with continental scenery, leading, as it generally does, to the adoption of a certain fixed mode of treatment, or even by a more familiar intercourse with the grander features of our own country. He seems to have felt that his originality was, in some degree, connected with the intimacy of his acquaintance with that domestic nature, the study of which he chiefly cultivated, and which was matured by constant repetition and comparison of impressions. A circuit of a few miles, in fact, bounds his bosky bourne from side to side; a circuit of a few hundred yards embraces the subject of nearly half his favourite studies. "The Dutch," he says in one of his journals, "were stay-at-home people; hence the source of their originality."

"In the education of an artist," says Mr Leslie with great good sense, "it is scarcely possible to foresee what circumstances will prove advantageous or the reverse; it is on looking back only that we can judge of these things. Travelling is now the order of the day—and it may sometimes prove beneficial; but to Constable's art, there can be little doubt that the confinement of his studies with the narrowest bounds in which, perhaps, the studies of an artist ever were confined, was in the highest degree favourable; for a knowledge of atmospheric effects will be best attained by a constant study of the same objects, under every change of seasons and of the times of day. His ambition, it will be borne in mind, was not to paint many things imperfectly, but to paint a few well."

A motto, in truth, worthy of any of the seven sages—applicable to many things besides painting—and which can scarcely be applied in vain to any. Not many things imperfectly, but a few well!

With these imperfect remarks on the general character of Constable's pictures, we pass at once to a few extracts from the correspondence, which, as we have already said, makes up the substance of the present volume. Among the letters, by much the most striking and amusing are those of Constable's early and steady friend, Archdeacon Fisher—an admirable judge of art, and himself a very respectable artist. His excellent sense—his kindness—his generosity—which laboured to make its object forget the boon, or at least the benefactor; his strong attachment to his order, yet with a clear perception of the drawbacks inherent in the English hierarchical system; the caustic and somewhat cynical turn of his remarks on contemporary art—communicate great spirit, liveliness, and interest to his letters. In many things he[Pg 261] resembles Paley, of whom he seems to have been a warm admirer. He had a thorough appreciation of the excellences of Constable, both moral and professional; but he had a keen eye also to the occasional weaknesses, want of method, and inattention to trifles, which now and then disfigured them. "Pray," he enquires on one occasion, "how many dinners a-week does your wife get you to eat at a regular hour and like a Christian?" "Where real business is to be done," said he, speaking of and to Constable, on another occasion, "you are the most energetic and punctual of men. In smaller matters—such as putting on your breeches—you are apt to lose time in deciding which leg shall go in first."

Such an adviser and critic was of the utmost use to Constable; for he never failed to convey to him his candid impressions and advice—and they were generally just, though not always followed. Being of opinion that Constable was repeating too often the same effects, he writes: "I hope you will diversify your subject this year as to time of day. Thomson, you know, wrote not four summers, but four seasons. People get tired of mutton at top, mutton at bottom, and mutton at the side, though of the best flavour and size." This was touching a sore point, and Constable replies: "I am planning a large picture, and I regard all you say; but I do not enter into that notion of varying one's plans to keep the public in good-humour. Change of weather and effect will always afford variety. What if Vander Velde had quitted his sea-pieces, or Ruysdael his waterfalls, or Hobbima his native woods? The world would have lost so many features in art. I know that you wish for no material alteration; but I have to combat from high quarters—even from Lawrence—the plausible argument, that subject makes the picture. Perhaps you think an evening effect might do; perhaps it might start me some new admirers, but I should lose many old ones. I imagine myself driving a nail: I have driven it some way, and, by persevering, I may drive it home; by quitting it to attack others, though I may amuse myself, I do not advance beyond the first, while that particular nail stands still. No one who can do any one thing well, will be able to do any other different thing equally well; and this is true even of Shakspeare, the greatest master of variety." Constable was in a condition, in fact, to quote the Archdeacon against himself; for in 1827 Fisher had written: "I must repeat to you an opinion I have long held, that no man had ever more than one conception. Milton emptied his mind in the first part of Paradise Lost. All the rest is transcript of self. The Odyssey is a repetition of the Iliad. When you have seen one Claude, you have seen all. I can think of no exception but Shakspeare; he is always varied, never mannered."

Here is a graphic sketch by Constable of one who had known better days, and whom it is probable those conversant with art about that time may recognise. We shall not fill up the asterisks. "A poor wretched man called to see me this morning. He had a petition to the Royal Academy for charitable assistance—it was * * *. His appearance was distress itself, and it was awful to behold to what ill conduct may bring us; yet calamity has impressed even on this man an air of dignity: he looked like Leslie's Don Quixote. When I knew him at the Bishop's he wore powder, had a soft subdued voice, and always a smile, which caused him to show some decayed teeth; and he carried a gold-headed cane with tassels. Now, how changed! His neck long, with a large head, thin face, nose long, mouth wide, eyes dark and sunken, eyebrows lifted, hair abundant, straight, erect, and very greasy, his body much emaciated and shrunk away from his dismal black clothes, and his left arm in a sling from a fall, by which he broke the left clavicle. I shall try the Artists' Fund for him. I cannot efface the image of this ghostly man from my mind."

Here are two clerical sketches as a pendant, by Fisher:—"I write this sitting in commission upon a dispute between a clergyman and his parishioners, and compose while the parties argue. There is a brother parson arguing his own case, with powder, white forehead, and a very red face, like a copper vessel newly tinned. He is mixing up in a tremulous note,[Pg 262] with an eager bloodshot eye, accusations, apologies, statements, reservations, and appeals, till his voice sounds on my ear as I write like a distant waterfall."

"* * * and * * * have been together on the visitation for three weeks. They have neither broken bread nor spoken together, nor, I believe, seen one another. What a mistake our Oxford and Cambridge apostolic missionaries fell into when they made Christianity a stern haughty thing! Think of St Paul with a full-blown wig, deep shovel-hat, apron, round belly, double chin, deep cough, stern eye, rough voice, and imperious manner, drinking port-wine, and laying down the law as to the best way of escaping the observation of the Curates' Residence Act!" The Archdeacon himself was not without a little vanity, however, on the subject of his sermons, and once received a quiet hit from Constable on the subject. Having preached an old sermon once, (which he was not aware that Constable had heard before,) he asked him how he liked it. "Very much indeed, Fisher," replied Constable; "I always did like that sermon."

Like most men of original mind, Constable had a very just and manly taste in other matters besides painting. He read but few poets, but he read these with understanding and hearty enjoyment. To arouse his attention, it was necessary that they should be original and vigorous. For the mere artistic skill or cultivated taste displayed by some of the popular poets of the day, he had no sympathy. Of Milman, for instance, he writes: "It is singular that I happened to speak of Milman. No doubt he is learned, but it as not fair to encumber literature. The world is full enough of what has been already done; and as in the art there is plenty of fine painting, but very few good pictures, so in poetry there is plenty of fine writing, and I am told his is such, and, as you say, gorgeous, but it can be compared. Shakspeare cannot, nor Burns, nor Claude, nor Ruysdael; and it has taken me twenty years to find this out." It was on this principle that he classed together Dutch and Italian art—Claude and Ostade, Titian and Ruysdael. For, different as their modes of execution were, they fulfilled his prime condition of having furnished the world with something self-consistent, independent, and original. "Every truly original picture," he would say, "is a separate study, and governed by laws of its own; so that what is right in one would be often literally wrong if transferred to another."

It may be anticipated that Constable, who had no half opinions on any subject, would know his own worth, and rate himself at his due value. To his friend Fisher he does not hesitate to praise his own pictures with a naïveté that is amusing, but which was in harmony with his general severity and dislike of affectation. He would not even affect a false modesty, but spoke of his own performances as he would have done of those of others. "My Lock," he says in one of his letters, "is now on the easel: it is silvery, windy, and delicious—all health, and the absence of any thing stagnant, and is wonderfully got together. The print will be very fine." "My new picture of Salisbury," he writes in another, "is very beautiful; but when I thus speak of my pictures, remember it is to you, and only in comparison with myself." Mr Leslie mentions that he had retained these and similar effusions contrary to the advice of one with whose opinion on other points he generally coincided. He has guessed rightly; for, without such revelations, we should be but imperfectly acquainted with the man. He adds with truth, "The utterance of a man's real feelings is more interesting, though it may have less of dignity than belongs to a uniform silence on the subject of self; while the vanity is often no greater in the one case than in the other."

Of his tender, domestic, affectionate disposition, almost every letter in this volume exhibits proofs. We cannot better illustrate this than by quoting some passages from his letters to his wife while on a visit to Sir George Beaumont at Cole-Orton: while these letters exhibit one of the most delightful pictures of the country life of an accomplished gentleman, an excellent artist, and a kind patron. It is true, that between Sir George and Constable not a few differences in point of taste existed; the[Pg 263] baronet was rather an ingenious eclectic than an original painter; his natural belief was, that beyond the pale of Claude and Wilson, an artist's salvation was at least doubtful; but he was too accomplished, too keen-sighted an observer not to be shaken in his theories by the sight of high and original art, and too liberal not to admit at last—as Toby did in the case of the fly—that the world was wide enough for both.

"To Mrs Constable.

"November 2d.—The weather has been bad; but I do not at all regret being confined to this house. The mail did not arrive yesterday till many hours after the time, owing to some trees being blown down, and the waters out. * * * I am now going to breakfast before the Narcissus of Claude. How enchanting and lovely it is! far, very far, surpassing any other landscape I ever beheld. Write to me. Kiss and love my darlings. I hope my stay will not exceed this week."

In one of his letters from Cole-Orton to his wife, Constables says:—

"Sir George rises at seven, walks in the garden before breakfast, and rides out about two—fair or foul. We have had breakfast at half-past eight; but to-day we began at the winter hour—nine. We do not quit the breakfast-table directly, but chat a little about the pictures in the room. We then go to the painting-room, and Sir George most manfully sets to work, and I by his side. At two, the horses are brought to the door. I have had an opportunity of seeing the ruins of Ashby, the mountain stream and rocks (such Everdingens!) at Grace-Dieu, and an old convent there—Lord Ferrers'—a grand but melancholy spot. At dinner we do not sit long; Lady Beaumont reads the newspaper (the Herald) to us; and then to the drawing-room to tea; and after that comes a great treat. I am furnished with some portfolios, full of beautiful drawings or prints, and Sir George reads a play in a manner the most delightful. On Saturday evening it was, 'As You Like It;' and I never heard the 'seven ages' so admirably read before. Last evening, Sunday, he read a sermon, and a good deal of Wordsworth's 'Excursion.' Some of the landscape descriptions in it are very beautiful. About nine, the servant comes in with a little fruit and a decanter of water; and at eleven we go to bed. I always find a fire in my room, and make out about an hour longer, as I have every thing there—writing-desk, &c.—and I grudge a moment's unnecessary sleep in this place. You would laugh to see my bed-room, I have dragged so many things into it—books, portfolios, prints, canvasses, pictures, &c."

"November 9.—How glad I was, my dear love, to receive your last kind letter, giving a good account of yourself and our dear babies. * * * Nothing shall, I hope, prevent my seeing you this week; indeed I am quite nervous about my absence, and shall soon begin to feel alarmed about the Exhibition. * * * I do not wonder at your being jealous of Claude. If any thing could come between our love, it is him. I am fast advancing a beautiful little copy of his study from nature of a little grove scene. If you, my dearest love, will be so good as to make yourself happy without me for this week, it will, I hope, be long before we part again. But, believe me, I shall be the better for this visit as long as I live. Sir George is never angry, or pettish, or peevish, and though he loves painting so much, it does not harass him. You will like me a great deal better than you did. To-morrow Southey is coming with his wife and daughter. I know you would be sorry if I were not to stay and meet him, he is such a friend of Gooch's; but the Claudes, the Claudes, are all, all, I can think of here. * * * The weather is so bad that I can scarcely see out of the window, but Friday was lovely. I shall hardly be able to make you a sketch of the house, but I shall bring you much, though in little compass, to show you. * * * Thursday was Sir George's birth-day. Sixty-nine, and married almost half a century. The servants had a ball, and I was lulled to sleep by a fiddle."

"November 18.—My dearest love, * * * I was very glad to hear a very nice account of you and my dear babies. * * * I shall finish my little Claude on Thursday; and then I shall have something to do to some of Sir George's pictures, that will take a day or two more, and then home. * * * I sent you a hasty shabby line by Southey, but all that morning I had been engaged on a little sketch in Miss Southey's[Pg 264] album of this house, which pleased all parties here very much. Sir George is loath to part with me. He would have me pass Christmas with him, and has named a small commission which he wished me to execute here; but I have declined it, as I am desirous to return. Sir George is very kind, and I have no doubt meant this little picture to pay my expenses. I have worked so hard in the house, that I never went out of the door last week, so that I am getting quite nervous. But I am sure my visit here will be ultimately of the greatest advantage to me, and I could not be better employed to the advantage of all of us, by its making me so much more of an artist. * * * The breakfast bell rings. I now hasten to finish, as the boy waits. I really think seeing the habits of this house will be of service to me as long as I live. Every thing so punctual. Sir George never looks into his painting-room on a Sunday, nor trusts himself with a portfolio. Never is impatient. Always rides or walks for an hour or two, at two o'clock; so will I with you, if it is only into the square. I amuse myself, every evening, making sketches from Sir George's drawings about Dedham, &c. I could not carry all his sketch-books. * * * I wish I had not cut myself out so much to do here; but I was greedy with the Claudes."

In his next letter to his wife, Constable deplores the facility with which he allowed his time to be consumed by loungers in his painting-room—an evil his good-nature to the last entailed on him. Mrs Constable in one of her letters had said:—"Mr **** was here nearly an hour on Saturday, reading the paper and talking to himself. I hope you will not admit him so often. Mr ****, another lounger, has been here once or twice."

"Cole-Orton Hall, November. 21st.—My dearest love, I am as heartsick as ever you can be at my long absence from you, and all our dear darlings, but which is now fast drawing to a close. In fact, my greediness for pictures made me cut out for myself much more work than I ought to have undertaken at this time. One of the Claudes would have been all that I wanted, but I could not get at that first, and I had been here a fortnight before I began it. To-day it will be done, with perhaps a little touch on Saturday morning. I have then an old picture to fill up some holes in. But I fear I shall not be able to get away on Saturday, though I hope nothing shall prevent me on Monday. I can hardly believe I have not seen you, or my Isabel, or my Charley, for five weeks. Yesterday there was another very high wind and such a splendid evening as I never before beheld at this time of the year Was it so with you? But in London nothing is to be seen, worth seeing, in the NATURAL way.

"I certainly will not allow of such serious interruptions as I used to do from people who devour my time, brains and every thing else. Sir George says it is quite serious and alarming. Let me have a letter on Sunday, my last day here, as I want to be made comfortable on my journey, which will be long and tiresome, and I shall be very nervous as I get near home; therefore, pray let me have a good account of you all. I believe some great folks are coming here in December, which Sir George dreads, as they so much interfere with his painting habits; for no artist can be fonder of the art."

"November 25th.—My very dearest love, I hope nothing will prevent my leaving this place to-morrow afternoon and that I shall have you in my arms on Thursday morning, and my babies; Oh, dear! how glad I shall be. I feel that I have been AT SCHOOL, and can only hope that my long absence from you may ultimately be to my great and lasting improvement as an artist, and indeed in every thing. If you have any friends staying with you, I beg you will dismiss them before my arrival."

We have already said we have no intention of going through the meagre incidents in the life of Constable. He was elected an Academician in 1829 after the death of his wife, which took place the year before. Much as he was pleased at the attainment of the honour, he could not help saying, "It has been delayed till I am solitary and cannot impart it." He could not add with Johnson, "until I am known and do not want it;" for probably no painter of equal genius was at that time less generally known in his own country. Two days before, he writes, "I have just received a commission to paint a mermaid for a sign to an inn in Warwickshire! This is encouraging, and affords no small solace after[Pg 265] my previous labours on landscape for twenty years."

His death took place in 1837.

"On Thursday the 30th of March, I met him at a general assembly of the Academy; the night, though very cold, was fine, he walked a great part of the way home with me. The most trifling occurrences of that evening remain on my memory. As we proceeded along Oxford Street, he heard a child cry on the opposite side of the way: the griefs of childhood never failed to arrest his attention, and he crossed over to a little beggar girl who had hurt her knee; he gave her a shilling and some kind words, which, by stopping her tears, showed that the hurt was not very serious, and we continued our walk. Some pecuniary losses he had lately met with had disturbed him, but more because they involved him with persons disposed to take advantage of his good feelings, than from their amount. He spoke of these with some degree of irritation, but turned to more agreeable subjects, and we parted at the west end of Oxford Street, laughing. I never saw him again alive.

"The whole of the next day he was busily engaged finishing his picture of Arundel Mill and Castle. One or two of his friends who called on him saw that he was not well, but they attributed this to confinement and anxiety with his picture, which was to go in a few days to the Exhibition. In the evening he walked out for a short time on a charitable errand connected with the Artists' Benevolent Fund. He returned about nine o'clock, ate a hearty supper, and, feeling chilly, had his bed warmed—a luxury he rarely indulged in. It was his custom to read in bed; between ten and eleven he had read himself to sleep, and his candle, as usual, was removed by a servant. Soon after this, his eldest son, who had been at the theatre, returned home, and, while preparing for bed in the next room, his father awoke in great pain, and called to him. So little was Constable alarmed, however, that he at first refused to send for medical assistance. He took some rhubarb and magnesia, which produced sickness, and he drank copiously of warm water, which occasioned vomiting, but the pain increasing, he desired that Mr Michele, his near neighbour, should be sent for, who very soon attended. In the mean time Constable had fainted, his son supposing he had fallen asleep. Mr Michele instantly ordered some brandy to be brought; the bed-room of the patient was at the top of the house, the servant had to run down-stairs for it, and before it could be procured life was extinct; and within half an hour of the first attack of pain.

"A post-mortem investigation was made by Professor Partridge, in the presence of Mr George Young and Mr Michele, but, strange to say, the extreme pain Constable had suffered could only be traced to indigestion, no indications of disease were any where discovered, sufficient, in the opinion of those gentlemen, to have produced at that time a fatal result. Mr Michele, in a letter to me, describing all he had witnessed, says, 'It is barely possible that the prompt application of a stimulant might have sustained the vital principle, and induced reaction in the functions necessary to the maintenance of life.'

"Constable's eldest son was prevented from attending the funeral by an illness brought on by the painful excitement he had suffered; but the two brothers of the deceased, and a few of his most intimate friends, followed the body to Hampstead,[3] where some of the gentlemen residing there, who had known Constable, voluntarily joined the procession in the churchyard. The vault which contained the remains of his wife was opened, he was laid by her side, and the inscription which he had placed on the tablet over it,

'Eheu! quam tenui e filo pendet
Quidquid in vitâ maxime arridet!'

might will be applied to the loss his family and friends had now sustained. The funeral service was read by one of those friends, the Rev. T. J. Judkin, whose tears fell fast on the book as he stood by the tomb."



[Pg 266]

Mahmood the Ghazavide. [4]

By B. Simmons.

Hail to the morn that reigneth
Where Kaff,[5] since time began
Allah's eternal sentinel,
Keeps watch upon the Sun;
And through the realms of heaven,
From his cold dwelling-place,
Beholds the bright Archangel
For ever face to face!
Kaff smiles—the loosen'd morning
On Asia is unfurl'd!
Sind[6] flashes free, and rolls a sea
Of amber down the world!
Lo! how the purple thickets
And arbours of Cashmere
Beneath the kindling lustre
A rosier radiance wear!
Hail to the mighty Morning
That, odorously cool,
Comes down the nutmeg-gardens
And plum-groves of Cabool!
[Pg 267]Cold 'mid the dawn, o'er Ghazna,
The rivall'd moon retires;
As on the city spread below,
Far through the sky's transparent glow,
A hundred gold-roof'd temples throw
Their crescents' sparkling fires.
The Imam's cry in Ghazna
Has died upon the air,
And day's great life begins to throng
Each stately street and square.
The loose-robed turban'd merchants—
The fur-clad mountaineers—
The chiefs' brocaded elephants—
The Kurdmans' group of spears—
Grave men beneath the awning
Of every gay bazar
Ranging their costly merchandise,
Shawl, gem, and glittering jar—
The outworn files arriving
Of some vast Caravan,
With dusky men and camels tall,
Before the crowded khan;—
All that fills kingly cities
With traffic, wealth, and din,
Resounds, imperial Ghazna,
This morn thy walls within.
All praise to the First Sultan,
Mahmood the Ghaznavide!
His fame be like the firmament,
As moveless and as wide!
Mahmood, who saw before him
Pagoda'd Bramah fall—
Twelve times he swept the orient earth
From Bagdad to Bengal;
Twelve times amid their Steppes of ice
He smote each Golden Horde[7]
Round the South's sultry isles twelve times
His ships resistless pour'd;
Mahmood—his tomb in Ghazna
For many an age shall show
The mighty mace with which he laid
Du's hideous idol low.
True soldier of the Prophet!
From Somnauth's gorgeous shrine
He tore the gates of sandal-wood,
The carven gates divine;
He hung them vow'd, in Ghazna,
To Allah's blest renown—
[Pg 268]Trophies of endless sway they tower,
For unto earth's remotest hour
What boastful man may hope the power
Again to take them down?
All praise to the First Sultan,
Mahmood the Ghaznavide!
His wars are o'er, but not the more
His sovereign cares subside:
From morn to noontide daily
In his superb Divan
He sits dispensing justice
Alike to man and man.
What though earth heaves beneath him
With ingot, gem, and urn,
Though in his halls a thousand thrones
Of vanquish'd monarchs burn;
Though at his footstool ever
Four hundred princes stay;
Though in his jasper vestibules
Four hundred bloodhounds bay—
Each prince's sabre hafted
With the carbuncle's gem,
Each bloodhound's collar fashion'd
From a rajah's diadem?—
Though none may live beholding
The anger of his brow,
Yet his justice ever shineth
To the lofty and the low;
O'er his many-nation'd empire
Shines his justice far and wide—
All praise to the First Sultan,
Mahmood the Ghaznavide!
The morn to noon is melting
On Ghazna's golden domes;
From the Divan the suppliant crowd,
The poor, the potent, and the proud,
Who sought its grace with faces bow'd,
Have parted for their homes.
Already Sultan Mahmood
Has risen from his throne,
When at the Hall's far portal
Stands a Stranger all alone,—
A man in humble vesture,
But with a haughty eye;
And he calls aloud, with the steadfast voice
Of one prepared to die—
"Sultan! the Wrong'd and Trampled
Lacks time to worship thee,
Stand forth, and answer to my charge,
Son of Sebactagi!
Stand forth!"——
The brief amazement
Which shook that hall has fled—
Next moment fifty falchions
Flash round the madman's head,
[Pg 269]And fifty slaves are waiting
Their sovereign's glance to slay;
But dread Mahmood, with hand upraised,
Has waved their swords away.
Once more stands free the Stranger,
Once more resounds his call—
"Ho! forth, Mahmood! and hear me,
Then slay me in thy hall.
From Oxus to the Ocean
Thy standards are unfurl'd
Thy treasury-bolts are bursting
With the plunder of the world—
The maids of soft Hindostan,
The vines by Yemen's Sea,
But bloom to nurse the passions
Of thy savage soldiery.
Yet not for them sufficeth
The Captive or the Vine,
If in thy peaceful subjects' homes
They cannot play the swine.
Since on my native Ghazna
Thy smile of favour fell,
How its blood, and toil, and treasure
Have been thine, thou knowest well!
Its Fiercest swell thine armies,
Its Fairest serve thy throne,
But in return hast thou not sworn
Our hearths should be our own?
That each man's private dwelling,
And each man's spouse and child,
Should from thy mightiest Satrap
Be safe and undefiled?
Just Allah!—hear how Mahmood
His kingly oath maintains!—
Amid the suburbs far away
I deemed secure my dwelling lay,
Yet now two nights my lone Serai
A villain's step profanes.
My bride is cursed with beauty,
He comes at midnight hour,
A giant form for rapine made,
In harness of thy guards array'd,
And, with main dint of blow and blade,
He drives me from her bow'r,
And bars and holds my dwelling
Until the dawning gray—
Then, ere the light his face can smite,
The felon slinks away.
Such is the household safety
We owe to thine and thee:—
Thou'st heard me first, do now thy worst,
Son of Sebactagi!"
What tongue may tell the terror
That thrill'd that chamber wide,
While thus the Dust beneath his feet
Reviled the Ghaznavide!
The listeners' breath suspended,
They wait but for a word,
To sweep away the worm that frets
[Pg 270]The pathway of their Lord.
But Mahmood makes no signal;
Surprise at first subdued,
Then shame and anger seem'd by turns
To root him where he stood.
But as the tale proceeded,
Some deadlier passion's hue,
Now flushing dark, now fading wan,
Across his forehead flew.
And when those daring accents
Had died upon his ear,
He sat him down in reverie
Upon the musnud near,
And in his robe he shrouded
For a space his dreadful brow;
Then strongly, sternly, rose and spoke
To the Stranger far below—
"At once, depart!—in silence:—
And at the moment when
The Spoiler seeks thy dwelling next,
Be with Us here again."
Three days the domes of Ghazna
Have gilded Autumn's sky—
Three moonless nights of Autumn
Have slowly glided by.
And now the fourth deep midnight
Is black upon the town,
When from the palace-portals, led
By that grim Stranger at their head,
A troop, all silent as the dead,
With spears, and torches flashing red,
Wind towards the suburbs down.
On foot they march, and midmost
Mahmood the Ghaznavide
Is marching there, his kingly air
Alone not laid aside.
In his fez no ruby blazeth,
No diamonds clasp his vest;
But a light as red is in his eye,
As restless in his breast.
And none who last beheld him
In his superb Divan
Would deem three days could cause his cheek
To look so sunk and wan.
The gates are pass'd in silence,
They march with noiseless stride,
'Till before a lampless dwelling
Stopp'd their grim and sullen guide.
In a little grove of cypress,
From the city-walls remote,
It darkling stood:—He faced Mahmood,
And pointed to the spot.
The Sultan paused one moment
To ease his kaftan's band,
That on his breast too tightly prest,
Then motion'd with his hand:—

"My mace!—put out the torches—
Watch well that none may flee:
Now, force the door, and shut me in,
[Pg 271]And leave the rest to me."
He spoke, 'twas done; the wicket
Swung wide—then closed again:
Within stand Mahmood, night, and Lust—
Without, his watching men.
Their watch was short—a struggle—
A sullen sound—a groan—
A breathless interval—and forth
The Sultan comes alone.
None through the pitchy darkness
Might look upon his face,
But they felt the storm that shook him
As he lean'd upon that mace.
Back from his brow the turboosh
He push'd—then calmly said,
"Re-light the torches, enter there,
And bring me forth the dead."
They light the torches, enter,
And bring him forth the dead—
A man of stalwart breadth and bone,
A war-cloak round him spread.
Full on the face the torches
Flash out——a sudden cry
(And those who heard it ne'er will lose
Its echo till they die,)
A sudden cry escapeth
Mahmood's unguarded lips,
A cry as of a suffering soul
Redeemed from Hell's eclipse.
"Oh, Allah! gracious Allah!
Thy servant badly won
This blessing to a father's heart,
'Tis not—'tis NOT my son!
Fly!—tell my joy in Ghazna;—
Before the night is done
Let lighted shrine and blazing street
Proclaim 'tis not my son!
'Tis not Massoud, the wayward,
Who thus the Law defied,
Yet I deem'd that none but my only son
Dared set my oath aside:
Though my frame grew faint from fasting,
Though my soul with grief grew wild,
Upon this spot I would have wrought
stern justice on my child.
I wrought the deed in darkness,
For fear a single ray
Should light his face, and from this heart
Plead the Poor Man's cause away.
Great Allah sees uprightly
I strive my course to run,
And thus rewards his servant——
This dead is not my son!"
Thus, through his reign of glory,
Shone his JUSTICE far and wide;
All praise to the First Sultan,
Mahmood the Ghaznavide



[Pg 272]


Part XIX.

"Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puft up with wind,
Rage like an angry boar chafed with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field,
And Heaven's artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in the pitched battle heard
Loud 'larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?"

Change is the master-spirit of Europe, as permanency is of Asia. The contrast is in the nature of things. However the caprice, the genius, or the necessities, of the sitter on the throne may attempt to impress permanency on the habits of the West, or mutability on those of the East, his success must be but partial. In Europe we have a perpetual movement of minds, a moral ocean, to which tides and currents are an operation of nature. But the Caspian or the Euxine is not more defined by its limits of rock and mountain, or more inexorably separated from the general influx of the waters which roll round the world, than the Asiatic mind is from following the free course, and sharing the bold and stormy innovations, of Europe.

But the most rapid and total change within human memory, was the one which was now before my eye. I felt as some of the old alchymists might feel in their laboratories, with all their crucibles heating, all their alembics boiling, all their strange materials in full effervescence; and their eyes fixed in doubt, and perhaps in awe, on the powerful and hazardous products about to result from combinations untried before, and amalgams which might shatter the roof above their heads, or extinguish their existence by a blast of poison.

I had left Paris Democracy. I found it a Despotism. I had left it a melancholy prey to the multitude; a startling scene of alternate fury and dejection; of cries for revenge, and supplications for bread; of the tyranny of the mob, and the misery of the nation. I now found it the most striking contrast to that scene of despair;—Paris the headquarters of a military government; the Tuileries the palace of a conqueror; every sound martial; the eye dazzled every where by the spoils of the German and Italian sovereignties; the nation flushed with victory. Still, the public aspect exhibited peculiarities which interested me the more, that they could never have appeared in older times, and probably will never return. In the midst of military splendour there was a wild, haggard, and unhappy character stamped on all things. The streets of the capital had not yet felt the influence of that imperial taste which was to render it an imperial city. I saw the same shattered suburbs, the same deep, narrow, and winding streets, the same dismal lanes; in which I had witnessed so often the gatherings of the armed multitude, and which seemed made for popular commotion. Mingled with those wild wrecks and gloomy places of refuge, rather than dwellings, I saw, with their ancient ornaments, and even with their armorial bearings and gilded shields and spears not yet entirely defaced, the palaces of the noblesse and blood-royal of France, the remnants of those ten centuries of monarchy which had been powerful enough to reduce the bold tribes of the Franks to a civilized slavery, and glittering enough to make them in love with their chains. If I could have imagined, in the nineteenth century, a camp of banditti on its most showy scale—a government of Condottieri with its most famous captain at its head—every where a compilation of arms and spoils, the rude habits of the robber combined with the pomp of military triumph—I should have said that the realization was before me.

The Palais Royal was still the chief[Pg 273] scene of all Parisian vitality. But the mob orators were to be found there no more. The walks and cafés were now crowed with bold figures, epauleted and embroidered, laughing and talking with the easy air of men who felt themselves masters, and who evidently regarded every thing round them as the furnishing of a camp. The land had now undergone its third stage of that great spell by which nations are urged and roused at the will of a few. The crosier was the first wand of the magician, then came the sceptre—we were now under the spell of the sword. I was delighted at this transformation of France, from the horrid form of popular domination to the showy supremacy of soldiership. It still had its evils. But the guillotine had disappeared. Savage hearts and sanguinary hands no longer made the laws, and executed them. Instead of the groans and execrations, the cries of rage and clamours of despair, which once echoed through all the streets, I now heard only popular songs and dances, and saw all the genuine evidences of that rejoicing with which the multitude had thrown off the most deadly of all tyrannies—its own.

The foreigner shapes every thing into the picturesque, and all his picturesque now was military. Every regiment which passed through Paris on its way from the frontier was reviewed, in front of the palace, by the First Consul; and those reviews formed the finest of all military spectacles, for each had a character and a history of its own.—The regiment which had stormed the bridge of Lodi; the regiment which had headed the assault on the tête-du-pont at Mantua; the regiment which had led the march at the passage of the St Bernard; the regiment which had formed the advance of Dessaix at Marengo—all had their separate distinctions, and were received with glowing speeches and appropriate honours by the chief of the state. The popular vanity was flattered by a perpetual pageant, and that pageant wholly different from the tinsel displays of the monarchy: no representation of legends, trivial in their origin, and ridiculous in their memory; but the revival of transactions in which every man of France felt almost a personal interest, which were the true sources of the new system of nations, and whose living actors were seen passing, hour after hour, before the national eye. All was vivid reality, where all had been false glitter in the days of the Bourbons, and all sullenness and fear in the days of the Democracy. The reality might still be rough and stern, but it was substantial, and not without its share of the superb; it had the sharpness and weight, and it had also the shining, of the sabre. But this was not all; nothing could be more subtly consecutive than the whole progress of the head of the government. In a more superstitious age, it might have been almost believed that some wizard had stood by his cradle, and sung his destiny; or that, like the greatest creation of the greatest of dramatists, he had been met in some mountain pass, or on some lonely heath, and had heard the weird sisters predicting his charmed supremacy. At this period he was palpably training the republic to the sight of a dictatorship. The return of the troops through Paris had already accustomed the populace to the sight of military power.

The movement of vast masses of men by a word, the simplicity of the great military machine, its direct obedience to the master-hand, and its tremendous strength—all were a continued lesson to the popular mind. I looked on the progress of this lesson with infinite interest; for I thought that I as about to see a new principle of government disclosed on the broadest scale—Republicanism in its most majestic aspect, giving a new development of the art of ruling men, and exhibiting a shape of domination loftier and more energetic than the world had ever yet seen. Still, I was aware of the national weaknesses. I was not without a strong suspicion of the hazard of human advance when entrusted to the caprice of any being in the form of man, and, above all, to a man who had won his way to power by arms. Yet, I thought that society had here reached a point of division; a ridge, from which the streams of power naturally took different directions; that the struggles of the democracy were but like the[Pg 274] bursting of those monsoons which mark the distinction of seasons in the East; or the ruggedness of those regions of rock and precipice, of roaring torrent and sunless valley, through which the Alpine traveller must toil, before he can bask in the luxuriance of the Italian plain. Attached as I am in the highest degree to the principle of monarchy, and regarding it as the safest anchorage of the state, still, how was I to know that moral nature might not have her reserves of power, as well as physical; that the science of government itself might not have its undetected secrets, as well as the caverns of the earth; that the quiverings and convulsions of society at this moment, obviously alike beyond calculation and control, might not be only evidences of the same vast agencies at work, whose counterparts, in depths below the human eye, shake and rend the soil? Those were the days of speculation, and I indulged in them like the rest of the world. Every man stood, as the islander of the South Sea may stand on his shore, contemplating the conflict of fire and water, while the furnaces of the centre are forcing up the island in clouds of vapour and gusts of whirlwind. All was strange, undefined, and startling. One thing alone seemed certain; that the past régime was gone, never to return; that a great barrier had suddenly been dropped between the two sovereignties; that the living generation stood on the dividing pinnacle between the languid vices of the past system and the daring, perhaps guilty, energies of the system to come. Behind man lay the long level of wasted national faculties, emasculating superstitions, the graceful feebleness of a sensual nobility, and the superb follies of a haughty and yet helpless throne. Before him rose a realm of boundless extent, but requiring frames of vigour, and feelings undismayed by difficulty, to traverse and subdue;—a horizon of hills and clouds, where the gale blew fresh and the tempest rolled; where novel difficulties must be met at every step, but still where, if we trod at all, we must ascend at every step, where every clearing of the horizon must give us a new and more comprehensive prospect, and where every struggle with the rudeness of the soil, or the roughness of the elements, must enhance the vigour of the nerve that encountered them.

Those were dreams; yet I had not then made due allowance for the nature of the foreign mind. I was yet to learn its absence of all sober thought; its ready temptation by every trivially of the hour; its demand of extravagant excitement to rouse it into action, and its utter apathy where its passions were not bribed. I had imagined a national sovereignty, righteous, calm, and resolute, trained by the precepts of a Milton and a Locke; I found only an Italian despotism, trained by the romance of Rousseau and the scepticism of Voltaire.

Every day in the capital now had its celebration, and all exhibited the taste and talent of the First Consul; but one characteristic fête at length woke me to the true design of this extraordinary man—the inauguration of the Legion of Honour. It was the first step to the throne, and a step of incompatible daring and dexterity; it was the virtual restoration of an aristocracy, in the presence of a people who had raved with the rage of frenzy against all titles, who had torn down the coats-of-arms from the gates of the noblesse, and shattered and dug up even the marbles of their sepulchres. A new military caste—a noblesse of the sword—was now to be established. Republicanism had been already "pushed from its stool," but this was the chain which was to keep it fixed to the ground.

The ceremonial was held in the Hotel des Invalides; and all the civil pomp of the consulate was combined with all the military display. The giving of the crosses of honour called forth in succession the names of all those gallant soldiers whose exploits had rung through Europe, in the campaigns of the Alps and the Rhine. Nothing could be more in the spirit of a fine historic picture, or in the semblance of a fine drama. The first men of the French councils and armies stood, surrounded by the monuments of their ancestors in the national glory—the statues of the Condés and Turennes, whose memory formed so large a portion of the popular pride, and whose[Pg 275] achievements so solid a record in the history of French triumph. To those high sources of sentiment, all that could be added by stately decoration and religious solemnity was given; and in the chorus of sweet voices, the sounds of martial harmony, the acclamations of the countless multitudes within and without, and the thunder of cannon, was completed the most magnificent, and yet the most ominous, of all ceremonials. It was not difficult to see, that this day was the consecration of France to absolute power, and of all her faculties to conquest. Like the Roman herald, she had put on, in the temple, the robe of defiance to all nations. She was to be from this day of devotement the nation of war. It was less visible, but not less true, that upon the field of Marengo perished the Democracy, but in that temple was sacrificed the Republic. The throne was still only in vision; but its outline was clear, and that outline was colossal.

In my intercourse with the men of the new régime I had associated chiefly with the military. Their ideas were less narrowed by the circle of Paris, their language was frank and free, and their knowledge was more direct and extensive on the topic which I most desired to comprehend, the state of their foreign conquests. I soon had reason to congratulate myself on my choice. One of these, a colonel of dragoons, who had served with Moreau, and whose partialities at least did not lean to the rival hero, came hurriedly to me at an early hour one morning, to "take his leave." But why, and where? "He was ordered to join his regiment immediately, and march for the coast of the Channel." "To invade us?" I asked laughingly. "Not exactly yet, perhaps; but it may come to that in good time. I grieve to tell you," added my gallant friend, with more of gravity than I thought he could possibly have thrown into his good-humoured features, "that we are to have war. The matter is perfectly determined in the Tuileries; and at the levee to-day there will probably be a scene. In the mean time, take my information as certain, and be prepared for your return to England without twenty-four hours' delay." He took his departure.

I attended the levee on that memorable day, and saw the scene. The Place du Carrousel was unusually crowded with troops, which the First Consul was passing in review. The whole population seemed to have conjectured the event of the day; for I had never seen them in such numbers, or with such an evident look of general anxiety. The Tuileries were filled with officers of state, with leading military men, and members of the Senate and Tribunat; the whole body of the foreign ambassadors were present; and yet the entire assemblage was kept waiting until the First Consul had inspected even the firelocks of his guard, and the shoes in their knapsacks. The diplomatists, as they saw from the high casements of the palace this tardy operation going on, exchanged glaces with each other at its contemptuous trifling. Some of the militaires exhibited the impatience of men accustomed to prompt measures; the civilians smiled and shrugged their shoulders; but all felt that there was a purpose in the delay.

At length, the drums beat for the close of the review; the First Consul galloped up to the porch of the palace, flung himself from his charger, sprang up the staircase, and without stopping for etiquette, rushed into the salle, followed by cloud of aides-de-camp and chamberlains. The Circle of Presentations was formed, and he walked hastily round it, saying few rapid words to each. I observed for the first time an aide-de-camp moving on the outside of the circle, step for step, and with his eye steadily marking the gesture of each individual to whom the First Consul spoke in his circuit. This was a new precaution, and indicative of the time. Till then he had run all risks, and might have been the victim of any daring hand. The very countenance of the First Consul was historic; it was as characteristic as his career. It exhibited the most unusual contrast of severity and softness; nothing sterner than the gathering of his brow, nothing more flattering than his smile. On this occasion we had them both in perfection. To the general diplomatic circle his lip[Pg 276] wore the smile. But when he reached the spot where the British ambassador stood, we had the storm at once. With his darkest frown, and with every feature in agitation, he suddenly burst out into a tirade against England—reproaching her with contempt of treaties; with an absolute desire for war; with a perpetual passion for embroiling Europe; with forming armaments in the midst of peace; and with challenging France to an encounter which must provoke universal hostilities. The English ambassador listened in silence, but with the air of a high-spirited man, who would concede nothing to menace; and with the countenance of an intelligent one, who could have easily answered declamation by argument. But for this answer there was no time. The First Consul, having delivered his diatribe, suddenly sprang round, darted through the crowd, rushed through a portal, and was lost to the view. That scene was decisive. I saw that war was inevitable. I took my friend's advice, ordered post-horses, and within the twenty-four hours I saw with infinite delight the cliffs of Dover shining in the dawn.

I am not writing a history. I am merely throwing together events separated by great chasms, in the course of a life. My life was all incident; sometimes connected with public transactions of the first magnitude, sometimes wholly personal; and thus I hasten on to the close of a public career which has ended, and of an existence diversified by cloud and sunshine, but on the whole happy.

The war began; it was unavoidable. The objects of our great adversary have been since stripped of their disguise. His system, at the time, was to lull England by peace, until he had amassed a force which would crush her at the outbreak of a war. A few years would have concentrated his strength, and brought the battle to our own shores. But there are higher impulses acting on the world than human ambition; the great machine is not altogether guided by man. England had the cause of nations in her charge; her principles were truth, honour, and justice. She had retained the reverence of her forefathers for the Sanctuary; and the same guidance which had in the beginning taught her wisdom, ultimately crowned her with victory. I lived through a period of the most overwhelming vicissitudes of nations, and of the great disturber himself, who had caused those vicissitudes. I saw Napoleon at the head of 500,000 men on the Niemen; I saw him reduced to 50,000 on the plains of Champagne; I saw him reduced to a brigade at Fontainebleau; I saw him a burlesque of empire at Elba; and I saw him an exile on board a British ship, departing from Europe to obscurity and his grave. These things may well reconcile inferior talents to the changes of fortune. But they should also teach nations, that the love of conquest is national ruin; and that there is a power which avenges the innocent blood. No country on earth requires that high moral more than France; and no country on earth has more bitterly suffered for its perversion. Napoleon was embodied France; the concentrated spirit of her wild ambition, of her furious love of conquest, of her reckless scorn of the sufferings and rights of mankind. Nobler principles have followed, under a wiser rule. But if France draws the sword again in the ambition of Napoleon, she will exhibit to the world only the fate of Napoleon. It will be her last war.

On my arrival in England, I found the public mind clouded with almost universal dejection. Pitt was visibly dying. He still held the nominal reins of government for some period; but the blow had been struck, and his sole honour now was to be, that, like the Spartan of old, he died on the field, and with his buckler on his arm. There are secrets in the distribution of human destinies, which have always perplexed mankind; and one of those is, why so many of the most powerful minds have been cut off in the midst of their career, extinguished at the moment when their fine faculties were hourly more essential to the welfare of science, of government, and of the general progress of society.

I may well comprehend that feeling, for it was my own. I saw Pitt laid in the grave; I looked down into the narrow bed where slept all that was mortal of the man who virtually wielded the whole supremacy of[Pg 277] Europe. Yet how little can man estimate the future! Napoleon was in his glory, when Pitt was in his shroud. Yet how infinitely more honoured, and thus more happy, was the fate of him by whose sepulchre all that was noble and memorable in the living generation stood in reverence and sorrow, than the last hour of the prisoner of St Helena! Both were emblems of their nations. The Englishman, manly, pure, and bold, of unshaken firmness, of proud reliance on the resources of his own nature, and of lofty perseverence through good and through evil fortune. The foreigner, dazzling and daring, of singular intellectual vividness, and of a thirst of power which disdained to be slaked but at sources above the ambition of all the past warriors and statesmen of Europe. He was the first who dreamed of fabricating anew the old Roman sceptre, and establishing an empire of the world. His game was for a prodigious stake, and for a while he played it with prodigious fortune. He found the moral atmosphere filled with the floating elements of revolution; he collected the republican electricity, and discharged it on the cusps and pinnacles of the European thrones with terrible effect. But, from the moment when he had dissipated that charm, he lost the secret of his irresistible strength. As the head of the great republic, making opinion his precursor, calling on the old wrongs of nations to level his way, and marshaling the new-born hopes, the ancient injuries, and the ardent imaginations of the continental kingdoms to fight his battles; the world lay before him, with all its barriers ready to fall at the first tread of his horse's hoof. As an Emperor, he forged his own chain.

Napoleon, the chieftain of republicanism, might have revolutionized Europe; Napoleon, the monarch, narrowed his supremacy to the sweep of his sword. Like a necromancer weary of his art, he scattered the whole treasury of his magnificent illusions into "thin air;" flung away his creative wand for a sceptre; and buried the book of his magic "ten thousand fathom deep," to replace it only by the obsolete statutes of courts, and the weak etiquette of governments in decay. Fortunate for mankind that he committed this irrecoverable error, and was content to be the lord of France, instead of being the sovereign of opinion; for his nature was despotic, and his power must have finally shaped and massed itself into a stupendous tyranny. Still, he might have long influenced the fates, and long excited the awe and wonder, of Europe. We, too, might have worshipped his Star, and have forgotten the danger of the flaming phenomenon, in the rapidity and eccentricity of its course, as we saw it eclipsing the old luminaries in succession; until it touched our orbit, and visited us in conflagration.

It was said that Pitt died of a broken heart, in despair of the prospects of England. The defeat of Austerlitz was pronounced his death-blow. What thoughts may cluster round the sleepless pillow, who shall tell? But no man knew England better; none had a bolder faith in her perseverance and principle; none had more broadly laid the foundations of victory in national honour. I shall never be driven into the belief that William Pitt despaired of his country.

He died in the vigour of his genius, in the proudest struggle of the empire, in the midst of the deepest trial which for a thousand years had demanded all the faculties of England. Yet, what man within human recollection had lived so long, if we are to reckon life not by the calendar but by triumphs? What minister of England, what minister of Europe, but himself, was the head of his government for three-and-twenty years? What man had attained so high an European rank? What mind had influenced so large an extent of European interests? What name was so instinctively pronounced by every nation, as the first among mankind? To have earned distinctions like these, was to have obtained all that time could give. Not half a century in years, Pitt's true age was patriarchal.

I was now but a spectator. My connexion with public life was broken off. Every name with which I had been associated was swept away; and I stood like a man flung from ship-wreck upon a shore, where every face which he met was that of a stranger. I was still in Parliament, but I felt a loathing for public exertions. From[Pg 278] habit, I had almost identified office with the memorable men whom I had seen governing so long; and the new faces, the new declamation, and the new principles, which the ministerial change brought before me nightly, startled my feelings even less as new than as incongruous. I admitted the ability, the occasional intelligence, and perhaps even the patriotism of the cabinet; but in those reveries, (the natural refuge from a long debate,) memory so often peopled the Treasury Bench with the forms of Pitt and his distinguished coadjutors, and so completely filled my ear with his sonorous periods and high-toned principles, that when I was roused to the reality, I felt as those who have seen some great performer in one of Shakspeare's characters, until no excellence of his successor can embody the conception once more.

I retired from the tumult of London, and returned to tastes which I had never wholly forgotten; taking a small residence within a few miles of this centre of the living world, and devoting my leisure to the enjoyments of that life, which, in the purest days of man, was given to him as the happiest, "to dress the garden, and keep it." Clotilde in all her tastes joined with mine, or rather led them, with the instinctive elegance of a female mind, accomplished in every grace of education. We read, wrote, walked, talked, and pruned our rose-trees and gathered our carnations and violets, together. She had already given me those pledges, which, while they increase the anxiety, also increase the affection, of wedded life. The education of our children was a new source of interest. They were handsome and healthy. Their little sports, the growth of their young perceptions, and the freshness of their ideas, renewed to us both all the delights of society without their exhaustion; and when, after returning from a day spent in the noise and bustle of London, I reached my rustic gate, heard the cheerful voices of the little population which rushed down the flowery avenue to cling upon my neck; and stood at the door of my cottage, with my arm round the waist of my beautiful and fond wife, breathing the evening fragrance of a thousand blooms, and enjoying the cool air, and the purple glories of the sky—I often wondered why men should seek for happiness in any other scene; and felt gratitude, not the less sincere for its being calm and solemn, to the Giver of a lot so nearly approaching to human fulness of joy.

But the world rolls on, let who will slumber among its roses. The political world was awoke by a thunder-clap. Fox died. He was just six months a minister! Such is ambition, such is the world. He died, like Pitt, in the zenith of his powers, with his judgment improved and his passions mitigated, with the noblest prospects of public utility before his eyes, and the majestic responsibilities of a British minister assuming their natural rank in his capacious mind. The times, too, were darkening; and another "lodestar" was thus stricken from the national hemisphere, at the moment when the nation most wanted guidance. The lights which remained were many; but they were vague, feeble, and scattered. The "leader of the starry host" was gone.

I cannot trust myself to speak of this distinguished man; for I was no Foxite. I regarded his policy in opposition as the pleadings of a powerful advocate, with a vast retaining fee, a most comprehensive cause, and a most generous and confiding client. Popularity, popular claims, and the people, were all three made for him beyond all other men; and no advocate ever pleaded with more indefatigable zeal, or more resolute determination. But, raised to a higher position, higher qualities were demanded. Whether they might not have existed in his nature, waiting for the development of time, is the question. But time was not given. His task had hitherto been easy. It was simply to stand as a spectator on the shore, criticising the manœuvres of a stately vessel struggling with the gale. The helm was at last put into his hand; and it was then that he felt the difference between terra firma and the wild and restless element which he was now to control. But he had scarcely set his foot on the deck, when he, too, was swept away. On such brevity of trial, it is impossible to judge. Time might[Pg 279] have matured his vigour, while it expanded his views: matchless as the leader of a party, he might then have been elevated into the acknowledged leader of a people. The singular daring, ardent sensitiveness, and popular ambition, which made him dangerous in a private station, might then have found their nobler employment, and been purified in the broad and lofty region of ministerial duty. He might have enlarged the partizan into the patriot, and, instead of being the great leader of a populace, have been ennobled into the great guide of an empire.

But the world never stands still. On the day when I returned from moralising on the vanity of life over the grave of Fox, I received a letter, a trumpet-call to the mêlée, from Mordecai. It was enthusiastic, but its enthusiasm had now taken a bolder direction. "In abandoning England," he told me, "he had abandoned all minor and personal speculations, and was now dealing with the affairs of kingdoms." This letter gave only fragments of his views; but it was easy to see that he contemplated larger results than he ventured to trust to paper.

"You must come and see me here," said he, "for it is only here that you can see me as I ever desired to be seen; or in fact, as nature made me. In your busy metropolis, I was only one of the millions who were content to make a sort of a reptile existence, creeping on the ground, and living on the chances of the day. Here I have thrown off my caterpillar life and am on the wing—a human dragon-fly, if you will, darting at a thousand different objects, enjoying the broad sunshine, and speeding through the wide air. My invincible attachment to my nation here finds its natural object; for the sons of Abraham are here a people. I am a patriarch, with my flocks and herds, my shepherds and clansmen, the sons of my tribe coming to do me honour, and my heart swelling and glowing with the prospects of national regeneration. I have around me a province to which one of your English counties would be but a sheepfold; a multitude of bold spirits, to whom your populace would be triflers; a new nation, elated by their approaching deliverance, solemnly indignant at their past oppression, and determined to shake the land to its centre, or to recover their freedom.

"You will speak of this as the vision of an old man—come to us, and you will see it a splendid reality. But observe, that I expect no miracle. I leave visions to fanatics; and while I acknowledge the Power of Powers, which rides in clouds, and moves the world by means unknown to human weakness, I look also to the human means which have their place in pushing on the wheels of the great system. The army which has broken down the strength of the Continent—the force which, like a whirlwind, has torn such tremendous chasms through the old domains of European power, and has torn up so many of the forest monarchs by the root—the French legions, the greatest instrument of human change since the Gothic invasions, are now marching direct on Poland.

"I have seen the man who is at the head of that army—the most extraordinary being whom Europe has seen for a thousand years—the crowned basilisk of France. I own, that we must beware of his fangs, of the blast of his nostrils, and the flash of his eye. He is a terrible production of nature: but he is on our side, and, even if he should be finally trampled, he will have first done our work. I have had an interview with Napoleon! it was long and animated. He spoke to me as to the chief man of my nation, and I answered him in the spirit of the chief man. He pronounced, that the general change, essential to the true government of Europe, was incapable of being effected without the aid of our people. He spoke contemptuously of the impolicy by which we had been deprived of our privileges, and declared his determination to place us on a height from which we might move the world. But it was obvious to me, that under those lofty declarations there was a burning ambition; that if we were to move the world, it was for him; and that, even then, we were not to move it for the monarch of France, but for the individual. I saw, that he was then the[Pg 280] dreamer. Yet his dream was the extravagance of genius. In those hopeless graspings and wild aspirations, I saw ultimate defeat; but I saw also the nerve and muscle of a gigantic mind. In his pantings after immeasurable power and imperishable dominion, he utterly forgot the barrier which time throws before the proudest step of human genius; and that within a few years his head must grow grey, his blood cold, the sword be returned to its sheath, and even the sceptre fall from his withering hand. Still, in our conference, we both spoke the same language of scorn for human obstacles, of contempt for the narrowness of human views, and of our resolution to effect objects which, in many an after age, should fix the eye of the world. But he spoke of immortal things; relying on mortal conjecture and mortal power. I spoke of them on surer grounds. I felt them to be the consummation of promises which nothing can abolish; to be the offspring of power which nothing can resist. The foundation of his structures was policy, the foundation of mine was prophecy. And when his shall be scattered as the chaff of the threshing-floor, and be light as the dust of the balance; mine shall be deep as the centre, high as the heavens, and dazzling as the sun in his glory."

In another portion of his letter, he adverted to the means by which this great operation was to be effected.

"I have been for three days on the Vistula, gazing at the march of the 'Grand Army.' It well deserves the name. It is the mightiest mass of power ever combined under one head; half a million of men. The armies of Persia were gatherings of clowns compared to this incomparable display of soldiership; the armies of Alaric and Attila were hordes of savages in comparison; the armies of ancient Rome alone approached it in point of discipline, but the most powerful Roman army never reached a fifth of its number. I see at this moment before me the conquerors of the Continent, the brigades which have swept Italy, the bayonets and cannon which have broken down Austria, and extinguished Prussia.—The eagles are now on the wing for a mightier prey."

This prediction was like the prayers of the Homeric heroes—

"One half the gods dispersed in empty air."

Poland was not to be liberated; the crisis was superb, but the weapon was not equal to the blow. It was the first instance in which the French Emperor was found inferior to his fortune. With incomparable force of intellect, Napoleon wanted grandeur of mind. It has become the custom of later years to deny him even superiority of intellect; but the man who, in a contest open to all, goes before all—who converts a republic, with all its ardour, haughtiness, and passion, into a monarchy at once as rigid and as magnificent as an Oriental despotism—who, in a country of warriors, makes himself the leading warrior—who, among the circle within circle of the subtlest political intrigues, baffles all intrigues, converts them into the material of his own ascendency, and makes the subtlest and the boldest spirits his instruments and slaves—has given sufficient evidence of the superiority of his talents. The conqueror who beat down in succession all the great military names of Europe, must have been a soldier; the negotiator who vanquished all existing diplomacy, and the statesman who remodelled the laws, curbed the fiery temper, and reduced to discipline the fierce insubordination of a people, whose first victory had crushed the state, and heaped the ruins of the throne on the sepulchre of their king—must have been a negotiator and a statesman of the first rank. Or, if those were not the achievements of intellect, by what were they done? If they were done without it, of what value is intellect? Napoleon had then only found the still superior secret of success; and we deny his intellect, simply to give him attributes higher than belong to human nature.—No man before him dreamed of such success, no man in his day rivalled it, no man since his day has attempted its renewal. "But he was fortunate!" What can be more childish than to attempt the solution of the problem by fortune? Fortune is a phantom. Circumstances may arise beyond the conception of[Pg 281] man; but where the feebler mind yields to circumstances, the stronger one shapes, controls, and guides them.

This man was sent for a great purpose of justice, and he was gifted with the faculties for its execution. An act of imperial guilt had been committed, of which Europe was to be purged by penalty alone. The fall of Poland was to be made a moral to the governments of the earth; and Napoleon was to be the fiery brand that was to imprint the sentence upon the foreheads of the great criminals. It is in contemplations like these, that the Spirit of history ministers to the wisdom of mankind. Whatever may be the retribution for individuals beyond the grave, justice on nations must be done in this world; and here it will be done.

The partition of Poland was the most comprehensive and audacious crime of the modern world. It was a deliberate insult, at once to the laws of nations and to the majesty of the great Disposer of nations. And never fell vengeance more immediate, more distinct, or more characteristic. The capital of Austria twice entered over the bodies of its gallant soldiery; Russia ravaged and Moscow burnt; the Prussian army extinguished by the massacre of Jena, and Prussia in a day fettered for years—were the summary and solemn retribution of Heaven. But, when the penalty was paid, the fate of the executioner instantly followed. Guilt had punished guilt, and justice was to be alike done upon all. Napoleon and his empire vanished, as the powder vanishes that explodes the mine. The ground was broken up; the structures of royalty on its surface were deeply fractured; the havoc was complete; but the fiery deposit which had effected the havoc was itself scattered into air.

His re-establishment of Poland would have been an act of grandeur. It would have established a new character for the whole Revolution. It would have shown that the new spirit which had gone forth summoning the world to regeneration, was itself regeneration; that it was not a tempter, but a restorer; that all conquest was not selfish, and all protestation not meant to deceive. If Napoleon had given Poland a diadem, and placed it on the brow of Kosciusko, he would, in that act, have placed on his own brow a diadem which no chance of the field could have plucked away; an imperishable and dazzling answer to all the calumnies of his age, and all the doubts of posterity. He might even have built, in the restoration of the fallen kingdom, a citadel for his own security in all the casualties of empire; but, in all events, he would have fixed in the political heaven a star which, to the last recollection of mankind, would have thrown light on his sepulchre, and borne his name.

The fall of the Foxite ministry opened the way to a new cabinet, and I resumed my office. But we marched in over ruins. In the short period of their power, Europe had been shattered. England had stood aloof and escaped the shock; but to stand aloof then was her crime—her sympathy might have saved the tottering system. Now, all was gone. When we looked over the whole level of the Continent, we saw but two thrones—France and Russia; all the rest were crushed. They stood, but their structure was shattered, stripped of its adornments, and ready to crumble down at the first blow. England was without an ally. We had begun the war with Europe in our line of battle; we now stood alone. Yet, the spirit of the nation was never bolder than in this hour, when a storm of hostility seemed to be gathering round us from every quarter of the world. Still, there were voices of ill omen among our leading men. It was said, that France and Russia had resolved to divide the world between them—to monopolize the East and the West; to extinguish all the minor sovereignties; to abolish all the constitutions; to turn the world into two vast menageries, in which the lesser monarchies should be shown, as caged lions, for the pomp of the two lords-paramount of the globe. I heard this language from philosophers, from orators, even from statesmen; but I turned to the people, and I found the spirit of their forefathers unshaken in them still—the bold defiance of the foreigner, the lofty national scorn of his gasconading, the desire to grapple more closely with his utmost strength, and the willingness, nay, the passionate[Pg 282] desire, to rest the cause of Europe on their championship alone. I never heard among the multitude a sound of that despair which had become the habitual language of Opposition. They had answered the call to arms with national ardour. The land was filled with voluntary levies, and the constant cry of the people was—conflict with the enemy, any where, at any time, or upon any terms. More fully versed in their national history than any other European people, they remembered, that in every war with France, for a thousand years, England had finished with victory; that she had never suffered any one decisive defeat in the war, that where the forces of the two nations could come fairly into contact, their troops had always been successful; and that from the moment when France ventured to contest the empire of the seas, all the battles of England were triumphs, until the enemy was swept from the ocean.

The new cabinet formed its plans on the national confidence, and executed them with statesmanlike decision. The struggle on the Continent was at an end; but they resolved to gird it with a chain of fire. Every port was shut up by English guns; every shore was watched by English eyes. Outside this chain, the world was our own. The ocean was free; every sea was traversed by our commerce with as much security as in the most profound peace. The contrast with the Continent was of the most striking order. There all was the dungeon—one vast scene of suffering and outcry; of coercion and sorrow; the conscription, the confiscation, the licensed plunder, the bitter and perpetual insult. The hearts of men died within them, and they crept silently to their obscure graves. Wounds, poverty, and ferocious tyranny, the heart-gnawing pangs of shame, and the thousand thorns which national and conscious degradation strews on the pillow of men crushed by the insolence of a soldiery, wore away the human race; provinces were unpeopled, and a generation were laid prematurely in the grave.

The recollections of the living world will long point to this period as the most menacing portion of all history. The ancient tyrannies were bold, presumptuous, and remorseless monopolies of power; but their pressure scarcely descended to the multitude. It crushed the senator, the patrician, and the man of opulence; as the tempest smites the turrets of the palace, or shatters the pinnacles of the mountain range. But the despotism of France searched the humblest condition of man. It tyrannized over the cottage, as fiercely as it had swept over the thrones. The German or Italian peasant saw his son torn away, to perish in some distant region, of which he knew no more than that it was the grave of the thousands and tens of thousands of his fellow shepherds and vintagers. The despotism of France less resembled the domination of man, from which, with all its vigilance, there is some hope of escape, than the subtlety of a demon, which has an evil and a sting for every heart, and by which nothing can be forgotten, and nothing will be spared. In the whole immense circle of French dominion, no man could lay his head down to rest, with a security that he might not be roused at midnight, to be flung into a captivity from which he was never to return. No man could look upon his property, the earnings of his manhood, the resource for his age, or the provision for his children, without the knowledge that it was at the mercy of the plunderer; no man could look upon the birth of his child, without the bitter consciousness that another victim was preparing for the general sacrifice; nor could see the ripening form or intellect of those who were given to him by Providence for the comfort and companionship of his advancing years, without a conviction that they would be swept away from him. He felt that he would be left unsheltered and alone; and that those in whom his life was wrapt, and whom he would have gladly given his life to save, were destined to perish by some German or Russian bayonet, and make their last bed among the swamps of the Danube or the snows of Poland.

I am not now speaking from the natural abhorrence of the Briton for tyranny alone. The proofs are before the eye of mankind. Within little more than half the first year of the Polish campaign, three conscriptions, of eighty thousand youths each, were demanded from France alone. Two hundred[Pg 283] and forty thousand living beings were torn from their parents, and sent to perish in the field, the hospital, and on the march through deserts where winter reigns in boundless supremacy!

Let the man of England rejoice that those terrible inflictions cannot be laid on him, and be grateful to the freedom which protects the most favoured nation of mankind. Arbitrary arrest and the conscription are the two heads of the serpent—either would embitter the existence of the most prosperous state of society; they both at this hour gnaw the vitals of the continental states; they alienate the allegiance, and chill the affections; even where they are mitigated by the character of the sovereigns, they still remain the especial evils which the noblest patriotism should apply all its efforts to extinguish, and the removal of which it would be the most illustrious boon of princes to confer upon their people.

But the ramparts of that empire of slavery and suffering were to be shaken at last. The breach was to be made and stormed by England; Europe was to be summoned to achieve its own deliverance; and England was to move at the head of the proudest armament that ever marched to conquest for the liberties of mankind.

She began by a thunder-clap. The peace with Russia had laid the Czar at the mercy of France. Napoleon had intrigued to make him a confederate in the league against mankind. But the generous nature of the Russian monarch shrank from the conspiracy, and the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit were divulged to the British cabinet. I shall not now say from what authority they came; but the confidence was spontaneous, and the effect decisive. Those Articles contained the outline of a plan for combining all the fleets of subject Europe, and pouring the final vengeance of war on our shores. The right wing of that tremendous armament was to be formed of the Danish and Russian fleets. This confederacy must be broken up, or we must see a hundred and eighty ships of the line, freighted with a French and Russian army, at the mouth of the Thames. There was not a moment to be lost, if we were to act at all; for a French force was already within a march of the Great Belt, to garrison Denmark. The question was debated in council, in all its bearings. All were fully aware of the hypocritical clamour which would be raised by the men who were lending themselves to every atrocity of France. We were not less prepared for the furious declamation of that professor of universal justice and protector of the rights of neutral nations—the French Emperor. But the necessity was irresistible; the act was one of self-defence; and it was executed accordingly, and with instant and incomparable vigour. A fleet and army were dispatched to the Baltic. An assault of three days gave the Danish fleet into our hands. The confederacy was broken up by the British batteries; and the armament returned, with twenty sail of the enemy's line, as trophies of the best planned and boldest expedition of the war.

Napoleon raged; but it was at finding that England could show a promptitude like his own, sanctioned by a better cause. Denmark complained pathetically of the infringement of peace, before she had "completed her preparations for war;" but every man of political understanding, even in Denmark, rejoiced at her being disburdened of a fleet, whose subsistence impoverished her revenues, and whose employment could only have involved her in fatal hostilities with Britain. Russia was loudest in her indignation, but a smile was mingled with her frown. Her statesmen were secretly rejoiced to be relieved from all share in the fearful enterprise of an encounter with the fleets of England, and her Emperor was not less rejoiced to find, that she had still the sagacity and the courage which could as little be baffled as subdued, and to which the powers of the North themselves might look for refuge in the next struggle of diadems.

This was but the dawning of the day; the sun was soon to rise. Yet, public life has its difficulties in proportion to its height. As Walpole said, that no man knows the human heart but a minister; so no man knows the real difficulties of office, but the man of office. Lures to[Pg 284] his passions, temptations to his integrity, and alarms to his fears, are perpetually acting on his sense of honour. To make a false step is the most natural thing in the world under all those impulses; and one false step ruins him. The rumour reached me that there were dissensions in the cabinet; and, though all was smooth to the eye, I had soon sufficient proof that the intelligence was true. A prominent member of the administration was the object of the intrigue. He was an intelligent, high-spirited, and straightforward man, open in language, if the language was not of the most classic order; and bold in his conceptions, if those conceptions were not formed on the most accomplished knowledge. He had attained his high position, partly by public services, but still more by connexion. It was impossible to refuse respect to his general powers, but it was equally impossible to deny the intellectual superiority of his competitor. The contrast which they presented in the House was decisive of their talents for debate. While the one spoke his mind with the uncultured expressions of the moment; the other never addressed the House but with the polished and pointed diction of the orator. He was the most accomplished of debaters.—Always prepared, always pungent, often powerful. Distinguished in early life by scholarship, he had brought all the finer spirit of his studies into the business of public life. He was the delight of the House; and the boundless applause which followed his eloquence, and paid an involuntary tribute to his mastery of public affairs, not unnaturally stimulated his ambition to possess that leading official rank to which he seemed called by the right of nature. The rivalry at length became open and declared; it had been felt too deeply to die away among the casual impressions of public life; it had been suppressed too long to be forgiven on either side; and the crisis was evidently approaching in which it was necessary to take a part with either of those gifted men.

I seldom spent more anxious hours in the course of an anxious life, than during the period of this deliberation. I felt all the fascinations of the man of genius. On the other hand, I respected all the solid and manly qualities of his opponent. In a personal view, the issue of the contest was likely to produce evil to my own views. I was still a dependent upon fortune. I had new ties and interests, which made official income more important to me day by day. In the fall of the administration I must follow the general fate.—In making my decision with the unsuccessful candidate for power, I must go down along with him; and the claims of the competitors were so equally balanced, and both were so distinguished, that it was beyond all conjecture to calculate the result. I, too, was not without many a temptation to perplex my judgment. The rivalry had at length become public, and the friends of each were active in securing opinions among the holders of office. The whole was a lottery, but with my political existence dependent on my escaping a blank. In this dilemma I consulted my oracle, Clotilde. Her quick intelligence decided for me at once. "You must resign," said she. "You value both; you cannot side with either without offending their feelings, or, what I more regard, distressing your own. Both are men of intelligence and honour, and they will understand your motives and respect them. To retain office is impossible."

"But, Clotilde, how can I bear the thought of reducing you and my infants to the discomforts of a narrow income, and the obscurity of a life of retirement?"

"A thousand times better, than you could endure the thought of retaining office against your judgment, or taking a part against a friend. Follow the impressions of your own generous nature, and you will be dearer than ever to Clotilde—even though it condemned us all to the deepest obscurity." Tears gushed into her eyes as she spoke the words; and in her heart she was evidently less of the heroine than in her language: the children had come playing round her feet at the moment; and the family picture of the reverse in our fortunes, filled with this cluster of young faces, unconscious of the chance which lay before them, was too severe a trial[Pg 285] for a mother's feelings. Her tears flowed abundantly, and the beating of her heart showed the anguish of her sacrifice. But she still persisted in her determination. As I took leave of her to go down to the House, her last words, as she pressed my hand, were—"Resign, and leave the rest to fortune."

A motion on the subject of the rival claims had been appointed for the evening; and the premier was to open the debate. The House was crowded at an early hour; and as my services were required in the discussion, I postponed the communication of my resolve, until the division should announce that my labours were at an end. But the hour passed away in routine business. Still, the premier did not appear. The anxiety grew excessive. At length whispers ran round the benches, of a rencounter between the two distinguished individuals; and, like all rumours of this nature, the results were pronounced to be of the most alarming kind. The consternation was gradually mitigated by the announcement that one of the combatants remained unhurt, but that the other had received a mortal wound. The House was speedily deserted; and all rushed out to ascertain the truth of this melancholy intelligence. Yet, nothing was to be gathered among the numberless reports of the night, and I returned home harassed almost into fever. The morning quieted the general alarm. The wound was dangerous, but not mortal; and both combatants had sent in their resignation. It was accepted by royalty, and before another night fell; I was sent for by the premier, and offered one of the vacant offices.

Such are the chances of public life. The lottery had been drawn, and mine was a prize. With what feelings I returned on that night to my fireside; with what welcome I was received by my gentle, yet heroic, wife; or with what eyes I glanced upon my infants, as they came to ask the paternal kiss and blessing before they parted for their pillows, I leave to those who know the rejoicing of the heart, to conceive.

Those events had shaken the ministry, as dissensions always have done; and it still cost us many a severe struggle to resist the force of Opposition combined with the clamours of the country. England and France now presented a spectacle unexampled in the annals of hostilities, engaged in a war which seemed interminable—both determined to conquer or perish; both impelled by the most daring courage; yet neither able to inflict the slightest blow upon the other, with but fifteen miles between. France was nearer to Russia, nay, was nearer to the remotest extremity of Asia, than to England. In the midst of the fiercest war, both preserved the attitude of the most profound peace. The lion and the tiger, couching on the opposite sides of some impassable ravine, each watching the fiery eyes and naked fangs of the other, would have been the natural emblems of this hopeless thirst of encounter between the two most powerful and exasperated nations of the earth.

It is no superstition to trace those events to a higher source than man. The conclusion of this vast conflict was already written, in a record above the short-sighted vision and infirm memory of our nature. In all the earlier guilt of Europe, France has been the allotted punisher of the Continent; and England the allotted punisher of France. I make no presumptuous attempt to explain the reason; but the process is incontestable. When private profligacy combines with some atrocious act of public vice to make the crimes of the Continent intolerable, France is sent forth to carry fire and sword to its boundaries, to crush its armies in the field, to sack its cities, and to decimate its population. Then comes the penalty of the punisher. The crimes of France demand purgation. The strength of England is summoned to this stern duty, and France is scourged; her military pride is broken; her power is paralysed, peace follows, and Europe rests for a generation. The process has been so often renewed, and has been completed with such irresistible regularity, that the principle is a law. The period for this consummation was now come once more.

I was sitting in my library one evening, when a stranger was introduced, who had brought a letter from the officer commanding our squadron on the Spanish coast. He was a man of noble presence, of stately stature, and with a countenance exhibiting all the[Pg 286] vivid expression of the South. He was a Spanish nobleman from the Asturias, and deputed by the authorities to demand succours in the national rising against the common enemy, Napoleon. I was instinctively struck by the measureless value of resistance in a country which opened to us the whole flank of France; but the intelligence was so wholly unexpected, so entirely beyond calculation, and at the same time so pregnant with the highest results to England, that I was long incredulous. I was prepared to doubt the involuntary exaggeration of men who had every thing at stake; the feverish tone of minds embarked in the most formidable of all struggles; and even the passion of the southern in every event and object, of force sufficient to arouse him into action. But the Asturian was firm in his assurances, clear and consistent in his views, and there was even a candour in his confession of the unprepared state of his country, which added largely to my confidence. Our dialogue was, I believe, unprecedented for the plainness of its enquiries and replies. It was perfectly Lacedæmonian.

"What regular force can Spain bring into the field?"


"What force has Napoleon in Spain at this moment?"

"At least two hundred and fifty thousand men, and those in the highest state of equipment and discipline."

"And yet you venture to resist?"

"We have resisted, we shall resist, and we shall beat them."

"In what state are your fortresses?"

"One half of them in the hands of the French, and the other half, without garrisons, provisions, or even guns; still, we shall beat them."

"Are not the French troops in possession of all the provinces?"


"Are they not in fact masters of the country?"


"How am I to reconcile those statements?"

"The French are masters by day; the Spaniards are masters by night."

"But you have none of the elements of national government. You have lost your king."

"So much the better."

"Your princes, nobles, and court."

"So much the better."

"Even your prime minister and whole administration are in the hands of the enemy."

"Best of all!" said the respondent, with a frown like a thunder-cloud.

"What resource, then, have you?"

"The people!" exclaimed the Spaniard, in a tone of superb defiance.

"Still—powerful as a united people are—before you can call upon a British government to embark in such a contest, it must be shown that the people are capable of acting together; that they are not separated by the jealousies which proverbially divide your country."

"Señor Inglese," said the Don, with a Cervantic curl of the lip, "I see, that Spain has not been neglected among the studies of your high station. But Spain is not to be studied in books. She is not to be sketched, like a fragment of a Moorish castle, and carried off in a portfolio. Europe knows nothing of her. You must pass the Pyrenees to conceive her existence. She lives on principles totally distinct from those of all other nations; and France will shortly find, that she never made a greater mistake than when she thought, that even the southern slope of the Pyrenees was like the northern."

"But," said I, "the disunion of your provinces, the extinction of your army, and the capture of your executive government, must leave the country naked to invasion. The contest may be gallant, but the hazard must be formidable. To sustain a war against the disciplined troops of France, and the daring determination of its ruler, would require a new age of miracle." The Spaniard bit his lip, and was silent. "At all events, your proposals do honour to the spirit of your country, and I shall not be the man to throw obstacles in your way. Draw up a memoir; state your means, your objects and your intentions, distinctly; and I shall lay it before the government without delay."

"Señor Inglese, it shall be done. In that memoir, I shall simply say that Spain has six ranges of mountains, all impregnable, and that the Spanish people are resolved to defend them;[Pg 287] that the country is one vast natural fortress; that the Spanish soldier can sleep on the sand, can live on the simplest food, and the smallest quantity of that food; that he can march fifty miles a-day; that he is of the same blood as the conquerors of the Moors, and with the soldiers of Charles V.; and that he requires only discipline and leaders to equal the glory of his forefathers." His fine features glanced with manly exultation.

"Still, before I can bring your case before the country, we must be enabled to have an answer for the objections of the legislature. Your provinces are scarcely less hostile to each other than they are to the enemy. What plan can unite them in one system of defence? and, without that union, how can resistance be effectual?"

"Spain stands alone," was the reply. "Her manners, her feelings, and her people, have no examples in Europe. Her war will have as little similarity to the wars of its governments. It will be a war, not of armies, but of the shepherd, of the artificer, the muleteer, the contrabandist—a war of all classes the peasant, the priest, the noble, nay, the beggar on the highway. But this was the war of her ancestors, the war of the Asturias, which cleared the country of the Moors, and will clear it of the French. All Spain a mass of hostility, a living tide of unquenchable hatred and consuming fire—the French battalions, pouring over the Pyrenees, will be like battalions poured into the ocean. They will be engulfed; they will never return. Our provinces are divided, but they have one invincible bond—abhorrence of the French. Even their division is not infirmity, but strength. They know so little of each other that even the conquest of one half of Spain would be scarcely felt by the rest. This will be a supreme advantage in the species of war which we contemplate—a war of desultory but perpetual assaults, of hostilities that cease neither night nor day, of campaigns that know no distinction between summer and winter—a war in which no pitched battles will be fought, but in which every wall will be a rampart, every hollow of the hills a camp, every mountain a citadel, every roadside, and swamp, and rivulet, the place of an ambuscade. We shall have no battalions and brigades, we require no tactics; our sole science will be, to kill the enemy wherever he can be reached by bullet or knife, until we make Spain the tomb of invasion, and her very name an omen, and a ruin to the tyrant on the French throne."

The councils of England in the crisis were worthy of her ancient name. It was resolved to forget the long injuries of which Spain had been the instrument, during her passive submission to the arrogance of her ally and master. The Bourbons were now gone; the nation was disencumbered of that government of chamberlains, maids of honour, and duennas. It was to be no longer stifled in the perfumed atmosphere of court boudoirs, or to be chilled in the damps of the cloister. Its natural and noble proportions were to be left unfettered and undisguised by the formal fashions of past centuries of grave frivolity and decorous degradation. The giant was to rise refreshed. The Samson was to resume his primal purpose; he was no longer to sleep in the lap of his Delilah; the national fame was before him, and, breaking his manacles at one bold effort, he was thenceforth to stand, as nature had moulded him, powerful and prominent among mankind.

These were dreams, but they were high-toned and healthy dreams—the anticipations of a great country accustomed to the possession of freedom, and expecting to plant national regeneration wherever it set foot upon the soil. The cause of Spain was universally adopted by the people and was welcomed by Parliament with acclamation; the appointment of a minister to represent the cabinet in Spain was decided on, and this distinguished commission was pressed upon my personal sense of duty by the sovereign. My official rank placed me above ambassadorships, but a service of this order had a superior purpose. It was a mission of the country, not of the minister. I was to be the instrument of an imperial declaration of good-will, interest, and alliance to a whole people.

In another week, the frigate which conveyed me was flying before the breeze, along the iron-bound shore[Pg 288] of Galicia; the brightest and most burning of skies was over my head, the most billowy of seas was dashing and foaming round me, and my eye was in continual admiration of the noble mountain barriers which, in a thousand shapes, guard the western coast of Spain from the ocean. At length the bay of Corunna opened before us; our anchor dropped, and I made my first step on the most picturesque shore, and among the most original people, of Europe. My destination was Madrid; but it was essential that I should ascertain all the facts in my power from the various provincial governments as I passed along; and I thus obtained a more ample knowledge of the people than could have fallen to the lot of the ordinary traveller. I consulted with their juntas, I was present at their festivals, I rode with their hidalgos, and I marched with their troops. One of the peculiarities which, as an Englishman, has always interested me in foreign travel is, that it brings us back to a period different from the existing age at home. All descending from a common stock, every nation of Europe has made a certain advance; but the advance has been of different degrees. Five hundred years ago, they were all nearly alike. In the Netherlands, I continually felt myself carried back to the days of the Protectorate; I saw nearly the same costume, the same formality of address, and the same habits of domestic life. In Germany, I went back a century further, and saw the English primitive style of existence, the same stiff architecture, the same mingling of stateliness and simplicity, not forgetting the same homage to the "divine right of kings." In Spain, I found myself in the thirteenth century, and but for the language, the heat, and the brown visages around me, could have imagined myself in England, in the days when "barons bold" still exercised the rights of feudalism, when gallant archers killed the king's deer without the king's permission, and when the priest was the lawgiver of the land.

Day by day, I saw the pilgrim making his weary way from shrine to shrine; the landowner caracoling his handsome horse over wild heaths and half-made highways—that horse caparisoned with as many fantastic trappings as the charger of chivalry, and both horse and rider forming no feeble representation of the knight bound on adventure. I saw the monastery of our old times, exhibiting all its ancient solidity, sternness, and pomp; with its hundred brethren; its crowd of sallow, silent domestics; its solemn service; and even with its beggars crowding and quarreling for their daily dole at its gate. The face of the country seemed to have been unchanged since the first invasion of the Visigoths:—immense commons, grown barren from the absence of all cultivation; vast, dreary sheep-walks; villages, few, rude, and thinly peopled; the absence of all enclosures, and a general look of loneliness, which, however, I could have scarcely imagined in England at any period since the Heptarchy. Yet, those wild wastes were often interspersed with delicious spots; where, after toiling half the day over a desert wild as Arabia, the traveller suddenly stood on the brink of some sweet and secluded valley, where the eye rested on almost tropical luxuriance—all the shrubs and blossoms which require so much shelter in our rougher climate, flourishing in the open air; hedges of myrtle and jessamine; huge olives, and primeval vines, spreading, in all the prodigality of nature, over the rocks; parasite plants clothing the oaks and elms with drapery of all colours, floating in every breath of wind; and, most delicious of all, in the fiery centre of Spain, streams, cool as ice and clear as crystal, gushing and glancing away through the depths of the valley; sometimes glittering in the sun, then plunging into shade, then winding along, seen by starts, like silver snakes, until they were lost under sheets of copse and foliage, unpruned by the hand of man, and which seemed penetrable only by the bird or the hare.



[Pg 289]


At the conclusion of the autobiography prefixed to his former series of Essays, published some years since, Mr Waterton announced that he then "put away the pen not to be used again except in self-defence." That this resolution has been departed from, from whatever motive, will be matter for congratulation to most, if not all, of the readers of the "Wanderings" and "Essays;" and the volume before us derives an additional interest from its being an unsolicited donation to the widow of his deceased friend, Mr Loudon, the well-known naturalist. Methinks the author would not have done amiss in continuing, both to this and the former series of essays, the peculiarly appropriate title under which his first lucubrations were given to the world: since veritable Wanderings they are over every imaginable variety of subject and climate, from caymans in the Essequibo to the blood of St Januarius at Naples; schemes for the banishment of Hanoverian rats (Mr W. never allows this voracious intruder a British denizenship) in Yorkshire, and for averting the projected banishment of the rooks in Scotland. Among the amusing omniun gatherum intermingled with the valuable ornithological information in the present volume, we find dissertations on the gigantic raspberries, now, alas! no more produced in the ruined garden of Walton Hall—on the evils of tight shoes, tight lacing, and stiff cravats—on the natural history of that extinct-by-law variety of the human species called the chimney sweeper—and last, not least, on that of the author himself, in the continuation of his unique autobiography; and we rejoice to find him, though now close upon his grand climacteric, still able to climb a tree by the aid of toes which have never been cramped by tight shoes, with all the vigour, if not all the agility, of his lusty youth, breathing hostility against no living creature except Mr Swainson and Sir Robert Peel—the little love he already bore to the latter for framing the oath of abjuration for Catholics[9] not being greatly augmented by the imposition of the income-tax—and still maintaining in Walton Park an inviolable asylum for crows, hawks, owls, and all the generally proscribed tribes of the feathered race.

The continuation of the autobiography is taken up from the publication of the first volume of essays in 1837, and consists chiefly of the narrative of adventures by land and perils by sea, in an expedition with his family, by the route of Holland and the Rhine, to the sunny shores of Italy. But the intervening period was not without incidents worthy of record. By a judicious system of pavement joined with Roman cement, and drains secured at the mouths by iron grates, "Charles Waterton, in the year of grace 1839, effectually cleared the premises at Walton Hall of every Hanoverian rat, young and old ... and if I were to offer L.20 sterling money for the capture of a single individual, in or about any part of the premises, not one could be procured." Not long after this memorable achievement, a case of hydrophobia in Nottingham promised to afford him an opportunity of trying the virtues of the famous Wourali poison, as a cure for this dreadful and hitherto unconquerable malady. The[Pg 290] difficulties and dangers encountered in the search for this potent narcotic through the wilds of Guiana, and the subsequent experiments on the ass Wouralia, which, after being apparently deprived of life by its influence, was revived by the inflation of the lungs with a blowpipe, and lived twenty-four years in clover at Walton, are familiar to the readers of the Wanderings—but its presumed efficacy in cases of hydrophobia was not destined to be tested in the present instance, as the patient had expired before Mr W.'s arrival. Its powers were, however, exhibited in the presence of a scientific assemblage:—one of two asses operated upon, though restored at the time, died on the third day, the other was perfectly recovered by the process of artificial respiration, and "every person present seemed convinced that the virulence of the Wourali poison was completely under the command of the operator ... and that it can be safely applied to a human being labouring under hydrophobia!" Now this inference, with all due deference to Mr Waterton, appears to partake not a little of the non sequitur; and unless the modus operandi by which relief is to be obtained during the suspension of vitality thus produced is more clearly explained, we doubt whether many applications will be made for "the scientific assistance of Mr Gibson of the General Hospital at Nottingham, to give the sufferer a chance of saving his life by the supposed, though yet untried, efficacy of the Wourali poison, which, worst come to the worst, would, by its sedative qualities, render death calm and composed, and free from pain." Satisfied, however, with the somewhat equivocal result of this experiment, Mr Waterton resumed his preparations for departure, and having "called up the gamekeeper, and made him promise, as he valued his place, that he would protect all hawks, crows, herons, jays, and magpies," sailed from Hull for Rotterdam with his two sisters-in-law and his only son, a boy eleven years of age.

Mr Waterton's Catholic sympathies for the Belgian revolt, "for real liberty in religious matters," and his lamentations over the magnificent churches in Holland, stripped of their pictures and ornaments on the change of religion, do not prevent his feeling very favourably disposed towards the Dutch and their country, "the uniformity of which, and the even tenor of their tempers, appear as if one had been made for the other." The protection extended to the stork, which builds without fear in the heart of their towns, gives them an additional claim on his good-will; and "would but our country gentlemen put a stop to the indiscriminate slaughter of birds by their ruthless gamekeepers, we should not have to visit Holland to see the true habits of the stork, nor roam through Germany to enjoy the soaring of the kite—a bird once very common in this part of Yorkshire, but now a total stranger to it." The progressive extinction of so many of the larger species of birds once indigenous to England before the progress of drainage and clearing; has long been a subject of regret not only to the naturalist but the sportsman. Of the stately bustard, once the ornament of all our downs, scarce a solitary straggler now remains—the crane, as well as the stork, which once abounded in the fen districts, has totally disappeared; and though the success which has attended the attempts to re-introduce the capercailzie in Scotland has restored to us one of our lost species, it is much to be feared that unless Mr Waterton's example, in converting his park into a sanctuary, be followed by other country gentlemen of ornithological tastes, the raven, the crow, and the larger species of hawks, in whose preservation no one is interested, and which are already becoming raræ aves, in the agricultural districts, will eventually disappear from the British Fauna.

The great influx of English into Belgium, while scarce any are to be found in Holland, is attributed, probably with reason, to the national love of sight-seeing, which finds gratification in the ceremonies and decorations of the Belgian churches—"up and down which crowds of English are for ever sauntering.... 'How have you got over your time to-day?' I said one afternoon to an acquaintance, who, like Mr Noddy's eldest son in Sterne, was travelling[Pg 291] through Europe at a prodigious speed, and had very little spare time on his hands. He said he had knocked off thirteen churches that morning!" The headquarters of the English residents appear to be at Bruges, and Mr Waterton highly approves of the selection:—"Did my habits allow me to prefer streets to woods and green fields, I could retire to Bruges, and there end my days." But after visiting the convent of English nuns, where some of the ladies of Mr Waterton's family had received their education, and the portrait of "that regal profligate, Charles II." (Mr Waterton's love of truth here gets the better of his ancestral predilections for the house of Stuart) in the hall of the ancient society of archers, of which he was a member during his exile, the travellers continued their route by Ghent and along the valley of the Meuse, "which, on a fine warm day in July, appears as rich and beautiful as any valley can well be on this side of ancient Paradise," to Aix-la-Chapelle. At this famous Prussian watering-place Mr Waterton found much to move his bile, not only in the sight of ladies risking their fortunes at the public gaming-tables authorised and protected by government, but in the folly of the valetudinarians, who perversely counteract the beneficial effects of the waters by "resorting to the salle-à-manger, and there partaking of all the luxuries from the cornucopia of Epicurus, Bacchus, and Ceres." He derived some consolation, however, from the contemplation of the magnificent and varied prospect from the wooded heights of the Louisberg above the town; and the sight, on his last visit, of a pair of ravens circling over his head in aërial revolutions, and then winging their way towards the forest of Ardennes, awakened recollections of home, and "of the rascally cobbler who desecrated the Sunday morning by robbing the last raven's nest in this vicinity." At Freyburg they encountered a phenomenon, in the shape of a poetical German waiter—and a poet, too, in the English language, though he had never been in England, nor much among English; but the waiter's effusions, the subject of which was the cathedral of Freyburg, were never destined to reach England, but now lie, with the rest of Mr Waterton's travelling goods and chattels, in the wreck of the Pollux, at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea.

The passage of the Alps disappointed our traveller's hopes of finding among their heights some of the rarer European birds:—"the earth appeared one huge barren waste, and the heavens produced not a single inhabitant of air." On descending the southern side of the mountains, they at length received ocular demonstration of their being really in Italy, by observing matronly-looking woman engaged in certain offices touching the long black hair of her daughter, which showed that combs were still as scarce as when Horace stigmatized the "incomptum caput" of Canidia; and the necessity of lavender water, to pass with any thing like comfort through the town and villages which looked so enchanting at a distance in the midst of their olive groves and cypresses, is feelingly commented upon. But before entering Rome, we must give Mr Waterton's own account of an exploit which made some noise at the time of its performance, and the motives at least of which appear to have been mis-stated. On a former visit, he had gained great renown by climbing, in company with Captain Alexander of the royal navy, to the summit of the cross surmounting the ball of St Peter's, and leaving his gloves on the point of the conductor! and as a pendant to this notable achievement, it was announced about this time, in most of the English papers, that in a fervour of religious enthusiasm, on approaching the Eternal City, he had walked barefoot as a pilgrim the last twenty miles, and thus so severely lacerated his feet as to be incapable for some time of moving. "Would that my motives had been as pure as represented! The sanctity of the churches, the remains of holy martyrs which enrich them, the relics of canonized saints placed in such profusion throughout them, might well induce a Catholic traveller to adopt this easy and simple mode of showing his religious feeling. But, unfortunately, the idea never entered my mind at the time; I had no other motives than those of easy walking[Pg 292] and self-enjoyment." The enjoyment to be derived from walking without shoes or stockings over a rough pavement, in sharp frost, proved as problematical in practice as it would be to most persons in theory; and Mr Waterton found to his cost, that the fifteen years which had elapsed since he went barefoot with impunity in the forests of Guiana, had materially impaired his soles' power of endurance. After sustaining a severe injury in his right foot, of which the intensity of the cold prevented his being sensible at the instant, he was glad to resume his chaussure, and was laid up on the sofa for two months after his arrival. "It was this unfortunate adventure which gave rise to the story of my walking barefooted into Rome, and which gained me a reputation by no means merited on my part."

Notwithstanding this mishap, and the many things offensive to English feelings in the manifold impurities of Roman streets and kitchens, Mr Waterton speaks with much satisfaction of his sojourn for several months in "Rome, immortal Rome, replete with every thing that can instruct and please." Though his former visits had in great degree satiated him with galleries and palaces, he still found great attractions in the studio of the Roman Landseer, Vallati,[10] the famous painter of wild-boars; but his great point of attraction seems to have been the bird-market near the Pantheon—the extent of traffic in which may be judged from the statement, that during the spring and autumn passage of the quails, which are taken in nets of prodigious extent on the shores of the Mediterranean, 17,000 of these birds have passed the Roman custom-house in one day. The catalogue of birds exposed for sale as articles of food comprehends nearly all the species found in Italy: not even robin-redbreast is sacred from the omnivorous maw of the Italian gourmand, and a hundred at a time may be seen lying on a stall. "The birdmen outwardly had the appearance of banditti, but it as all outside, and nothing more: they were good men notwithstanding their uncouth looks, and good Christians too, for I could see them waiting at the door of the Jesuits' church by half-past four on a winter's morning, to be ready for the first mass." By ingratiating himself with this rough-seeming fraternity, Mr Waterton succeeded in obtaining specimens of many rare birds, which fortunately escaped the wreck of the Pollux, by having been previously forwarded to Leghorn. Among these scattered ornithological notices, we find some interesting remarks on the true designation of the "sparrow sitting alone upon the house-top," to which the Royal Psalmist likened himself in his penitence and vigils. It is obvious that the description could not apply to our common house sparrow, the habits of which are certainly the reverse of solitary or pensive; and Mr Waterton is undoubtedly correct in referring it to the Blue or Solitary Thrush—a bird not found in this country, but common in Spain, Italy, and the south of France, and still more so in the Levant—the Petrocincla cyanea of scientific naturalists, and the Passera solitaria of the Italians. "It is a real thrush in size, in shape, in habits, and in song—and is indeed a solitary bird, for it never associates with any other, and only with its own mate in breeding time—and even then it is often seen quite alone upon the house-top, where it warbles in sweet and plaintive strains, and continues its song as it moves in easy flight from roof to roof. The traveller may often see it on the[Pg 293] remains of the Temple of Peace, but much more frequently on the stupendous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, and always on the Colosseum: and, in fine, on the tops of most of the churches, monasteries, and convents, within and without the walls of the Eternal City. It being an assiduous frequenter of the habitations of man, I cannot have a doubt that it was the same bird which King David saw on the house-top before him, and to which he listened as it poured forth its sweet and plaintive song."

The ceremonies of St Anthony's Day, when the beasts of burden, decked in many-coloured trappings, are brought to receive the priestly benediction, are described with much unction, and defended with Mr Waterton's usual zeal for the ordinances of his church, and with considerable tact, against the ridicule often thrown upon them by "thoughtless and censorious travellers." "I recalled to my mind the incessant and horrible curses which our village urchins vent against their horses on the Barnsley canal, which passes close by my porters' lodges"—and truly the most rigid of Protestants could scarcely deny, in this case, the advantage, for the well-doing of both man and beast, which the usages of Rome have over those of Yorkshire. But the approach of the malaria season at length compelled them to leave Rome for Naples; and on the journey Mr Waterton's ornithological tastes were gratified to the utmost. "I saw more birds than I had seen on the whole of the journey from England; and after having seen the ram of Apulia, I no longer considered Homer's story of Ulysses with the sheep of Polyphemus as so very much out of the way." But a still more imposing spectacle than the festival of St Anthony awaited them at Naples: this was the liquefaction of the blood of St Januarius, on September 19, to witness which was the principal object of their visit. We shall leave Mr Waterton to speak for himself. "At the termination of high mass, the phial containing the blood was carried by one of the canons into the body of the cathedral, that every person might have an opportunity of inspecting the blood, and kissing the phial, should he feel inclined. There were two phials—a large one, containing the blood as it had flowed from the wounds of the martyr at its execution; and a smaller one, containing his blood mixed with sand, just as it had been taken from the ground on which it had fallen. These two phials were enclosed in a very strong and beautifully ornamented case of silver and glass. I kissed this case, and had a most satisfactory opportunity of seeing the blood in its solid state,... and the canon who held it turned it over and over many times to prove to us that the blood was not liquid.... At one o'clock P.M., no symptoms whatever of a change had occurred. A vast number of people had already left the cathedral, so that I found the temperature considerably lowered. Precisely at a quarter before two, the blood suddenly and entirely liquefied. The canon who held the case passed close by me, and afforded me a most favourable opportunity of accompanying him close up to the high altar, where I kissed the phial, and joined my humble prayers to those of the multitude.... Nothing in the whole course of my life has struck me so forcibly as this occurrence;... and I here state, in the most unqualified manner, my firm conviction, that the liquefaction of the blood of St Januarius is miraculous, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Were I to conceal this my conviction from the public eye, I should question the soundness of both my head and my heart, and charge my pen with arrant cowardice."

After a short excursion to Sicily, in which Mr Waterton had occasion to surmise that the ancient furies of Scylla and Charybdis had quitted their old quarters to take up their abode in the passport-offices, and regretted his inability to avail himself of the opportunities which the island afforded, for observing the spring and autumn passage of the migratory birds, they paid a farewell visit to the tomb of Virgil, and left "that laughing, noisy, merry city of Naples on a fine and sunny morning, to enjoy for eight or nine months more the soothing quiet of the Roman capital." At length, on the 16th June 1841, the party left Rome, and sailed the next day from Civita Vecchia, on board the Pollux steamer, for Leghorn; but their good fortune at[Pg 294] length deserted them. "Cervantes has told us that there is nothing certain in this life—'no hay cosa segura en esta vida.'" It was soon evident to Mr Waterton, as an old traveller, that there was a great want of nautical discipline on board the Pollux, and of this they soon had fatal proof. In the midst of the night the vessel came in collision with the Mongibello, a steamer of larger size, steering on the opposite course, which stove her in amidships, and she sunk in a quarter of an hour. The captains and mates of both vessels were asleep below, but from the calmness of the sea, and the exertions of the Prince of Canino (Charles Bonaparte,) who was fortunately a passenger on board the Mongibello, and took the helm from the steersman when he was on the point of sheering off from the wreck, all the crew and passengers of the Pollux, except one man, were got safe on board the former vessel. All their property was lost, and, on their being landed the next day at Leghorn, an attempt was made by the authorities to detain the vessel, and all on board, for twenty days in quarantine, on the ground of the Pollux's bill of health having been lost in the foundered vessel! But Prince Canino again came to the rescue, and they eventually returned in the Mongibello to Civita Vecchia, and thence to Rome, where, as a climax to their misfortunes, Mr Waterton was for some time laid up by an attack of fever. It was not till the 20th of July that he finally set out with his party for England, having in the mean time made a singular addition to his suite, which is treated of at length in one of the Essays.

Among the various strange birds which find a place in the Roman bill of fare, is a pretty little owl yclept the Civetta, (called by British ornithologists, from its diminutive size, the passerina, or sparrow owl,) which abounds throughout Italy, where it figures in more varied capacities than is consistent with the usually reserved habits of its race. "You may see it plucked and ready trussed for the spit, on the same stall at which hawks, crows, jackdaws, jays, magpies, hedgehogs, frogs, snails, and buzzards, are offered for sale to the passing conoscenti"—a catalogue of dainties which bears but a small proportion to a more extended carte raisonnée elsewhere given by Mr Waterton, who verily believes that "scarcely any thing which has had life in it comes amiss to the Italians in the way of food, except the Hanoverian rat." It is used by sportsmen (as we find from Savi's Ornitologia Toscana) as a decoy for small birds, which it attracts within gunshot by its singular gestures when placed on the top of a pole; and it "is much prized by the gardener, for its uncommon ability in destroying insects, snails, slugs, and reptiles. There is scarcely an outhouse in the vineyards and gardens which is not tenanted by the Civetta, and it is often brought up tame from the nest." It has hitherto been known in England only as a rare and accidental visitor; and Mr Waterton, actuated by a patriotic desire to secure for his countrymen the benefit of its services—"not, by the way, in the kitchen, but in the kitchen-garden"—provided himself with a dozen as compagnons de voyage, on quitting Rome. At Genoa, an inclination was manifested by the custom-house officers to claim duty on this novel article of export—and a precedent might have been drawn from the case of the eagles which were sent from Killarney to Colonel Montagu, before the duties between England and Ireland were abolished, and detained at Bristol on the plea that there was a duty on all singing-birds! The Genoese doganieri, however, on Mr Waterton's assurance that the owls were not for the purposes of traffic, and were, moreover, the native produce of la bellissima Italia, (with the sly addition, that he "had reason to believe they are common in Genoa, so that they can well be spared,") graciously allowed them to pass duty-free; but at Basle an unexpected obstacle arose. Mr Waterton's letter of credit had been lost in the Pollux; and in spite of letters of recommendation from the Prince of Canino, and the Italian Rothschild, Torlonia, "M. Passavant the banker, a wormwood-looking money-monger, refused to advance a single sous," even on the deposit of a valuable watch; and Mr Waterton, with his owls and his[Pg 295] family, would have stuck fast at Basle, but for the arrival of Mr W. Brougham, (brother of Lord Brougham,) who furnished him with a supply; and the whole party reached Aix-la-Chapelle safe and sound. But here Mr Waterton thought proper, by way of cleansing his protegés from the soils of their long journey, to give them, as well as himself, the benefit of a warm bath!—"an act of rashness" (as he himself terms it) which caused the death of five of the number from cold the same night. Two others perished afterwards from casualties, and the remaining five arrived safe at Walton Hall. "On the 10th of May 1842, there being abundance of slugs, snails, and beetles on the ground, at seven o'clock in the evening, the weather being serene and warm, I opened the door of the cage, and the five owls stepped out to try their fortunes in this wicked world. As they retired into the adjacent thicket, I bade then be of good heart; and although the whole world was now open to them, I said if they would stop in my park I would be glad of their company, and would always be a friend and benefactor to them." How the little strangers have sped—whether they have increased and multiplied in the hospitable shades of Walton Hall, to gratify their entomological tastes for the benefit of neighbouring kitchen-gardens, or strayed from this asylum, and fallen victims as raræ aves to some ruthless bird-stuffer, we hope to be informed in the "more last words" which we yet hope for on the pen of Mr Waterton.

"Of all the brave birds that e'er I did see,
The owl is the fairest in her degree,"

quoth an old ditty; and we must ourselves confess to a peculiar penchant for an "owl in an ivy bush," partly from personal sympathy for its shortsightedness, and not less for the aspect of solemn wisdom which gained for it of yore a place on the crest of Minerva's helmet, and has made it, in the regions of the East, the counsellor of kings and princes. Who has not heard of the reproof thus conveyed, through the medium of a vizier skilled in the mystic language of birds, to the devastating ambition of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni? The gates of whose tomb, (it may be remarked par parenthèse,) the savans have now decided never to have been at Somnat at all—a piece of useful knowledge cheaply acquired, no doubt, at the expense of a war which has secured the owls of that country, for some years to come, against any scarcity of ruined villages wherewith to endow their daughters. We regret, therefore, to find that Mr Waterton, to whom we owe the introduction of the Civetta in England, and who, in the first series of his Essays, has eloquently vindicated the character of the barn-owl against the aspersions alike of the poets of the Augustan age and the old women of the present day, still denies the accomplishment of hooting to the Yorkshire barn-owls, and persists in considering it restricted to the single individual shot by Sir William Jardine. "We know full well that most extraordinary examples of splendid talent do from time to time make their appearance on the world's wide stage—and may we not suppose that the barn-owl which Sir William shot in the absolute act of hooting, may have been a gifted bird of superior parts and knowledge, endowed, perhaps, from its early days with the faculty of hooting, or else taught it by its neighbour the tawny owl? I beg to remark, that though I unhesitatingly grant the faculty of hooting to this one particular individual owl, still I flatly refuse to believe that hooting is common to barn-owls in general." The same denial is repeated in the present volume; but Sir William's owl is no longer alone in his glory, as the possession of a similar talent, to at least a limited extent, has been ascribed in the pages of the Zoologist to the Oxford owls. As Mr Waterton's accuracy as an observer cannot be questioned, we can only infer that the advantages of education enjoyed by the owls of Alma Mater and the Modern Athens, enables them to attain a degree of vocal proficiency beyond the reach of their rustic brethren in Yorkshire—and we hope ere long to hear of Mr Waterton's having added a feathered professor of languages, from one or other of these seats of learning, to the colony of[Pg 296] barn-owls established in the ruin of the old gateway at Walton.

Mr Waterton has never been famous for showing too much mercy to his opponents in controversy—and, on the present occasion, the vials of his wrath are poured forth without stint, though certainly not without strong provocation, on the head of Mr Swainson, well known some years since as a writer on natural history, and as one of the principal advocates of the Quinary System[11]—a sort of zoological transcendentalism (to borrow a phrase from Kant and his disciples) then fashionable, according to which all the genera and species of animals, known or hereafter to be discovered, were held bound spontaneously to arrange themselves in circular groups of five, neither more nor less, in obedience to some intuitive principle of nature, of which the details were not yet very clearly made out. It would appear that Mr Swainson, who is characterised as a "morbid and presumptuous man," had been at variance—on personal as well as scientific grounds—with Mr Waterton, from whom he received a castigation for his ornithological heresies, in a letter published in 1837; but his retaliation was delayed for two years, when, in an account of the cayman, published in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia, he describes it as "on land a slow-paced, and even timid animal; so that an active boy, armed with a small hatchet, might easily dispatch one. There is no great prowess, therefore, required to ride on the back of a poor cayman after it has been secured, or perhaps wounded; and a modern writer might well have spared the recital of his feats in this way upon the cayman of Guiana, had he not been influenced in this, and numberless other instances, by the greatest possible love of the marvellous, and a constant propensity to dress truth in the garb of fiction;" and subsequently speaks of the cayman as "so timid that, had we been disposed to perform such ridiculous feats, our compassion for the poor animals would have prevented us." Mr Waterton had no opportunity of replying to these offensive imputations at the time they were published, being then absent in Italy, while Mr Swainson was on the point of finally quitting England in order to become a settler in New Zealand. But though thus separated by the entire diameter of the globe, "steam will soon convey to him a copy of this," says Mr Waterton—and verily he has demolished the unlucky Swainson without ruth or mercy. Whether this "wholesale dealer in unsound zoology," as Mr Waterton calls him, ever can have seen a cayman, except at a safe distance, appears somewhat dubious; and his story of this reptile hiding its prey in a hole till semi-putrid, though it would convey a high idea of the respect entertained by his brother caymans for the rights of property, must be incredible to any one who has ever inspected the jaws of the animals which (as Mr Waterton observes) "are completely formed for snatch and swallow." We fear, moreover, that the character which general experience has assigned to these huge reptiles, whether called crocodiles, caymans, or alligators, is much more in accordance with the anecdote related by Governor Ynciarte of a man carried off into the river by one of these monsters from the alameda, or public walk, of Angostura, than with Swainson's description of a timid creature, liable to be knocked on the head by an idle boy with a hatchet, the defenceless state of which excited his compassion. If, therefore, Mr Swainson does not come forward, either to substantiate these novel statements, or to retract them, the scientific world is likely to come to the conclusion drawn by Mr Waterton, that, "when he wrote his account of this reptile, he was either totally unacquainted with its habits and economy, or that he wilfully perverted them, in order to be revenged on me" for the letter above mentioned.

From the circumstances under[Pg 297] which the present volume was put forth, one or two letters are included which do not appear to have been originally intended for publication—and these are not the least characteristic parts of the work—as that to Mr Hog of Newliston in advocacy of the persecuted Scotch rooks, and one to Mr Loudon himself on the methods of clearing a garden from vermin, in which there is much practical sense. It is not good for weasels or hedgehogs, any more than for man, to be alone in this world. "You say 'you will send to a gardener in the country for a weasel.' You must send for two, male and female. A bachelor weasel, or a spinster weasel, would not tarry four-and-twenty hours in your garden. Either of them would go a sweet-hearting, and not return. You remark that your 'hedgehogs soon disappeared.' No doubt, unless confined by a wall.... A garden, well fenced by a wall high enough to keep dogs out, is a capital place for hedgehogs. But there ought always to be two, man and wife.... The windhover (or kestrel) hawk is excellent for killing beetles, and also for consuming slugs and snails; cats dare not attack him, wherefore he is very fit for a garden." We have not heard whether any effect has been produced by Mr Waterton's remonstrances against the edict of extermination fulminated against his sable friends the rooks—but we fear that farmers in all countries are much on a par with those Delaware colonists and Isle of Bourbon planters, whose fate he adduces as a warning. Having destroyed their grakles, on a similar charge to that on which sentence has now been passed on the rooks, they lost their whole crops by insects, and were compelled not only to re-introduce the grakles, but to protect them by law. We trust that the Scotch farmers will not be obliged, by a similar calamity, to avail themselves of Mr Waterton's obliging offer to send them, in case of such necessity, a fresh supply of these "useful and interesting birds."

Mr Waterton never loses an opportunity of showing his contempt for the modern systems of ornithology, which, by their complicated nomenclature, eternally changed by every new sciolist, have almost succeeded in converting that fascinating science into an unintelligible jargon of hard names. "As I am not a convert to the necessity or advantages of giving to many of our British birds these new and jaw-breaking names, I will content myself with the old nomenclature, so well-known to every village lad throughout the country.... The ancients called the wren troglodytas; but it is now honoured with the high-sounding name of Anorthura, alleging for a reason, that the ancients were quite mistaken in their supposition that this bird was an inhabitant of caves, as it is never to be seen within them. Methinks that the ancients were quite right, and that our modern masters in ornithology are quite wrong. If we only for a moment reflect that the nest of the wren is spherical, and is of itself, as it were, a little cave, we can easily imagine that the ancients, on seeing the bird going in and out of this artificial cave, considered the word troglodytas an appropriate appellation."

Among the various feathered visitants attracted by the city of refuge provided for them at Walton, were a flock of twenty-four wild-geese, of the large and beautiful species called the Canada or Cravat goose, (from the conspicuous white patch on its black neck,) which unexpectedly appeared on the lake one winter, and took up their permanent abode there, occasionally making excursions to the other waters in the neighbourhood. "In the breeding season, two or three pairs will remain here. The rest take themselves off, and are seen no more till the return of autumn, when they reappear without any addition to the flock or diminution of it. This is much to be wondered at; and I would fain hazard a conjecture that the young may possibly be captured in the place where they have been hatched, and the pinioned to prevent escape. But, after all, this is mere speculation. We know nothing of the habits of our birds of passage when they are absent from us; and we cannot account how it comes to pass that the birds just mentioned invariably return to this country without any perceptible increase of numbers; or, if the original birds die or are destroyed, why it is that the successors arrive here in the[Pg 298] same numbers as their predecessors." This remark has before been made in the case of swallows and other migratory birds, the numbers of which returning each spring, in localities where they can be accurately observed and counted, has always been found to be he same as that which arrived the preceding year, though the flock which departed southward in autumn had been swollen by the young broods accompanying their parents. Thus Gilbert White ascertained that at Selborne the number of swifts was invariably eleven pair; and, as in some instances when old birds have been caught and marked, they have been found to return during several succeeding years, this fact would seem to justify the inference that the young birds, after quitting the country of their birth, do not, for at least a year or two, join in the annual migration of their species.

By waylaying the stay-at-home geese at the time when the moult of the wing-quills disabled them for flight, Mr Waterton succeeded in securing and pinioning six of them, thus preventing their future departure. They subsequently received an accession to their party in two Bernacle ganders, which Mr Waterton had brought over from Rotterdam, and the partners of which had died soon after their arrival, perhaps from the act of pinioning them; though Mr Waterton seems more inclined to attribute their untimely end to the stupidity of a Hull custom-house officer, who sent the hamper containing them jolting in a truck without springs over the rough pavement to the custom-house, only to be peremptorily sent back, as not liable to duty, by another of the same genus. "The two ganders, bereft of their connubial comforters, seemed to take their misfortunes sorely to heart for some time, till at last they began to make advances for permission to enter into the company of the Canadian geese. These good birds did not hesitate to receive them; and from that time these two very distinct species of geese (one being only half the size of the other) have become inseparable companions." The confederacy of these distant relations led, however, to some unexpected results, which are related by Mr Waterton with inimitable quaintness. On returning from Italy in the autumn of 1841, he was informed by the keeper that a left-handed marriage had been struck up between one of the little ganders and a pinioned Canadian goose, the produce of which had been five addle eggs. "Had he told me that the income-tax is a blessing, and the national debt an honour to the country, I could more readily have believed him, than that a Canada goose had been fool enough to unite herself to a Bernacle gander. Nevertheless, the man persisted in what he affirmed; and I told the story to others, and nobody believed me." The breeding-season of 1842 proved, however, the truth of the story; but the oddly-matched couple were again disappointed in their hopes of a family—the eggs all proving addle. The third year saw the persevering pair again engaged in incubation: "and nothing could exceed the assiduity with which the little Bernacle stood guard, often on one leg, over his bulky partner. If any body approached the place, his cackling was incessant; he would run at him with the fury of a turkey-cock; he would jump up at his knees, and not desist in his aggressions till the intruder had retired. There was something so remarkably disproportionate betwixt this goose and gander, that I gave to this the name of Mopsus, and to that the name of Nisa:[12] ... the whole affair appeared to me one of ridicule and bad taste; and I was quite prepared for a termination similar to that of the two preceding years, when behold! to my utter astonishment, out came two young ones, the remainder of the five eggs being addle. The vociferous gesticulations and strutting of little Mopsus were beyond endurance when he first caught sight of his long-looked-for progeny. He screamed aloud, whilst Nisa helped him to attack me[Pg 299] with their united wings and hissings, as I approached the nest in order to convey the little ones to the water ... and this loving couple, apparently so ill-assorted and disproportionate, have brought up the progeny with great care and success. The hybrids are elegantly shaped, but are not so large as the mother nor so small as the father; their plumage partaking in colour with that of both parents.... I certainly acted rashly, notwithstanding appearances, in holding this faithful couple up to the ridicule of visitors who accompanied me to the spot. I have had a salutary lesson, and shall be more guarded for the future in giving an opinion. My speculation that a progeny could not be produced from the union of a Bernacle gander with a Canada goose has utterly failed. I stand convinced by a hybrid, reprimanded by a gander, and instructed by a goose."

The melody ascribed to the dying swan has long been well known to exist only in the graceful mythology of the ancients; but as few opportunities occur of witnessing the bird's last moments, some interest attaches to Mr Waterton's personal observations on this point, which we can ourselves corroborate, having not long since been present at the death of a pet swan, which, like Mr Waterton's favourite, had been fed principally by hand; and, instead of seeking to conceal itself at the approach of death, quitted the water, and lay down to die on the lawn before its owner's door. "He then left the water for good and all, and sat down on the margin of the pond. He soon became too weak to support his long neck in an upright position. He nodded, and then tried to recover himself; and then nodded again, and again held up his head: till at last, quite enfeebled and worn out, his head fell gently on the grass, his wings became expanded a trifle or so, and he died while I was looking on.... Although I gave no credence to the extravagant notion which antiquity had entertained of melody from the mouth of the dying swan, still I felt anxious to hear some plaintive sound or other, some soft inflection of the voice, which might tend to justify that notion in a small degree. But I was disappointed.... He never even uttered his wonted cry, nor so much as a sound, to indicate what he felt within."

Mr Waterton repeats in the present volume the determination which he had expressed in his former Essays, not to appear again before the public as an author:—"It is time to say farewell, and to bid adieu to natural history, as far as the press is concerned." But we still hope that he may again be induced, on returning from Italy, whither we believe he has once more bent his steps, by some other cause than the death of a valued friend, to depart from this resolution. As he himself remarks with truth, in the preface to his first series of Essays, "we can never expect to have a complete history of birds, until he who undertakes the task of writing it shall have studied his subject in the field of nature,"—and how little this has been attended to even in the ornithology of our own country, is sufficiently shown by the errors which, till of late, disfigured all the received works on this subject, and have been copied with implicit faith from one soi-disant naturalist by another. Since that kindred spirit Gilbert White, the first English naturalist who studied the habits of living birds in the open air, instead of describing the colours of the plumage of stuffed specimens in cabinets, we have had no one who has investigated the economy of animals, and particularly of that most beautiful class of the animal kingdom, the birds, so thoroughly con amore as Mr Waterton, in this and his preceding publications—identifying himself (it may almost be said) with their feelings and idiosyncrasies, and vindicating them from the aspersions thrown upon them in the writings of closet-naturalists, with the indignant zeal of a champion whose heart and soul is in the cause of injured innocence. Those who saw the sloth exhibited last summer in the Regent's Park Zoological Gardens, when at large and suspended by its huge claws to the under side of a branch of a tree, must have recognised the minute accuracy of Mr Waterton's account, in the Wanderings, of the habits of this animal, so much[Pg 300] impugned at the time, because diametrically opposed to the statements of zoologists who had either never seen it alive, or seen it only when placed on a flat surface, a position which it never assumes in its natural state, and which its conformation renders one of extreme pain and constraint. Much animadversion has also been lavished by writers of the same class on Mr Waterton's sketches of British ornithology, as the facilities for observation procured by the security afforded to his protegés, and the unusual degree to which they have been consequently familiarised, have enabled him to overthrow many long-established errors—a thankless task at best, and which in some instances has not been rendered more palatable to those whose blunders were thus exposed, by the unsparing shafts of his raillery. But against all these antagonists Mr Waterton is very well able to defend himself, as the unlucky Mr Swainson and some others of his assailants know to their cost; and wishing him the full fruition for many long years of the bodily activity which enables him still to scale the highest tree in Walton Park to inspect a crow's nest, and not less of that irresistible naïveté and bonhommie which give such enjoyable zest to all his writings, we bid him for the present farewell—and if, in sooth, we are ne'er again to meet the Lord of Walton Hall in print, we scarce "shall look upon his like again!"




The readers of Blackwood who, month after month, followed with increasing interest the adventures of Titmouse, and the adversity and restoration of the Aubrey family, will excuse us if we apparently diverge from our usual literary course to track the author of "Ten Thousand a-Year" in a work which he has given to the legal profession, or rather to those who meditate entering upon that profession, or who have just set their foot upon the threshold.

Mr Warren's "Introduction to Law Studies" has already received the approbation of the public, testified by the sale of an unusually large edition. This has prompted the author to fresh endeavours to render it worthy of the peculiar place it fills, and of his own name; and he now, "after ten years of additional experience, (eight of them at the bar,)" publishes a second edition, "remodelled, rewritten, and greatly enlarged"—indeed so considerably altered and amplified as to be, in reality, a new work under the old title.

"In the present work," says the preface, "is incorporated one which the author has for some years meditated offering to the public, viz. an elementary and popular outline of the leading doctrines and practice of each of the three great departments of the law, civil, criminal, and ecclesiastical." The work, therefore, now consists of three distinct parts. 1. A general survey of the legal profession—a description of the nature of its several departments, of the various studies, labours, modes of life, of the conveyancer, the special pleader, the common-law and equity barrister, in order to guide the choice of a young man, who probably has hitherto a very confused notion of what, and how many different things, may be implied in the vague expression of "going to the bar." 2. A concise and elementary view of the several branches of the law which fall to the especial study of these several departments of the profession, as equity, the ecclesiastical and common law; and, 3. the recommendation of a course of study, pointing out the best books on each subject, and adding many useful hints to the young student on the discipline of his mind, and the acquirement of general knowledge.

To us it seems that such a work[Pg 301] must be of very great utility, and that Mr Warren has given the most complete "beginning book" that was ever put into the hands of a young person seeking, or entering, a profession. It is not a publication which, as far as we know, replaces or competes with any other, but fills up a vacancy, and supplies a want which must have often been painfully felt. How can a young man, ambitious of entering the bar, know the nature of that profession into which he is so anxious to enlist himself? He goes into a court of justice, and sees men in their grotesque but imposing costume haranguing the judge and the jury, and without further thought he resolves that he too will be an orator and haranguer. Or what is more frequently the case, he reads the published speeches of an Erskine or a Curran, accompanied with memoirs of the men, and accounts of their forensic triumphs, and he burns to achieve the like actions, and to wield the same "resistless eloquence." But who is to tell him the nature of that territory, and by what manner of journey it is to be traversed, which lies between him and the gowned orator he is desirous of emulating? He sees the great actor on the stage, or hears of the intoxicating applause which he wins; but who is to conduct him behind the scenes, show him the apprenticeship he has to pass through, the hazards of failure, the impatience and tedium of unemployed energies—"the sad seclusion of unfrequented chambers, or the sadder seclusion of crowded courts?"[14] How invaluable, at such a time, would be some kind good-natured friend, who had passed through the rough experience, who had sufficient remembrance of his own early mistakes and difficulties to comprehend all his bewilderment, and sufficient tolerance to endure being questioned on matters which to him have grown too trite and familiar to seem to need explanation. In Mr Warren's book he will meet with exactly the information he wants; he will find a chart of the profession unrolled before him; he may quietly test his own abilities, or his own courage, to adopt any of the several departments as they are submitted to his inspection. He will obtain all that he could gather from that kind good-natured friend at the bar, whom he has been longing for, and would so willingly seize by the button—nay, far more than he could gather from any one man who had not made the subject one of especial attention, and taken pains himself to collect information from various quarters. Besides, how infinitely agreeable is it, whilst yet a resolution is unripe, whilst yet it is the secret of our bosom, to be able to get our doubts solved, and our questions answered, from the silent pages of a book; to be spared the penance of exposing half-formed designs to the jocular scrutiny of our friends—to be permitted to consult without necessarily making a confidant—to be able to dismiss our thought, if it is destined to be dismissed, without betraying how dear a guest it has been.

The more youthful and less instructed of its readers will find every portion of this work useful to them; especially they will have reason to thank; the author for that facile introduction he has offered them to the study of the law itself. Never has been such a gently inclined plane set up, for weak and unsteady feet, against the hill of legal knowledge. The talent which Mr Warren has for familiar and elementary exposition is something quite peculiar. Nor will they fail to profit by his many practical hints for the discipline of the mind, and his advice as to their general reading. The student more advanced in years and in thought, and who entertains the project of entering the profession at a time when his mind has approached towards maturity, will perceive, and will have the candour to reflect, that much of the work was not written for him. But, on the other hand, he is the very person who will especially value it for that description of practical, familiar, but most necessary information, which it is rare to get from books at all—which to him it is peculiarly disagreeable to be compelled to extract piece-meal from chance conversation with men but half furnished with it, and[Pg 302] perhaps impatient of the interrogatories put to them. What are the distinctions between the several species of the lawyer? What sort of an animal is, in reality, the conveyancer, or the special pleader, or the equity draftsman—what are its habits, where its haunts—how is it bred, how nourished—what process is he himself to go through, before he can be recognised as belonging to the class—how best may he set to work, and with least loss of time?—these are matters which he is very curious to know, and to him nothing is more welcome than to find them all explained in the printed page—to find them where he is accustomed to look for every thing, amongst his old friends the books.

Surprise has often been expressed at the fact, that there is no publicly appointed method of legal tuition, no lectures delivered on which it is compulsory to attend, not even any examination to be finally undergone before admittance to the bar. A little acquaintance, however, with the nature of legal studies, will soon dissipate this astonishment. There is but one way in which the law can be mastered; severe, steady, solitary reading, accompanied by the privilege of watching the real practice of the jurist in the chambers of the conveyancer or the special pleader. To one bent on the professional study of the law; lectures would be mere waste of time. To the idler they may bear the appearance, and bring some of the profit, of study; to the conscientious and resolved student, they would be an idleness and a dissipation. Where a subject admits of being oratorically treated, good lectures are extremely valuable; for oratory has its office in tuition, stimulates to reflection, and stirs generous sentiments, and we wish the oratory of the professor's chair were more cultivated amongst us than it is. Nor need we say that where the subject admits or requires the illustration of scientific experiments, lectures are almost indispensable. But in the tangled study of the law, where one must go backwards and forwards, as in a rope-walk, and twist one's own cable out of many threads—of what use can the lecturer possibly be? To teach us law in a fluent discourse, what is it but to have us feed—as the humming-birds are said to do—upon the wing? But even humming-birds feed in no such fashion; they sit down to their supper of rose-water. Much more must a lawyer have his table—his desk—fast before him; and spreading out his various fare, which needs a deal of mastication, feed alternately, and slowly and solemnly, on the several dishes which with ostrich stomach he has to digest.

As to the absence of all examination previous to an admission to the bar, the fact, that not only in our own inns of court, but in all similar institutions, such examinations have been allowed to dwindle into some empty and puerile form, sufficiently demonstrates their inutility. If an examination were appointed, it would be no test of the efficiency of the advocate; no sufficient guarantee to the ingenuous client who should wander into Westminster Hall in search of a lawyer. Not to add that the learned gentleman may have had ample time to forget all his legal knowledge in the interval between his call to the bar and the opening of his first brief. A license, indeed, is given to practise as an advocate, without any other qualification than that of respectability of character, and the payment of certain fees; but the case of no client is confided to the young orator, unless those who have the greatest interest in his competency are satisfied that he can be safely relied on. Men suffer their health to be trifled with by ignorant quacks and ridiculous pretenders—not their money. We need no Sir James Graham's bill in the profession of the law. Besides, it is not the good opinion of an uninformed public which the barrister has to seek or to depend upon. A lawyer, he is judged by lawyers. It is in the estimation of attorneys and solicitors that he must rise—not that of respectable ladies and nervous baronets. They stand between him and that unlearned public to which the physician, on the contrary, at once appeals.

The very circumstance, however, that there is no such public course of instruction marked out, and no prospective examination to be prepared for—that all is to be gained from that silent array of books which fill the[Pg 303] long shelves of a legal library or from those chambers of the practitioner which, to those who look at them from without, seem as dark with mystery as they are with dust and smoke—this, we repeat, renders such a guide-book as that which Mr Warren has presented to the public, almost indispensable. In forming a critical estimation of his labours on this publication, it would be extremely unfair to forget, for a moment, the peculiar nature of the work. He is writing for the young. It is an elementary treatise. It is a book peculiarly practical; the very opposite of whatever is theoretical or speculative. If the style is somewhat more diffuse than we should on all occasions approve, we are far from regarding this as a defect here. The work, amongst other advantages, presents really a storehouse of that useful phraseology in which a public speaker should abound, that phraseology which lies between the familiarity of business and the pomp of oratory. And if, as we may perhaps be tempted again to remark, there is something too much of laudation of that profession and of that system of jurisprudence to which he is introducing the young aspirant, this too is a bias to which, in the present work, it would be ungracious to raise an objection. An elementary teacher should not chill and discourage his pupils by criticisms of a cold and censorious character; he should rather exercise his penetration in drawing into light concealed excellences. In this Mr Warren follows the example of the first of all commentators, the most successful of all teachers—Blackstone; who continues to be the most popular of all expounders of the law, even though the system that he expounds has almost deserted him. It seems that the law can be made obsolete, but not the commentary. With a pupil it is a thing understood and agreed upon that he is to learn the system as it now exists; to engage him to do this it were bad policy to decry that system, and expose its faults with a merciless analysis. When the student has mastered it as a lesson, he may then overlook and criticise it with what severity he thinks fit. We will quote a passage which will illustrate at once the lively manner of our writer, and also this happy Blackstonian tendency—the habit of animadverting very gravely on those errors of the law which have been reformed, and remaining still "a little blind" to those which are yet untouched.

"Down to the year 1832, the system of common law pleading and practice supplied the student, during the greater period of his pupilage, with little else than the most degrading and unprofitable drudgery. It presented to his despairing eyes a mass of vile verbiage—a tortuous complexity of detail, which defied the efforts of any but the most creeping ingenuity and industry. There was really every thing to discourage and disgust a liberal and enlightened mind, however well inured to labour by the invigorating discipline of logic and mathematics. The deep and clear waters—so to speak—of legal principle, there always were, and will be, for they are immutable and eternal; but you had to buffet your way to them through "many a mile of foaming filth," that harassed, exhausted and choked the unhappy swimmer long before he could get sight of the offing. Few beside those who had had the equivocal advantage of being early familiarised with such gibberish as "special general imparlance"—"special testatum capias"—"special original"—"testatum pone"—"protestando"—"colour"—"de bene esse," &c. &c. &c. could obtain a glimmering of daily practice, without a serious waste of time and depreciation of the mental faculties. Let the thousands who, under the old system, almost at once adopted and abandoned legal studies, attest the truth of this remark. There was, in short, every thing to discourage a gentleman from entering, to obstruct him in prosecuting, the legal profession. Recently, however, a great change has been effected. There has been a real reform—a practical, searching, comprehensive reform of the common law; a shaking down of innumerable dead leaves and rotten branches; a cutting away of all the shoots of prurient vegetation, which served but to disfigure the tree, and to conceal and injure its fruit. Now you may see, in the common law, a tree noble in its height and figure, sinewy in its branches, green in its foliage, and goodly in its fruit. May it be permitted, however, to express an humble hope, that the gardener will know when to lay aside his knife!"—(P. 20.)

[Pg 304]And yet Warren has a knife, too, of his own which he would willingly employ upon some part of this noble tree—either its old or its new branches. It is impossible for even the most indulgent commentator not to perceive that there are in our system of pleading many technicalities, which, so far from being necessary to the administration of justice, have no other operation than to retard, to complicate, to defeat the administration of justice. At p. 738—a very prudent and respectful distance from the quotation we have just made—we find the following admission:—

"Such is a faint sketch of the existing system of special pleading, upon the reform and remodelling of which has been bestowed, during the last fifteen years, the anxious and profound consideration of some of the ablest and most experienced legal intellects which were ever addressed to such an undertaking, or concerned in the practice or administration of the law. Their alterations were bold and extensive, and perhaps may be said to have been, to the same extent, successful. The principal objects proposed to be effected by the late changes were enumerated in an early part of this work, where also was given a general account of all the late changes effected in the department of Common Law pleading and practice. To this we now refer the reader; and also to the Appendix (No. IV.), where will be found, in extenso, the Rules of Court by which these great alterations were effected. While the principal objects of the framers of them have been accomplished, by effecting a great saving of expense in the length of the pleadings, and their incidents; by securing an economical and satisfactory trial at Nisi Prius, through the precise and specific nature of the issues required to be presented to the jury, and the effectual expedients resorted to, for the purpose of saving an unnecessary expenditure in obtaining evidence: it cannot be denied that the excessive stringency of the rules which restrict a plaintiff to a single count in respect of a single cause of action, and a defendant to a single plea in support of a single ground of defence, too frequently operates most injuriously, so as to secure the defeat of justice. It is continually a matter of serious difficulty, to refer a particular combination of facts to their appropriate legal category; and if the wrong one should be selected, substantial justice is sacrificed before arbitrary legal technicality. It would be easy to illustrate the truth of these remarks by reference to cases of daily occurrence. The rule in question must either be relaxed, or its injurious effects neutralized by greatly enlarged powers of amendment conferred upon the judge at Nisi Prius. With all these defects, however, it cannot be denied that the recent changes in the law of pleading, evidence, and practice, with reference to the interests of suitors, have justified the most sanguine anticipations of those who set in motion the machinery which effected those changes; and with reference to students and practitioners, have tended to exact a far greater amount of diligence, learning, and acuteness, than for a long series of years has been deemed requisite."

Mr Warren's illustrations, whether imaginary, or drawn from experience and observation, are always, as might be expected, graphic and amusing. It is thus that he exemplifies a very useful precept, which he gives to the young student for the bar:—

"He must very early familiarise himself with the correct meaning of at least the leading technical terms of Logic—which are of frequent use in the courts—not for petty pedantry or display, but from their real advantage—from, indeed, the necessity of the case. Instances of the vexatious consequences of ignorance in these matters will not unfrequently fall under the notice of a watchful observer. Some two or three years ago, a counsel, manifestly not having enjoyed a very superior education, was engaged in arguing a case, in banco, at Westminster—before four very able judges, one of them being a man remarkable for his logical acuteness and dexterity. 'No, no—that won't do,' said he, suddenly interposing—'put the converse of the proposition, Mr ——: try it that way.' The judge paused: the counsel too paused, while a slight expression of uneasiness flitted over his features. He expected the judge to 'put the converse' for him; but the judge did not. 'Put the converse of the proposition, Mr ——, and see if that will hold'—repeated the judge with some surprise, and a little peremptoriness in his tone. But it was unpleasantly obvious that Mr —— could not 'put[Pg 305] the converse' of the proposition—nor understand what as meant. Some better informed brother barrister whispered to him the converse of the proposition—but it was useless: Mr —— faltered—repeated a word or two, as if mechanically—'Well!' said the judge, kindly suspecting the true state of the case, 'go on with your argument, Mr ——!' It may appear strange that so glaring a case should occur at the bar—but, nevertheless, such a case did occur, and such cases have occurred, and are likely to occur again, as long as persons of inferior education come, intrepid in ignorance, to the bar."

We think, however, that Mr Warren is a little too hard upon the unfortunate orator, who was not aware of the meaning of the "converse of the proposition," and that the judge might as well have "put it" himself. A man may be a very good reasoner who has not learned "to name his tools," which is all that is taught by the logic of Aristotle.

How evidently is the following invested with all the vivid colouring of actual observation:—

"It can hardly be necessary, after all that has been said upon the subject of special pleading, both in this chapter and in preceding parts of the work, to warn the youth who rashly rushes to the bar without a competent knowledge of pleading, of the folly of which he is guilty, and the danger to which he is exposing himself. To a young counsel ignorant of pleading, a brief will be little else than a sort of Chinese puzzle. He must either give up in despair all attempts at mastering its contents, or hurry in ridiculous agitation from friend to friend, making vain efforts to 'cram' himself for some occasion of solitary display, afforded him by the zealous indiscretion of a friendly solicitor. Feverish with anxiety, wretched under the apprehension of public failure, and the consciousness of incompetence, after trembling in court lest he should be called upon to show himself, he returns to chambers, to curse his folly—to make, when too late, exertions to retrieve his false position, or abandon it for ever, with all the cloud-picturings of a vain and puerile ambition."

There is a general reluctance to believe in the union of literary talents and business-like qualities of mind. They are thought incompatible. A lover of literature is held to have little chance of success. A prejudice so general must have some foundation; but the incompatibility, in whatever degree it exists, lies, we are persuaded, not in the several mental qualities—not in the intellectual apparatus fitted for the two careers of literature and a profession—but in the different dispositions, in the diversity of tastes, which the two pursuits engender. The literary man fails in no faculty that profession calls for, but he may contract a strong repugnance for the species of activity it demands.

In literature thought is indulged and solicited for its own sake; it excites or it amuses; it may be invested with the deepest and most stirring interests of religion and philosophy, or it may be the very rainbow of the mind, having no life but only in and for its beauty. In professional vocations the intellectual effort is subordinated to a definite and fixed purpose; it is the purpose, not the thought, which must continually animate our exertions; and the purpose binds down the current of thought rigidly to its own service. Literature is the luxury of the spirit, the free aristocratic life of intellectual pleasure; profession is the useful but fettered existence of the sons of toil. In the one, the spirit revels as a mountain stream that leaps in the face of heaven from crag to crag; in the other, it is the same stream, lower down, confined in narrow channel, and half-buried by the ponderous wheel-work of that ever-clacking mill which it has to turn.

What wonder, then, that the literary man should have certain disgusts to overcome when he is called on to forsake his own free and variable life, for a mode of existence where thought is no longer her own mistress, but, with constant repetition, must take service in the mechanism of society? And he does often recalcitrate. But when, owing to some overruling motive of ambition or necessity, this distaste is overcome, it is an immense advantage which the possessor of literary talents has over the ordinary practitioner of any profession. In that of the law it has been especially remarked, that those who have[Pg 306] been most eminently successful have confessed to the repugnance they had, in the first instance, to conquer; and such examples of eminent success have, for the most part, consisted of men who had betrayed a decided talent and aptitude for literature.

The writer whom we have before us is a striking instance of literary tastes being irresistibly borne down by the craving after active life, and, perhaps, a strong impulse of ambition. The present work is sufficient to testify that, however vivid his imagination, his patience is still greater. We know him to be one of those who abhor rest, who court fatigue, to whom the utmost drudgery becomes welcome when invested with the interest of an immediate practical purpose. To one of such a stamp, literature could only prove a sort of apprenticeship to cultivate and develope his mind, not to determine his career. And so it has been. It was in vain that nature placed the pencil in his hand; she could not win him to the repose of the artist; his spirit was already pledged to a life of action, of toil, of hope, of enterprise. All along he has chosen the path of forensic ambition, nor, when most exerting his fancy, has he ever swerved from the goal. May success await him in his laborious course! May he be landed high and dry upon the envied eminences of social life! But—by Jupiter!—if nature had given us the pencil of the artist, we would not have let go our hold, though the seals of office were ten times as large and ten times as brilliant as they are, and were dangled before us within arm's-reach. You might have lifted us softly and gently, and placed us as with a mother's arms, even upon the broad woolsack, we would not have dropped that pencil. No; we would have said to the boisterous prosperities of life—Here is that which will make station indifferent; if to food and raiment men must needs add the charms of variety, here is that which will gild even obscurity with an assured and tranquil pride!

As we have intimated, we do not feel disposed to blame our author that he speaks often of his "glorious," his "noble" profession. The golden hue of sunrise is rightly cast upon the pinnacles and towers of that city the traveller is toiling to reach. What narrow and squalid streets, what blind alleys, what there is of filth and ruin in the great capital of intelligence, he may find out afterwards for himself. There was a time when we, too, were younger than we are, and saw the proud city at the same advantageous distance, when, dazzled by the view of its more conspicuous ornaments, we might have been tempted to make the same exclamations, and to use the same flattering phraseology. At that time, if any one had thrown a shadow of moral blame on the very principle and universal practice of the profession of advocacy, we should have indignantly repelled the accusation, we should have rushed to its defence, perhaps we even did attempt to throw our little shield before its huge and very vulnerable body. But now—when some years have rolled over our heads, and we have learned to think more calmly, if not more wisely—when we have caught a glimpse of the men who fill high places, and stood near enough to discover that they were of earth's common mould—when the actual din of forensic oratory, deafening and monotonous, has rung in our ears, and we have sat and watched the solemn juggle, and the stale hypocrisy with which that legal strife called a trial is conducted—now, if any teacher of ethics should denounce the demoralizing principle of advocacy—the principle we mean of contending for any client, or any cause, that craves fee in hand—we should no longer be eager to thrust ourselves between him and the object of his indignation; we should let his wrath take its course; we should listen with patience, with neutrality, perhaps with secret satisfaction at his attack. What, after all, is to be said in answer to the reproach which every simple-minded man must make—not against this or that member of the profession, because an individual is always considered blameless who only adopts the customs of his country—but against the whole profession, the principle and theory of its action, this arguing for A or B, for Yes or No, as they first come, without the least regard for justice or for truth?

It is well known what Paley has[Pg 307] said in its defence. "There are falsehoods," he writes in his chapter on Lies, "which are not lies, that is, which are not criminal; as, 1. when no one is deceived—which is the case in parables, fables, novels, jests, tales to create mirth, ludicrous embellishments of a story, where the declared design of the speaker is not to inform but to divert; compliments in the subscription of a letter, a servant's denying his master, a prisoner pleading not guilty, and an advocate asserting the justice, or his belief of the justice, of his client's cause. In such instances no confidence is destroyed, because none was reposed; no promise to speak the truth is violated, because none was given or understood to be given."

Ay, but the advocate does strive to be believed—does labour to deceive. His very object is to gain credit for his assertion, whether contrary or not to his sense of truth. He stands there, it is true, in the character of advocate, subject to whatever suspicion you may attach to that character; but all his ability is employed to overcome that suspicion, and compel you to credit him. "Confidence is not reposed;" not readily it may be; he labours, therefore, the more assiduously to win it. How can he avail himself of the plea here offered for him? How can he place himself in the sane category with the portly merchant who signs himself "your humble servant," and would indeed be strangely surprised if you took him at his word? Or with the obedient valet who denies his master with the customary, "not at home?" No man uses language with a more evident desire to obtain our conviction than the advocate.

There is another so-called theory of advocacy, which we will state in the words of Bishop Warburton. In his Divine Legation, vol. i. p. 397, he says, speaking of Cicero—"As an orator, he was an advocate for his client, or, more properly, personated him. Here, then, without question, he was to feign and dissimulate his own opinions, and speak those of his client. And though some of those who call themselves casuists, have held it unlawful for an advocate to defend what he thinks an ill cause, yet I apprehend it to be the natural right of every member of society, whether accusing or accused, to speak freely and fully for himself. And if, either by a legal or natural incapacity, this cannot be done in person, to have a proxy provided or allowed by the state to do for him what he cannot or may not do for himself. I apprehend that all states have done it, and that every advocate is such a proxy."

This explanation goes far. Of a certainty, every man has a right to approach a court of justice with such plea, or such demand, as the law gives him. For his ultimate aims, for his moral purposes in so doing, he alone is responsible. We do not desire the barrister so to prejudge the cause of the litigant as to decide whether or not he ought, as a moral man, to carry it into a court of justice. Let his plea, or his demand, be laid before the tribunal of his country, and as he cannot, in the complicated state of our jurisprudence, do this for himself, it is right and equitable that there should be professional men whose function it is to do this for him. But it follows not that the professional man is to pledge his own personal convictions in every case he undertakes. Let him speak in the name of his client, let him limit himself to the office of interpreter, where his own convictions do not allow him to be the zealous advocate. The state ought to give to every man free access to a court of justice, and to all the armoury of the law; how he uses the weapons he finds there, he must account to God and his own conscience, and the moral judgment of society; but the state is not to give to every rogue the benefit of the apparent convictions in his favour, of a learned and honorable gentleman. If the barrister speaks, and is understood to speak, as from his client, and not from his own conviction, the indiscriminate advocacy of causes which the administration of justice requires, is reconcilable with the manifest claims of morality. But not otherwise. To lend out the zeal of truth to varnish every cause, is what no system of jurisprudence demands, and what no system of ethics can tolerate. Yet this is what is done.

If a conveyancer is instructed to draw a will which appears to him [Pg 308]unjust, he must feel some pain in so doing; but it is not a pain of conscience, for it is not his office to compel people to make equitable wills. It is an office which, at the distance he stands from the parties, and with his limited knowledge of their character and mutual relationships, he could not possibly undertake; he would be a mere disturber of the peace of society if he attempted to regulate the morality of all the conveyances and testaments that he drew. It would indeed be a doctrine destructive of all order, and of the very machinery of society, that would, as a general rule, impose upon men of profession, or of trade, the responsibilities which lie, in the first instance, upon the consciences of their clients. A man could not sell a piece of whipcord from his shop, without having an assurance from the customer that he was not buying it to strangle his wife withal. The conveyancer, therefore, quietly pursues his instructions, and draws the will. In the like manner, if a barrister is instructed to plead the statute of limitations to a debt, it is no concern of his if the client is not acting in a conscientious manner in taking advantage of the statute. The law gives him this plea, and it is not for the jurist to debar him the use of it. He presents it, therefore, to the court. But if, not content with pleading the statute of limitations for a client who employs the law to escape from a moral obligation, he labours to convince the jury that, in availing himself of this plea, his client is acting in a very honourable, or at least in no blamable manner; if, by an artful colouring of the facts, or by insinuations against other parties, he contrives to lead the culprit in triumph through the court, then we say that a baseness is committed by the advocate, for which there is no excuse, in the constitution of courts of justice, nor in the subtleties of casuistry.

Those who have expatiated on the duty of the barrister to do all for his client, be that client whom he may, have generally taken care to place before us the cases of political prosecution, where the advocate appears to act a brave and generous part in opposing the government and the legal officers of the crown. By dexterously keeping the small cases in view while they were enlarging on the broad principle of indiscriminate advocacy, they have often contrived to give to this principle itself an air of generosity; as if the barrister were performing a noble self-sacrifice, were devoting himself in a quite heroic manner, by giving himself, head and heart, voice and intelligence, to the first distressed applicant for his aid. It is only by referring to the political nature of the occasion on which it was delivered, that we can account for the following splendid exaggeration of Lord Brougham's upon this subject:—

"An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows, in the discharge of that office, but one person in the world, that client and none other. To save that client by all expedient means—to protect that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and among others to himself—is the highest and most unquestioned of his duties; and he must not regard the alarm, the suffering, the torment, the destruction, which he may bring upon any other. Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them, if need be, to the wind, he must go on, reckless of the consequences, if his fate it should unhappily be to involve his country in confusion for his client's protection."

This piece of eloquent absurdity was delivered on the trial of Queen Caroline, and the speaker was playing the advocate at the time he delivered it. But Lord Brougham would not surely speak or write in the same strain upon other and more ordinary occasions—if, for instance, the client, for whom the country was to be involved in confusion, was a railway company![15]

Every man has something to be[Pg 309] said for him in the way of defence or palliation; we have no objection to every man having his advocate in Westminster Hall; but we are persuaded that public opinion is far too indulgent to this "glorious and noble" profession, when it permits its members, speaking as from their own conviction, to sport with truth to any extent that may be serviceable to their clients. A more temperate zeal, which should not overstep what the interest of justice demands, would indeed be less munificently rewarded; but, in every other respect, it would be a clear gain both to the cause of public morality and the administration of the laws.

But that which, perhaps, more frequently calls up a feeling of pain and humiliation in the barrister, is that for which he is not at all responsible; namely, the nature of those legal weapons the employment of which his client has a right to demand of him. The rules of pleading and of evidence have been lately much simplified and improved, and they will, year after year, be still further improved; but they still furnish the willing or the unwilling advocate with abundant obstructions to the fair investigation of truth. Speaking of pleading, Mr Warren has very truly said, in a passage we have already quoted—"It is continually a matter of serious difficulty to refer a particular combination of facts to their appropriate legal category; and, if the wrong one should be selected, substantial justice is sacrificed before arbitrary legal technicality." A glance at these "legal categories" will fully bear out the statement which our author has here so temperately made. Let us open the justly lauded book of Mr Stephen, "On the Principles of Pleading"—a work which every man, lawyer or not, who receives a gratification from clear and logical statements, may take pleasure in perusing. We extract the following account of personal actions:—

"Of personal actions, the most common are the following—Debt, covenant, detinue, trespass, trespass on the case, replevin.

"The action of debt lies where a party claims the recovery of a debt, i. e. a liquidated or certain sum of money alleged to be due to him.

"The action of covenant lies where a party claims damages for a breach of covenant, i. e. of a promise under seal.

"The action of detinue lies where the party claims the specific recovery of goods and chattels, or deeds and writings detained from him.

"The action of trespass lies where a party claims damages for a trespass against him. A trespass is an injury committed with violence."

Having described these, the author comes to one which requires to have its history told before it can be rendered intelligible. This is still not unfrequently the case in our law; instead of a definition founded on the nature of things, and growing out of the science itself of jurisprudence, we[Pg 310] are presented with a narrative to tell us how the matter came about.

"The action of trespass on the case lies where a party sues for damages for any wrong or cause of complaint to which covenant or trespass will not apply. This action originated in the power given by the statute of Westminster 2, to the clerks of the chancery to frame new writs in consimili casu with writs already known.... Such being the nature of the action, it comprises, of course, many different species. There are two, however, of more frequent use than any other species of trespass on the case, or, perhaps than any other form of action whatever. These are Assumpsit and Trover.

"The action of assumpsit lies where a party claims damages for breach of simple contract, i. e. a promise not under seal."

The action of trover differs from detinue inasmuch as the party claims damages, not the recovery of the identical goods and chattels. With the action of replevin we will not trouble our readers, to whom we ought, perhaps, to apologise for entering thus far into legal technicalities.

But now, reflect a moment on this classification. A promise under seal must assuredly require a different proof from a promise not under seal; but what end is answered by calling one an action of covenant and the other an action of assumpsit? Or what good result can arise from limiting the definition of debt to the claim of a sum certain? Who sees not what a snare may be here laid for the feet of unwary suitors? The names of trover, detinue, trespass, give no information to the defendant; the substantial cause of action is stated in the declaration, and these names are mere useless additions. Yet the right name must be chosen, or it is fatal to the suit. If trespass be adopted instead of trespass on the case, the error is fatal; and yet mark how lucid, how intelligible, how satisfactory is the classification designated by these terms of art.

Trespass is the proper form of action when the injury has been committed with violence This looks sufficiently distinct. But then the violence may be either actual or implied; and the law will imply violence wherever the injury is direct, and the property injured of a tangible nature. In the most stealthy, peaceable entrance upon another man's land, the law implies violence. What, therefore, may or may not be said, in the usual phrase, to be done vi et armis, remains to be known, by no means from the nature of the facts themselves, but from arbitrary decisions of courts. To make out a class of actions as those committed with violence, and then to imply violence where in reality there is none, is first to make and then unmake the distinction. And yet, as some distinction is, for the embarrassment of suitors, to be retained, this implication of violence is restricted to cases where the injury is direct and not consequential; and what shall be denominated a direct and what a consequential injury, is again a matter of no small difficulty. Moreover, in order to sustain trespass, the property injured must be of a corporeal nature. It would be a sad solecism in the eye of the law to allow a man to bring trespass on account of his tithes—this being, according to definition, an incorporeal property, and from its nature, therefore, not subject to violence.

This barbarous nomenclature of actions might be swept away at once with considerable advantage. If the plaintiff "complaining" of the defendant, proceeded at once to a brief statement of his cause of action, this would answer all the purposes of pleading. It was said by the commissioners in the third report on the common law, that an abolition of these distinctions would entail "much uncertainty on the right of action." With utmost deference to the commissioners, this is a very strange assertion. These categories are known only to the lawyers; and surely a student of the law cannot be at a loss to distinguish the substantial ground of action from a mere formulary of pleading. A layman may often imagine he has a right of action where he has none. Did the commissioners mean gravely to assert that these categories, of which he knows nothing—or whether he knows them or not—could enlighten him as to the[Pg 311] redress he is entitled to in a court of justice?

It is, however, in the inexhaustible armoury of quibble and objection which the law of evidence supplies him with that the generous advocate must feel the greatest amount of embarrassment and repugnance. It is his office to stand at the door of testimony, and thrust back every witness, and reject every document, he can, upon pleas which, whatever their original ground or design, he very well knows do not impeach the real value of the evidence rejected. But into this topic we must not enter. It is not our present object to write upon the reform of the laws. The subject would lead us much too far.

One general remark only we will venture to make. Neither in nor out of the profession must men yet be impatient with the frequent changes that our laws undergo. Though, in common with our author, we estimate highly a settled state of things, and have to deprecate the rashness of some too hasty legislators, we cannot yet "lay aside the knife." They are very inconvenient these partial changes, but there is no other mode of proceeding. Whilst we are living in the very city which we have to improve, and in great part to rebuild, what else can we do but pull down here and there a street at a time, and reconstruct it on a better plan? It is miserable work this pulling down. One is blinded by dust—one loses one's way; all seems ruin and confusion. But the new street rises—the rubbish is removed—the dust is laid; one finds one's way again, and finds it twice as short as before. It is only by successive changes of this kind that the great city of our jurisprudence can be adapted to the wants of its multiplied and changed inhabitants.

We ought perhaps to mention, that Mr Warren has been discreetly silent on some of the topics to which we have ventured to allude. He has very wisely avoided all questions of casuistry; and we trust that, in our glances on the moral position of the bar, we shall not be thought to have manifested any want of respect for a learned body, the members of which, in their individual character, stand as high in our estimation as those of any body whatever, and which, as a whole, presents a greater array of talent than in any other denomination of men could be met with. We revert once more to Mr Warren's very useful, able, and praiseworthy publication to wish him success, not only in this undertaking, which may be already said to be crowned with success, but in the still greater and more laborious enterprise which he has on foot, and which this specimen of his legal authorship shows him fully competent to achieve.



[Pg 312]


On the eighteenth day of August 1572, a great festival was held in the palace of the Louvre. It was to celebrate the nuptials of Henry of Navarre and Margaret of Valois.

This alliance between the chief of the Protestant party in France, and the sister of Charles IX. and daughter of Catharine of Medicis, perplexed, and in some degree alarmed, the Catholics, whilst it filled the Huguenots with joy and exultation. The king had declared that he knew and made no difference between Romanist and Calvinist—that all were alike his subjects, and equally beloved by him. He caressed the throng of Huguenot nobles and gentlemen whom the marriage had attracted to the court, was affectionate to his new brother-in-law, friendly with the prince of Condé, almost respectful to the venerable Admiral de Coligny, to whom he proposed to confide the command of an army in a projected war with Spain. The chiefs of the Catholic party were not behind-hand in following the example set them by Charles. Catharine of Medicis was all smiles and affability; the Duke of Anjou, afterwards Henry III., received graciously the compliments paid him by the Huguenots themselves on his successes at Jarnac and Moncontour, battles which he had won before he was eighteen years old; Henry of Guise, whose reputation as a leader already, at the age of two-and-twenty, almost equalled that of his great father, was courteous and friendly to those whose deadly foe he had so lately been. The Duke of Mayenne and the Admiral, the Guise and the Condé, were seen riding, conversing, and making parties of pleasure together. It was the lion lying down with the lamb.

On the twenty-second of August, four days after the marriage, in which the Huguenots saw a guarantee of the peaceful exercise of their religion, the Admiral de Coligny was passing through the street of St Germain l'Auxerrois, when he was shot at and wounded by a captain of petardiers, one Maurevel, who went by the name of Le Tueur du Roi, literally, the King's Killer. At midnight on the twenty-fourth of August, the tocsin sounded, and the massacre of St Bartholomew began.

It is at this stirring period of French history, abounding in horrors and bloodshed, and in plots and intrigues, both political and amorous, that M. Alexandre Dumas commences one of his most recently published romances. Beginning with the marriage of Henry and Margaret, he narrates, in his spirited and attractive style, various episodes, real and imaginary, of the great massacre, from the first fury of which, Henry himself, doomed to death by the remorseless Catherine of Medicis, was only saved by his own caution, by the indecision of Charles IX., and the energy of Margaret of Valois. The marriage between the King of France's sister and the King of Navarre, was merely one of convenance, agreed to by Henry for the sake of his fellow Protestants, and used by Catherine and Charles as a lure to bring "those of the religion," as they were called, to Paris, there to be slaughtered unsuspecting, and defenceless. Margaret, then scarcely twenty years of age, had already made herself talked of by her intrigues; Henry, who was a few months younger, but who, even at that early period of his life, possessed a large share of the shrewdness and prudence for which his countrymen, the Béarnese, have at all times been noted, was, at the very time of his marriage, deeply in love with the Baroness de Sauve, one of Catharine de Medicis' ladies, by whom he was in his turn beloved. But although little affection existed between the royal pair, the strong links of interest and ambition bound them together; and no sooner were they married than they entered into a treaty of political alliance, to which, for some time, both steadily and truly adhered.

On the night of the St Bartholomew, a Huguenot gentleman, the Count Lerac de la Mole, who has arrived that day at Paris with[Pg 313] important letters for the King of Navarre, seeks refuge in the apartments of the latter from the assassins who pursue and have already wounded him. Unacquainted, however, with the Louvre, he mistakes the door, and enters the apartment of the Queen of Navarre, who, seized with pity, and struck also by the youth and elegance of the fugitive, gives him shelter, and herself dresses his wounds, employing in his behalf the surgical skill which she has acquired from the celebrated Ambrose Paré, whose pupil she had been. One of the most furious of La Mole's pursuers is a Piedmontese gentleman, Count Hannibal de Coconnas, who has also arrived that day in the capital, and put up at the same hotel as La Mole. When the latter is rescued by Margaret, Coconnas wanders through Paris, killing all the Huguenots he can find—such, at least, as will defend themselves. In a lonely part of the town he is overpowered by numbers, and is rescued from imminent peril by the Duke of Guise's sister-in-law, the Duchess of Nevers, that golden-haired, emerald-eyed dame, of whom Ronsard sang—

"La Duchesse de Nevers
Aux yeux verts,
Qui sous leur paupière blonde,
Lancent sur nous plus d'éclairs
Que ne font vingt Jupiters
Dans les airs
Lorsque la tempête gronde."

To cut the story short, La Mole falls violently in love with Margaret, Coconnas does the same with the duchess; and these four personages play important parts in the ensuing narrative, which extends over a space of nearly two years, and into which the author, according to his custom, introduces a vast array of characters, for the most part historical, all spiritedly drawn and well sustained. M. Dumas may, in various respects, be held up as an example to our history spoilers, self-styled writers of historical romance, on this side the Channel. One does not find him profaning public edifices by causing all sorts of absurdities to pass, and of twaddle to be spoken, within their precincts; neither does he make his kings and beggars, high-born dames and private soldiers, use the very same language, all equally tame, colourless, and devoid of character. The spirited and varied dialogue in which his romances abound, illustrates and brings out the qualities and characteristics of his actors, and is not used for the sole purpose of making a chapter out of what would be better told in a page. In many instances, indeed, it would be difficult for him to tell his story, by the barest narrative, in fewer words than he does by pithy and pointed dialogue.

As the sole means of placing his life in comparative safety, Henry abjures the Protestant faith, and remains in a sort of honourable captivity at the court of France, suspected by Charles and detested by Catharine, to whom Réné the Florentine, her astrologer and poisoner, has predicted that the now powerless prince of Navarre shall one day reign over France. Some days have passed, the massacres have nearly ceased, and the body of Admiral de Coligny, discovered amongst a heap of slain, has been suspended to the gibbet at Montfaucon. Charles IX., always greedy of spectacles of blood, proposes to pay a visit to the corpse of his dead enemy, whom had called his father, and affectionately embraced, upon their last meeting previous to the attempted assassination of the admiral by Maurevel, an attempt instigated by Charles himself. We will give the account of this visit in the words of M. Dumas.

It was two in the afternoon, when a long train of cavaliers and ladies, glittering with gold and jewels, appeared in the Rue St Denis, displaying itself in the sun between the sombre lines of houses, like some huge reptile with sparkling scales. Nothing that exists at the present day can give an adequate idea of the splendour of this spectacle. The rich silken costumes, of the most brilliant colours, which were in vogue during the reign of Francis I., had not yet been replaced by the dark and graceless attire that became the fashion in Henry III.'s time. The costume of the reign of Charles IX. was perhaps less rich, but more elegant than that of the preceding epoch.

In the rear, and on either side of this magnificent procession, came the pages, esquires, gentlemen of low[Pg 314] degree, dogs and horses, giving the royal train the appearance of a small army. The cavalcade was followed by a vast number of the populace.

That morning, in presence of Catharine and the Duke of Guise, and of Henry of Navarre, Charles the Ninth had spoken, as if it were quite a natural thing, of going to visit the gibbet at Montfaucon, or, in other words, the mutilated body of the admiral, which was suspended from it. Henry's first impulse had been to make an excuse for not joining the party. Catharine was looking out for this, and at the very first word that he uttered expressive of his repugnance, she exchanged a glance and a smile with the Duke of Guise. Henry, whom nothing escaped, caught both smile and glance, underwent them, and hastened to correct his blunder.

"After all," said he, "why should I not go? I am a Catholic, and owe as much to my new religion." Then addressing himself to the king:—"Your majesty may reckon upon me," said he; "I shall always be happy to accompany you wherever you go."

In the whole procession, no one attracted so much curiosity and attention as this king without a kingdom, this Huguenot who had become Catholic. His long and strongly marked features, his somewhat common tournure, his familiarity with his inferiors—a familiarity which was to be attributed to the habits of his youth, and which he carried almost too far for a king—caused him to be at once recognised by the spectators, some of whom called out to him—"To mass, Henriot, to mass!"

To which Henry replied.

"I was there yesterday, I have been there to-day, I shall go again to-morrow. Ventre-saint-gris! I think that is enough."

As for Margaret, she was on horseback—so beautiful, so fresh and elegant, that there was a perfect chorus of admiration around her, some few notes of which, however, were addressed to her companion and intimate friend, the Duchess of Nevers, who had just joined her, and whose snow-white steed, as if proud of its lovely burden, tossed its head, and neighed exultingly.

"Well, duchess," said the Queen of Navarre, "have you anything new to tell me?"

"Nothing, madam, I believe," replied Henriette. Then, in a lower tone, she added—"And the Huguenot, what is become of him?"

"He is in safety," replied Margaret. "And your Piedmontese hero? Where is he?"

"He insisted upon being one of the party, and is riding M. de Nevers' charger, a horse as big as an elephant. He is a superb cavalier. I allowed him to come, because I thought that your Huguenot protégé would be still confined to his room, and that consequently there could be no risk of their meeting."

"Ma foi!" replied Margaret, smiling, "if he were here, I do not think there would be much danger of a single combat. The Huguenot is very handsome, but nothing else—a dove, and not an eagle; he may coo, but he will not bite. After all," added she, with a slight elevation of her shoulders, "we perhaps take him for a Huguenot, whilst he is only a Brahmin, and his religion may forbid his shedding blood. But see there, duchess—there is one of your gentlemen, who will assuredly be ridden over."

"Ah! it is my hero," cried the duchess; "look, look!"

It was Coconnas, who had left his place in the procession in order to get nearer to the Duchess of Nevers; but, at the very moment that he was crossing the sort of boulevard separating the street of St Denis from the faubourg of the same name, a cavalier belonging to the suite of the Duke of Alençon, who had just come up, was run away with by his horse; and, being unable immediately to check the animal, came full tilt against Coconnas. The Piedmontese reeled in his saddle, and his hat fell off. He caught it in his hand, and turned furiously upon the person by whom he had been so rudely, although accidentally, assailed.

"Good heavens!" said Margaret, in a whisper to her friend, "it is Monsieur de la Mole!"

"That pale, handsome young man?" cried the duchess.

"Yes; he who so nearly upset your Piedmontese."

"Oh!" exclaimed the duchess,[Pg 315] "something terrible will happen! They recognise each other."

They had done so. Coconnas dropped the bridle of his horse in surprise at meeting with his former acquaintance, whom he fully believed he had killed, or at any rate disabled for a long time to come. As to La Mole, when he recognised Coconnas, a flush of anger overspread his pallid countenance. For a few seconds, the two men remained gazing at each other with looks which made Margaret and the duchess tremble. Then La Mole, glancing around him, and understanding, doubtless, that the place was not a fit one for an explanation, spurred his horse, and rejoined the Duke of Alençon. Coconnas remained for a moment stationary, twisting his mustache till he brought the corner of it nearly into his eye, and then moved onwards.

"Ha!" exclaimed Margaret, with mingled scorn and vexation; "I was not mistaken then. Oh, this time it is too bad!" And she bit her lips in anger.

"He is very handsome," said the duchess, in a tone of commiseration.

Just at this moment the Duke of Alençon took his place behind the king and the queen-mother; so that his gentlemen, in order to follow him, had to pass Margaret and the Duchess of Nevers. As La Mole went by, he removed his hat, bowed low to the queen, and remained bareheaded, waiting till her majesty should honour him with a look. But Margaret turned her head proudly away. La Mole doubtless understood the scornful expression of her features; his pale face became livid, and he grasped his horse's mane as if to save himself from falling.

"Look at him, cruel that you are," said Henriette to the Queen; "he is going to faint."

"Good," said Margaret, with a smile of immense contempt. "Have you no salts to offer him?"

Madame de Nevers was mistaken. La Mole recovered himself, and took his place behind the Duke of Alençon.

The royal party continued to advance, and presently came in sight of the gallows at Montfaucon. The King and Catharine of Medicis were followed by the Dukes of Anjou and Alençon, the King of Navarre, the Duke of Guise, and their gentlemen; then came Margaret, the Duchess of Nevers, and the ladies, composing what was called the Queen's flying squadron; finally, the pages, esquires, lackeys, and the people—in all, ten thousand souls. The guards, who marched in front, placed themselves in a large circle round the enclosure in which stood the gibbet; and on their approach, the ravens that had perched upon the instrument of death flew away with hoarse and dismal croakings. To the principal gallows was hanging a shapeless mass, a blackened corpse, covered with mud and coagulated blood. It was suspended by the feet, for the head was wanting. In place of the latter, the ingenuity of the people had substituted a bundle of straw, with a mask fixed upon it; and in the mouth of the mask some scoffer, acquainted with the admiral's habits, had placed a toothpick.

It was a sad and strange sight to behold all these elegant cavaliers and beautiful women passing, like one of the processions which Goya has painted, under the blackened skeletons and tall grim gibbets. The greater the mirth of the visitors, the more striking was the contrast with the mournful silence and cold insensibility of the corpses which were its object. Many of the party supported with difficulty this horrible spectacle; and Henry of Navarre especially, in spite of his powers of dissimulation and habitual command over himself, was at last unable to bear it longer. He took, as a pretext, the stench emitted by these human remains; and approaching Charles, who, with Catharine of Medicis, had paused before the body of the admiral—

"Sire," said he, "does not your Majesty find that the smell of this poor corpse is too noxious to be longer endured?"

"Ha! think you so, Harry?" cried Charles, whose eyes were sparkling with a ferocious joy.

"Yes, sire."

"Then I am not of your opinion. The body of a dead enemy always smells well."

"By my faith! sire," said Monsieur de Tavannes, "your Majesty should have invited Pierre Ronsard to accompany us on this little visit to[Pg 316] the admiral; he would have made an impromptu epitaph on old Gaspard."

"That will I make," said Charles. And after a moments reflection, "Listen, gentlemen," said he—

"Ci-gît, mais c'est mal entendu,
Pour lui le mot est trop honnête,
Ici l'amiral est pendu,
Par les pieds, à faute de tête."

"Bravo! bravo!" cried the Catholic gentlemen with one voice, whilst the converted Huguenots there present maintained a gloomy silence. As to Henry, he was talking to Margaret and the Duchess of Nevers, and pretended not to hear.

"Come, sir," said Catharine, who, in spite of the perfumes with which she was covered, began to have enough of this tainted atmosphere—"Come, sir," said she to the king, "the best of friends must part. Let us bid adieu to the admiral, and return to Paris."

And bowing her head ironically to the corpse by way of a farewell, she turned her horse and regained the road, whilst her suite filed past the body of Coligny. The crowd followed the cavalcade, and ten minutes after the king's departure, no one remained near the mutilated body of the admiral.

When we say no one, we make a mistake. A gentleman, mounted on a black horse, and who, probably, during the stay of the king, had been unable to contemplate the disfigured corpse sufficiently at his ease, lingered behind, and was amusing himself by examining, in all their details, the chains, irons, stone pillars, in short, the whole paraphernalia of the gibbet, which, no doubt, appeared to him, who had been but a few days at Paris, and was not aware of the perfection to which all things are brought in the metropolis, a paragon of hideous ingenuity. This person was our friend Coconnas. A woman's quick eye had in vain sought him through the ranks of the cavalcade. Monsieur de Coconnas remained in admiration before the masterpiece of Enguerrand de Marigny.

But the woman in question was not the only person who sought Coconnas. A cavalier, remarkable for his white satin doublet, and the elegance of his plume, after looking before him, and on either side, had at last looked back and perceived the tall form of the Piedmontese, and the gigantic profile of his horse, sharply defined against the evening sky, now reddened by the last rays of the setting sun. Then the gentleman in the white satin doublet left the road which the cavalcade was following, struck into a side path, and describing a curve, returned towards the gibbet. He had scarcely done this, when the Duchess of Nevers approached the Queen of Navarre, and said—

"We were mistaken, Margaret, for the Piedmontese has remained behind, and Monsieur de la Mole has followed him."

"Mordi!" cried Margaret laughing, "is it so? I confess that I shall not be sorry to have to alter my opinion."

She then looked round, and saw La Mole returning towards the gallows.

It was now the turn of the two princesses to quit the cavalcade. The moment was favourable for so doing, for they were just crossing a road bordered by high hedges, by following which they would get to within thirty paces of the gibbet. Madame de Nevers said a word to the captain of her guards, Margaret made a sign to Gillonne, her tirewoman and confidant; and these four persons took the cross road, and hastened to place themselves in ambuscade behind some bushes near the spot they were desirous of observing. There they dismounted, and the captain held the horses, whilst the three ladies found a pleasant seat upon the close fresh turf, with which the place was overgrown. An opening in the bushes enabled them to observe the smallest details of what was passing.

La Mole had completed his circuit, and, walking up behind Coconnas, he stretched out his hand and touched him on the shoulder. The Piedmontese turned his head.

"Oh!" said he, "it was no dream then. You are still alive?"

"Yes, sir," replied La Mole, "I am still alive. It is not your fault, but such is the case."

"Mordieu! I recognise you perfectly," said Coconnas, "in spite of[Pg 317] your pale cheeks. You were redder than that the last time I saw you."

"And I recognise you also," said La Mole, "in spite of that yellow cut across your face. You were paler than you are now when I gave it to you."

Coconnas bit his lips, but continued in the same ironical tone.

"It is curious, is it not, Monsieur de la Mole, particularly for a Huguenot, to see the admiral hung up to that iron hook?"

"Count," said La Mole with a bow, "I am no longer a Huguenot, I have the honour to be a Catholic."

"Bah!" cried Coconnas, bursting into a laugh, "You are converted? How very sly of you!"

"Sir," replied La Mole, with the same serious politeness, "I made a vow to become a Catholic if I escaped the massacre."

"It was a very prudent vow," returned the Piedmontese, "and I congratulate you on it; is it the only one you made?"

"No, sir, I made one other," replied La Mole, patting his horse with his usual deliberate grace.

"And it was——" enquired Coconnas.

"To hang you up yonder, to that little hook which seems to be waiting for you, just below Monsieur de Coligny."

"What!" cried Coconnas, "all alive, just as I am?"

"No, sir; after passing my sword through your body."

Coconnas became purple, and his grey eye flashed fire.

"Really," said he, with a sneer; "to yonder rail? You are not quite tall enough for that, my little gentleman."

"Then I will get upon your horse," replied La Mole. "Ah! you think, my dear M. Hannibal de Coconnas, that you may assassinate people with impunity under the loyal and honourable pretext of being a hundred to one. Not so. A day comes when every man finds his man, and for you that day is come now. I am almost tempted to break your ugly head with a pistol shot; but pshaw! I should perhaps miss you, for my hand still shakes with the wounds you so treacherously gave me.

"My ugly head!" roared Coconnas, throwing himself off his horse. "On foot! Monsieur le Compte—out with your blade!" And he drew his sword.

"I think your Huguenot called him ugly," whispered the Duchess of Nevers to Margaret. "Do you find him so?"

"He is charming," cried Margaret laughing, "and Monsieur de la Mole's anger renders him unjust. But hush! let us observe them."

La Mole got off his horse with as much deliberation as Coconnas had shown haste, drew his sword, and put himself on guard.

"Ah!" cried he, as he extended his arm.

"Oh!" exclaimed Coconnas, as he stretched out his.

Both, it will be remembered, were wounded in the shoulder, and a sudden movement still caused them acute suffering. A stifled laugh was audible from behind the trees. The princesses had been unable to restrain it when they saw the two champions rubbing their shoulders and grimacing with pain. The laughed reached the ears of La Mole and Coconnas, who had been hitherto unaware of the presence of witnesses, but who now, on looking round, perceived the ladies. La Mole again put himself on guard, steady as an automaton, and Coconnas, as their swords crossed, uttered an energetic Mordieu!

"Ah ça!" exclaimed Margaret, "they are in earnest, and will kill one another if we do not prevent it. This is going too far. Stop, gentlemen, I entreat you."

"Let them go on," said Henriette, who, having already seen Coconnas make head successfully against three antagonists at once, trusted that he would have at least as easy a bargain of La Mole.

At the first clash of the steel, the combatants became silent. They were neither of them confident in their strength, and, at each pass or parry, their imperfectly healed wounds caused them sharp pain. Nevertheless, with fixed and ardent eye, his lips slightly parted, his teeth firmly-set, La Mole advanced with short steady steps upon his adversary; who, perceiving that he had to do with a master of fence, retreated—gradually, it is true, but still[Pg 318] retreated. In this manner they reached the edge of the moat, or dry ditch, on the other side of which the spectators had stationed themselves. There, as if he had only retired with the view of getting nearer to the duchess, Coconnas stopped, and made a rapid thrust. At the same instant a sanguine spot, which grew each second larger, appeared upon the white satin of La Mole's doublet.

"Courage!" cried the Duchess of Nevers.

"Poor La Mole!" exclaimed Margaret, with a cry of sorrow.

La Mole heard the exclamation, threw one expressive glance to the queen, and making a skilful feint, followed it up by a pass of lightning swiftness. This time both the women shrieked. The point of La Mole's rapier had appeared, crimson with blood, behind the back of Coconnas.

Neither of the combatants fell; they remained on their feet, staring at each other, each of them feeling that at the first movement he made he should lose his balance. At last the Piedmontese, more dangerously wounded than his antagonist, and feeling that his strength was ebbing away with his blood, threw himself forward upon La Mole, and seized hill with one arm, whilst with the other hand he felt for his dagger. La Mole mustered all his remaining strength, raised his hand, and struck Coconnas on the forehead with his sword-hilt. Coconnas fell, but in falling he dragged his adversary after him, and both rolled into the ditch. Then Margaret and the Duchess of Nevers, seeing that although, apparently dying, they still sought to finish each other, sprang forward, preceded by the captain of the guards. But before they reached the wounded men, the eyes of the latter closed, their grasp was loosened, and, letting fall their weapons, they stretched themselves out stiff and convulsed. A pool of blood had already formed itself around them.

"Oh! brave, brave La Mole!" exclaimed Margaret, unable to repress her admiration. "How can I forgive myself for having suspected you?" And her eyes filled with tears.

"Alas! alas!" cried the duchess, sobbing violently. "Say, madam, did you ever see such intrepid champions?"

"Tudieu!—What hard knocks!" exclaimed the captain, trying to stanch the blood that flowed from the wounds. "Hola! you who are coming, come more quickly."

A man, seated on the front of a sort of cart painted of a red colour, was seen slowly approaching.

"Hola!" repeated the captain, "will you come, then, when you are called? Do you not see that these gentlemen are in want of assistance?"

The man in the cart, whose appearance was in the highest degree coarse and repulsive, stopped his horse, got down, and stepped over the two bodies.

"These are pretty wounds," said he, "but I make better ones."

"Who, then, are you?" said Margaret, experiencing, in spite of herself, a vague and unconquerable sensation of terror.

"Madam," replied the man, bowing to the ground, "I an Maître Caboche, executioner of the city of Paris; and I am come to suspend to this gibbet some companions for the admiral."

"And I am the Queen of Navarre; throw out your dead bodies, place our horses' clothes in your cart, and bring these two gentlemen carefully to the Louvre."

La Mole recovers from his wounds before Coconnas is out of danger. The latter is, in great measure, restored to health through the care and attention which his late antagonist generously lavishes on him; they become intimate friends, and Coconnas is appointed to the household of the Duke of Alençon, to which La Mole already belongs. The duke, out of opposition to his brothers, the king and the Duke of Anjou, has a leaning towards the Huguenot party. De Mouy, a Protestant leader, whose father has been assassinated by Maurevel, comes in disguise to the Louvre, to communicate with Henry of Navarre, in the sincerity of whose conversion the Huguenots do not believe. Henry, however, who knows that the walls of the Louvre have ears, refuses to listen to De Mouy, and declares himself Catholic to the backbone; and De Mouy, despairing and indignant, leaves the king's apartment. The Duke of Alençon, who has overheard their conference, as Henry suspected, stops the Huguenot emissary, and shows a disposition to put himself at the head of that party and become King of [Pg 319]Navarre. There is a great deal of intrigue and manœuvring, very skilfully managed by Henry, who makes D'Alençon believe that he has no wish to become any thing more than a simple country-gentleman, and that he is willing to aid him in his ambitious designs. He proposes that they should watch for an opportunity of leaving Paris and repairing to Navarre. Before the negotiations between the two princes are completed, however, the Duke of Anjou has been elected King of Poland, and has had his election ratified by the Pope; and D'Alençon then begins to think that it would be advisable to remain at Paris on the chance of himself becoming King of France. Charles IX. is delicate and sickly, subject to tremendous outbursts of passion which leave him weak and exhausted; his life is not likely to be a long one. Should he die, and even if the Poles should allow their new king to return to France, D'Alençon would have time, he thinks, before the arrival of the latter, to seize upon the vacant throne. Even the reversion of the crown of Poland would perhaps be preferable to the possession of that of Navarre. Whilst ruminating these plans, one of the king's frequent hunting parties takes place in the forest of Bondy, and is attended by all the royal family except the Duke of Anjou, then absent at the siege of La Rochelle. At this hunting party the following striking incidents occur.

The piqueur who had told the king that the boar was still in the enclosure, had spoken the truth. Hardly was the bloodhound put upon the scent, when he plunged into a thicket, and drove the animal, an enormous one of its kind, from its retreat in a cluster of thorn-bushes. The boar made straight across the road, at about fifty paces from the king. The leashes of a score of dogs were immediately slipped, and the eager hounds rushed headlong in pursuit.

The chase was Charles's strongest passion. Scarcely had the boar crossed the road, when he spurred after him, sounding the view upon his horn, and followed by the Duke of Alençon, and by Henry of Navarre. All the other chasseurs followed.

The royal forests, at the period referred to, were not, as at present, extensive parks intersected by carriage roads. Kings had not yet had the happy idea of becoming timber-merchants, and of dividing their woods into tailles and futaies. The trees, planted, not by scientific foresters but by the hand of God, who let the seed fall where the wind chose to bear it, were not arranged in quincunxes, but sprang up without order, and as they now do in the virgin forests of America. Consequently a forest at that period was a place in which boars and stags, wolves and robbers, were to be found in abundance.

The wood of Bondy was surrounded by a circular road, like the tire of a wheel and crossed by a dozen paths which might be called the spokes. To complete the comparison, the axle, was represented by carrefour, or open space, in the centre of the wood, whence all these paths diverged, and whither any of the sportsmen who might be thrown out were in the habit of repairing, till some sight or sound of the chase enabled them to rejoin it.

At the end of a quarter of an hour, it happened, as it usually did at these hunts, that insurmountable obstacles had opposed themselves to the progress of the hunters, the baying of the hounds had become inaudible in the distance, and the king himself had returned to the carrefour, swearing and cursing according to his custom.

"Well, D'Alençon! Well, Henriot!" cried he—"here you are, mordieu! as calm and quiet as nuns following their abbess. That is not hunting. You, D'Alençon—you look as if you had just come out of a band-box; and you are so perfumed, that if you got between the boar and my dogs, you would make them lose the scent. And you, Henriot—where is your boar-spear? Where your arquebuss?"

"Sire," replied Henry, "an arquebuss would be useless to me. I know that your majesty likes to shoot the boar himself when it is brought to bay. As to the spear, I handle it very clumsily. We are not used to it in our mountains, where we hunt the bear with nothing but a dagger."

"By the mordieu, Henry, when you return to your Pyrenees you shall send me a cart-load of bears. It must be noble sport to contend with[Pg 320] an animal that can stifle you with a hug. But hark! I hear the dogs! No, I was mistaken."

The king put his horn to his mouth and sounded fanfare. Several horns replied to him. Suddenly a piqueur appeared, sounding a different call.

"The view! the view!" cried the king; and he galloped off, followed by the other sportsmen.

The piqueur was not mistaken. As the king advanced he heard the baying of the pack, which was now composed of more than sixty dogs, fresh relays having been slipped at different places near which the boar had passed. At last Charles caught a second glimpse of the animal, and, profiting by the height of the adjacent trees, which enabled him to ride beneath their branches, he turned into the wood, sounding his horn with all his strength. The princes followed him for some time, but the king had so vigorous a horse, and, carried away by his eagerness, he dashed over such steep and broken ground, and through such dense thickets, that first the ladies, then the Duke of Guise and his gentlemen, and at last the two princes, were forced to abandon him. All the hunters therefore, with the exception of Charles and a few piqueurs, found themselves reassembled at the carrefour. D'Alençon and Henry were standing near each other in a long alley. At about a hundred paces from them the Duke of Guise had halted, with his retinue of twenty or thirty gentlemen, who were armed, it might have been thought, rather for the battle-field than the hunting-ground. The ladies were in the carrefour itself.

"Would it not seem," said the Duke of Alençon to Henry, glancing at the Duke of Guise with the corner of his eye, "that yonder man with his steel-clad escort is the true king? He does not even vouchsafe a glance to us poor princes."

"Why should he treat us better than our own relations do?" replied Henry. "Are we not, you and I, prisoners at the court of France, hostages for our party?"

The Duke Francis started, and looked at Henry as if to provoke a further explanation; but Henry had gone further than was his wont, and he remained silent.

"What do you mean, Henry?" enquired the duke, evidently vexed that his brother-in-law, by his taciturnity, compelled him to put the question.

"I mean, brother," answered Henry, "that those armed men who seem so careful not to lose sight of us, have quite the appearance of guards charged to prevent us from escaping."

"Escaping! Why? How?" cried D'Alençon, with a well-feigned air of surprise and simplicity.

"You have a magnificent jennet there, Francis," said Henry, following up the subject, whilst appearing to change the conversation. "I am sure he would get over seven leagues in an hour, and twenty from now till noon. It is a fine day for a ride. Look at that cross-road—how level and pleasant it is! Are you not tempted, Francis? For my part, my spurs are burning my heels."

Francis made no answer. He turned red and pale alternately, and appeared to be straining his hearing to catch some sound of the chase.

"The news from Poland have produced their effect," said Henry to himself, "and my good brother-in-law has a plan of his own. He would like to see me escape, but I shall not go alone."

He had scarcely made the reflection, when several of the recently converted Huguenots, who within the last two or three months had returned to the court and the Romish church, came up at a canter, and saluted the two princes with a most engaging smile. The Duke of Alençon, already urged on by Henry's overtures, had but to utter a word or make a sign, and it was evident that his flight would be favoured by the thirty or forty cavaliers who had collected around him, as if to oppose themselves to the followers of the Duke of Guise. But that word he did not utter. He turned away his head, and, putting his horn to his mouth, sounded the rally.

Nevertheless the new-comers, as if they thought that D'Alençon's hesitation was occasioned by the vicinity of the Guisards, had gradually placed themselves between the latter and the two princes, arraying themselves in échelon with a sort of strategic skill, which implied a habit of military manœuvres. Guise and his followers[Pg 321] would have had to ride over them to get at the Duke of Alençon and the King of Navarre; whilst, on the other side, a long and unobstructed road lay open before the brothers-in-law.

Suddenly, between the trees, at ten paces from the King of Navarre, there appeared another horseman, whom the princes had not yet seen. Henry was trying to guess who this person was, when the gentleman raised his hat and disclosed the features of the Viscount of Turenne, one of the chiefs of the Protestant party, and who was supposed to be then in Poitou. The viscount even risked a sign, which meant to say—"Are you coming?" But Henry, after consulting the inexpressive countenance and dull eyes of the Duke of Alençon, turned his head two or three times upon his shoulders, as if something in the collar of his doublet inconvenienced him. It as a reply in the negative. The viscount understood it, gave his horse the spur, and disappeared amongst the trees. At the same moment the pack was heard approaching; then, at the end of the alley, the boar was seen to pass, followed at a short distance by the dogs, whilst after them came Charles IX., like some demon-huntsman bareheaded, his horn at his mouth, sounding as though he would burst his lungs. Three or four piqueurs followed him.

"The king!" cried D'Alençon, riding off to join in the chase. Henry, encouraged by the presence of his partizans, signed to them to remain, and approached the ladies.

"Well," said Margaret, advancing to meet him.

"Well madam," said Henry, "we are hunting the boar."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, the wind has changed since yesterday morning. I think I predicted that such would be the case."

"These changes of wind are bad for hunting—are they not, sir?" enquired Margaret.

"Yes," replied her husband, "they sometimes overturn previous arrangements, and the plan has to be remade."

At this moment the baying of the pack was again heard near the carrefour. The noise and tumult rapidly approaching, warned the hunters to be on the alert. All heads were raised, every ear as strained, when suddenly the boar burst out of the wood, and, instead of plunging into the opposite thicket made straight for the carrefour. Close to the animal's heels were thirty or forty of the strongest amongst the dogs, and at less than twenty paces behind these came Charles himself, without cap or cloak, his clothes torn by the thorns, his face and hands covered with blood. Only one or two piqueurs kept up with him. Alternately sounding his horn and shouting encouragement to the dogs, the king pressed onwards, every thing but the chase forgotten. If his horse had failed him at that moment, he would have exclaimed, like Richard III., "My kingdom for a horse!" But the horse appeared as eager as his rider. His feet scarce touched the ground, and he seemed to snort fire from his blood-red nostrils. Boar, dogs, and king dashed by like a whirlwind.

"Hallali! hallali!" cried the king as he passed. And again he applied his horn to his bleeding lips. A short distance behind him came the Duke of Alençon and two more piqueurs. The horses of the others were blown or distanced.

Every body now joined in the pursuit, for it was evident that the boar would soon turn to bay. Accordingly, at the end of ten minutes, the beast left the path and entered the wood; but on reaching a neighbouring glade, he turned his tail to a rock and made head against the dogs. The most interesting moment of the hunt had arrived. The animal was evidently prepared to make a desperate defence. The dogs, fierce and foaming after their three hours' chase, precipitated themselves upon him with a fury which was redoubled by the shouts and oaths of the king. The hunters arranged themselves in a circle, Charles a little in front, having behind him the Duke of Alençon, who carried an arquebuss, and Henry of Navarre, who was armed only with a couteau-de-chasse. The duke unslung his arquebuss and lit the match; Henry loosened his hunting-knife in the scabbard. As to the Duke of Guise, who affected to despise field-sports, he kept himself a little apart with his gentlemen; and on the other side another[Pg 322] little group was formed by the ladies. All eyes were fixed in anxious expectation upon the boar.

A little apart stood a piqueur, exerting all his strength to resist the efforts of two enormous dogs, who awaited, covered with their coats of mail, howling savagely, and struggling as though they would break their chains, the moment when they should be let loose upon the boar. The latter did wonders. Attacked at one time by forty dogs, that covered him like a living wave or many-coloured carpet, and strove on all sides to tear his wrinkled and bristling hide, he, at each blow of his formidable tusk, tossed one of his assailants ten feet into the air. The dogs fell to the ground ripped up, and threw themselves, with their bowels hanging out of their wounds, once more into the mélée; whilst Charles, with hair on end, inflamed eyes, and distended nostrils, bent forward over the neck of his foaming steed and sounded a furious hallali. In less than ten minutes twenty dogs were disabled.

"The mastiffs!" cried Charles; "the mastiffs!"

At the word, the piqueur slipped the leashes, and the two dogs dashed into the midst of the carnage, upsetting the smaller hounds, and with their iron-coated sides forcing their way to the boar, whom they seized each by an ear. The animal, feeling himself coiffé, as it is termed, gnashed his teeth with pain and fury.

"Bravo, Duredent! Bravo, Risquetout!" vociferated Charles. "Courage, my dogs! a spear! a spear!"

"Will you have my arquebuss?" said the Duke of Alençon.

"No," cried the king. "No—one does not feel the ball go in; there is no pleasure in that. One feels the spear. A spear! a spear!"

A boar-spear made of wood hardened in the fire and tipped with iron, was handed to the king. "Be cautious, brother!" exclaimed Margaret.

"Sus, sus, sire!" cried the Duchess of Nevers. "Do not miss him, sire. A good thrust to the brute!"

"You may depend on that, duchess," replied Charles. And levelling his spear, he charged the boar, who, being held down by the two dogs, could not avoid the blow. Nevertheless, at the sight of the glittering point of the weapon, the animal made a movement on one side, and the spear, instead of piercing his breast, grazed his shoulder, and struck against the rock in his rear.

"Mille noms d'un diable!" cried the king, "I have missed him. A spear! a spear!" And backing his horse, like a knight in the lists, he pitched away his weapon, of which the point had turned against the rock. A piqueur advanced to give him another. But at the same moment, as if he had foreseen the fate that awaited him, and was determined to avoid it at any cost, the boar, by a violent effort, wrenched his torn ears from the jaws of the dogs, and with bloodshot eyes, bristling and hideous, his respiration sounding like the bellows of a forge, and his teeth chattering and grinding against each other, he lowered his head and made a rush at the king's horse. Charles was too experienced a sportsman not to have anticipated this attack, and he turned his horse quickly aside. But he had pressed too hard upon the bit; the horse reared violently, and, either terrified at the boar or compelled by the pull on the bridle, fell backwards. The spectators uttered a terrible cry. The king's thigh was under the horse.

"Slack your rein!" cried Henry, "slack your rein!"

The king relinquished his hold on the bridle, seized the saddle with his left hand, and with his right tried to draw his hunting-knife; but the blade, pressed upon by the weight of his body, would not leave its sheath.

"The boar! the boar!" cried Charles. "Help, D'Alençon! help!"

Nevertheless the horse, left to himself, and as if he had understood his rider's peril, made an effort, and had already got up on three legs, when Henry saw the Duke Francis grow deadly pale, bring his arquebuss to his shoulder, and fire. The ball, instead of striking the boar, now but at two paces from the king, broke the front leg of the horse, who again fell with his nose upon the earth. At the same moment Charles's boot was torn by the tusk of the boar.

"Oh!" murmured D'Alençon between his pallid lips, "I think that the Duke of Anjou is King of France, and that I am King of Poland!"

It seemed indeed probable. The[Pg 323] snout of the boar was rummaging Charles's thigh, when the latter felt somebody seize and raise his arm—a keen bright blade flashed before his eyes, and buried itself to the hilt in the shoulder of the brute; whilst a gauntleted hand put aside the dangerous tusks which were already disappearing under the King's garments. Charles, who had taken advantage of the horse's movement to disengage his leg, rose slowly to his feet, and, seeing himself covered with blood, became as pale as a corpse.

"Sire," said Henry, who, still on his knees, held down the boar, which he had stabbed to the heart—"Sire, there is no harm done. I put aside the tusk, and your Majesty is unhurt." Then, getting up, he let go his hold of the hunting-knife, and the boar fell, the blood flowing from his mouth even more plentifully than from the wound.

Charles, surrounded by the alarmed throng, and assailed by cries of terror that might well have bewildered the calmest courage, was for a moment on the point of falling senseless near the dying animal. But he recovered himself, and turning towards the King of Navarre, pressed his hand with a look in which was visible the first gleam of kindly feeling that he had shown during his twenty-four years of existence.

"Thanks, Henriot," said he.

"My poor brother!" cried D'Alençon, approaching the king.

"Ah! you are there, D'Alençon?" cried Charles. "Well, you famous marksman, what is become of your bullet?"

"It must have flattened upon the hide of the boar," said the duke.

"Eh! mon Dieu!" cried Henry with a surprise that was admirably acted; "see there, Francis—your ball has broken the leg of his Majesty's horse!"

"What!" said the king; "is that true?"

"It is possible," said the duke, in great confusion; "my hand trembled so violently."

"The fact is, that for an expert marksman you have made a singular shot, Francis," said Charles frowning. "For the second time, thanks, Henriot. Gentlemen," continued the king, "we will return to Paris; I have had enough for to-day."

Margaret came up to congratulate Henry.

"Ma foi! yes, Margot," said Charles, "you may congratulate him, and very sincerely too, for without him the King of France would now be Henry the Third."

"Alas! madam," said the Béarnais, "the Duke of Anjou, already my enemy, will hate me tenfold for this morning's work. But it cannot be helped. One does what one can, as M. d'Alençon will tell you."

And stooping, he drew his hunting-knife from the carcass of the boar, and plunged it thrice into the ground, to cleanse it from the blood.

Before leaving the Louvre, on the morning of the boar-hunt, Charles has been prevailed upon by Catharine of Medicis, who, in consequence of the prediction already referred to, has vowed Henry's destruction, to sign a warrant for the King of Navarre's arrest and imprisonment in the Bastile. In this warrant she inserts the words, "dead or alive," and entrusts its execution to the assassin Maurevel, intimating to him that Henry's death will be more agreeable to her than his capture. Charles, however, learns that his mother has had an interview with Maurevel, guesses the fate reserved for Henry, and, as the least troublesome way of rescuing the man who had that day saved his life, he makes his brother-in-law accompany him to sup and pass the night out of the Louvre. Henry does not dare to refuse, although he is expecting a nocturnal visit from De Mouy in his apartment, and the two kings leave the palace together. Here is what passes after their departure.

It wanted two hours of midnight, and the most profound silence reigned in the Louvre. Margaret and the Duchess of Nevers had betaken themselves to their rendezvous in the Rue Tizon; Coconnas and La Mole had followed them; the Duke of Alençon remained in his apartment in vague and anxious expectation of the events which the queen-mother had predicted to him; finally, Catharine herself had retired to rest, and Madame de Sauve, seated at her bedside, was reading to her certain Italian tales, at which the good queen laughed heartily. For a long time, Catharine had not been in so complacent a humour.[Pg 324] After making an excellent supper with her ladies, after holding a consultation with her physician, and making up the account of her day's expenditure, she had ordered prayers for the success of an enterprise, highly important, she said, to the happiness of her children. It was one of Catharine's Florentine habits to have prayers and masses said for the success of projects, the nature of which was known but to God and to herself.

Whilst Madame de Sauve is reading, a terrible cry and a pistol-shot are heard, followed by the noise of a struggle from the direction of the King of Navarre's apartment. All are greatly alarmed, except Catharine, who affects not to have heard the sounds, and forbids enquiry as to their cause, attributing them to some brawling guardsmen. At last the disturbance appears to have ceased.

"It is over," said Catharine.—"Captain," she continued, addressing herself to Monsieur de Nancey, "if there has been scandal in the palace, you will not fail to-morrow to have it severely punished. Go on reading, Carlotta."

And Catharine fell back upon her pillows. Only those nearest to her observed that large drops of perspiration were trickling down her face.

Madame de Sauve obeyed the formal order she had received, but with her eyes and voice only. Her imagination represented to her some terrible danger suspended over the head of him she loved. After a short struggle between emotion and etiquette, the former prevailed; her voice died away, the book fell from her hands, and she fainted. Just then a violent noise was heard; a heavy hurried step shook the corridor; two pistol-shots caused the windows to rattle in their frames, and Catharine, astonished at this prolonged struggle, sprang from her couch, pale, and with dilated eyeballs. The captain of the guard was hastening to the door, when she seized his arm.

"Let no one leave the room," she cried; "I will go myself to see what is occurring."

What was occurring, or rather what had occurred, was this: De Mouy had received, that morning, from Henry's page, Orthon, the key of the King of Navarre's apartment. In the hollow of the key was a small roll of paper, which he drew out with a pin. It contained the password to be used that night at the Louvre. Orthon had, moreover, delivered a verbal invitation from Henry to De Mouy, to visit him at the Louvre that night at ten o'clock.

At half-past nine, De Mouy donned a cuirass, of which the strength had been more than once tested; over this he buttoned a silken doublet, buckled on his sword, stuck his pistols in his belt, and covered the whole with the counterpart of La Mole's famous crimson mantle. Thanks to this well-known garment, and to the password with which he was provided, he passed the guards undiscovered, and went straight to Henry's apartment, imitating as usual, and as well as he could, La Mole's manner of walking. In the antechamber he found Orthon waiting for him.

"Sire de Mouy," said the lad, "the king is out, but he begs of you to wait, and, if agreeable, to throw yourself upon his bed till his return."

De Mouy entered without asking any further explanation, and by way of passing the time, took a pen and ink, and began marking the different stages from Paris to Pau upon a map of France that hung against the wall. This he had completed, however, in a quarter of an hour; and after walking two or three times round the room, and gaping twice as often, he took advantage of Henry's permission, and stretched himself upon the large bed, surrounded with dark hangings, which stood at the further end of the apartment. He placed his pistols and a lamp upon a table near at hand, laid his naked sword beside him, and certain not to be surprised, since Orthon was keeping watch in the antechamber, he sank into a heavy slumber, and was soon snoring in a manner worthy of the King of Navarre himself.

It was then that six men, with naked swords in their hands, and daggers in their girdles, stealthily entered the corridor upon which the door of Henry's apartment opened. A seventh man walked in front of the party, having, besides his sword, and a dagger as broad and as strong as a hunting-knife, a brace of pistols suspended to[Pg 325] his belt by silver hooks. This man was Maurevel. On reaching Henry's door, he paused, introduced into the lock the key which he had received from the queen-mother, and, leaving two men at the outer door, entered the antechamber with the four others. "Ah, ha!" said he, as the loud breathing of the sleeper reached his ears from the inner room, "he is there."

Just then Orthon, thinking it was his master who was coming in, went to meet him, and found himself face to face with five armed men. At the sight of that sinister countenance, of that Maurevel, whom men called Tueur du Roi, the faithful lad stepped back, and placed himself before the second door.

"In the king's name," said Maurevel, "where is your master?"

"My master?"

"Yes, the King of Navarre."

"The King of Navarre is not here," replied Orthon, still in front of the door.

"'Tis a lie," replied Maurevel. "Come! out of the way!"

The Béarnese are a headstrong race; Orthon growled in reply to this summons, like one of the dogs of his own mountains.

"You shall not go in," said he sturdily. "The king is absent." And he held the door to.

Maurevel made a sign; the four men seized the lad, pulled him away from the door-jambs to which he clung, and as he opened his mouth to cry out, Maurevel placed his hand over it. Orthon bit him furiously; the assassin snatched away his hand with a suppressed cry, and struck the boy on the head with his sword-hilt. Orthon staggered.

"Alarm! alarm! alarm!" cried he, as he fell senseless to the ground.

The assassins passed over his body; two remained at the second door, and the remaining two entered the bed-chamber, led on by Maurevel. By the light of the lamp still burning upon the table, they distinguished the bed, of which the curtains were closed.

"Oh, ho!" said the lieutenant of the little band, "he has left off snoring, it seems."

"Allons, sus!" cried Maurevel.

At the sound of his voice, a hoarse cry, resembling rather the roar of a lion than any human accents, issued from behind the curtains, which the next instant were torn asunder. A man armed with a cuirass, and his head covered with one of those salades, or head-pieces, that come down to the eyes, appeared seated upon the bed, a pistol in either hand, and his drawn sword upon his knees. No sooner did Maurevel perceive this figure, and recognise the features of De Mouy, than he became frightfully pale, his hair bristled up, his mouth filled with foam, and he made a step backwards, as though terrified by some horrible and unexpected apparition. At the same moment the armed figure rose from its seat and made a step forwards, so that the assailed seemed to be pursuing, and the assailant to fly.

"Ah! villain," exclaimed De Mouy, in the hollow tones of suppressed fury, "do on come to kill me as you killed my father?"

The two men who had accompanied Maurevel into the chamber alone heard these terrible words; but as they were spoken, De Mouy's pistol had been brought to a level with Maurevel's head. Maurevel threw himself on his knees at the very moment that De Mouy pulled the trigger. The bullet passed over him, and one of the guards who stood behind, and who had been uncovered by his movement, received it in his heart. At the same instant Maurevel fired, but the ball rebounded from De Mouy's cuirass. Then De Mouy, with one blow of his heavy sword, split the skull of the other soldier, and, turning upon Maurevel, attacked him furiously. The combat was terrible but short. At the fourth pass Maurevel felt the cold steel in his throat; he uttered a stifled cry, fell backwards, and, in falling, overturned the lamp. Immediately De Mouy, profiting by the darkness, and vigorous and active as one of Homer's heroes, rushed into the outer room, cut down one of the guards, pushed aside the other, and, passing like a thunderbolt between the two men stationed at the door of the antechamber, received their fire without injury. He had still got a loaded pistol, besides the sword which he so well knew how to handle. For one second he hesitated whether he should take refuge in Monsieur d'Alençon's apartment, the door of which, he thought, was[Pg 326] just then opened, or whether he should endeavour to leave the Louvre. Deciding upon the latter course, he sprang down the stairs, ten steps at a time, reached the wicket, uttered the password, and darted out.

"Go up-stairs," he shouted as he passed the guardhouse; "they are slaying there for the king's account."

And before he could be pursued, he had disappeared in the Rue du Coq, without having received a scratch.

It was at this moment of time that Catharine had said to De Nancey—"Remain here; I will go myself to see what is occurring."

"But, madam," replied the captain, "the danger to which your Majesty might be exposed compels me to follow."

"Remain here, sir," said Catharine, in a more imperative tone than before. "A higher power than that of the sword watches over the safety of kings."

The captain obeyed. Catharine took a lamp, thrust her naked feet into velvet slippers, entered the corridor, which was still full of smoke, and advanced, cold and unmoved, towards the apartment of the King of Navarre. All was again dead silence. Catharine reached the outer door of Henry's rooms, and passed into the antechamber, where Orthon was lying, still insensible.

"Ah, ha!" said she, "here is the page to begin with; a little further we shall doubtless find the master." And she passed through the second room.

Then her foot struck against a corpse: it was that of the soldier whose skull had been split. He was quite dead. Three paces further she found the lieutenant: a ball in his breast, and the death-rattle in his throat. Finally, near the bed, lay a man bleeding profusely from a double wound that had gone completely through his throat. He was making violent but ineffectual efforts to raise himself from the ground. This was Maurevel.

Catharine's blood ran cold; she saw the bed empty; she looked round the room, and sought in vain amongst the three bodies that lay weltering upon the floor, that of him whom she would fain have seen there. Maurevel recognised her; his eyes became horribly dilated, and he held out his arms with a gesture of despair.

"Well," said she, in a low voice "where is he? What has become of him? Wretch! have you let him escape?"

Maurevel endeavored to articulate; but an unintelligible hissing, which issued from his wound, was the only sound he could give forth; a reddish froth fringed his lips, and he shook his head in sign of impotence and suffering.

"But speak, then!" cried Catharine; "speak, if it be only to say one word."

Maurevel pointed to his wound and again uttered some inarticulate sounds, made an effort which ended in a hoarse rattle, and swooned away. Catharine then looked around her: she was surrounded by the dead and the dying; blood was flowing in streams over the floor, and a gloomy silence prevailed in the apartment. She spoke once more to Maurevel, but he could not hear her voice; this time he remained not only silent, but motionless. Whilst stooping over him, Catharine perceived the corner of a paper protruding from the breast of his doublet: it was the order to arrest Henry. The queen-mother seized it and hid it in her bosom. Then, in despair at the failure of her murderous project, she called the captain of her guard, ordered the dead men to be removed, and that Maurevel, who still lived, should be conveyed to his house. She moreover particularly commanded that the king should not be disturbed.

"Oh!" murmured she, as she reentered her apartment, her head bowed upon her breast, "he has again escaped me! Surely the hand of God protects this man. He will reign! he will reign!"

Then, as she opened the door of her bedroom, she passed her hand over her forehead, and composed her features into a smile.

"What was the matter, madam?" enquired all her ladies, with the exception of Madame de Sauve, who was too anxious and agitated to ask questions.

"Nothing," replied Catharine; "a great deal of noise and nothing else."

"Oh!" suddenly exclaimed[Pg 327] Madame de Sauve, pointing to the ground with her finger, "each one of your Majesty's footsteps leaves a trace of blood upon the carpet!"

Thrice foiled in her designs upon Henry's life, the queen-mother does not yet give in. Henry, whom the king has reproached with his ignorance of falconry, has asked the Duke of Alençon to procure him a book on that subject. Catharine hears of this request, and gives D'Alençon a book of the kind required—a rare and valuable work, but of which the edges of the leaves are stuck together, apparently from age, in reality by poison. The idea is old, but its application is novel and very effective. The queen-mother convinces D'Alençon that Henry is playing him false, and the duke places the fatal book in the King of Navarre's room during his absence, being afraid to give it into his hands. He then re-enters his apartment, hears Henry, as he thinks, return to his, and passes half an hour in the agonies of suspense and terror. To escape from himself and his reflections, he goes to visit his brother Charles. We have only space for a very short extract, showing the frightful and unexpected result of Catharine's atrocious scheme.

Charles was seated at a table in a large carved arm-chair: his back was turned to the door by which Francis had entered, and he appeared absorbed in some very interesting occupation. The duke approached on tiptoe; Charles was reading.

"Pardieu!" exclaimed the king on a sudden, "this is an admirable book. I have heard speak of it, but I knew not that a copy existed in France."

D'Alençon made another step in advance.

"Curse the leaves!" cried the king, putting his thumb to his lips, and pressing it on the page he had just read, in order to detach it from the one he was about to read; "one would think they had been stuck together on purpose, in order to conceal from men's eyes the wonders they contain."

D'Alençon made a bound forwards. The book Charles was reading was the one he had left in Henry's room. A cry of horror escaped him.

"Ha! is it you, D'Alençon?" said Charles; "come here and look; at the most admirable treatise on falconry that was ever produced by the pen of man."

D'Alençon's first impulse was to snatch the book from his brother's hands; but an infernal thought paralysed the movement—a frightful smile passed over his pallid lips; he drew his hand across his eyes as if something dazzled him. Then gradually recovering himself—

"Sire," said he to the king, "how can this book have come into your Majesty's hands?"

"In the most simple manner possible. I went up just now to Henriot's room, to see if he was ready to go a-hawking. He was not there, but in his stead I found this treasure, which I brought down with me to read at my ease."

And the king put his thumb to his lips and turned another page.

"Sire," stammered D'Alençon, who felt a horrible anguish come over him, "Sire, I came to tell you——"

"Let me finish this chapter, Francis," interrupted Charles. "You shall tell me whatever you like afterwards. I have read fifty pages already, or devoured them, I should rather say."

"He has tasted the poison twenty-five times!" thought Francis. "My brother is a dead man."

He wiped, with his trembling hand, the chill dew that stood upon his brow, and waited, as the king had commanded, till the chapter was finished.

The end of Charles IX. is well known. A dreadful complaint, a sweat of blood, which many historians attribute to poison, and which the Huguenots maintained to be a punishment inflicted on him by Heaven for the massacre of their brethren, rendered the latter months of his life a period of horrible torture. At his death, Henry, having every thing to dread from the animosity of Catharine, and from that of the Duke of Anjou, Charles's successor, fled from Paris, and took refuge in his kingdom of Navarre.



[Pg 328]


"It is to the great abilities, enlightened patriotism, and enduring constancy of the Baron Stein that Prussia is indebted for the measures which laid the foundation for the resurrection of the monarchy."—Alison.

"Baron Stein," says Bourrienne, "has been too little known;"—and unquestionably, considering what he was to Prussia, and through Prussia to Europe, at the most important crisis of recent history, he is too little known still. Why is this? Plainly, in the first place, because he had the misfortune to be a German statesman, and not a French one;—these French do make such a noise in the world, partly with real cannons, partly with artificial volcanoes and puerile pyrotechny of all kinds, that a man cannot live and have ears without hearing about them. Celebrity is, indeed, a very cheap affair, according to the French fashion; restlessness and recklessness are the main elements of it. Only keep spurting and spitting about obstreperously, and the most stiff ears must at length be converted. As to real character and substantial worth, that must not give you a moment's concern. Is not Catiline to this day as famous a man as Cicero? and is not the celebrity of Bonaparte, who was (pace tanti nominis) nothing better than a bold and brilliant blackguard, equal to that of the Apostle Paul, who was a saint? Yes, verily; and M. Thiers, and the hot war-spirits in France, know it very well: but as for your great, meditative, unobtrusive, honest, truthful, and laborious German—your devoted Scharnhorst, for instance, who fell at Lutzen—the great world hears not of such a man, unless by accident, though his life be a living epitome of the gospel. But there are other Germans, too, as fiery, and hot, and volcanic as any Frenchman, of whom, however, Europe hears but little in proportion to their worth; their reputation suffers partly by the virtue, partly by the vice, of the people to whom they belong; for the people in general are not a noise-making people—this is the virtue—and the German government—this is the vice—are timid and eschew publicity. The Baron von Stein was one of these hot, glowing, impetuous, volcanic Germans—a political Luther, as he has most justly been called; but he had the misfortune to belong to a people who never dreamed of conquering any thing except transcendental ideas in the region of the moon, and beyond it; and he served a good, pious, "decent" master, the late Frederick William III., who, when he was merry, (like a good Christian,) was more inclined to sing psalms than to crack cannons, and prayed heaven every morning that he might die a good man, rather than live a great king. Then, in addition to this, comes the great and authoritative extinguisher of all German political reputation, the Censorship—a "monstrum horrendum ingens," and "cui lumen ademptum" truly; for it will neither see itself, nor allow others having eyes to see for it. An honest and thorough life of Baron Stein is, in fact, in the present slavish state of the Prussian political press, an impossibility; for the sturdy old Freiherr was a declared enemy of the whole race of red-tapists, and other officials of the quill, who, since the peace, have maintained a practical monopoly of public business in Prussia, and who, in fact, keep the monarch's conscience, and tie his hands, much more effectually than chancellor or parliament does in Great Britain. It is only therefore, in the way of scattered notices, drawn from various[Pg 329] sources, that a knowledge of such a German statesman as Stein can be obtained; and these sources also, from the same evil influence of the censorship, are necessarily very imperfect; the men who knew Stein, and were in possession of correspondence and other papers that might illustrate his life, are all marked men; to the government of the bureaucracy suspected men—men who had, many of them, like the Baron himself, been, immediately after the peace, subjected to the most odious kinds of moral, and sometimes corporeal, persecution. Their publications, of course, were watched with peculiar jealousy by the Argus-eyed censorship; and we may always be sure that what they do tell us is only the half of what they might have told us, had they dared to speak out. Under these circumstances, the English reader will perhaps be obliged to us for taking the trouble to sketch out a short outline of the life and temper of Baron Stein from such scanty materials as time and chance have thrown in our way; and he will, at the same time, pardon the great deficiencies that must necessarily exist in the execution of such a work.[17]

Henry Frederick Charles, of and at Stein, (vom and zum Stein!) was born in the year 1757, of an old and noble family at Nassau on the Lahn. His father belonged to that higher class of nobility, according to the old German constitution, who held immediately of the Empire, (Reichs: unmittelbare und Landbarfreie,)—a descent which had perhaps a not unimportant effect in influencing the position which Stein afterwards assumed; for while the Baron always acted in the spirit rather of the middle classes than of the princes and their courts, and indeed often indulged in the strongest expressions of contempt for the whole body of princes in Germany, he never forgot his own character as a free and independent baron of the German empire, and was, notwithstanding the popular character of his great measures, in his tone of mind as much aristocratic as democratic. Intended by his father to take office under the Imperial government, he was sent first to Göttingen to study public law and history, and then to Wetzlar, the seat of the Imperial chamber; but the name of the Empire in those days had already lost its power over the minds of ambitious youth. Frederick the Great was the guiding star of the time; and, as if prophetic of the death-blow that awaited the crumbling old edifice from the hand of Napoleon in 1806, Stein, so early as 1780, entered the Prussian service as director of the mines (Bergrath) at Wetter, in Westphalia. In 1784 we find him ambassador at Aschaffenburg. He was then made president of all the Westphalian chambers, and in active connexion with this province we find him remaining till 1804, when, on occasion of the death of Struensee, one of the Prussian ministers, he was called to Berlin, and made minister of finance and of trade and commerce by Frederick William III. In this capacity he remained till the opening of the year 1807, when, as the Conversations Lexikon asserts, being at Königsberg with the king, after the battle of Jena, "on account of some differences with the cabinet" he resigned his situation, and retired to his estates in Nassau. We notice this retirement and the alleged cause of it particularly, because, as will appear in the sequel, Stein, with all his talent, seems to have been a man of a peculiar temper, and not so easily to be managed on many occasions as he was both willing and able to manage others. However, whatever the cause of the resignation might be, Frederick William had sense enough to see that these were not times when Prussia could want the services of any man of real talent and[Pg 330] energy; and accordingly, (some say on the recommendation of Napoleon,) so early as the harvest of that same year, he called the baron back and made him prime-minister. Here was a situation worthy of a great man; Prussia, after the battle of Jena, overthrown, prostrate, and bleeding beneath the iron tramp of insolent France. How to convert this Prussia into the Prussia that in a few years afterwards was destined to be a chief instrument employed by Providence in the overthrow of the general European tyrant—here was a problem!—one worthy of the worthiest man that the kingdom of the Great Frederick could find; and most worthily did the Baron von Stein execute the mission. The reforms which he boldly planned, and no less boldly executed, in that critical year 1808, followed out as they were by his able successor, Count Hardenberg, are sufficient to place him in the very first rank of modern statesmen. He actually changed a nation of serfs, by a single bloodless blow, into a free people; he did that for Prussia, morally and socially, which Frederick the Great had done only geographically; he caused it to rank side by side with the more civilized and advanced, as opposed to the semi-barbarous (Russia) and stationary or retrograde (Austria and Spain) powers of Europe. To detail at large the important social changes thus effected in a single year by this most energetic man, would lead us too far from our biographical purpose here, and prevent us from making such a free use as we should desire of the correspondence published by Von Gagern and Hormayr. We shall therefore content ourselves with a short quotation from Mr Alison's sixth volume; and may refer the reader, at the same time, to the more detailed and yet succinct statement of the same matter given by Mr Russell—Tour in Germany, vol. ii. p. 116.

"So clearly were his ideas formed, and so decided his conviction as to the only means which remained of reinstating the public affairs, that he commenced at once a vigorous, but yet cautious system of amelioration; and, only four days after his appointment as Minister of the Interior, a royal decree appeared, which introduced a salutary reform into the constitution.

"By this ordinance, the peasants and burghers obtained the right, hitherto confined to the nobles, of acquiring and holding landed property, while they in their turn were permitted, without losing caste, to engage in the pursuits of commerce and industry. Landholders were allowed, under reservation of the rights of their creditors, to separate their estates into distinct parcels, and alienate them to different persons. Every species of slavery, whether contracted by birth, marriage, or agreement, was prohibited subsequent to the 11th November 1810; and every servitude, corvée, or obligation of service or rent, other than those founded on the rights of property or express agreement, was for ever abolished. By a second ordinance, published six weeks afterwards, certain important franchises were conferred on municipalities. By this wise decree, which is in many respects the Magna Charta of the Prussian burghs, it was provided that the burghers should enjoy councillors of their own election, for regulating all local and municipal concerns: that a third of the number should go out by rotation, and be renewed by an election every year; that the council thus chosen should assemble twice a-year to deliberate on the public affairs; that two burgomasters should be at the head of the magistracy, one of whom should be chosen by the king from a list of three presented, and the other by the councillors; and that the police of the burgh should be administered by a syndic appointed for twelve years, and who should also have a seat in the municipal council. The administration of the Haute Police, or that connected with the state, was reserved to Government. By a third ordinance, an equally important alteration was made in favour of the numerous class of debtors, whom the public calamities had disabled from performing their engagements, by prohibiting all demand for the capital sums till the 24th June 1810, providing at the same time for the punctual payment of the interest, under pain of losing the benefit of the ordinance. Thus at the very moment that France, during the intoxication consequent on the triumphs of Jena and Friedland, was losing the last remnant of the free institutions which had been called into existence during[Pg 331] the fervour and crimes of the Revolution, Prussia, amidst the humiliation of unprecedented disasters, and when groaning under the weight of foreign chains, was silently relaxing the fetters of the feudal system, and laying the foundation, in a cautious and guiltless reformation of experienced grievances, for the future erection of those really free institutions which can never be established on any other bases than those of justice, order, and religion."

But Stein was too fierce and fiery a spirit, not merely too ardent, but too open and reckless a "French-hater," to remain long as prime-minister of Prussia under such a suspicious and jealous-eyed master-general of continental police as Napoleon. An intercepted letter revealed Stein's sentiments to the French; and by order of Napoleon, Hardenberg, a man of a more smooth and polite exterior, (though as true a German at heart,) was nominated in his place. The reforming baron, after felling a few gigantic trees, was obliged to surrender the work of perfect clearing of the social forest to a not unworthy successor, himself retiring, or (to speak more properly) being banished to Prague. There he lay in a convenient central position, like a lion nursing his wrath, ready to start off in any direction—back to Prussia, south to Vienna, north to Petersburg, or wherever any thing substantial, by word or deed, was likely to be done against the man whom his soul hated with an intensity of moral indignation truly grand, even out-Bluchering Blucher. Stein indeed hated Napoleon, not for one good reason only, but for four: first, as he was a Frenchman, vainglorious and false; second, as he was a conqueror; third, as he was a tyrant and an oppressor; fourth, as he was a godless man and a heathen. In Prague, therefore, Stein remained, in company with Justus Eumer, the banished Elector of Hesse-Cassel, Karl von Nostez, and many French emigrants, as it were in a secret-burning focus, and hidden metropolis of anti-Gallican spirit,[18] for a few years, waiting not patiently, but, in his fashion, with extreme impatience, for the coming of the great day of political retribution, in which he believed as firmly as in God, and in the last judgment. German writers speak with patriotic enthusiasm of the "noctes cænæque deûm"—"diegöttlichen Abende," which, with Pozzo di Borgo and other choice spirits, Stein spent in this important period, when events no less unexpected than great were knocking at the door. It must have been a god-like treat, indeed, in these terrible times, when a man in Germany could hardly draw his breath for fear of Davoust, to have seen launched from the dark, fiery, Saracenic eyes of Deutschland's political Luther, those "thundering fulgurations"[19] of indignant German hate, which were soon to be followed by a tempest of more indignant cannon-balls; but few and feeble, amid the barrenness of German political literature, are the voices from those prophetic times that have been wafted to British ears. The following short notices from Varnhagen von Ense are all that we have been able to recover.

"Stein lived at Prague in a very retired manner; for though on familiar terms with the most noble families, by ancient family connexions, and by social position, he made great demands on those whom he admitted to his intimacy. German truth and honour, scientific culture, decision and firmness of character, and, if possible, talent and wit, were qualities not easily found combined; but such a combination he required to secure his friendship and respect. He was often forced, indeed, to content himself with some one of these qualities separately; and for myself, my principal recommendation to his notice consisted, I suppose, in my having travelled a good deal in Germany, in my having been at Paris and seen Napoleon, and, more than all, in my having fought against the tyrant. When introduced to him first, I was at once struck by something abrupt in his manner; it seemed to me he was a person who in[Pg 332] every thing he did or said, asserted his own superiority to the mass of mankind, and was accustomed to work in all things without respect for time, place, or person. There was at the same time an unconstrained simplicity about him, and an utter want of pride and pretence in his manner. In conversation on public affairs, and matters of social economy, he was most animated and most instructive; once started on a subject of this kind, he was carried along irresistibly by his own enthusiasm; and any ignorance displayed, or doubt expressed, by those with whom he agreed, only served as a spur to set his ideas more on the gallop. And he would go with the most admirable patience into long details of fact, in order to bring round his adversary to his opinion. I was struck particularly by the decidedly polemical character of his remarks: ever and anon he drew this or the other Prussian statesman into the argument, and in criticising severely their conduct, seemed not seldom to give as much ease to his own heart as instruction to me. His whole manner was such as in the Opposition side of a British Parliament might have produced the most extraordinary effects. In his extreme fits of eloquent indignation, a sort of convulsive tremor would seize his whole voice and movements; he would shut his eyes, and could scarcely bring out his words with the due articulation. But immediately thereafter he would become calm again; and with what a breadth and penetration of glance did he then look through his adversary, reading every secret objection on his countenance, and preparing a new and more terrible onset to carry the citadel of his doubts by storm! To converse with him was indeed to carry on a continued battle; for it pleased him, even when the person with whom he conversed for the moment agreed with him, to consider him as an adversary, and to argue with him as in all points a decided opponent of his views: always, however, without any ill-will or the least personal feeling. This sort of animated irritation gave a peculiar charm to Stein's conversation; the Emperor Alexander, in particular, was quite charmed with the roughness and bluntness of his manner; for, except by a slight admixture of humour, Stein never attempted to tame the rudeness of his address, even in the presence of the most august personages.

"In literature, his taste was decidedly anti-speculative, although rather practical. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were the men of his heart; he had a high opinion of Niebuhr, both as a historian and as a practical statesman: Heeren he praised and recommended as the rough and practical: Fichte gained his good opinion by his patriotic addresses to the German people; but for philosophy in general he had no taste: Schleiermacher's philosophical religion was too subtle for him, and, in respect of orthodoxy, more than suspicious; and the most famous recent German speculators he declared plainly MAD. But of all the writers of the time, his sympathies drew him most strongly towards Arndt. When the second part of this writer's Spirit of the Age appeared, I found him continually (on the eve of the Russian expedition) in a state of the most violent irritation and excitement. He would seize the sheets as they were lying beside him, and read out the most violent passages to me, always with increasing vehemence. But seldom could he finish a whole page continuously, so strongly did the fit of mingled indignation and exultation seize him, so necessary was it for him to give vent to his own boiling feelings by irregular interjections. 'Since Burke,' said he 'no such genuine political eloquence has appeared, no truth that so cuts its way to the heart!' He then recommended Arndt's style to my imitation.' In this way you may attempt something—facts!—facts!—and not speculative phrases! Do you understand me, Herr Metaphysics?'

"It is worthy of remark how intimately Stein's impetuousness and violence of disposition were connected with his bodily organization. He asked me once what was the number of my pulses; and, on hearing my answer, held out his hand to me, and with a smile requested that I would count his. There were about a hundred in the minute. This number, he assured me, was the common rate of his pulse when in perfect health: and it seemed to me that he looked on this gallop of his blood as a sort of charter from nature, entitling him to be more passionate and violent, without offence, than other men."

This is a most characteristic passage, and introduces us into the inner nature of the man more than a whole chapter of dissertation. Verily, a Luther in every line!—a fitful,[Pg 333] impulsive, and tempestuous—a glowing and a volcanic spirit—a most decided, despotic, and iron-willed German—a man altogether worthy to hate Napoleon with a perfect hatred, as Luther did the Pope, and to march to Paris as the true heart's brother of that hot old septuagenarian hussar, Marshal Blücher. One thing we have omitted in the above extract for the sake of brevity, and yet we must allude to it with a passing word. During the three ears of his residence at Prague, Stein employed himself assiduously in the study of the French Revolution, following it minutely through all its phases, through the columns of the Moniteur. His opinion, therefore, on this subject, is well worth registering; and we give the following two sentences on the subject, not from Varnhagen, but from Von Gagern's correspondence, (8th June 1825.)—

"Mounier wrote on 'Des Causes qui ont empéché les Français d'être Libres.' To me they seem very simple. Inconsiderate minsters, who called together an assembly of 700 Frenchmen, without having arranged the form of their deliberations, the organization of the persons who were to deliberate, or their respective rights. Then shallow, inexperienced, vain talkers, Lameth, Lafayette, and Barrère, &c., often abused for the worst purposes by persons of the most abandoned character, formed the first Assembly—murderers and robbers were dominant in the second."

But we must proceed in our history of Stein's outward fates. When Napoleon, in the culminating point of his vainglorious exultation, had assembled the monarchs of Germany around him at Dresden in the summer of 1812, Stein was still at Prague, and not without apprehensions for his personal safety. Napoleon had laid violent hands on, and butchered many less dangerous enemies in Germany—witness Palm the bookseller, and honest Andrew Hofer; and a German like Stein at the ear of Alexander in the year of 1812, was equal to an army of 60,000 men. However, by a lucky negligence of the French spies, the baron escaped to Russia, whither he had been invited by the emperor, and was in Petersburg during that eventful winter; a much more dangerous enemy to the French invaders than the cautious Kutusoff at Moscow. Here he was immediately followed by a no less fiery French-hater—the man whom we have seen him compare with Burke, and who was henceforward to act as his secretary—Ernest Maurice Arndt, the author of the well-known national song "Marshal Blücher," and of some admirable historical sketches. From his "Reminiscences" we extract the following few but marked lines of portraiture:—

"I arrive at Petersburg on the 26th of August, and proceeded immediately to the minister. On entering, I was immediately struck by his likeness to my old philosophical friend Fichte. The same figure, short, broad, and compact—the same forehead, only broader, and more sloping backward—the same small sparkling eyes, the same powerful now—the words racy, clear, decided, and going, like arrows from the bow, directly to the mark. And I soon also found the same inexorable moral sternness of character, only with the difference that always must exist in the whole manner of being between a practical statesman and a speculative philosopher. In Stein's face there were two distinct worlds, different and contrary. In the upper part dwelt the bright and serene gods, with an almost uninterrupted sway. His magnificent broad forehead, his keen and yet kindly eyes, his powerful nose, proclaimed conjoined depth and command. A strange contrast to this was offered in the lower part of the face: The mouth was too small and delicate for the upper region; the chin also was weak. Here common mortals had their haunts—here anger and passion sported terribly—here those sudden fits of impetuousness would rage, which, however, (thank God,) only required to be firmly met, that they might be soothed. Strange, truly, was it to behold the lower part of his face quivering with excitement—the little mobile mouth, with fearful celerity, brimming with indignant indignation—and yet, at the same time, the upper region remaining a sunny Olympus, and even his lightning eyes flashing no fear: one part of his face freeing the beholder from the terror inspired by the other. On other occasions, when no violent excitement moved him, every feature, every gesture, and every word of this noble man breathed honesty, courage, and piety.[Pg 334] He was a man that brought from his mother's womb the instinct and the necessity to command. He was a born prince and king. He was one of those who must be first, or he could do nothing. His whole character was so peculiar and so powerful, that he could not adapt himself to other people, much less subordinate. Many noble men have been able to do this, but Stein decidedly could not."

These notices from Arndt and Varnhagen will, we hope, serve to bring the reader into some personal familiarity with the man; in what follows, the patriot and the statesman will demand our exclusive attention. The correspondence with Count Münster, published by Baron Hormayr it the second volume of the Lebensbilder, commences with a letter dated 6th October 1811, when Stein was still in Prague. From it we shall make a short extract, putting in a strong light the state of public feeling in Germany produced by the insulting despotism of Napoleon, and which was the main cause that ultimately led to his overthrow.

"Every thing here is based on mere force and oppression of every kind. Napoleon's endeavour is not, like that of Augustus Cæsar, to bewitch the world into the belief that a universal monarchy is the best thing for Europe; but, on the contrary, he seems anxious to seize every occasion, by haughty demeanour, rude despotic forms, and needless irritation of every noble feeling, to make the weight of the tyranny which he has superinduced as intolerable as possible. This conduct has a most beneficial effect, for it keeps alive in the breasts of men a constant indignation—a striving to break the bonds that confine them. Had his despotism been more mild, Germany might have slept the sleep of death.

"But the spirit of indignation thus awakened, acts not only against the foreign tyrant, but against the native princes, in whom the German people now see either dastardly poltroons, who, intent only on their own preservation, and deaf to every feeling of honour and duty, seek safety in their heels; or titled slaves and bailiffs, who, with the substance and the life-blood of their subjects, purchase a few years' lease of a beggarly existence. From this arises a general wish for a constitution based on unity, energy, and nationality; and any great man who should be able to give, or rather to restore us such a nationality and such a constitution, would be sure of a hearty welcome from the great mass of the people. Nor is there any thing in the character of those who now fill the petty thrones of Germany, calculated to react against this feeling of dissatisfaction; on the contrary, every sort of extra vileness, weakness, and low sneaking selfishness prevails."

The contempt here expressed for the German princes was (as we have said) very characteristic of Stein—an old, free baron of the Empire; and the important matter of German unity and nationality here touched on is more decidedly brought forward in the following extract from a letter to the same person, dated Petersburg, December 1, 1812:—

"I am sorry that your Excellency should see only a Prussian in me, while, at the same time, you reveal yourself to me in the character of a Hanoverian. I have only one fatherland, and that is Germany; and as, according to the ancient constitution, I belonged only to my whole country, and not to any particular part of it, so my heart is given still to the German fatherland, and not to this or that province. In this moment of important development, the dynasties are in fact quite indifferent to me; I view them only as instruments. My wish is, that Germany should become great and strong, and regain its ancient integrity, independence, and nationality; and that it should attain and firmly maintain this position, between France on the one hand and Austria on the other, is as much the interest of Europe in general as of this particular part of it; and it seems to me equally plain, that this great European object cannot possibly be attained by means of the present rotten and crumbling old machinery. This were to erect the system of an artificial military boundary on the ruins of the old baronial castles, and the walls and towns of fortified cities, and to throw aside altogether the ideas of Vauban, Cohorn, and Montalembert.

"My confession of faith in this matter is contained in one word—Unity. And if my plan does not please you, take another: Put Austria in the place of Prussia, and make it lord of Germany—if this be practicable—only don't bring back the old Montagues and Capulets, and the halls of the old barons.[Pg 335] If the bloody contest which Germany has already stood for twenty years, and is now called upon to undergo again, be to end in a FARCE, ('mit einem possenspiel endigen,') I for one shall prefer to have nothing to do with the matter, and will take myself back into private life with all possible speed and comfort."

In this letter we see applied to the political constitution of Germany, as it was to be arranged at the peace, all that comprehensive grandeur of idea, combined with decision and despotism (it would be false to use a milder word) of execution, which had, in the single year 1808, done such wonders in reconstructing the social fabric in Prussia. But it was one thing to deal despotically with the internal government of one state—especially after a battle of Jena!—and another thing to apply the same over-riding principle to the complex relations of many states. It was one thing to say to the debased aristocracy of Prussia, Thou shalt admit the poor into the participation of thy privileges; the serf shall be a free man, and the merchant shall shake hands with the noble: quite a different thing to say to the King of Bavaria, in the spring of 1813, after the peace, Thou shalt be swallowed up in Austria; and to the Elector of Hesse-Cassel, Thou, who didst in 1807 flee from Jerome, shalt in 1813 flee to Frederick William III., who, like mighty Brahma, (in the Hindoo history,) shall absorb thee quite into his Prussian godhead. The eager and impetuous old Freiherr, with his racing pulse, had manifestly been anticipating a few centuries, and attempting to dictate to necessity here. He wished a good thing, perhaps, and a great thing; but a thing that, in the circumstances, could not possibly be. Hear how sensibly the calm, cool, and moderate Hanoverian, Graf Münster, argues the matter. 'Tis plain that our brave Luther is getting too violent, and will require a Melancthon and an Erasmus to keep him in order.

"London, 4th January 1813.

"With regard to the future arrangements of the German states, you yourself say, we should invite the expelled princes to join our cause; and we cannot do this surely, if we intend, after the risk is over, to throw them overboard: or is it likely that they will resign of their own accord, and offer their thrones to either of the two masters of whom we may give them the option? The peace of Westphalia you call an abortion. Be it so; but it was better any how than a thirty years' war; and I see nothing more likely than such war to arise from any project to conquer Germany, and to make a violent subjugation of Bavaria, Saxony, Hessia, Baden, Brunswick, &c. In the most of these lands, the princes themselves will have the chief voice in determining what side their subjects shall take in the approaching struggle. I do not speak particularly of the Confederation of the Rhine, or of the state of things introduced in 1802; but from the days of Monbod and Hernam until now, Germany has always been divided, except, indeed, for one short period, during which the country suffered much misery. It is plain enough, I grant, that the constitution of Germany was not the work of an enlightened national will—did not proceed from any clear consideration of the best interests of the country—but what constitution in the world is there that has not been the work, in a great measure, of accidental circumstances? Since Solon and Lycurgus, only the Constituent National Assembly in France, and the stupid Cortes in Spain, have dreamed of such a thing as constitution-making, and the work of both has been blown, as we see, to the four winds. 'Tis true England is trying something of the same kind just now in the Sicilies; but God preserve us from such a mistaken course! Your criticism on our constitution is, indeed, altogether too severe; from the principles of the Teutonic constitution, all public liberty in Europe originally sprang. The contest in which we are engaged will certainly not end in a 'farce;' but why you should go back into private life, preferring to be rather the grave-digger than the physician of our present political state, I really cannot conceive. Let us rather endeavour after what is practically attainable, than grasp at splendid theoretical possibilities. You are fond of English authorities; let me, therefore, remind you of him who said—the practice of a constitution is frequently very different from its theory. There is much that I like in Arndt's book, and its author I highly esteem; but the way of amelioration (Verbesserung) which I propose to[Pg 336] follow, seems to present some prospect of success, where your revolutionary projects bring with them a risk of losing all.

"You say that the dynasties are a matter of indifference to you. To me they are not. There lives in them a spirit which one can trace through ages. Read only what Müller in his Fürstenbund says of the Guelphs. 'Need I mention the fame of the Guelphs, whose spirit of unbending independence has made their name a watchword for liberty?' Even England has never been so free as under the three Georges, and the fourth George brings the same sentiments with him to the throne. Compare with this your slavish Prussian system! I respect Frederick the Great, but he caused the ruin of Germany by his aggrandizement, and the ruin, let me add, of his own state too, by creating a body that only his great soul could animate, and which, after his death, lay helpless. When I showed the Prince Regent your remarks on the dynasties, he exclaimed—If Stein is quite indifferent to them, why does he not name us (Hanover) instead of Prussia? I feel inclined to put the same question. Let us be content if we can do the best with the materials given us for our own age. ('Lassen sie uns doch auch für unsere eigene Lebenszeit sorgen.') Why think particularly of the King of Prussia, a man whom, with the same breath that you exalt him, you put under three subjects,[20] and take at the same time his army into your own hands, to keep him from doing harm? I pray your Excellency to observe, that while my proposal leaves us free hands for any possible future improvement, your two plans will offend all parties: your first plan, to make Austria swallow up Germany, will offend all Europe, and Germany to boot; your second plan, to divide Germany between Austria and Prussia, will excite the opposition not only of Russia, England, and Sweden, but of all those North Germans who are not prepared to receive as a boon, the Prussian system with cell its machinery of boards and councils, of auscultants and assessors, and its hereditary incapacity to understand that old maxim of political philosophyGOVERNA MEGLIO CHI MEN GOVERNA—He governs best who governs least.

"Neither am I at all prepared to agree with what you say on the subject of the German courts. I have lived long in great courts, and I know not a few small ones; and I can honestly say, that the state of morals among the peasants in country villages has always appeared to me more corrupt than in the highest circles of polite and cultivated society; and I can find little difference in principle between the case of one man intriguing in high circles for grandes entrées, and that of another setting a similar machinery to work to obtain the presidency in any church meeting of a small parish, or a union of parishes; between one who, to attain a selfish object, flatters a prince, and another who flatters the prefect of a department. If a difference is to be made, the higher object which excites the higher passions seems rather entitled to a preference.

"Again, I do not see why we should put altogether out of view, how much science, civilization, and wealth, have gained by the multiplication of central points, where all these things may be cherished, and whence, as from so many life-giving fountains, they may be beneficently dispensed. What country is there that can compete with Germany in respect of scientific culture?—and have the courts of so many princes not contributed to this result? And in ancient Greece was it not a similar state of things, that, as one great element at least, produced a similar result? But I will not attempt to discuss this subject in all its bearings. Enough, if you will believe me, that in the arrangement of the future political state of Germany, I do not look for a mere FARCE; while, at the same time, I feel obliged to protest decidedly, in present circumstances at least, against your project of uniting Germany under one or two masters."

There are many admirable points in the above letter; and after pondering it well, no intelligent reader will doubt for a moment that the schemes of Stein with regard to German unity, were not only impracticable in their main scope, but, in some[Pg 337] respects, of very questionable propriety. It were necessary, however, to have had the experience of a Prussian, and the heart of a Stein, in the year 1813, if one would fully understand how imperatively these practical impossibilities must have presented themselves to the earliest and patriotic minds of those days. Convinced that the cool Hanoverian is right, we still feel inclined to sympathise with the hot Prussian, who is in the wrong. "Malo cum Plutone errare." Stein followed Alexander into Germany, witnessed the battles of Lutzen and Bautzen, disheartening as they were, like all true Germans, undismayed: and on the 23d August 1813, shortly after the resumption of hostilities, we find him a second time in Prague, and writing most characteristically as follows:—

"The spirit of the people here is by no means what it was in 1809; and for this plain reason, that the government does nothing, and will do nothing, to rouse it. At that time (1809) the Stadions held the helm, and they used every means to waken the nobler feelings of human nature, and they attained their object. Now, at the head of affairs, we have a cold, scheming, shallow, calculating man, who is afraid of nothing so much as an energetic measure—loves nothing more than a goal at the nearest possible distance from his nose—and is always ready to help himself out of a scrape with any miserable patchwork that may serve for the nonce. Hence the marriage introduced by a divorce, the foolish hope of a partial peace, the childish congress, the wretched ultimatum, and so forth."

And on the 14th September, after the war was fairly broken out again, we find the following remarks occasioned by the untoward battle of Dresden:—

"The latest events have taught us what to think of our new allies, and their commander, (Schwartzenberg.) We have gained an increase in mass, not in insight, nobility of sentiment, or vigour; we now understand what the fruits are of the new system pursued in Austria since 1810. From 1806 to 1809, the two Stadions gave all their energy to the great work of elevating the spirit of the nation, and at the same time strengthening and fully equipping the army; and they succeeded in both points; the nation was animated by the most devoted enthusiasm, the army fought with true valour. Since the peace of Vienna, on the other hand, the new ministry has been concerned only to purchase a beggarly peace, to disorganize the army, to cripple the public spirit, and to solve the great problem of European regeneration by the miserable arts of diplomacy. This also has succeeded. The nation has become lukewarm, and the army fight with no very remarkable display of soldiership. * * * The man who calculates, but without depth, may be a very good book-keeper, but is no mathematician.

"The result, as we have hitherto seen, is, that we have fought EVERY WHERE with distinguished success, except where the grand army was present, that between Russia and Austria no very friendly feelings prevail, ('eine grosse Abneigung herrscht,') made worse, of course, by the well-known lukewarmness of the latter power. Over and above all this, Metternich aims at a preponderant influence such as neither his talents, his character, nor the military position of the Austrian empire entitles him to. The Emperor Alexander sees all this clearly, and will very probably undertake the command of his own and the Prussian army in person; and the movement of masses thus animated, will then communicate itself to the inert Austrians.

"It is of the utmost importance that some conclusion should be come to about the settlement of Germany. From * * * expect no comprehensive views; he seeks for nothing but the shortest and most comfortable road, and will content himself with respectable vamping in any shape. The history of the negotiations proves this; and had it not been for the madness of Napoleon, we should unquestionably have had for the third, fourth, and fifth time, a ruinous and wretched peace."

The person so severely handled in two places of these letters where he is not named, is plainly enough Prince Metternich; a statesman who, whatever may be his abilities, and whatever may have been his merits—and merits in the management of German affairs—from the peace of Vienna in 1809, to that of Paris in[Pg 338] 1815, (and it were out of place to attempt discussing these points here,) was plainly in every respect the antipodes of Stein; and a man whom the hot Prussian baron could no more form a just judgment of, than Martin Luther could of Erasmus. Diplomatists and mere politicians, even the best of them, are seldom—to say the least of it—the most noble specimens of human nature: there are bad and good amongst them of course; but Stein, in his despotic sweeping style, was fond of classing them all together, as in one of his letters to Gagern; where, after expressing his confident reliance on "Providence, and the hand of a loving Father who guides all," he adds, but "from the sly crafty animals called politicians—(the original is English)—from these homunciones I expect nothing."

The official position which Stein occupied during the eventful year 1813, was that of Supreme Director of the Interim Central Board of Administration (Central Verwaltung) of the conquered provinces of Germany, till arrangements should be made for their final disposal in a general congress. When that congress came to do its work, of course he had nothing more to do; and it will be pretty evident to the reader, from the temper and opinions of the man, as above exhibited, that he was in nowise calculated to work efficiently with such men as Metternich, Talleyrand, and Lord Castlereagh, at Vienna. The very composition of the congress, made up of every possible complex and contending interest, rendered from the beginning the realization of Stein's patriotic views, with regard to German unity, impossible. In such congregations of working and counter-working diplomatists, not the triumph of any great principle, but the compromise of a number of petty claims, is generally the result; but compromise and patchwork of every kind were, to a man of Stein's temper, only another name for the Devil. The congress of Vienna, so far as Germany was concerned, ended, according to his views, in a "Farce;" for not only were the other German states, great and small, left entire, but Saxony also—Napoleon's centre and base in the late war—was preserved, only a half (instead of the whole) of it being cut off for the great German object of forming "a strong Prussia." And with regard to this point, we must confess we feel, in some respects, inclined to agree with the Prussian baron. If Saxony was to be made an exception to the general rule, it would have been better, for many reasons, to have handed it over undivided to the great Northern power. If neither one strong German empire, nor an equally-poised federal system, was any longer possible, a strong Prussia was certainly a thing imperatively called for. But congresses are congresses; and we must even content ourselves with the most convenient adjustment of contending claims that was found practicable at the time; and if the result seems unsatisfactory, we may turn away our eyes from it; occupy ourselves with the best business that offers itself, and let God work. So at least Stein did. He kept his word to Count Münster most faithfully; and, after the decisive thunders of Leipsig and Waterloo, having done his part to bring the great European tragedy to a worthy catastrophe, he retired from witnessing the "farce," with all convenient speed, into private life, and was heard of no more in court or cabinet in Berlin, from that day till his death. In the spring of 1816, we find him, in his own ancestral castle in Nassau, addressing a fiend as follows:—"Yes, dear friend, we have won much; but much also should have been otherwise. God governs the world, and abandons no German; and if we remain true and German, (treu und Deutsch,) we shall take up the matter some other day with the French again, and settle the account more satisfactorily. For myself, I long to depart; this world is, once for all, so constituted, that a man cannot walk on the straight path, and yet ought not to walk on the crooked. 'Tis even so; circumstances and relations drive and force men. They act, and think they are the doers; but it is God that decides." This most characteristic passage expresses only Stein's feeling, that the French had been allowed to escape so cheaply, by the generosity of the Allies, at the peace of Paris; but he had much more substantial grievances to vex him nearer home; and, next to the[Pg 339] feeble machinery of the diet at Frankfort, that which hurt him most was the political reaction at Berlin that commenced immediately after the peace, and threatened to undo that great social work which he had so boldly begun in 1808. However much a Prussian in his political sympathies, Stein was essentially an Englishman in his principles; the tendency of all his measures, as they were introduced by himself, or followed out by Hardenberg, was to temper the military and bureaucratic despotism of Frederick the Great by a wise admixture of popular influence; he wished a "constitution" after the English model, as much as circumstances might permit, not in form merely but in deed; he was not afraid of free discussion among a well-educated people like the Germans, and was too noble-minded to imitate, in Berlin or Maine, the spy-system on which Napoleon had based his immoral monarchy of physical force at Paris. It was not to be expected, however, that in a country hitherto governed solely by the Court and by the Bureau, these English views of Stein should not have met with sturdy opposition; in fact it was mainly by help of the battle of Jena, that he was enabled to do what he did for creating a Prussian PEOPLE in 1808. Now that terrible shock had passed; and the host of defeated bureaucratists and court minions, after the battle for the liberation of the fatherland had been fought by others, now began to crown into their old places, and to occupy the ears of a king more honest to promise what was right than strong to do it. Accordingly, instead of "freedom of the press" and "constitution" in Prussia, we have heard no sound, since the year 1815, but that of prohibited books, imaginary conspiracies of beer-inspired Burschen, deposed professors, and banished old Luther; and every thing, in short, except what the pious old Frederick William III. promised, or was made to appear to promise, with such gracious, popular, and constitutional phrases at Vienna, in the year 1815. Whether the military and bureaucratic despotism of Germany may not, after all, be a better system of government on the whole than our strange system of local and corporate influence of all sorts, of fermenting acids and alkalis, here is a question which some persons of a speculative disposition may consider open enough; but that the supreme power having once pledged itself to give a people a free constitution and freedom of the press, should act with honour, and do what was promised, seems, (if there be any such thing as public morals at all,) under any form of government, nothing more than what common policy as well as propriety would dictate. Those who bear the rule in Germany, however, have, for the last thirty years, done every thing that they possibly could do to make the royal word a public mockery, and a shame; one cannot review the well-known despotic proceedings of the German diet, first in 1829, and afterwards in 1832, without subscribing a most full assent to the sentence of the Baron von Stein, when he says, in reference to those very matters—"the falsehood that prevails in our age is deserving of the most serious reprehension." And again, "Our German government sink more and more daily in public estimation by their timidity and perfidy." With regard to the whole system, indeed, of Prussian government, the system of doing every thing by official men, and nothing by voluntary movement of the people, and apart from this special matter of the "constitution," Stein was accustomed to use the strongest language of reprobation; witness the following letter to Von Gagern, dated 24th August 1821. Coppenberg was a favourite seat of the Baron in Westphalia.

"In the lonely woody Coppenberg, I live so remote from the world and its doings, that nothing can disturb me in the enjoyment of nature and a country life, except bad weather, which happily has left us a few days ago, and is not likely soon to return. In Westphalia here, my friends are more concerned about the new tax, and the new edict about the peasants, (which satisfies no party,) than about the schemes of Metternich on the banks of the Danube, and the great events in Greece. For myself, I can say nothing more about public affairs, than that, while I have little confidence in the present leaders, I have an unbounded trust in Providence; and that, necessary as a Constitution is to Prussia, and beneficial as it would be if fairly worked,[Pg 340] I expect nothing from any machinery which will necessarily be opposed by the persons who have possession of the king's ear, and the court influence generally: and I see plainly that we are still, as we have hitherto been, to be governed by salaried persons, equipped with mere book-learning, without any substantial interest in the country, without property, by mere bureaucratists—a system which will last so long as it can last—'Das geht so lange es geht!' These four words contain the soul of our and suchlike spiritless (geistlos) government machines:—in the first place salaried—and this implies a tendency to maintain and to multiply the number of salaried officials; then book-learned—that is, living in the world of the dead letter, and not in the actual world; without interest—for these men stand in no connexion with any class of the citizens, which are the mass of the state; they are a peculiar caste, these men of the quill, ("die Schreiberkaste;") lastly, without property—this implies that they stand unmoved by all changes that affect property, in sunshine or in rain, with taxes high or low, with old chartered rights maintained or destroyed, with independent peasants or a rabble of mere journeymen, with a dependence of the peasants on the proprietors, or of all on the Jews and the bankers—'tis all one to the bureaucracy. They draw their salary from the public purse, and write—write—write on—secretly—silently—invisibly with shut doors—unknown—unnoticed—unnamed—and bring up their children after them, to be what their fathers were—very serviceable writing-machines.

"Our machinery—the old military machinery—I saw fall on the 14th October 1806; possibly the machinery of the desk and the quill and the red tape has a 14th of October already doomed for it in Heaven."

These are serious words; and though Stein was one of those intense and strongly accentuating minds that never could state a truth without overstating it, (as Martin Luther also was continually doing,) they are not wise who would treat the hard blows from the cudgel of such a man as if they were puffs and whiffs of angry smoke from some wrathful Heine, or other furious poetical politician in Paris. Stein was the most practical of men; he had lived all his life amid the details of practice; and, like all practical men, in the midst of his violence knew how to preserve certain sobriety and moderation, without which no such thing as governing is possible. There is nothing, in our opinion, that any King of Prussia could do better than seriously to ponder the passage we have just quoted, and also the few short sentences that follow:—

Nassau, Sept. 29, 1819.

"I expect nothing satisfactory and substantial from the assembling together, and the deliberations, of mediocre and superficial men.

"The most important thing that could be done for the preservation of the public peace in Germany, were to put an end to the reign of arbitrary power, and, in the place of it, to commence a system of constitutional law; in the place of the bureaucratists and the democratic pamphleteers—of whom the former oppress the people by much and bad governing, and the other excite and confound it—to place the influence and the activity of the proprietors of the soil."

With these memorable words we are willing that the character of Stein, as an English statesman in Prussia, should grave itself deep in the hearts both of Englishmen and Prussians. We have only to add that, in his latter years, Stein occupied himself in organizing a society at Frankfort for publishing the original documents of German history, which are best known to the English historical student in connexion with the name of Perz; and that he took an active share in the business of the provincial states of Westphalia. He was also (since 1827) member of the council of state in Berlin; but this dignity, conferred at so late a period, seems merely to have been intended as a sort of unavoidable compliment to a person of his rank and standing. It certainly did not imply that his well-known English principles were intended to assume any greater prominency in the conduct of Prussian and German affairs than they had enjoyed since the peace.

Baron Stein died on the 29th June 1831, in his castle of Coppenberg in Westphalia.



[Pg 341]


We are constantly told that invention is worn out; that every thing is exhausted, that all the intellectual treasures of modern Europe have been dug up; and that we must look to a new era of the world, and a different quarter of the globe, for new ideas or fresh views of thought. It must be confessed, that if we look to some parts of our literature, there seems too good reason for supposing that this desponding opinion is well founded. Every thing, in some departments, does seem worked out. Poetry appears for the time wellnigh extinguished. We have some charming ballads from Tennyson; some touching lines from Miss Barret; but where are the successors of Scott and Byron, of Campbell and Southey? Romance, in some branches, has evidently exhausted itself. For ten years we had novels of fashionable life, till the manners and sayings of lordlings and right honourables had become familiar to all the haberdashers' apprentices and milliners' girls in London. That vein being worked out, literature has run into the opposite channel. Action and reaction is the law, not less of the intellectual than the physical world. Inventive genius has sought out, in the lower walks of life, those subjects of novel study and fresh description which could no longer be found in the higher. So far has this propensity gone, so violent has been the oscillation of the pendulum in this direction, that novelists have descended to the very lowest stages of society in the search of the new or the exciting. Not only have the manners, the selfishness, and vulgarity of the middle ranks been painted with admirable fidelity, and drawn with inimitable skill, but the habits and slang of the very lowest portrayed with prurient minuteness, and interest sought to be awakened in the votaries of fashion or the Sybarites of pleasure by the delineation of the language and ideas of the most infamous wretches who ever disgraced society by their vices, or endangered it by their crimes.

"Whatever," says Dr Johnson, "makes the Past or the Future predominate over the present, exalts us in the scale of thinking beings." The words are familiar till they have become trite; but words are often repeated when the sense is far off. It is in the general oblivion of the thought of the philosopher, while his words were in every mouth, that the cause of the want of originality in modern works of imagination is to be found. If to the "Past" and the "Future," enumerated by Johnson, we add the "Distant," we shall have an effectual antidote, and the only one which is effectual against the sameness of present ideas, or the limited circle of present observation. The tendency to localize is the propensity which degrades literature, as it is the chief bane and destroyer of individual character. It is the opposite effect of engendering a tendency to expand, which constitutes the chief value of travelling in the formation of character. If the thought and conversation of individuals are limited to the little circle in which they live, or the objects by which they are immediately surrounded, we all know what they speedily become. It is in the extension of the interest to a wider circle, in the admission of objects of general concern and lasting importance into the sphere of habitual thought, that the only preservative against this fatal tendency is to be found. It is the power of doing this which forms the chief charm of the highest society in every country, and renders it in truth every where the same. A man of the world will find himself equally at home, and conversation flow at once with equal ease, in the higher saloons of London or Paris, of Rome or Vienna, of Warsaw or St Petersburg. But he will find it scarcely possible to keep up conversation for a quarter of an hour in the bourgeois circle of any of these capitals. It is the same with literature; and especially that wide and important branch of literature which, aiming at the exciting of interest, or delineating of manners, should in an especial manner be guarded against the degradation consequent on a narrow restriction of its subjects to matters only of local concern.

The prodigious success and[Pg 342] widespread popularity which have attended some of the most able novels of this new school of romance in late years, as well as the great ability which their composition evinces, must not blind our eyes to the degrading tendency of such compositions upon the national literature. Immediate circulation, great profit to the bookseller, a dazzling reputation to the author, are by no means to be relied on as the heralds of lasting fame. In cases innumerable, they have proved the reverse. Still less are they to be considered as proofs that the writer, be his abilities what they may, has worthily performed his mission, or elevated himself to the exalted level of which his art is susceptible. The most pernicious romances and poems that ever appeared have often been ushered into the world by the most unbounded immediate applause; witness the Nouvelle Heloïse of Rousseau, and Pucelle of Voltaire. It was just their dangerous and seductive qualities which gave them their success. Rousseau knew this well. He addressed himself with skill and perfect knowledge of the age to its passions and vices:—"J'ai vu les mœurs de mon temps, et j'ai publié ces lettres," were the first words of his Nouvelle Heloïse. In the school we have mentioned, there is nothing immoral or improper; but is there any thing elevating or improving? The true test of real excellence is not immediate success but durable fame; it is to be found not in the popularity of circulating shops, or reading clubs, but in the shelves of the library, or the delight of the fireside. When a work suddenly attains great immediate celebrity in a particular circle or country, it is generally, though not always, an indication that it is not destined to enjoy any lasting reputation. The reason is, that it is addressed to local feelings, temporary passions, and particular desires; and it rises to eminence from interesting or gratifying them. But that is not the way permanently to attract mankind. Nothing can do so but what is addressed to the universal feeling of our nature, and has penetrated to the inmost chords, which are common to all ages and countries. The touching them alone can secure durable fame.

Where now are all the novels portraying fashionable life with which the shops of publishers teemed, and the shelves of circulating libraries groaned, not ten years ago? Buried in the vault of all the Capulets. Where will the novels portraying manners in the lowest walks of life be ten years hence? He is a bold man who says they will be found in one well-selected library. We do not dispute the vast ability of some of these productions. We are well aware of the fidelity with which they have painted the manners of the middle class, previously little touched on in novels; we fully admit the pathos and power of occasional passages, the wit and humour of many others, the graphic delineation of English character which they all contain. But, admitting all this, the question is—have these productions come up to the true standard of novel-writing? Are they fitted to elevate and purify the minds of their readers? Will the persons who peruse, and are amused, perhaps fascinated, by them, become more noble, more exalted, more spiritual beings, than they were before? Do not these novels, able and amusing as they are, bear the same relation to the lofty romances of which our literature can boast, that the Boors of Ostade, or the Village Wakes of Teniers, do to the Madonnas of Guido, or the Holy Families of Raphael? These pictures were and are exceedingly popular in Flanders and Holland, where their graphic truth could be appreciated; but are they ever regarded as models of the really beautiful in painting? We leave it to the most ardent admirers of the Jack Sheppard school to answer these questions.

The doctrine now so prevalent is essentially erroneous, that the manners of the middle or lowest class are the fit object of the novelist, because they are natural. Many things are natural which yet are not fit to be exposed, and by the customs of all civilized nations are studiously concealed from the view. Voltaire's well-known answer to a similar remark when made in regard to Shakspeare, indicates, though in a coarse way, the true reply to such observations. If every thing that is natural, and we see around us, is the fit object of imitation, and perpetuating in literature,[Pg 343] it can no longer be called one of the Fine Arts. It is degraded to a mere copying of nature in her coarsest and most disgusting, equally as her noblest and most elevating, aspects. We protest against the doctrine, that the lofty art of romance is to be lowered to the delineating the manners of cheesemongers and grocers, of crop-head charity boys, and smart haberdashers' and milliners' apprentices of doubtful reputation. If we wish to see the manners of such classes, we have only to get into a railway or steamboat; the sight of them at breakfast or dinner will probably be enough for any person accustomed to the habits of good society. Still more solemnly do we enter our protest against the slang of thieves or prostitutes, the flash words of receivers of stolen goods and criminal officers, the haunts of murderers and burglars, being the proper subject for the amusement or edification of the other classes of society. It might as well be said that the refuse of the common-sewers should be raked up and mixed with the garbage of the streets to form our daily food. That such things exist is certain; we have only to walk the streets at night, and we shall soon have ample evidence of their reality. But are they the proper object of the novel-writer's pencil? That is the question; and it is painful to think that in an age boasting its intelligence, and glorying in the extent of its information, such a question should be deemed susceptible of answer in any but one way.

These two extremes of novel-writing—the Almack and Jack Sheppard schools—deviate equally from the standard of real excellence. The one is too exclusively devoted to the description of high, the other of low life. The one portrays a style of manners as artificial and peculiar as that of the paladins and troubadours of chivalry; the other exhibits to our view the lowest and most degraded stages of society, and by the force of humour or the tenderness of pathos interests us too often in the haunts of vice or the pursuits of infamy. It is easy to see that the one school was produced by the reaction of the human mind against the other; genius, tired of the eternal flirtations of guardsmen and right honourables, sought for unsophisticated nature in the humour of low or the sorrows of humble life. But low and humble life are sophisticated just as much as elevated and fashionable; and, if we are driven to a selection, we would prefer the artificial manners of the great to the natural effusions of the vulgar. We would rather, as the child said to the ogress, be eat up by the gentleman. But true novel-writing should be devoted to neither the one nor the other. It should aim at the representation of what Sir Joshua Reynolds called "general or common nature"—that is, nature by its general features, which are common to all ages and countries, not its peculiarities in a particular circle or society. It is by success in delineating that, and by it alone, that lasting fame is to be acquired. Without doubt every age and race of men have their separate dress end costume, and the mind has its externals as well as the body, which the artist of genius will study with sedulous care, and imitate with scrupulous fidelity. But the soul is not in the dress; and so it will be found in the delineation of mind as in the representation of the figure.

All these extravagances in the noble art of romance originate in one cause. They come of not making "the past and the distant predominate over the present." It is like sketching every day from nature in the same scenery or country: the artist, if he has the pencil of Claude Lorraine or Salvator Rosa, will, in the end, find that if the objects of his study are endless, their character has a certain family resemblance; and that, if he is not repeating the same study, he is reproducing, under different forms, the same ideas. But let him extend his observation to a wider sphere: let him study the sublimity of mountain or the sweetness of pastoral scenery, let him traverse the Alps and the Apennines, the Pyrenees or the Caucasus; let him inhale the spirit of antiquity amidst the ruins of the Capitol, or the genius of Greece on the rocks of the Acropolis; let him become embued with modern beauty on the shores of Naples, or the combined charms of Europe and Asia amidst the intricacies of the Bosphorus—and what a world of true images, objects, and beauties is at once let[Pg 344] into his mind! It is the same with romance. It is by generalizing ideas, by means of extended observation, that variety is to be communicated to conception, and freshness to incident; that the particular is to be taken from character, and the general impressed upon mind. But the novelist has this immense advantage over the painter—not only the present but the past lie open to his study. The boundless events of history present themselves to his choice: he can not only roam at will over the present surface of the globe, with all its variety of character, event, and incident, but penetrate backwards into the unsearchable depths of time. When will fresh subjects for description be wanting with such a field to the hand of genius? Never to the end of the world: for years as they revolve, nations as they rise and fall, events as they thicken around mankind, but add to the riches of the vast storehouse from which it is to select its subjects, or cull its materials.

Look at Shakspeare—with what felicity has he selected on this inexhaustible reserve, to vary his incidents, to invigorate his ideas, to give raciness to his characters! He has not even confined himself to English story, rich as it is in moving or terrible events, and strikingly as its moving phantasmagoria come forth from his magic hand. The tragedies, the comedies, the events, the ideas, of the most distant ages of the world, of the most opposite states of society, of the most discordant characters of mankind, seem depicted with equal felicity. He is neither thoroughly chivalrous like Tasso and Ariosto, nor thoroughly Grecian like Sophocles and Euripides, nor thoroughly French like Corneille and Racine. He has neither portrayed exclusively the manners of Arthur and the Round Table, nor of the courts of the Henrys or the Plantagenets. He is as varied as the boundless variety of nature. Profoundly embued at one time with the lofty spirit of Roman patriotism, he is not less deeply penetrated at another with the tenderness of Italian love. If Julius Cesar contains the finest picture that ever was drawn of the ideas of the citizens of the ancient world, Juliet is the most perfect delineation of the refined passions of the modern. The bursting heart, uncontrollable grief, but yet generous spirit of the Moor—the dark ambition and blood-stained career of the Scot, come as fresh from his pencil as the dreamy contemplation of the Prince of Denmark, or the fascinating creation of the Forest of Ardennes. It is hard to say whether he is greatest in painting the racked grief of Lear, the homely sense of Falstaff, or the aërial vision of Miranda. Here is the historical drama; here is the varied picture of the human heart; and if the world is not prolific of Shakspeares, he at least has afforded decisive evidence of the vastness of the field thus opened to its genius.

The Historical Romance should take its place beside the plays of Shakspeare. It does not aim at representation on the stage; it has not the powers of the actor, the deception of scenery, the magic of theatrical effect, nor the charms of music, to heighten its impression. But in exchange it has one incalculable advantage, which in the end is adequate to overbalance them all: it brings delight to the fireside. Seated in our arm-chairs, with the wintry winds howling around us, with our feet at a blazing fire, we are transported by the wand of the novelist to the most remote ages and distant counties of the earth. The lofty spirit and generous passions of chivalry; the stern resolves and heroic resolution of ancient patriotism; the graceful profligacy and studied gallantry of the court of Louis XIV.; the deep Machiavelism of Italian perfidy; the blunt simplicity of German virtue; the freeborn fearlessness of English valour; the lofty soul and poetic imagery of the North American savage; the dauntless intrepidity of his Castilian conqueror; the heart-stirring pathos of Eastern story; the savage ferocity of Scythian conquest—may be alternately presented to our view. We roam at will, not only over space but time; and if the writer is worthy of his high vocation, he can so warm the imagination by the interest of event, the delineation of character, the force of passion, or the charm of the pathetic, that the strongest impression of reality is conveyed to the reader's mind. Add to this the material appliances which are at his[Pg 345] disposal; and which, though far inferior to mental power in rousing interest or awakening sympathy, have yet great effect in giving life to the picture, and transporting the imagination to the scenes or the ages which are intended to be portrayed. The scenery of all the different parts of the world, under every possible variety of light, colour, and circumstance; the manners, habits, and customs of all nations, and all ages and all grades of society; the dresses, arms, houses, and strongholds of men in all stages of their progress, from the huntsmen of Nimrod to the Old Guard of Napoleon; the ideas of men in different classes and ranks of life in all ages—form so many additions to his pictures, which, if skilfully managed, must give them infinite variety and interest. There is no end, there never can be any end, to the combinations of genius with such materials at its disposal. If men, since this noble art has been created, ever run into repetition, it will be from want of originality in conception, not variety in subject.

The prodigious addition which the happy idea of the historical romance has made to the stores of elevated literature, and through it to the happiness and improvement of the human race, will not be properly appreciated, unless the novels most in vogue before the immortal creations of Scott appeared are considered. If we take up even the most celebrated of them, and in which the most unequivocal marks of genius are to be discerned, it seems hardly possible to conceive how their authors could have acquired the reputation which they so long enjoyed. They are distinguished by a mawkish sensibility, a perpetual sentimentality, as different from the bursts of genuine passion as their laboured descriptions of imaginary scenes are from the graphic sketches which, in later times, have at once brought reality before the mind's eye. The novels of Charlotte Smith, Miss Radcliffe, and Miss Burney belong to this school; they are now wellnigh unreadable. Even works of higher reputation and unquestionable genius in that age, the Nouvelle Heloïse of Rousseau, and Sir Charles Grandison of Richardson, now form a heavy task even for the most ardent lover of romance. Why is it that works so popular in their day, and abounding with so many traits of real genius, should so soon have palled upon the world? Simply because they were not founded upon a broad and general view of human nature; because they were drawn, not from real life in the innumerable phases which it presents to the observer, but imaginary life as it was conceived in the mind of the composer; because they were confined to one circle and class of society, and having exhausted all the natural ideas which it could present, its authors were driven, in the search of variety, to the invention of artificial and often ridiculous ones.

Sir Walter Scott, as all the world knows, was the inventor of the historical romance. As if to demonstrate how ill founded was the opinion, that all things were worked out, and that originality no longer was accessible for the rest of time, Providence, by the means of that great mind, bestowed a new art, as it were, upon mankind—at the very time when literature to all appearance was effete, and invention, for above a century, had run in the cramped and worn-out channels of imitation. Gibbon was lamenting that the subjects of history were exhausted, and that modern story would never present the moving incidents of ancient story, on the verge of the French Revolution and the European war—of the Reign of Terror and the Moscow retreat. Such was the reply of Time to the complaint that political incident was worn out. Not less decisive was the answer which the genius of the Scottish bard afforded to the opinion, that the treasures of original thought were exhausted, and that nothing now remained for the sons of men. In the midst of that delusion he wrote Waverley; and the effect was like the sun bursting through the clouds. After a space, shorter than is usually required for a work of original conception to make its way in society, the effect began to appear. Like the invention of gunpowder or steam, it in the end worked a change in the moral world. Envy was silenced; criticism was abashed; detraction ceased to decry—malignity to deride. The hearts of men were taken as it were by storm. A new vein of boundless[Pg 346] extent and surpassing richness was opened as it were under our feet. Men marvelled that it had been so long of being found out. And the first discoverer worked it with such rapidity and success, that for long no one attempted to disturb him in the turning forth of its wealth.

It is curious, now that this great revolution in romance-writing has taken place, and is felt and acknowledged by all the world, to reflect on the causes, apparently accidental, by which it was brought about, and the trivial circumstances which might have turned aside, perhaps for ever, the creative mind of Scott from this its appropriate sphere of original action. The first chapters of Waverley, as we learn from Lockhart's Life, were written in 1808; but the work was laid aside in an unfinished form, and was almost forgotten by its author. It would probably have remained there overlooked and incomplete to the day of his death, had not the extraordinary popularity of Lord Byron's Childe Harold and subsequent pieces, joined to some symptoms of waning public favour in the reception of his own later pieces, particularly Rokeby and the Lord of the Isles, awakened in his mind, as he himself has told us, a latent suspicion that he had better retire from the field of poetry before his youthful competitor, and betake himself to another career, in which hitherto no rival had appeared. Under the influence of this feeling of distrust in his poetical powers, the all but forgotten manuscript of Waverley was drawn forth from its obscurity, the novel was finished, and given to the world in July 1814. From that moment the historical romance was born for mankind. One of the most delightful and instructive species of composition was created; which unites the learning of the historian with the fancy of the poet; which discards from human annals their years of tedium, and brings prominently forward their eras of interest; which teaches morality by example, and conveys information by giving pleasure; and which, combining the charms of imagination with the treasures of research, founds the ideal upon its only solid and durable basis—the real.

The historical romance enjoys many advantages for the creation of interest, and even the conveying of information, over history. It can combine, in a short space, the exciting incidents which are spread over numerous volumes; and, by throwing entirely into the background the uninteresting details of human events, concentrate the light of imagination on such as are really calculated to produce an impression. Immense is the facility which this gives for the creation of interest, and the addition of life, to the picture. What oppresses the historian is the prodigious number of details with which he is encumbered. As his main object is to convey a trustworthy narrative of real events, none of them can, with due regard to the credit of the narrative, be omitted. If they are so, it is ten to one that the author finds reason to repent his superficial survey before he has concluded his work; and if he is fortunate enough to escape such stings of self-reproach, he is quite certain that the blot will be marked by some kind friend, or candid critic, who will represent the thing omitted, how trifling soever, as the most important incident in the whole work, and the neglect of which is wholly fatal to its credit as a book of authority. Every traveller knows how invariably this is the case with any object which may have been accidentally omitted to be seen in any province or city; and that the only way to avoid the eternal self-reproaches consequent on having it constantly represented by others as the most interesting object to be seen, is—at all hazards of time, fatigue, or expense—to see every thing. But the historical novelist is fettered by no such necessity—he is constrained to encumber his pages with no inconsiderable details. Selecting for the objects of his piece the most striking characters and moving incidents of the period he has chosen, he can throw full light upon them, and paint the details with that minuteness of finishing which is essential to conjuring up a vivid image in the reader's mind. He can give the truth of history without its monotony—the interest of romance without its unreality.

It was the power they enjoyed of abstracting in this manner from surrounding and uninteresting details,[Pg 347] which constituted the principal charm of ancient history. The Cyropædia and Anabasis of Xenophon are nothing but historical romances. Livy's pictured page—Sallust's inimitable sketches—Tacitus's finished paintings, over their chief fascination to the simplicity of their subjects. Ancient history, being confined to the exploits of a single hero or monarch, or the rise of a particular city, could afford to be graphic, detailed, and consequently interesting. That was comparatively an easy task when the events of one, or at most two, states on the shores of the Mediterranean alone required to be portrayed. But such a limitation of subject is impossible in modern history, when the transactions of Europe, Asia, Africa and America require to be detailed to render the thread of events complete. Even biography is scarcely intelligible without such a narrative of the surrounding nations and incidents as makes it run into the complexity and consequent dulness of history. But the author of historical romance is entirely relieved from this necessity, and consequently he can present the principal events and characters of his world in far more brilliant colours to his readers than is possible for the historian. Certainly with some the results of his more attractive influence will be doubted; but, be that as it may, it is the Henry V. or Richard III. of Shakspeare that occur to every mind when these English monarchs are thought of, not the picture of them presented, able as it is, by Hume or Turner. If we hear of Richard Cœur-de-Lion, we immediately conjure up the inimitable picture of the crusading hero in Ivanhoe or the Talisman. Elizabeth of England is admirably portrayed in the pages of Hume, but the Elizabeth of Kenilworth is the one which is engraven on every mind; and when the romantic tale and heroic death of Mary of Scotland are thought of, it is less the masterly picture of Robertson, or the touching narrative of Tytler, that recurs to the recollection, than the imprisoned princess of the Abbot, or the immortal Last Sacrament of Schiller.

Considered in its highest aspect, no art ever was attempted by man more elevated and ennobling than the historical romance. It may be doubted whether it is inferior even to the lofty flights of the epic, or the heart-rending pathos of the dramatic muse. Certain it is that it is more popular, and embraces a much wider circle of readers, than either the Iliad or the Paradise Lost. Homer and Tasso never, in an equal time, had nearly so many readers as Scott. The reason is, that an interesting story told in prose, can be more generally understood, and is appreciated by a much wider circle, than when couched in the lofty strains and comparative obscurity of verse. It is impossible to over-estimate the influence, for good or for evil, which this fascinating art may exercise upon future ages. It literally has the moulding of the human mind in its hands;—"Give me," said Fletcher of Saltoun, "the making of ballads, and I will give you the making of laws." Historical romances are the ballads of a civilized and enlightened age. More even than their rude predecessors of the mountains and the forest, they form those feelings in youth by which the character of the future man is to be determined. It is not going too far to say, that the romances of Sir Walter Scott have gone far to neutralise the dangers of the Reform Bill. Certain it is that they have materially assisted in extinguishing, at least in the educated classes of society, that prejudice against the feudal manners, and those devout aspirations on the blessings of democratic institutions, which were universal among the learned over Europe in the close of the eighteenth century. Like all other great and original minds, so far from being swept away by the errors of his age, he rose up in direct opposition to them. Singly he set himself to breast the flood which was overflowing the world. Thence the reaction in favour of the institutions of the olden time in church and state, which became general in the next generation, and is now so strongly manifesting itself, as well in the religious contests as the lighter literature of the present day.

"Some authors," says Madame de Staël, "have lowered the romance in mingling with it the revolting pictures of vice; and while the first advantage of fiction is to assemble around man all that can serve as a[Pg 348] lesson or a model, it has been thought that a temporary object might be gained by representing the obscure scenes of corrupted life, as if they could ever leave the heart which repels them as pure as that to which they were unknown. But a romance, such as one can conceive, such as we have some models of, is one of the noblest productions of the human mind, one of the most influential on the hearts of individuals, and which is best fitted in the end to form the morals of nations."[21] It is in this spirit that romance should be written—it is in this spirit that it has been written by some of the masters of the art who have already appeared, during the brief period which has elapsed since its creation. And if, in hands more impure, it has sometimes been applied to less elevated purposes; if the turbid waters of human corruption have mingled with the stream, and the annals of the past have been searched, not to display its magnanimity, but to portray its seductions; we must console ourselves by the reflection, that such is the inevitable lot of humanity, that genius cannot open a noble career which depravity will not enter, nor invent an engine for the exaltation of the human mind, which vice will not pervert to its degradation.

As the historical romance has been of such recent introduction in this country and the world, it is not surprising that its principles should as yet be not finally understood. It may be doubted whether its great master and his followers themselves have been fully aware of the causes to which their own success has been owing. Like travellers who have entered an unknown but varied and interesting country, they have plunged fearlessly on, threading forests, dashing through streams, traversing plains, crossing mountains, and in the breathless haste of the journey, and the animation of spirit with which it was attended, they have become, in a great degree, insensible to the causes which produced the charm which surrounded their footsteps. Yet, like every other art, the historical romance has its principles; and it is by the right comprehending and skilful application of these principles, that its highest triumphs are to be gained. They are the same as those which have long been unfolded by the great masters of composition in relation to poetry and the drama; they are to be found applied by Sir Joshua Reynolds to the sister art of painting. Yet are they not attended to by the great mass of readers, and even by authors themselves, if we may judge by the frequent failures which are exhibited, little understood or frequently neglected.

The first requisite of the historical romance is a subject which shall be elevated and yet interesting. It must be elevated, or the work will derogate from its noblest object, that of rousing the sympathetic passions, and awakening the generous feelings; it must be interesting, or these effects will be produced in a very limited degree. Readers of romance look for excitement; they desire to be interested, and unless they are so, the author's productions will very soon be neglected. This is universally known, and felt alike by readers and writers; but yet there is a strange misapprehension prevalent among many authors, even of distinguished talent, in regard to the methods by which this interest is to be awakened. It is frequently said, that the public are insatiable for novelty; that all home subjects are worn out; and thence it is concluded, that whatever is new must possess the greatest chance of becoming popular. In the desire to discover such novelty, every part of the world has been ransacked. Stories from Persia and the East have been plentifully brought forward; the prairies and savages of North America have furnished the subjects of more than one interesting romance; Russia, Poland, Italy, Spain, as well as France, Germany, Sweden, and the United States, have been eagerly ransacked to satisfy the craving of a generation seeking after something new. The total failure of many of these novels, the dubious success of many others, though written with unquestionable talent, may convince us, that this principle of looking only for novelty may be [Pg 349]carried too far, and that it is within certain limits only that the appetite for variety can successfully be indulged. And what these limits are, may be readily learned by attending to what experience has taught in the sister arts.

It has been said, and said truly, that "eloquence to be popular must be in advance of the audience, and but a little in advance." The experience of all ages has taught, that the drama is never successful unless it appeals to feelings which find a responsive echo in the general mind, and awakens associations of general interest in the breast of the audience. It is the same with the historical romance. It may and should deviate a little from the circle of interesting association generally felt; but it should be but a little. The heart of the readers of novels, as well as the spectators of tragedies, is at home. The images, the emotions, the loves, the hatreds, the hopes, the fears, the names, the places familiar to our youth, are those which awaken the strongest emotions of sympathy in later years. Novelty is frequently felt as agreeable; but it is so chiefly when it recalls again in other climes, or in the events of other ages, the feelings and passions of our own. We like occasionally to leave home; but when we do so, there is nothing so delightful as to be recalled to it by the touching of any of those secret chords which bind man to the place of his nativity, or the scene of his dearest associations. The novels which are to be durably popular in any country must be founded, not indeed necessarily on incidents of its own story, but on the ideas with which it is familiar, and on incidents cousin-german at least to those of its own national existence. The institutions of chivalry, the feudal system, have created, as it were, in this respect one great family of the European nations, which renders, at least to the educated classes, the manners, emotions, and passions of the higher ranks an object of universal interest. We can sympathise as warmly with the paladins of Ariosto, or the knights of Tasso, as ever could the troubadours of Provence or the nobles of Italy. But if this lofty circle which forms the manners of chivalry is once passed, we descend to inferior grades of society. The novelist of every country will find, that what he portrays will not permanently or generally interest a wider circle than that of its own inhabitants. We can take no interest in the boyards of Russia or the boors of Poland; but little in the agas and kuzilbashes of Eastern story. Novelty, as in the Arabian Nights, may attract in youth for a single publication; but fairy or Eastern tales will never form the intellectual bread of life. The universal admiration with which Don Quixote and the Waverley novels are regarded over the whole world, must not blind us to the extreme difficulty of making the manners of the middle or lower ranks, if brought forward as the main machinery of a romance, durably interesting to any but those to whom they are familiar. Even Scott and Cervantes owe great part of their success to the skill with which they have combined the noble manners and exalted ideas, engendered in the European heart by the institutions of chivalry, and as widely spread as its spirit, with the graphic picture of the manners in the different countries where the scene of their romances was laid. And it is not every man who can draw the bow of Ulysses.

Ivanhoe, the Abbot, and Old Mortality, may be considered as the perfection of historical romances, so far as subject goes. They all relate to events of national history, well known to all persons possessing any information in England and Scotland, and deeply connected with the most interesting associations to those of cultivated minds. The undaunted courage and jovial manners of the Lion-hearted hero; the cruel oppression of Norman rule; the bold spirit of Saxon independence; the deep sorrows and ever-doubtful character of the heroic Queen of Scots; the fearful collision of Puritan zeal with Cavalier loyalty, from which issued the Great Rebellion—are engraven on every heart in the British islands. They formed the most appropriate subjects, therefore, for the foundation or substratum of novels to be permanently interesting to the Anglo-Saxon race, with the addition of such imaginary characters or incidents as might illustrate still further[Pg 350] the manners and ideas of the times. Nor are such subjects of universal and national interest by any means yet exhausted. On the contrary, many of the most admirable of these have never yet been touched on. The cruel conquest of Wales by Edward I.; the heroic struggles of Wallace against the same monarch; the glorious establishment of Scottish independence by Robert Bruce; the savage ferocity and heart-rending tragedies of the wars of the Roses; the martyr-like death of Charles I.; the heart-stirring conquests of Edward III. and the Black Prince; the heartless gallantry of the age of Charles II.; the noble efforts of the Highlanders in 1715 and 1745 for their hereditary sovereign, form a few of the periods of British history, either not at all, or as yet imperfectly, illustrated by historical romance. Nor is the stock terminated; on the contrary, it is growing, and hourly on the increase. The time has already come when the heroism of La Vendée, the tragedies of the Revolution, form the appropriate subject of French imaginative genius; and the period is not far distant when Wellington and the paladins of the late war, transported from this earthly scene by the changes of mortality, will take lasting and immortal place in the fields of romance.

The success of many of the novels of recent times, in the conception of which most genius has been evinced, and in the composition most labour bestowed, has been endangered, if not destroyed, by inattention to this principle in the choice of a subject. There is great talent, much learning, and vigorous conception, in the Last Days of Pompeii by Bulwer; and the catastrophe with which it concludes is drawn with his very highest powers; but still it is felt by every class of readers to be uninteresting. We have no acquaintance or association with Roman manners; we know little of their habits; scarce any thing of their conversation in private: they stand forth to us in history in a sort of shadowy grandeur, totally distinct from the interest of novelist composition. No amount of learning or talent can make the dialogues of Titus and Lucius, of Gallius and Vespasia, interesting to a modern reader. On the other hand, the Last of the Barons is an admirably chosen historical subject, worked out with even more than the author's usual power and effect; and but for a defect in composition, to be hereafter noticed, it would be one of the most popular of all his productions. Great talent and uncommon powers of description have been displayed in Oriental novels; but they have not attained any lasting reputation—not from any fault on the part of the writers, but the want of sympathy in the great majority of readers with the subject of their compositions. Strange to say, we feel nothing foreign in James's Attila. So deeply were we impregnated with barbarian blood—so strongly have Scythian customs and ideas descended to our times—that the wooden palace of the chief of the Huns, surrounded with its streets of carts, and myriads of flocks and herds, in the centre of Hungary, is felt as nothing alien. On the other hand, some of Sir Walter's later productions have failed, notwithstanding great ability in the execution, from undue strangeness in the subject. Anne of Geierstein, and the Indian story in the Chronicles of the Canongate, belong to this class; and even if Robert of Paris had not been written during the decay of the author's mental powers, it would probably have failed, from the impossibility of communicating any of the interest of a novel to a story of the Lower Empire.

In this respect there is an important distinction between the drama and the historical romance, which writers in the latter style would do well to keep in view. Tragedy being limited in general to a very short period, during which events of the most heart-rending kind are accumulated together, in order as strongly as possible to awaken the sympathy, or move the hearts of the spectators, it is comparatively of little importance where the scene is laid. Where the bones and muscles of the mind are laid bare by deep affliction, mankind in all ages and countries are the same. The love of Juliet, the jealousy of Othello, are felt with equal force in all parts of the world. We can sympathize as strongly with the protracted woes of Andromache, or the generous self-immolation of Antigone, as the Athenian audience who wept at the[Pg 351] eloquence of Euripides or the power of Sophocles: we feel the death of Wallenstein to be as sublime as the Germans who are transported by the verses of Schiller; and they weep at the heroism of Mary Stuart, with as heartfelt emotion as the people of Scotland to whom her name is a household word. But it is otherwise with romance. It is occasionally, and at considerable intervals only, that these terrible or pathetic scenes are represented in its pages, which sweep away all peculiarities of nation, age, or race, and exhibit only the naked human heart: nineteen-twentieths of its pages are taken up with ordinary occurrences, one-half of its interest is derived from the delineation of manners, or the developing of character in dialogue, which exhibits none of the vehement passions; and the interest of the reader is kept up chiefly by the fidelity of the drawing, the spirit of the conversation, or the accuracy and brilliancy of the descriptions. If these prove uninteresting from their being too remote from ordinary observation or association, the work will fail, with whatever talent or power its principal and tragic scenes may be executed.

In proposing as the grand requisite to the historical romance, that the subject should be of an elevating and ennobling kind, we by no means intend to assert that the author is always to be on stilts, that he is never to descend to the description of low or even vulgar life, or that humour and characteristic description are to be excluded from his composition. We are well aware of the value of contrast in bringing out effect; we know that the mind of the reader requires repose, even from the most exalted emotions; we have felt the weariness of being satiated with beauty, in the galleries of the Vatican or the valleys of Switzerland. Brilliants require setting, and bright light can be brought out only by proportional depth or breadth of shadow. If the novelist tries to keep up exalted sentiments or pathetic scenes too often, he will fall into the mistake of the painter who throws an equal light on all parts of his picture. Probably the rule which Sir Joshua Reynolds says he found by observation had been invariably observed by Titian—viz., to have one-fourth only of his picture in very bright light, one-fourth in deep shadow, and the remaining half in middle tint, may be equally applicable to the compositions of the novelist. But admitting all this—admitting further, that novels which deviate from the elevated standard may often attain a great temporary popularity, the greater, probably, owing to that very deviation—it is not the less true that the main object of the art is to awaken generous and elevated feelings; and that in no other way than by attention to this object, is durable fame to be obtained.

The celebrity arising from skill in the painting of low or vulgar manners, from power in the description of desperate or abandoned characters, how great soever it may be for a time, never fails to pass away with the lapse of time. Voltaire's romances, once so popular, are now nearly as much dead stock in the bookseller's hands; and the whole tribe of the licentious novelists of France, prior to the Revolution, are now read only by the licentious youth of Paris, and a few prurient sensualists in other countries. It will be the same with Victor Hugo, Janin, and George Sand, in the next generation and in other countries. All their genius, learning, and interest, will not be able to save them from the withering effect of their accumulated horrors, shocking indecencies, and demoralizing tendency.

Again, in the composition of the historical romance, the story should be sufficiently simple, and a certain degree of unity preserved in the interest and emotion which are to be awakened. It is not meant to be asserted by this, that the novelist is to be confined strictly to unities like the Greek drama, or that the same variety, within certain limits, is not to be presented in the pages of romance, which we see every day around us in real life. All that is meant to be advanced is, that this variety must be confined within certain limits, if the interest of the piece is to be properly kept up; and that it should be an especial object with the novelist to avoid that complication and intricacy of incidents which forms so formidable, though unavoidable, an addition to the difficulties of an historian. It is the more singular that romance writers should have fallen[Pg 352] into this mistake, that it is the very difficulty which stands most in the way of the interest of history, and which it is the peculiar advantage of their art to be able in a great measure to avoid. Yet it is the error which is most general in writers of the greatest ability in this department of literature, and which has marred or ruined the effect of some of their happiest conceptions. It has arisen, doubtless, from romance writers having observed the extreme multiplicity of incidents and events in real life, and in the complicated maze of historical narrative; and thence imagined that it was by portraying a similar combination that romance was to be assimilated to truthful annals, and the ideal founded on the solid basis of the real. They forget that it is this very complication which renders history in general so uninviting, and acceptable (compared with romance) to so limited a circle of readers; and that the annals of actual events then only approach to the interest of fiction, when their surpassing magnitude, or the importance of the characters involved in them, justifies the historian in suspending for a time the thread of inconsiderable and uninteresting incidents, and throwing a broad and bright light, similar to that of imagination, on the few which have been attended with great and lasting effects.

The great father of historical romance rarely falls into this mistake. The story, at least in most of his earlier and most popular pieces—Waverley, the Antiquary, the Bride of Lammermoor, Old Mortality, the Abbot, Ivanhoe, Kenilworth, Quentin Durward, and Rob Roy—is extremely simple; the incidents few and well chosen; the interest of an homogeneous kind, and uniformly sustained; the inferior characters and incidents kept in their due subordination to the principal ones. The subordinate characters of these admirable works, their still life, descriptions, and minor incidents, are grouped as it were around the main events of the story, and brought forward in such a way as to give variety while they do not detract from unity. It is impossible to conceive more perfect models of the historical romance, both in point of subject, conception, and execution, than Ivanhoe and the Abbot. In both, the subject is national and generally interesting—in both, the historical characters brought forward are popular, and connected with early associations—in both, the period chosen is one in which great national questions were at stake, and the conversations and characters afforded the means of bringing them prominently before the mind of the reader—in both, the incidents of the piece are few and simple; and the lesser plots or characters which they contain, serve only to amuse the mind and give variety to the composition, without interfering with the unity of its general effect. How few and simple are the events in the Bride of Lammermoor! The tragedies of Sophocles do not exhibit a more perfect example of the preservation of the unity of emotion. Yet how interesting is the whole story—how completely does it carry along every class of readers—how well does every incident of moment prepare the mind for the dreadful catastrophe in which it terminates! How few are the incidents in the Abbot—how scanty the materials on which the story is built! A page riding from a castle in Dumfries-shire to Edinburgh, his introduction to the Regent Murray, and adventures during a few days in Holyrood, his attendance on the imprisoned Queen in Lochleven Castle, her escape from thence, and final overthrow at Langside—form the whole incidents out of which the web of that delightful romance has been woven. Its charm consists in a great degree in the simplicity itself, in the small number of historic incidents it records, the interest of those incidents in themselves, and the room thereby afforded for working up all the details, and the minor plot of the piece, the loves of the page and Catharine, in perfect harmony with the main event, and without disturbing their development.

It were to be wished that later writers had followed the example thus set by the father of historical romance in the selection of their subject, and the construction of their plot. But, so far from doing so, they have in general run into the opposite extreme, and overlaid their story with such a mass of historical facts and details as has not only destroyed the unity of interest, but has in many cases rendered the story itself scarcely intelligible.[Pg 353] Take two of the most popular romances of two justly celebrated living novelists, Sir E. L. Bulwer and Mr James—The Last of the Barons, and Philip Augustus. The period of history, leading characters, and subject of both, are admirably chosen; and the greatest talent has been displayed in both, in the conception of the characters, and the portrait of the ideas and manners of the times which both present. But the grand defect of both, and which chills to a great degree the interest they otherwise would excite, is the crowding of historic incident, and complication of the story. Bulwer's novel is so crowded with rebellions, revolutions, and dethronements, that even the learned reader, who has some previous acquaintance with that involved period of English history, has great difficulty in following the story. Ample materials exist for two or three interesting historical novels in its crowded incidents. Philip Augustus labours equally plainly under the same defect. There is a triple plot going forward through nearly the whole piece; the story of the King and Queen, with the Papal interdict; that of Prince Arthur Plantagenet and his cruel uncle, John of England; and that of De Coucy and Isadore of the Mount. No human ability is adequate to carrying three separate stories abreast in this manner, and awakening the interest of the reader in each. The human mind is incapable of taking in, at the same time, deep emotion of more than one kind. What should we say if Shakspeare had presented us with a tragedy in which were brought forward scenes or acts about the ambition of Macbeth, the loves of Romeo and Juliet, and the jealousy of Othello? Assuredly, they would have mutually strangled each other. This is just what happens in these otherwise admirable novels; the complication of the events, and the variety of interests sought to be awakened, prevent any one from taking a strong hold of the mind. Rely upon it, there is more truth in the principle of the Greek unities than we moderns are willing to admit. The prodigious overpowering effect of their tragedies is mainly owing to the unity of emotion which is kept up. It bears the same relation to the involved story of modern romance, which the single interest of the Jerusalem Delivered or Iliad does to the endless and complicated adventures of Ariosto's knights, or the sacred simplicity of the Holy Families of Raphael to the crowded canvass of Tintoretto or Bassano.

Perhaps the most perfect novel that exists in the world, with reference to the invaluable quality of unity of emotion, as well as the admirable disquisitions on subjects of taste and reflection which it contains, is Madame de Staël's Corinne. Considered as a story, indeed, it has many and glaring defects; the journey of Lord Nevil and Corinne to Naples from Rome, is repugnant to all our ideas of female decorum; and the miserable sufferings and prostration of the heroine in the third volume, during her visit to Scotland, is carried to such a length as to leave a painful impression on every reader's mind. But abstracting these glaring errors, the conception and execution of the work are as perfect as possible. The peculiar interest meant to be excited, the particular passion sought to be portrayed, is early brought forward, and the whole story is the progress and final lamentable result of its indulgences. It is not the sudden passion of Juliet for Romeo, the peculiar growth of the Italian clime, which is portrayed, but the refined attachment of northern Europe, which is taken in more by the ear than the eye, and springs from the sympathy of minds who have many tastes and feelings in common. Nothing detracts from, nothing disturbs, this one and single emotion. The numerous disquisitions on the fine arts, the drama, antiquities, poetry, history, and manners, which the novel contains—its profound reflections on the human heart, the enchanting descriptions of nature, and the monuments of Italy which it presents—not only do not interfere with the main interest, but they all conspire to promote it. They are the means by which it is seen the mutual passion was developed in the breasts of the principal characters; they furnish its natural history, by exhibiting the many points of sympathy which existed between minds of such an elevated caste, and which neither had previously found[Pg 354] appreciated in an equal degree by any one in the other sex. It is in the skill with which this is brought out, and the numerous disquisitions on criticism, taste, and literature with which it abounds, rendered subservient to the main interest of the whole, that the principal charm of this beautiful work is to be found.

Another principle which seems to regulate the historical romance, as it does every other work which relates to man, is, that its principal interest must be sought in human passion and feeling. It appears to be the more necessary to insist on this canon, that the inferior appliances of the art—the description of manners, scenery, dresses, buildings, processions, pomps, ceremonies, and customs—has opened so wide a field for digression, that, by many writers as well as readers, they have come to be supposed to form its principal object. This mistake is in an especial manner conspicuous in the writings of Ainsworth, whose talents for description, and the drawing of the horrible, have led him to make his novels often little more than pictorial phantasmagoria. It is to be seen, also, in a great degree in James; who although capable, as many of his works, especially Mary of Burgundy, Attila, and the Smugglers, demonstrate, of the most powerful delineation of passion, and the finest traits of the pathetic—is yet so enamoured of description, and so conscious of his powers in that respect, that he in general overlays his writings with painting to the eye, instead of using that more powerful language which speaks to the heart. It is no doubt a curious thing, and gives life to the piece, to see a faithful and graphic description of a knight on horseback, with his companion, and their respective squires, skirting a wood, mounted on powerful steeds, on a clear September morning. The painting of his helm and hauberk, his dancing plume and glancing mail, his harnessed steed and powerful lance, interests once or even twice; but it is dangerous to try the experiment of such descriptions too often. They rapidly pall by repetition, and at length become tedious or ridiculous. It is in the delineation of the human heart that the inexhaustible vein of the novelist is to be found; it is in its emotion, desires, and passions, ever-varying in externals, ever the same in the interior, that scope is afforded for the endless conceptions of human genius. Descriptions of still life—pictures of scenery, manners, buildings, and dresses—are the body, as it were, of romance; they are not its soul. They are the material parts of the landscape; its rocks, mountains, and trees; they are not the divine ray of the sun which illuminates the brilliant parts of the picture, and gives its peculiar character to the whole. The skilful artist will never despise them; on the contrary, he will exert himself to the utmost in their skilful delineation, and make frequent use of them, taking care to introduce as much variety as possible in their representations. But he will regard them as an inferior part only of his art; as speaking to the eye, not the heart; as the body of romance, not its soul; and as valuable chiefly as giving character or life to the period described, and repose to the mind in the intervals of the scenes of mental interest or pathos, on which his principal efforts are to be concentrated. Descriptions of external things often strike us as extremely brilliant, and give great pleasure in reading; but with a few exceptions, where a moral interest has been thrown into the picture of nature, they do not leave any profound or lasting impression on the mind. It is human grandeur or magnanimity, the throb of grief, the thrill of the pathetic, which is imprinted in indelible characters on the memory. Many of the admirable descriptions of still life in Waverley fade from the recollection, and strike us as new every time we read them; but no one ever forgot the last words of Fergus, when passing on the hurdle under the Scotch gate at Carlisle, "God save King James!" None of the splendid descriptions in the choruses of Æschylus produce the terrible impression on the mind which Sophocles has done by that inimitable trait, when, in the close of Antigone, he makes Eurydice, upon hearing of the suicide of her son Hæmon on the body of his betrothed, leave the stage in silence, to follow him by a violent death to the shades below.

The last rule which it seems material[Pg 355] for the historical novelist to observe, is that characteristic or national manners, especially in middle or low life, should, wherever it is possible, be drawn from real life. The manners of the highest class over all Europe are the same. If a novelist paints well-bred person in one capital, his picture may, with a few slight variations, stand for the same sphere of society in any other. But in middle, and still more in low life, the diversity in different countries is very great, and such as never can be reached by mere reading, or study of the works of others. And yet, amidst all this diversity, so much is human nature at bottom every where the same, that the most inexperienced reader can distinguish, even in the delineation of manners to which he is an entire stranger, those which are drawn from life, from those which are taken from the sketches or ideas of others. Few in this country have visited the Sierra Morena, and none certainly have seen it in the days of Cervantes, yet we have no difficulty in at once perceiving that Sancho Panza, and the peasants and muleteers in Don Quixote, are faithfully drawn from real life. Few of the innumerable readers of Sir Walter have had personal means of judging of the fidelity of his pictures of the manners and ideas of the Scotch peasants in his earlier novels; but yet there is no one in any country who does not at once see that they have been drawn from nature, and contain the most faithful picture of it. It is the fidelity of this picture which gives the Scotch novels their great charm. It is the same with Fielding: his leading characters in low life are evidently drawn from nature, and thence his long-continued popularity. When Sir Walter comes to paint the manners of the middle classes or peasants in England, from plays, farces, and the descriptions of others, as in Kenilworth, Woodstock, Peveril of the Peak, and the Fortunes of Nigel, he is infinitely inferior, and, in truth, often insupportably dull. His dialogue is a jargon mixed up of scraps and expressions from old plays or quaint tracts, such as no man on earth ever did speak, and which it is only surprising a man of his sagacity should have supposed they ever could. The same defect is more signally conspicuous in the dialogue of several of the historical romances of James.

It is the accurate and faithful picture of national character from real life, joined to the poetical interest of his Indian warriors, and his incomparable powers of natural description, which has given Cooper his great and well-deserved reputation. In many of the essential qualities of a novelist, he is singularly defective. His story is often confused, and awkwardly put together. Unity of interest is seldom thought of. He has no conception of the refined manners and chivalrous feelings of European society: though he has of late years seen much of it in many countries, he has never been able to become familiar with its ideas, or imbibe its spirit. His heroes, among the white men at least, are never any thing above American skippers, or English subalterns or post-captains: his heroines have in general the insipidity which is, we hope unjustly, ascribed, with great personal charms, to the fair sex on the other side of the Atlantic. But in the forest or on the wave, he is superb. His Last of the Mohicans and Prairie are noble productions, to be matched with any in the world for the delineation of lofty and elevated character—the more interesting that they belong to a race, like the heroic age, now wellnigh extinct. He paints the adventures, the life, the ideas, the passions, the combined pride and indolence, valour and craft, heroism and meanness of the red men, with the hand of a master. Equally admirable is his delineation of the white man of the frontier of civilization—Hawkeye or Leather-stocking, with his various other denominations—who is the precursor, as it were, of European invasion, who plunges into the forest far ahead of his more tardy followers, and leads the roaming life of the Indian, but with the advantage of the arms, the arts, and the perseverance of the Anglo-Saxon. But he is strictly a national writer. It is in the delineation of Transatlantic character, scenes of the forest, or naval adventures, that his great powers are shown; when he comes to paint the manners, or lay the seat of his conceptions in Europe,[Pg 356] he at once falls to mediocrity, and sometimes becomes ridiculous.

Manzoni is an author of the highest excellence, whose celebrity has been derived from the same faithful delineation from real life of national manners. He has written but one novel, the Promessi Sposi; though various other works, some religious, some historical, have proceeded from his pen. But that one novel has given him a European reputation. It is wholly different in composition and character from any other historical romance in existence: it has no affinity either with Scott or Cooper, Bulwer or James. The scene, laid in 1628, at the foot of the mountains which shut in the Lake of Como, transports us back two centuries in point of time, and to the south of the Alps in point of scene. As might be expected, the ideas, characters, and incidents of such a romance differ widely from those of northern climes and Protestant realms. That is one of its great charms. We are transported, as it were, into a new world; and yet a world so closely connected with our own, by the manners and ideas of chivalry, our once common Catholic faith, and the associations which every person of education has with Italian scenes and images, that we feel, in traversing it, the pleasure of novelty without the ennui of a strange land. No translation could give an idea of the peculiar beauties and excellences of the original. As might be expected, the feudal baron and the Catholic church enter largely into the composition of the story. The lustful passions, savage violence, and unbridled license of the former, strong in his men-at-arms, castle battlements, and retainers; the disinterested benevolence, charitable institutions, and paternal beneficence of the latter, resting on the affections and experienced benefits of mankind, are admirably depicted. His descriptions of the plague, famine, and popular revolt at Milan, are masterpieces which never were excelled. The saintlike character of Cardinal Borromeo, strong in the sway of religion, justice, and charity, in the midst of the vehemence of worldly passion and violence with which he is surrounded, is peculiarly striking. It is fitted, like Guizot's Lectures on History, to illustrate the incalculable advantage which arose, in an age of general rapine and unsettled government, from the sway, the disinterestedness, and even the superstitions, of religion.

But the greatest merit of the work is to be found in the admirable delineation of the manners, ideas, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, of humble life with which it abounds. The hero of the piece is a silk-weaver named Renzo, near Lecco, on the Lake of Como; the heroine Lucia, his betrothed, the daughter of a poor widow in the same village; and the story is founded on the stratagems and wiles of an unbridled baron in the vicinity, whose passions had been excited by Lucia's beauty, first to prevent her marriage, then to obtain possession of her person. In the conception of such a piece is to be seen decisive evidence of the vast change in human affairs, since the days when Tasso and Ariosto poured forth to an admiring age, in the same country, the loves of high-born damsels, the combats of knights, the manners, the pride, and the exclusiveness of chivalry. In its execution, Manzoni is singularly felicitous. He is minute without being tedious, graphic but not vulgar, characteristic and yet never offensive. His pictures of human life, though placed two centuries back, are evidently drawn from nature in these times: the peasants whom he introduces are those of the plains of Lombardy at this time; but though he paints them with the fidelity of an artist, it is yet with the feelings of a gentleman. His details are innumerable—his finishing is minute; but it is the minute finishing of Albert Durer or Leonardo da Vinci, not of Teniers or Ostade. In this respect he offers a striking contrast to the modern romance writers of France—Victor Hugo, Janin, Madame Dudevant, and Sue—by whom vice and licentiousness are exhibited with vast power, but more than their native undisguised colours.—But this wide and interesting subject must be reserved for a future occasion.



[Pg 357]


There seems a very general belief among sensible people that we have had enough of the Germans. What with barons, and princes, and geheimraths, and consistorialraths, and poets, and philosophers, burying their profundity in tobacco smoke, and other "reek" more impervious still, we certainly have had enough in book and essay, for the last few years, of the German Man. And, latterly, the German women have come in for their share. If the men have been puffed and praised till their very names are ridiculous and offensive, it is not so with the gracious and high-born ladies. All the old dowagers that flourish a goose-quill make a simultaneous assault on the unfortunate "frau," or "fraulein;" pedantic old bachelors are horrified at the wildness of some of the female Godwin's observations, and fall to, in the general mélée, tugging and tearing at the miserable damsel till not a shred is left to cover her; and starched old maids, who have been wondering for twenty years if Woman can etherealize society, rejoice to see the punishment of such a presuming minx, and encourage the performers with all their might. The attack may be very spirited, and the culprit properly trounced in most cases—so we are contented to leave the fantastic and philosophic heroines—so bepraised by their countrymen—to the tender mercies of our Amazons at home; but we couch the lance, in Maga's lists, on behalf of one whose name is known very widely, but whose character is little understood, and constitute ourselves champion à l'outrance of Bettina Brentano. Yes, we are in love—over head and ears—with Bettina Brentano. But we must guard ourselves a little in making this confession. It is towards the nice, clever, black-eyed, light-figured little houri of that name, in the pleasant years 1807-8-9, and 10, that we own the soft impeachment, or rather make proud profession of our feelings. With regard to the present bearer of the denomination, who has gone, in despite of our affection, and married a man of the name of Arnini, we confess we are utterly indifferent to her; and shall maintain till our dying day, that the authoress of the Letters to Goethe died in the early part of the year 1811, universally lamented, and giving promise of a mind, when matured and steadied, such as no petticoated genius—not De Staël herself—has equalled. Such letters, so full of wild fancies, poetical descriptions, and burning declarations, were never written by man to woman, or woman to man, before or since. They could not be written by woman to man—they were written by a child to Goethe. And this is the key to the wonders of the correspondence. Don't let people talk nonsense about the improprieties of her behaviour—and shake their foolish heads, and lift their puritanic eyes up to heaven: her conduct, we grant them, would have been very improper in them; but in Bettina Brentano it was beautiful, graceful, and as free from impropriety as the morning and evening walks of Paul and Virginia. Perhaps we may condescend on some of the particulars dwelt on in the accusation—but perhaps we may not—for the people who see errors and grossnesses in the language or behaviour of Bettina, blush "celestial rosy red" at the Apollo and the Venus. Let them get trousers and petticoats for the god and goddess, and leave poor Bettina alone.

There lived in Frankfort, in the summer of 1807, a little girl of fourteen or fifteen years of age, very small in stature, and so light and dancing in her movements that she might have passed for an attendant of Queen Titania; but in her deep black eyes there was a sort of light that the fairies have not yet arrived at—and her voice was musical—and her lips were rosy; and every where she was known as the cleverest little girl that ever was seen, either in fairyland or Frankfort, or any where else. She was of a sweet, affectionate, trusting nature, and entered with a romantic tenderness into an alliance with a wild, half-insane enthusiast, several years older than herself—the sister Günderode, a canoness of a convent[Pg 358] on the Rhine. The lay-sister talked and reasoned herself into the persuasion that she would be happier out of the world than in it; so, instead of marrying the surgeon or other respectable inhabitant of the free city, and having a large family to provide for, which would have put more sensible thoughts into her head, she stabbed herself one fine day on the bank of the river—and Bettina had no longer a friend.

But there dwelt in the same town a majestic woman—strong-minded, tender-hearted—and with talent enough to compensate for the stupidity of all the other old women (male and female) in Frankfort; and her name was Madame Goethe, and she was seventy-five years old, and lived in an old house by herself. Bettina went to her, with her head sunk in grief, and her heart yearning for somebody to make a friend of, and sat down on a stool at the old lady's feet, and said, "I have lost my Günderode, will you be my friend in her stead?" And the old lady was delighted, and kissed her; and Bettina sat at her feet, day after day, from that time forth; and they were the two tenderest friends in Germany. And a pleasant thing it would be to have been a mouse in the wall to hear such conversation as was carried on by the two.

Now, in the year 1749, there was born a boy in Frankfort,—a poet, great in soul—the maker of his country's literature—no other than the illustrious Goethe—a son worthy of such a mother as Bettina's friend; and while all Germany and France—the whole civilized world in short—were almost worshipping his matured, perhaps his decaying genius, the noble mother was loud and eloquent in her description of him as a boy—as a youth—as a poet of twenty years old; and the little girl of fifteen sat and listened, till there arose in her heart—or rather in her brain, for it was a stirring of the intellect more than the affections—a feeling of intense admiration, softened under the mother's teaching into something that she herself fancied was love; for which audacious fancy the sagacious old woman gave her some raps over the knuckles—(we are not sure that they were altogether figurative either, but good substantial raps)—enough to make the fingers tingle in a very disagreeable manner indeed. But in spite of raps, whether figurative or not, she went on feeding her fancy with all these glowing accounts; and for a while we have no doubt that she never gave the almanac a thought—nor the baptismal register—nor the fact, known to all arithmeticians, that a person born in 1749 was fifty-eight years old in 1807. Fifty-eight years old, with long white hair. But Bettina had never seen him. She only knew him in his works as a poet, and as a man—or rather as a boy—in the beautiful recollections of his mother. "You don't ask after Wolfgang," says that sensible old matron in one of her letters; "I've always said to you—wait a while till some one else comes, you'll not trouble your head about him any more." But in the mean time she did trouble her head about him to an intolerable extent; and great was her rejoicing when her brother-in-law offered to take her as companion to his wife, in a journey he was forced to make to Berlin, and afterwards to Weimar. The country was at that time the seat of war; camps and positions of many different armies had to be passed through; and as a protection to the ladies they were dressed in men's clothes. Bettina sat on the box the whole time—passed as a little tiger at the inns where they slept—making herself generally useful, harnessing and unharnessing the horses—sleeping all night outside, though the weather was piercingly cold; and finally, after a week of hard travelling, arrived at the city of the sages—the literary capital of Germany. Her first care here was to change her dress, and find out her relation Wieland—from him she got a note to Goethe, and, armed with that, presented herself at his house. This is her account of the meeting in her letter to his mother:—

"The door opened, and there he stood, solemn and still, and looked steadily at me. I stretched my hands to him, I believe—but soon I was unconscious of every thing. Goethe catched me to his breast.—'Poor child, have I frightened you?' These were the first words that made their[Pg 359] way to my heart. He led me into his room, and placed me on a sofa opposite him. We were both silent—at last he said, 'You have read in the newspapers that we have lately met with a severe loss, in the death of the Duchess Amelie.' 'Ah! I said, 'I never read the newspapers.' 'Indeed! I thought you took an interest in all that goes on at Weimar.' 'No, no, I take no interest in any thing at Weimar but you; and I have not patience enough to toil through a newspaper.' 'You are an affectionate little girl.' A long pause—I, banished all the while to the horrid sofa, and very fidgety of course. You know how impossible it is for me to sit there and do the pretty behaved. Ah, mother, can a person change his nature all at once? I said plump—'Here, on this sofa, I can't stay,' and sprang up. 'Make yourself comfortable, by all means,' said he. So I flew to him, and put my arms round his neck. He took me on his knee, and pressed me to his heart. All was still. I had not slept for such a time. I had sighed to see him for years. I fell asleep with my head on his breast; and, when I awoke, it was to a new existence;—and that is all at this present writing."

Bettina, we repeat, was fifteen—Goethe was fifty-eight; and this narrative was sent to his mother. We will only add, that Voltaire affected an interesting blush when he thought on the improprieties of the Book of Ruth. So, hold up your head, our bright-eyed, beautiful Bettina, and cheer the heart of the old man eloquent with your affection; and tell him over and over, in your own wild and captivating manner, that you love him, and worship him, and think of him always, and sing his ballads, and read his books—and nobody in their senses will think a bit the worse of you for it—not even your worthy husband, who was five or six and twenty years old when you married him; and, very likely, was nearly as enthusiastic about Wolfgang as yourself. And as to kissing and jumping on people's knees, and hugging close to the heart, these seem equivalent, among the Germans of all ranks and ages, to a good hearty shake of the hand among our more sedately behaved population; and though we think that, under ordinary circumstances, our national customs in those respects are preferable, we are not prepared to say that we should be sorry for the introduction of a little Germanism in our own case, if we were a great poet at the age of fifty-eight, and were acquainted with a lively, happy, charming little genius like Bettina, of fifteen. And that she was all that we have called her—and more—we will now proceed to show, by giving a few translations from her letters; and, if we can find an opportunity of introducing a story or two by the mother, we will not let it pass.—And here let us make a remark, savouring, perhaps, of national vanity—of which failing we have heard our countrymen not unfrequently accused. Our remark is this, that the Frau Rath, as Goethe's mother is called, has many characteristics about her which we have been in the habit of considering Scotch. If we reduced her reported conversations to our native Doric, they would read exactly like the best parts of Scott and Galt—a great deal of shrewdness, mixed with a wild sort of humour, sarcastic and descriptive; but in her, perhaps, elevated by an occasional burst of poetry into something higher than is met with in the Ayrshire Legatees, or even in Cyril Thornton. In saying this, we allude, of course, to none of the tedious "havers" contained in the book dedicated to the King of Prussia, or at least to the anti-biblical parts of them—the old Frau Rath being about the worst commentator it has ever been our fortune to meet.

But let us go back to Bettina. "Morris Bethman tells me," says the Frau Rath, in a letter to her pet, "that the De Staël is going to call on me. She has been in Weimar. I wish you were here, for I must get up my French as well as I can." And the jealousy of the fiery Bettina bursts out at the very thought of any one being at Weimar and visiting Goethe but herself.

"I have not heard from your son since the 13th of August, and here is the end of September. De Staël has made his time pass quickly, and driven me out of his head. A celebrated woman is a curiosity. Nobody else[Pg 360] can compete with her. She is like brandy, which the poor grain it is made from can never be compared to. For brandy smacks on the tongue and gets into the heard, and so does a celebrated woman. But the simple wheat is better far to me;—the sower sows it in the loosened soil, and the bounteous sun and fruitful showers draw it from the earth again, and it makes green the whole field, and bears golden ears, and at last gives rise to a happy harvest-home. I would rather be a simple wheat-grain than a celebrated woman; and rather, far rather, that he should break me for his daily bread than that I should get into his head like a dram. And now I will tell you that I supped last night with De Staël in Maintz. No woman would sit next her at table, so I sat down beside her myself. It was uncomfortable enough; for the gentlemen stood round the table, and crowded behind our chairs, to speak to her and see her close. They bent over me. I said—'Vos adorateurs me suffoquent.' She laughed. She told me that Goethe had spoken to her of me. I would fain have sat and listened, for I should like to hear what it was he said. And yet I was wrong; for I would rather he did not speak of me to any one—and I don't believe he did—she perhaps only said so. At last so many came to speak to her, and pressed upon me so much, that I couldn't bear it any longer. I said to her—'Vos lauriers me pèsent trop sur les épaules;' and I stood up, and pushed my way through the crowd. Sismondi, her companion, came to me and kissed my hand, and told me I was very clever, and said it to the rest, and they repeated it twenty times over, as if I had been a prince whose sayings are always thought so wise though ever so commonplace.

"After that I listened to what she said about Goethe. She said she expected to find him a second Werther, but she was disappointed—neither his manners nor appearance were like it, and she was very sorry that he fell short of him so entirely. Frau Rath, I was in a rage at this, (that was of no use you will say,) and I turned to Schlegel, and said to him in German, 'Madame de Staël has made a double mistake—first in her expectation, and then in her judgment. We Germans expect that Goethe can shake twenty heroes from his sleeve to astonish the French—but in our judgment he himself is a hero of a very different sort.' Schlegel is very wrong not to have informed her better on this. She threw a laurel leaf that she had been playing with on the ground. I stamped on it, and pushed it out of the way with my foot, and went off. That was my interview with the celebrated woman."

But the De Staël is made the heroine of another letter, in which Bettina give Goethe an account of her presentation to his mother. The ceremony took place in the apartments of Morris Bethman.

"Your mother—whether out of irony or pride—had decked herself wonderfully out—but with German fancy, not in French taste; and I must tell you that, when I saw her with three feathers on her head, swaying from side to side—red, white, and blue—the French national colours—which rose from a field of sun-flowers—my heart beat high with pleasure and expectation. She was rouged with the greatest skill; her great black eyes fired a thundering volley; about her neck hung the well-known ornament of the Queen of Prussia; lace of a fine ancestral look and great beauty—a real family treasure—covered her bosom. And there she stood, with white glacée gloves;—in one hand an ornamented fan, with which she set the air in motion; with the other, which was bare, and all be-ringed with sparkling jewels, she every now and then took a pinch from the snuff-box with your miniature on the lid—the one with long locks, powdered, and with the head leant down as if in thought. A number of dignified old dowagers formed a semicircle in the bedroom of Morris Bethman; and the assemblage, on a deep-red carpet—a white field in the middle, on which was worked a leopard—looked very grand and imposing. Along the walls were ranged tall Indian plants, and the room was dimly lighted with glass-lamps. Opposite the semicircle stood the bed, on an estrade raised two steps, also covered with a deep-red carpet, with candelabra at each side.

"At last came the long-expected[Pg 361] visitor through a suite of illuminated rooms, accompanied Benjamin Constant. She was dressed like Corinne;—a turban of aurora and orange-coloured silk—a gown of the same, with an orange tunic, very high in the waist, so that her heart had very little room. Her black eyebrows and eyelashes shone, and so did her lips also, with a mystic red. The gloves were turned down, and only covered the hand, in which she carried, as usual, the myrtle twig. As the room where she was waited for was much lower than the others, she had four steps to descend. Unluckily she lifted up her gown from the front instead of from behind, which gave a severe blow to the solemnity of her reception; for it appeared for a moment worse even than merely funny, when this extraordinary figure, dressed in strictly Oriental fashion, broke loose upon the staid and virtuous élite of Frankfort society. Your mother gave me a courageous look when they were introduced. I had taken my stand at a distance to watch the scene. I observed De Staël's surprise at the wonderful adornment of your mother, and at her manner, which was full of dignity. She spread out her gown with her left hand, giving the salute with her right which sported the fan; and, while she bowed her head repeatedly with great condescension, she said in a loud voice, that sounded distinctly through the room—'Je suis la mère de Goethe.'—'Ah, je suis charmée!' said the authoress; and then there was a solemn silence. Then followed the presentation of her distinguished companions, who were all anxious also to be introduced to Goethe's mother. She answered all their polite speeches with a new-year's wish in French, which she muttered between her teeth, with a multitude of stately curtsies. In short the audience was now begun, and must have given them a fine idea of our German grandezza. Your mother beckoned me to her side to interpret between them; the conversation was all about you—about your childhood. The portrait on the snuff-box was examined. It was painted in Leipsic before the great illness you had; but even then you were very thin. It was easy to see all your present greatness in those childish features, and particularly the author of Werther. De Staël spoke of your letter, and said she would like to see how you write to your mother, and your mother promised to show her; but, thought I, she shall never get any of your letters from me, for I don't like her. Every time your name was mentioned by those ill-shaped lips, a secret rage came upon me. She told me you called her 'Amie' in your letters. Ah! she must have seen how surprised I was to hear it; yes—and she told me more—but my patience failed. How can you be friendly to such an ugly face? Ah! there may be seen how vain you are!—or is it possible she can have been telling a story?"

With this charitable resolution of her doubts, Bettina leaves off her description of the meeting between De Staël and "la mère de Goethe." We think the affected jealousy of the little creature very amusing; and, moreover, we consider that all her words and actions in relation to Goethe, were in keeping with an imaginary character she had determined to assume. I shall be in love with him, and he shall be in love with me; and as he is a poet, I will be very poetical in my passion; as he writes tragedies, I will be dramatic; as he is "a student of the human mind," I will puzzle him with the wisdom of sixty, united to the playfulness of ten or twelve,—the flames of Sappho to the childishness of my real age and disposition. And so indeed she did. The old philosopher of Weimar did not know what to make of her. He keeps writing to her that he cannot decide whether she is most "wunderbar" or "wunderlich"—wonderful or odd. And round about his puzzled head she buzzes; now a fire-fly, nearly singeing his elevated eyebrows—now a hornet, inserting a sharp little sting in his nose—now a butterfly, lighting with beautiful wings on the nosegay in his breast; but at all times bright, brilliant, and enchanting. So, no wonder the astonished and gratified egotist called out for more; "more"—"more letters, dear Bettina," "write to me as often as you can." And to show her that her letters were useful to him, he not unfrequently sent her back long passages of her own epistles, turned[Pg 362] into rhyme—and very good rhymes they are, and make a very respectable appearance among his collected poems. And a true philosopher old Goethe was (of the Sir Joseph Banks' school of philosophy as illustrated by Peter Pindar.) Instead of admiring the lovely wings and airy evolutions of the butterfly that rested so happily on his bouquet—he determined to examine it more minutely, and put it into his dried collection. So he laid coarse hands upon it—transfixed it with a brass pin, and listened to its humming as long as it had strength to hum; and finally transferred it to a book as an extraordinary specimen of a new species—for which astonishing discovery, he was bespattered with undeserved praises by the whole press of Germany. At this time, he was writing his Wahlverwandtshafter, or Electric Affinities; and as it introduced a young girl filled with the same wild passion for another woman's husband that Bettina affected to feel for him, letter by letter was sedulously studied, to give a new touch, either of tenderness or originality, to his contemptible Miss Ottilie. But we have already in this Magazine expressed our opinion of that performance, and of the great Goethe in general; so that we shall not return to the subject on the present occasion. Pleasanter it is to follow the fairy-footed Bettina in her scramblings over rock and fell, her wadings through rivers, and sleepings on the dizzy verge of old castle walls that look down a hundred fathoms of sheer descent into the Rhine. And pleasanter still, to hear her give utterance to sentiments—unknown to the pusillanimous, unpatriotic heart of the author of Werther—of sympathy with the noble Tyrolese in their struggles for freedom, and her generous regard for them when they were subdued.

Nothing, perhaps, is more astonishing in these letters—considering the date of them, 1809-10—than the utter silence maintained on the state of public affairs. The French are mentioned once or twice—but generally in praise—Napoleon as often; but not a word to show that there was any stirring in the German mind on the subject of their country or independence. There they went on, smoking and drinking beer, writing treatises on the Greek article, or poems on Oriental subjects, in the same prosy, dull, dreamy fashion as ever, with the cannon of Jena sounding in their ears, and the blood of Hofer fresh upon the ground. Well done, then, beautiful, merry, deep-souled, tender-hearted Bettina! From her windows at Munich, she saw the smoke of the burning villages in the Tyrol; and her constant wish is for men's clothes and a sword, to go and join the patriots, and have a dash at the stupid, dunderheaded Bavarians. But our clever little friend is not alone in her good feelings. Count Stadion, a dignitary of the church, and Austrian ambassador, is her sworn ally; and few things are more beautiful than the descriptions of the reverend diplomatist and the fiery-eyed little Bettina being united by their sympathy in what was then a fallen and hopeless cause. But there was still another sympathiser, and the discovery of his feelings we will let Bettina herself describe:—

Next day was Good-Friday. Stadion took me with him to read me mass. I told him, with many blushes, the great longing I had to join the Tyrolese. Stadion told me to depend on him; he would take a knapsack on his back and go into the Tyrol, and do all I wanted to do instead of me. This was the last mass that he could read to me, for his departure in a few days was settled. Ah me! it fell heavy on my heart that I was to lose so dear a friend. After mass, I went into the choir, threw on a surplice, and joined in Winter's Lament. In the mean time, the Crown-prince and his brother came in—the crucifix lay on the ground—both the brothers kissed it, and afterwards embraced. They had had a quarrel till that day about a court tutor, whom the Crown-prince had thought ill of, and dismissed from his brother's service. They were reconciled in the way I have said, in the old church, and it was a delightful thing to see it. Bopp, an old music-master of the Crown-prince, who also gave me some lessons, accompanied me home. He showed me a sonnet composed by the Crown-prince that morning. It speaks well[Pg 363] for his 'inner soul,' that he feels this inclination to poetry in interesting circumstances. Nature assuredly asserts her rights in him, and he will surely not let the Tyrolese be hardly dealt with. Yes, I have great trust in him. Old Bopp told me many things that raised my opinion of him to the highest pitch. On the third holiday, he carried me to the English garden to hear the Crown-prince's address to the assembled troops, with whom he was going, to serve his first campaign. I could hear nothing distinctly, but what I did hear, I did not at all like; he spoke of their bravery, their perseverance, and loyalty, and that he, with their assistance, would bring back the Tyrolese to obedience, and that he considered his own honour conjoined to theirs, &c. &c. As I went home, this worried me very much. I saw that the Crown-prince, in the hands of his generals, would do all that his heart rebelled against. I thought, as I returned from the show, that no man in the world ever speaks truth to one in power, but rather that there are always flatterers to approve of all he does; and the worse his conduct, the greater their fear that he may doubt of their approbation. They have never the good of mankind in their eye, but only the favour of their master. So I determined to take a bold step, to satisfy my own feelings—and I hope you will excuse me if you think I did wrong.

"After expressing to the Crown-prince my love, and respect for his genius, I confessed to him my sentiments towards the Tyrolese, who were gaining such a heroic crown—my confidence that he would show mildness and forbearance, where his people were now giving way only to cruelty and revenge—I asked him if the title 'Duke of the Tyrol' had not a nobler sound than the names of the four kings who had united their power to exterminate those heroes? And, however it turned out, I hoped he would acquire from his conduct even the title of 'The Humane.'

"This was the contents of a letter that filled four pages. After writing it in the most furious excitement, I sealed it very calmly, and gave it into the music-master's hands, telling him—'This is something about the Tyrolese that may be very useful to the Crown-prince.'

"How glad a man is to make himself of importance! Old Bopp nearly tumbled down-stairs it his hurry to give such an interesting letter to the Prince; and I, with my usual light-headedness, forgot all about it. I went to Winter to sing hymns—to Tieck—to Jacobi—nowhere could I find any body to agree with me; every where there seemed nothing but fear; and if they had known what I had done, they would have forbidden me their houses. I looked bitterly on them all, and thought—Be you Bavarian and French—I and the Crown-prince are German and Tyrolese. Or he gets me put in prison—and then I am at once free and independent; and if I ever get out again, I will go over to the Tyrolese, and meet the Crown-prince on the field, and force from him what he now refuses to my entreaty.

"The old music-master came back, pale and trembling.

"'What was there in the paper you gave me for the Crown-prince?' he said. 'It may ruin me for life. The Crown-prince looked excited as he read it—ay, angry; and when he saw me there, he ordered me off without one gracious word.'

"I could not help laughing. The music-master grew more and more anxious, and I more and more delighted. I rejoiced already in my imprisonment; and I thought how I could carry on my philosophic speculations in my solitude. Once only I saw the Crown-prince at the theatre. He gave me a friendly nod. Very good. For eight days I had not seen Stadion; but, on the 10th of April, I got certain information that he had gone off by night. I was very sorry to think I had seen him for the last time; and it struck me, with strange significance, that he read his last mass on Good-Friday. At last my long repressed and dissembled feelings burst forth in tears. It is in solitude one knows his own wishes and his helplessness. I found no place of repose for my struggling heart; and, tired with weeping, I at length fell asleep. Have you ever fallen asleep worn out with weeping?[Pg 364] But men do not weep. You have never wept so that the sobs shook your breast even in your sleep? Sobbing in my dreams, I heard my name. It was dark. By the faint glimmer of the street lamps, I perceive a man near me, in a foreign military uniform, sabre, sabretash—dark hair. I should have thought it was Black Fred, (Stadion's name among his intimates.)

"No—it is no mistake; it is indeed Black Fred, come to take his leave.

"'My carriage is at the door—I am going—as a soldier—to the Austrian army; and with regard to your Tyrolese friends, you shall have nothing to reproach me with, or you never see me more; for I give you my word of honour I will not consent to their being betrayed. I have this moment been with the Crown-prince. He drank with me the health of the Tyrolese, and a 'pereat' to Napoleon. He took me by the hand, and said—'Remember that, in the year nine, in April, during the Tyrolese rebellion, the Crown-prince of Bavaria opposes Napoleon.' And so saying, he clanged his glass on mine so, that he broke the foot of it off.'

"I said to Stadion—'Now then I am all alone, and have no friend left.'

"He smiled, and said—'You write to Goethe. Write him from me that the Catholic priest will gather laurels on the Tyrolese battle-field.'

"I said—'I shall not soon hear a mass again.'

"'And I shall not soon read one,' he answered.

"He then took up his weapons, and reached me his hand to say good-by. I am sure I shall never see him again.

"Scarcely was he gone, when a knock came to the door, and old Bopp came in. It was still dark in the room, but I knew by his voice he was in good-humour. He held out a broken glass to me; with great solemnity, and said—'The Crown-prince sends you this, and bids me tell you that he drank the health of those you take under your protection out of it; and here he sends you his cockade, as a pledge of honour that he will keep his word to you, and prevent all cruelty and injustice.'"

The fate of Hofer comes unfortunately to our memory to mar the pleasantness of this little dramatic incident; but the whole story gives a favourable impression of the Crown-prince, who is now the poetical Louis of Bavaria—the dullest and stupidest of whose works (we may observe in a parenthesis) makes a poor figure in its Greek dress, and had better be retranslated as quickly as possible into its original Teutsch.

It is curious to see the sort of society that Bettina moves in—crown-princes, and prince-bishops, and ambassadors-extraordinary—and all treating her with the greatest regard. There must have been something very taking in the bright black eyes and rosy lips of the correspondent of Goethe, and friend, apparently, of all the German magnificoes; for she uses them with very little ceremony, and holds her head as high among them as if she knew there was more in it than was contained under all their crowns and mitres. But it was not with the magnates of the land alone that she was on such terms. The literary potentates were equally pleased with her attention. If a rising artist wants encouragement, he applies to Bettina. Sculptors, painters, musicians, all lay their claims before her; and we find her constantly using her influence on their behalf with the literary dictator of Weimar. If a scholar or philosopher is sick, she sits at his bedside; and in the midst of all the playfulness, wildness, eccentricity, (and perhaps affectation,) we meet with in the letters, we see enough of right spirit and good heart to counterbalance them all; and such a malicious little minx! and such a despiser of prudery, and contemner of humbug in all its branches! It is delightful to reflect on the torment she must have been to all the silly stiff-backed old maids within reach of tongue and eye. And therefore—and for many reasons besides—we maintain that Bettina, from fifteen to seventeen, is an exquisite creature, fiery and impassioned as Juliet, and witty as Beatrix. We will also maintain till our dying day, that neither her Romeo nor Benedict was near sixty years old.

The information given by the Frau[Pg 365] Rath about her son has already been incorporated in the thousand and one memoirs and recollections supplied by the love and admiration of his friends;—we will therefore not follow Bettina in her record of his boyish days, as gathered from his mother and reported to himself, further than to remark, that vanity seems from the very first to have been his prevailing characteristic—even to so low a pitch as the "sumptuousness of apparel." Think of a little snob in the Lawnmarket—son of a baillie—dressing himself two or three times a-day—once plainly—once half-and-half—and finally in hat and feather—silks and satins—a caricature of a courtier of Louis XIV.; and all this at the age of eight or nine!

We have said that our love for Bettina only extends to the three years of her life from 1807 to 1810. At that period it dies a natural death. She assumed at fourteen the feelings of a love-inspired, heart-devoted "character"—as fictitious, we are persuaded, as any created by dramatist or poet; and it was pleasant to see with what art and eloquence she acted up to it. It seemed a wonderful effort of histrionic skill, and superior, in an infinite degree, to the mere representation on the stage of an Ophelia or Miranda. But when years passed on, and she still continued the same "character," she strikes us with the same feelings that would be excited by some actress who should grow so enamoured of her favourite part, as to go on Opheliaizing or Desdemonaing off the stage—singing snatches of unchristian ballads, with the hair dishevelled, during prayers in church; or perpetually smothering herself with pillows on the drawing-room sofa. It is as if General Tom Thumb were to grow to a decent size, and still go on imitating Napoleon, and insisting on people paying a shilling to see his smallness. Bettina should have stopped before she grew womanly; for though we have not the least suspicion of her having had any meaning in what she did—further than to show her cleverness—still, the attitudes that are graceful and becoming in a children's dance, take a very different expression in an Indian nautch. And therefore we return to our belief at the commencement of this paper, that the "child" of Goethe's correspondence died, and was buried in a garden of roses, in the year 1810—De mortuis nil nisi bonum.



[Pg 366]


Supplement to MacFlecnoe and the Dunciad.

Well, then, we have once more—to wit a month ago—wheeled round and encountered face to face our two great masters, with whom we at first set out—John Dryden and Alexander Pope. We found them under a peculiar character, that of Avengers—to be imaged by the Pythean quelling with his divine and igneous arrows the Python, foul mud-engendered monster, burthening the earth and loathed by the light of heaven.

Dryden and Pope! Father and son—master and scholar—founder and improver. Who can make up his election, which of the two he prefers?—the free composition of Dryden that streams on and on, full of vigour and splendour, of reason and wit, as if verse were a mother tongue to him, or some special gift of the universal Mother—or the perfected art of Pope? Your choice changes as your own humour or the weathercock turns. If jolly Boreas, the son of the clear sky, as Homer calls him, career scattering the clouds, and stirring up life over all the face of the waters, grown riotous with exuberant power, you are a Drydenite. But if brightness and stillness fall together upon wood and valley, upon hill and lake, then the spirit of beauty possesses you, and you lean your ear towards Pope. For the spirit of beauty reigns in his musical style; and if he sting and kill, it is with an air and a grace that quite win and charm the lookers-on; and a sweetness persuades them that he is more concerned about embalming his victims to a perennial pulchritude after death, than intent upon ravishing from them the breath of a short-lived existence.

Dryden is all power—and he knows it. He soars at ease—he sails at ease—he swoops at ease—and he trusses at ease. In his own verse, not another approaches him for energy brought from familiar uses of expression. Witness the hazardous but inimitable—

"To file and polish God Almighty's fool,"

and a hundred others. Shakespeare and Milton are now and then (in blanks, as Tweedie used to say) all-surpassing by such a happiness. But Dryden alone moves unfettered in the fettering couplet—alone of those who have submitted to the fetters. For those who write distichs, running them into one another, head over heels, till you do not know where to look after the rhyme—these do not wear their fetters and with an all-mastering grace dance to the chime, but they break them and caper about, the fragments clanking dismally and strangely about their heels. Turn from the clumsy clowns to glorious John:—sinewy, flexible, well-knit, agile, stately-stepping, gracefully-bending, stern, stalwarth—or sitting his horse, "erect and fair," in career, and carrying his steel-headed lance of true stuff, level and steady to its aim, and impetuous as a thunderbolt. His strokes are like the shots of that tremendous ordnance—

"chain'd thunderbolts and hail
Of iron globes——
That whom they hit none on their feet might stand,
Though standing else as rocks."

But we are forgetting ourselves. We must not run into elongated criticism, however excellent, in a Supplement—and therefore gladden you all with a specimen—without note or comment—from the second part of Absalom and Achitophel.

"Doeg, though without knowing how or why,
Made still a blundering kind of melody;
Spurr'd boldly on, and dash'd through thick and thin,
Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in;
[Pg 367]Free from all meaning, whether good or bad,
And in one word, heroically mad:
He was too warm on picking-work to dwell,
But fagoted his notions as they fell,
And if they rhymed and rattled, all was well.
Spiteful he is not, though he wrote a satyr,
For still there goes some thinking to ill nature:
He needs no more than birds and beasts to think,
All his occasions are to eat and drink.
If he call rogue and rascal from a garret,
He means you no more mischief than a parrot:
The words for friend and foe alike were made,
To fetter them in verse is all his trade.
For almonds he'll cry whore to his own mother:
And call young Absalom king David's brother.
Let him be gallows-free by my consent,
And nothing suffer since he nothing meant;
Hanging supposes human soul and reason,
This animal's below committing treason:
Shall he be hang'd who never could rebel?
That's a preferment for Achitophel.
Railing in other men may be a crime,
But ought to pass for mere instinct in him:
Instinct he follows and no further knows,
For to write verse with him is to transprose.
'Twere pity treason at his door to lay,
Who makes heaven's gate a lock to its own key:
Let him rail on, let his invective Muse
Have four and twenty letters to abuse,
Which, if he jumbles to one line of sense,
Indict him of a capital offence,
In fire-works give him leave to vent his spight,
Those are the only serpents he can write;
The height of his ambition is, we know,
But to be master of a puppet-show,
On that one stage his works may yet appear,
And a month's harvest keeps him all the year.

"Now stop your noses, readers, all and some,
For here's a tun of midnight-work to come,
Og from a treason-tavern rowling home,
Round as a globe, and liquor'd every chink,
Goodly and great he sails behind his link;
With all this bulk there's nothing lost in Og,
For every inch that is not fool is rogue:
A monstrous mass of foul corrupted matter,
As all the devils had spew'd to make the batter,
When wine has given him courage to blaspheme,
He curses God, but God before curst him;
And, if man could have reason, none has more,
That made his paunch so rich, and him so poor.
With wealth he was not trusted, for heaven knew
What 'twas of old to pamper up a Jew;
To what would he on quail and pheasant swell,
That ev'n on tripe and carrion could rebel?
But though heaven made him poor, with reverence speaking,
He never was a poet of God's making;
The midwife laid her hand on his thick skull,
With this prophetic blessing—Be thou dull:
Drink, swear, and roar, forbear no lewd delight
Fit for thy bulk, do any thing but write:
Thou art of lasting make, like thoughtless men,
A strong nativity—but for the pen!
[Pg 368]Eat opium, mimic arsenic in thy drink,
Still thou mayst live, avoiding pen and ink.
I see, I see, 'tis counsel given in vain,
For treason botcht in rhyme will be thy bane:
Rhyme is the rock on which thou art to wreck,
'Tis fatal to thy fame and to thy neck:
Why should thy metre good King David blast?
A psalm of his will surely be thy last.
Dar'st thou presume in verse to meet thy foes,
Thou whom the penny pamphlet foil'd in prose?
Doeg, whom God for mankind's mirth has made,
O'er-tops thy talent in thy very trade;
Doeg to thee, thy paintings are so coarse,
A poet is, though he's the poet's horse.
A double noose thou on thy neck dost pull
For writing treason, and for writing dull;
To die for faction is a common evil,
But to be hang'd for nonsense is the devil:
Had thou the glories of thy king exprest,
Thy praises had been satyr at the best;
But thou in clumsy verse, unlickt, unpointed,
Hast shamefully defy'd the Lord's anointed:
I will not rake the dunghill for thy crimes,
For who would read thy life that reads thy rhymes?
But of King David's foes be this the doom,
May all be like the young man Absalom!
And for my foes, may this their blessing be,
To talk like Doeg, and to write like thee!"

This is the ne plus ultra of personal satire. Yet there are passages of comparable excellence in the Dunciad. Aha! what have we here? A contemptuous attack on Pope by—a Yankee-Cockney! What a cross! John Russell Lowell from Massachusets thus magpie-like chattereth at the Nightingale.

"Philip.—You talk about the golden age of Queen Anne. It was a French pinchbeck age.

"John.—Stay, not so fast. I like the writers of that period, for the transparency of their style, and their freedom from affection. If I may trust my understanding of your meaning, our modern versifiers have only made the simple discovery, that an appearance of antiquity is the cheapest passport to respect. But the cheapest which we purchase with subservience is too dear. You yourself have no such prejudice against the Augustan age of English literature. I have caught you more than once with the Tatler in your hand, and have heard you praising Dryden's prefaces.

"Philip.—You and I have very different notions of what poetry is, and of what its object should be. You may claim for Pope the merit of an envious eye, which could turn the least scratch upon the character of a friend into a fester, of a nimble and adroit fancy, and of an ear so niggardly that it could afford but one invariable cæsura to his verse; but, when you call him poet, you insult the buried majesty of all earth's noblest and choicest spirits. Nature should lead the true poet by the hand, and he has far better things to do than to busy himself in counting the warts upon it, as Pope did. A cup of water from Hippocrene, tasting, as it must, of innocent pastoral sights and sounds, of the bleat of lambs, of the shadows of leaves and flowers that have leaned over it, of the rosy hands of children whose privilege it ever is to paddle in it, of the low words of lovers who have walked by its side in the moonlight, of the tears of the poor Hagars of the world who have drunk from it, would choke a satirist. His thoughts of the country must have a savour of Jack Ketch, and see no beauty but in a hemp field. Poetry is something to make us wiser and better, by continually revealing those types of beauty and truth which God has set in all men's souls; not by picking out the petty faults of our neighbours to make a mock of. Shall that divine instinct, which has in all ages concerned itself only with what is holiest and fairest in life and nature, degrade itself to go about seeking for the scabs and ulcers of the putridest spirits, to grin over with a derision more hideous even than the pitiful quarry[Pg 369] it has moused at? Asmodeus's gift, of unroofing the dwellings of his neighbours at will, would be the rarest outfit for a satirist, but it would be of no worth to a poet. To the satirist the mere outward motives of life are enough. Vanity, pride, avarice—these, and the other external vices, are the strings of his unmusical lyre. But the poet need only unroof his own heart. All that makes happiness or misery under every roof of the wide world, whether of palace or hovel, is working also in that narrow yet boundless sphere. On that little stage the great drama of life is acted daily. There the creation, the tempting, and the fall, may be seen anew. In that withdrawing closet, solitude whispers her secrets, and death uncovers his face. There sorrow takes up her abode, to make ready a pillow and a resting-place for the weary head of love, whom the world casts out. To the poet nothing is mean, but every thing on earth is a fitting altar to the supreme beauty.

"But I am wandering. As for the poets of Queen Anne's reign, it is enough to prove what a kennel standard of poetry was then established, that Swift's smutchy verses are not even yet excluded from the collections. What disgusting stuff, too, in Prior and Parnell! Yet Swift, perhaps, as the best writer of English whom that period produced. Witness his prose. Pope treated the English language as the image-man has served the bust of Shakspeare yonder. To rid it of some external soils, he has rubbed it down till there is no muscular expression left. It looks very much as his own 'mockery king of snow' must have done after it had begun to melt. Pope is for ever mixing water with the good old mother's milk of our tongue. You cannot get a straightforward speech out of him. A great deal of his poetry is so incased in verbiage, that it puts me in mind of those important-looking packages which boys are fond of sending to their friends. We unfold envelope after envelope, and at last find a couple of cherry-stones. But in Pope we miss the laugh which in the other case follows the culmination of the joke. He makes Homer lisp like the friar in Chaucer and Ajax and Belinda talk exactly alike.

"John.—Well, we are not discussing the merits of Pope, but of the archaisms which have been introduced into modern poetry. What you say of the Bible has some force in it. The forms of speech used in our version of it will always impress the mind, even if applied to an entirely different subject. What else can you bring forward?

"Philip.—Only the fact, that, by going back to the more natural style of the Elizabethan writers, our verse has gained in harmony as well as strength. No matter whether Pope is describing the cane of a fop, or the speech of a demigod, the pause must always fall on the same syllable, and the sense be chopped off by the same rhyme. Achilles cannot gallop his horses round the walls of Troy, with Hector dragging behind his chariot, except he keep time to the immitigable seesaw of the couplet."

Master Lowell gives tongue with a plagiarism from Southey. In his Life of Cowper that great writer somewhat rashly says, "The age of Pope was the golden age of poets—but it was the pinchbeck age of poetry." What is pardonable in Southey is knoutable in his ape. Think of one American Cantab playfully rating and complimenting another on having caught him more than once with the Tatler in his hand, and with having heard him praising Dryden's prefaces! What liberality—nay, what universality of taste! Absolutely able, in the reaches of his transatlantic soul, to relish Dryden's prefaces! But in his appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, Philip cannot, crop-sick, but nauseate the thought of Pope being a poet.

The whole dialogue—somewhat of the longest—tedious exceedingly—is polluted with similar impudencies. "The strong point in Pope's displays of sentiment, is in the graceful management of a cambric handkerchief. You do not believe a word that Heloïse says, and feel all the while that she is squeezing out her tears as if from a half-dry sponge." Such is the effect of too copious draughts from that Hippocrene which alternately discharges cock-tail and mint-julep. John, however, does not go the whole hog with Philip. He erects his ears to their full length, and brays thus—"I do not think that you do Pope justice!" and then does Pope justice as follows: "His translation of Homer is as bad as it can be, I admit!" I admit! "But surely you cannot deny the merit of lively[Pg 370] and ingenious fancy to his 'Rape of the Lock;' nor of knowledge of life, and a certain polished classicalness, to his epistles and satires. His portraits are like those of Copley, of fine gentlemen and ladies, whose silks and satins are the best part of them." But poor, cautious, timid, trimming, turn-about John cannot so conciliate bully Philip, who squabashes at once both poet and critic.

"Philip.—I cannot allow the parallel. In Copley's best pictures, the drapery, though you may almost hear it rustle, is wholly a subordinate matter. Witness some of those in our College-hall here at Cambridge—that of Madam Boylston especially. I remember being once much struck with the remark of a friend, who convinced me of the fact, that Copley avoided the painting of wigs whenever he could, thus getting a step nearer nature. Pope would have made them a prominent object. I grant what you say about the 'Rape of the Lock,' but this does not prove that Pope was a poet. If you wish an instance of a poet's fancy, look into the 'Midsummer Night's Dream.' I can allow that Pope has written what is entertaining, but surely not poetical. Show me a line that makes you love God and your neighbour better, that inclines you to meekness, charity, and forbearance, and I will show you a hundred that make it easier for you to be the odious reverse of all these. In many a Pagan poet there is more Christianity. No poet could write a 'Dunciad,' or even read it. You have persuaded yourself into thinking Pope a poet, as, in looking for a long time at a stick which we believe to be an animal of some kind, we fancy that it is stirring. His letters are amusing, but do not increase one's respect for him. When you speak of his being classical, I am sure that you jest."

The waves of the Atlantic have wafted acorns dropped from the British oak to the Western shores, and a wide and strong grove is growing up there. We feel our kindred with the fellow-beings of our tongue, and rejoice with a natural and keen interest in every thing true, great, and good that is produced within the States. Powers are moving there, that may, that do, want much tempering; but of which, when tempered, we augur high things. One such tempering is reverence of the past, and Pope is one of the great names which England tenders to young America. We augur ill, and are uneasy for our cousins or nephews, when we see them giving themselves airs, and knowing better than their betters. What are we to think, when instead of the fresh vigour which should rise on the soil of the self-governed, we find repetition, for the worse, of the feeblest criticisms which have disgraced some of our own weaklings? This presumptuous youngling talks technically, and does not know what he is talking about. Pope has not but one invariable cæsura to his verse. He has an ordinary range of four places for his cæsura, and the variety and music which he manages to give his verse under that scheme, dictated by a sensitive ear, is truly wonderful. That Pope is only a satirist, and can find nothing in humanity but its faults, infirmities, and disgraces to feed upon with delight, is a shameful falsehood. He is as generous in praise as he is galling in sarcasm; and the voice of Christian Europe has pronounced him a moral and religious poet. It is rather strange to see the stickler for the beauty and exaltation of poetry, diligent in purifying and ennobling the taste of his countrymen, by raking in the dirt for disgusting and loathsome images, to express his slanderous character of a writer, eminent among the best for purity and refinement. We take leave of Mr Lowell with remarking, that his affected and hyperbolical praises heaped on the old English dramatists are as nauseous as any ignorant exaggeration can be, bombastically protruded on us at second-hand, from an article in an old number of the Retrospective Review, from which most of the little he knows is taken, and in the taking, turned into most monstrous nonsense.

Friends of our soul! Permit us, now, in this our Supplement, to suggest to your recollection, that Satire is public or private. Public satire is, or would he, authoritative, robed, magisterial censure. Private satire is private warfare—the worst plague of the state, and the overthrow of all right law. It is worse. For when[Pg 371] baron besieges baron, there is high spirit roused, and high deeds are achieved. But private malice in verse is as if the gossiping dames of a tea-table were armed with daggers instead of words, to kill reputations—the School for Scandal turned into a tragedy. We are groaning now over the inferior versifiers. To the Poets, to the mighty ones, we forgave every thing, a month ago. We say then, again, that although duly appointed to this Chair of Justice in which we sit, and having our eyes bandaged like the Goddess whose statue is in the corner of the hall, yet our hands are open, and we are willing—as in all well-governed kingdoms judges have been willing—to take bribes. But we let it be known, we must be bribed high. Juvenal, Persius, Horace, Dryden, and Pope have soothed the itching of our palms to our heart's content; and each has gained his cause in or impartial court. Nay, we are very much afraid, that if that gall-fed, parricidal ruffian, Archilochus, who twisted his verses into a halter for noosing up his wife's father—a melancholy event to which the old gentleman, it is said, lent a helping-hand—were more to us than a tradition, we should be in danger of finding in the poignancy of his iambics a sauce too much to our relish. Avec cette sauce—cried the French gastronome, by the ecstasy of his palate bewitched out of his moral discretion—Avec cette sauce on mangerait son père!

But leaving these imaginative heights, and walking along the level ground of daily life, common sense, and sane criticism, we go on to assert that private satire, lower than the highest, is intolerable. The grandeur of moral indignation in Juvenal, never is altogether without a secret inkling of disquietude at the bottom of the breast. It may be the Muse's legitimate and imposed office to smite the offending city; but it is never her joyous task. The judge never gladly puts on the black cap. The reality oppresses us—we are sore and sick in the very breath of the contagion, even if we escape untainted by it. The power of poetry possesses us for the time, and we must submit. Perhaps it is right, if the Muse be a great magistra vitæ, that she should present life under all its aspects, and school us in all its disciplines; and the direct, real, official censure of manners may be a necessary part of her calling. But how differently does the indirect censure affect us! Shakspeare creating Iago, censures wily, treacherous, envious, malignant, cold-blooded villany, where and whensoever to be found. He does not fix the brand upon the forehead of a time, or of a profession, or of a man, or of a woman; but of a devil who is incarnate in every time, who exercises every profession, is an innate, is the householder rather, now in the steeled breast of a man, and now in woman's softest bosom. This ubiquitous possibility of the Mark's occurring—the ignorance of the archer where his gifted arrow will strike—ennobles, aggrandizes his person and his work. It does not weaken the service which the poet is called upon to render to humanity, by showing himself the foe of her foes. And we, the spectators of the drama—what is that strangely balanced and harmonized conflict of emotions, by means of which we at once loathe and endure the poisonous confidant of the Moor? From the depths of the heart abhorring the odious, execrable man, whilst our fancy hovers, fascinated, about the marvellous creation! Yet we do not call Shakspeare here a Satirist. The distinction is broad. The Satirist is, in the most confined, or in the most comprehensive sense—PERSONAL.

And now we doubt not, readers beloved, that while you have been enjoying these our reflections on Satire, you may likewise have been dimly foreseeing the purposed end towards which our drift is setting in, as on a strong tide. We have been dealing with first-raters. In them the power of the poetry reconciles us to the matter—mitigates the repugnancy otherwise ready to wait, in a well-constituted mind, upon a series of thoughts and images which studiously persevere in venting the passions of hate and scorn. The curse of the Muse on all middling poets—and upon Parnassus one is tempted to ascribe to the middle zone of the mountain, all those who do not cluster about one of[Pg 372] the summits—the common curse seems to fall with tenfold violence upon the middling Satirist. The great poet has authority, magistery, masterdom, seated in his high spirit; and when he chooses to put forth his power, we bow before him, or stoop our heads from the descending bolt. But if one not thus privileged leap uncalled into the awful throne, to hurl self-dictated judgments, this arrogant usurpation of supremacy; justly offends and revolts us. For he who censures the age, or any notable division of contemporary society, in verse, does in fact arrogate to himself an unappealable superiority. He speaks, or affects to speak, muse-inspired, as a prophet, oracularly. He does not enquire, he thunders. Now, the thunder of a scold is any thing but agreeable—and we exclaim—

"Demens! qui nimbos et non imitabile fulmen
Ære et cornipedum cursu simulârat equorum."

Poets are the givers of renown. Their word is fame. But fame is good and ill; and therefore they speak Eulogy and Satire. They are the tongues of the world. The music of verse makes way for Lear's words to all our hearts. It makes way for the Satirist's to the heart, where they are to be mortal. If mankind justly moved condemn, the Poet will find voice for that condemnation. Wo be to those who by goading provoke him, who is the organ of the universal voice, to visit his own wrong, to wreak his own vengeance on their heads! The wrong, the wrath is private; but the voice retains its universality, and they are withered as if by the blast of the general hate or scorn—

"He was not for an age, but for all time,"

said one poet of another. There are two ways of belonging to one's age. You are born of it—you die with it. Johnson disclaims for Shakspeare the co-etaneousness by birth and by death. He is the son of all time; and the inheritor of all time. His mind is the mind of ages deceased, and of ages unborn; and his writings remain to each succeeding generation, as fresh as if it had witnessed their springing into existence. They take no date.

Something of this is common to all essential poetry—

"Vivuntque commissi calores
Æoliæ fidibus puellæ."

The loves of Sappho live. They have not passed away. They are immortally. Therefore the Poet, as we said, is the giver of fame. His praise—his scorn—lives for ever.

All who are worthy to read Us know how well the rude primeval people comprehended the worth of the poet. The song rang to the borders of the land or of the name, and that was glory or ignominy alive in every heart. Honour given by the poet was then a substantial possession; to be disgraced by his biting vituperation was like the infliction of a legal punishment. The whole condition of things—men's minds and their outward relations—corresponded to that which seems now to us an extraordinary procedure—that of constituting the poet, in virtue of that name, a state functionary, holding office, rank, and power. Now, the poet is but a self-constituted Censor. He holds office from the Muse only; or upon occasion from the mighty mother, Dulness. The Laureateship is the only office in the State of Poetry that is in the Queen's gift; and that, thanks to her benignity and the good sense of the nineteenth century, has become a sinecure conferred on an Emeritus.

"Hollo! my fancy, whether dost thou roam?"

Nay, she is not roaming at all—for we have been all along steering in the wind's eye right to a given point. We come now to say a few words of Charles Churchill.

Of him it was said by one greater far, that he "blazed the meteor of a season." For four years—during life—his popularity—in London and the suburbs—was prodigious; for forty—and that is a long time after death—he was a choice classic in the libraries of aging or aged men of wit upon town; and now, that nearly a century has elapsed since he "from his horrid hair shook pestilence and war" o'er slaves and Scotsmen, tools and tyrants, peers, poetasters, priests, pimps, and players, his name is still something more than a mere dissyllable,[Pg 373] and seems the shadow of the sound that Mother Dulness was wont to whisper in her children's ears when fretting wakefully on her neglected breasts. The Satirist, of all poets, calls the enquiry of the world upon himself. The Censor of manners should in his own be irreproachable. The satirist of a nation should feel that in that respect in which he censures he is whole and sound; that in assailing others he stands upon a rock; that his arrows cannot by a light shifting of the wind return to his own bosom. It was not so with Churchill. But he had his virtues—and he died young.

"Life to the last enjoy'd!! here Churchill lies."

It is not of his life but his writings we purpose to speak. It is not to be thought that his reputation at the time, and among some high critics since, could be groundless. There is an air of power in his way of attacking any and every subject. He goes to work without embarrassment, with spirit and ease, and is presently in his matter, or in some matter, rarely inane. It is a part, and a high part of genius, to design; but he was destitute of invention. The self-dubbed champion of liberty and letters, he labours ostentatiously and energetically in that vocation; and in the midst of tumultuous applause, ringing round a career of almost uninterrupted success, he seldom or never seems aware that the duties he had engaged himself to perform—to his country and his kind—were far beyond his endowments—above his conception. His knowledge either of books or men was narrow and superficial. In no sense had he ever been a student. His best thoughts are all essentially common-place; but, in uttering them, there is almost always a determined plainness of words, a free step in verse, a certain boldness and skill in evading the trammel of the rhyme, deserving high praise; while often, as if spurning the style which yet does not desert him, he wears it clinging about him with a sort of disregarded grace.

The Rosciad—The Apology—Night—The Prophecy of Famine—An Epistle to William Hogarth—The Duellist—Gotham—The Author—The Conference—The Ghost—The Candidate—The Farewell—The Times—The Journey—Fragment of a Dedication—such is the list of Works, whereof all England rung from side to side—during the few noisy years he vapoured—as in the form of shilling or half-crown pamphlets they frighted the Town from its propriety, and gave monthly or quarterly assurance to a great people that they possessed a great living Poet, worthy of being numbered with their mightiest dead.

He began with the Play-house.

The theatre! Satire belongs to the day, and the theatre belongs to the day. They seem well met. The spirit of both is the same—intense popularity. Actors are human beings placed in an extraordinary relation to other human beings: public characters; but brought the nearer to us by being so—the good ones intimate with our bosoms, dear as friends. Their persons, features, look, gait, gesture, familiar to our thoughts, vividly engraven. They address themselves to every one of us personally, in tones that thrill and chill, or that convulse us with merriment—and all for pleasure! They ask our sympathy, but they task it not. No burthen of distress that they may lay upon us do we desire to rid off our hearts. We only call for more, more! They stir up the soul within us, as nothing else in which, personally, we are quite unconcerned, does. Therefore the praise or sarcasm that visits them, comes home to the privacy of our own feelings. Besides, they belong to the service of the Muse; and so the other servant of the Muse, the Satirist, as the superintendent of the household, may reasonably reprehend or commend them. Further, they offer themselves to favour and to disfavour, to praise, to dispraise; to the applauding hands or to the exploding hisses of the public. There is, then an attraction of fame-bestowing verse towards the stage. And yet does it not seem a pity that the unfortunate bad actors should "bide the pelting of this pitiless storm," over and above that of others they are liable to be assailed with? What great-minded[Pg 374] Satirist could step down a play-bill from the first rank of performers to the second and the third—hunting out miserable mediocrities—dragging away the culprits of the stage to flagellation and the pillory? Say then, at once, that the Satirist is not great-minded, and his motives are not pure desires for the general benefit. He is by the gift of nature witty, and rather ill-natured. He very much enjoys his own wit, and he hopes that you have fun enough in you to enjoy his jests, and so he breaks them. The Rosciad is, we believe, by far the best of Churchill's performances; very clever, indeed, and characteristic; at the head of all theatrical criticism in verse; yet an achievement, in spite of the talent and ingenuity it displays, not now perusable without an accompanying feeling akin to contempt.

"Gotham" is an irregular, poetical whim, of which it is easier to describe the procedure than to assign the reasonable purpose. Gotham itself is a country unknown to our geographers, which Churchill has discovered, and of which, in right of that discovery, he assumes the sovereignty under his own undisguised name, King Churchill. After spiritedly arraigning the exercise in the real world of that right by which he rules in his imaginary kingdom—a right which establishes the civilised in the lands of the enslaved or expatriated uncivilised, he spends the rest of his first canto in summoning all creatures, rational and irrational, to join the happy Gothamites in the universal choral celebration of his mounting the throne. The second canto, for some two hundred verses, insists upon the necessity of marrying Sense with Art, to produce good writing, and Learning with Humanity, to produce useful writing; and then turns off bitterly to characterise the reigns in succession of the Stuarts, by way of warning to his Gothamites against the temptation to admit a vagrant Stuart for their king. The third canto delivers the rules by which he, King Churchill, who purposes being the father of his people, designs to govern his own reign. That is all. What and where is Gotham? What is the meaning of this royalty with which the poet invests himself? What is the drift, scope, and unity of the poem? Gotham is not, and is, England. It is not England, for he tells us in the poem that he is born in England, and that he is not born in Gotham; besides which, he expressly distinguishes the two countries by admonishing the Gothamites to search "England's fair records," for the sake of imbibing a due hatred for the House of Stuart. It is England, for it is an island which "Freedom's pile, by ancient wisdom raised, adorns," making it great and glorious, feared abroad and happy at home, secure from force or fraud. Moreover, her merchants are princes. The conclusion is, that Gotham is England herself, poetically disidentified by a very thin and transparent disguise. The sovereignty of King Churchill, if it mean any thing capable of being said in prose, may shadow the influence and authority which a single mind, assuming to itself an inborn call to ascendancy, wishes and hopes to possess over the intelligence of its own compatriot nation; and this may be conjectured in a writer who principally dedicates himself to the championship of political principles. The rules, in the Third Book, for the conduct of a prince, afford the opportunity of describing the idea of a patriot king, of censuring that which is actually done adversely to these rules; and, at the same time, they acquire something of a peculiar meaning, if they are to be construed as a scheme of right political thinking—the intelligence of the general welfare which is obligatory upon the political ruler being equally so upon the political teacher. If this kind of deliberate, allegorical design may be mercifully supposed, the wild self-imagination, and apparently downright nonsense of the First Book, may pretend a palliation of its glaring vanity and absurdity; since the blissful reign of King Churchill over Gotham, which is extolled very much like the "Jovis incrementum," in Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, thus comes to mean, when translated into the language of men, the reign in England of the opinions for which Churchill battles in rhyme. Or, this may be too much attribution of plan to a caprice that meant little or nothing. The first book was [Pg 375]published by itself, and may have aimed at something to which the author found that he could not give shape and consistency. Yet Cowper declares Gotham to be a noble and beautiful poem.

The Author might almost seem intended for a sequel to MacFlecnoe and the Dunciad. Not that it assumes, like them, a fanciful vehicle for the satire, but it undertakes the lashing of peccant authors, and recognises Dulness as an enthroned power to whose empire the writer is hostile; and where he adverts to his own early life, and clerical destination, he mentions her as the patroness upon whom his friends had relied for his future church preferment.

"But now, when Dulness rears aloft her throne,
When lordly vassals her wide empire own;
When Wit, seduced by Envy, starts aside,
And basely leagues with Ignorance and Pride, &c.
* * * *
Bred to the church, and for the gown decreed,
Ere it was known that I should learn to read;
Though that was nothing for my friends, who knew
What mighty Dulness of itself could do,
Never design'd me for a working priest,
But hoped I should have been a dean at least," &c.

The writers more formally and regularly attacked, are Smollett, Murphy, Shebbeare, Guthrie, and one Kidgell, who contrived to earn shame, in exposing to shame the printed but unpublished obscenity and blasphemy of Wilkes. Johnson gets a good word as a state-pensioner, Francis, the translator of Horace, for dulness apparently, and Mason, and even Gray, are signalized, en passant, as artificial rhymesters! The general tenor of the poem complains that in these days true learning, genius, and the honesty of authorship are of no account; whilst the political profligacy of the pen ensures favour and pay. The first hundred lines forcibly express the inspiring indignation proper to the subject, and some of them are still occasionally quoted; but how inferior all to corresponding strains in Dryden and Pope! They were poets indeed—he was not a poet. He has not fancy or imagination—they had both—they were consummate masters in their art: he was but a bold bungler after all. In proof, take the best passage in The Author.

"Is this—O death to think!—is this the land
Where merit and reward went hand in hand?
Where heroes, parent-like, the poet view'd,
By whom they saw their glorious deeds renew'd?
Where poets, true to honour, tuned their lays,
And by their patrons sanctified their praise?
Is this the land where, on our Spenser's tongue,
Enamour'd of his voice, Description hung?
Where Jonson rigid Gravity beguiled,
While Reason through her critic fences smiled?
Where Nature listening stood whilst Shakspeare play'd,
And wonder'd at the work herself had made?
Is this the land where, mindful of her charge,
And office high, fair Freedom walk'd at large?
Where, finding in our laws a sure defence,
She mock'd at all restraints, but those of sense?
Where, Health and Honour trooping by her side,
She spreads her sacred empire far and wide;
Pointed the way, Affliction to beguile,
And bade the face of Sorrow wear a smile—
Bade those who dare obey the generous call
Enjoy her blessings, which God meant for all?
Is this the land where, in some tyrant's reign,
When a weak, wicked, ministerial train,
The tools of power, the slaves of interest, plann'd
Their country's ruin, and with bribes unmann'd
[Pg 376]Those wretches, who ordain'd in Freedom's cause,
Gave up our liberties, and sold our laws;
When Power was taught by Meanness where to go,
Nor dared to love the virtue of a foe;
When, like a lep'rous plague, from the foul head
To the foul heart her sores Corruption spread,
Her iron arm when stern Oppression rear'd,
And Virtue, from her broad base shaken, fear'd
The scourge of Vice; when, impotent and vain,
Poor Freedom bow'd the neck to Slavery's chain?
Is this the land, where, in those worst of times,
The hardy poet raised his honest rhymes
To dread rebuke, and bade Controlment speak
In guilty blushes on the villain's cheek;
Bade Power turn pale, kept mighty rogues in awe,
And made hem fear the Muse, who fear'd not law?
"How do I laugh, when men of narrow souls,
Whom folly guides, and prejudice controls;
Who, one dull drowsy track of business trod,
Worship their Mammon, and neglect their God;
Who, breathing by one musty set of rules,
Dote from their birth, and are by system fools;
Who, form'd to dulness from their very youth,
Lies of the day prefer to Gospel-truth;
Pick up their little knowledge from Reviews,
And lay out all their stock of faith in news;
How do I laugh, when creatures form'd like these,
Whom Reason scorns, and I should blush to please,
Rail at all liberal arts, deem verse a crime,
And hold not truth as truth, if told in rhyme?"

These are commendable verses, but they are not the verses of a true poet. For instance, when he will praise the greatest poets—

"Is this the land, where, on our Spenser's tongue,
Enamour'd of his voice, Description hung"—

the intention is good, and there is some love in the singling out of the name; but Description is almost the lowest, not the highest praise of Spenser. The language too is mean and trite, not that of one who is "inflammatus amore" of the sacred poet whom he praises. How differently does Lucretius praise Epicurus! The words blaze as he names him. How differently does Pope or Gray praise Dryden! Even in Churchill's few words there is the awkward and heavy tautology—tongue and voice. It is more like the tribute of duty than sensibility. The well-known distich on Shakspeare is rather good—it utters with a vigorous turn the general sentiment, the nation's wonder of its own idol. But compare Gray, who also brings Nature and Shakspeare together; or see him speaking of Dryden or Milton, and you see how a poet speaks of a poet—thrilled with recollections—reflecting, not merely commemorating, the power. Indeed, we design to have a few (perhaps twenty) articles entitled Poets on Poets—in which we shall collect chronologically the praises of the brotherhood by the brotherhood. In the mean time we do believe that the one main thing which you miss in Churchill is the true poetical touch and temper of the spirit. He is, as far as he succeeds, a sort of inferior Junius in verse—sinewy, keen—with a good, ready use of strong, plain English; but he has no rapture. His fire is volcanic, not solar. Yet no light praise it is, that he rejects frivolous ornament, and trusts to the strength of the thought, and of the good or ill within. But besides the disparity—which is great—of strength, of intellectual rank—this draws an insuperable difference in kind between him and Pope or Dryden, that they are essentially poets. The gift of song is on their lips. If they turn Satirists, they bring the power to another than its wonted and[Pg 377] native vocation. But Churchill obtains the power only in satirizing. As Iago says—

"For I am nothing if not critical."

Is this merely a repetition of Juvenal's "facit indignatio versus," rendered in prose, "Indignation makes me a poet," who am not a poet by nature? In the first place, Juvenal prodigiously transcends Churchill in intellectual strength; and in the second, Juvenal has far more of essential poetry, although hidden in just vituperation, and in the imposed worldliness of his matter. But we must pull up.

The so-called "Epistle to Hogarth" is, after the wont of Churchill, a shapeless, undigested performance. It is nothing in the likeness of an epistle; but for three hundred lines a wandering, lumbering rhapsody, addressed to nobody, which, after abusing right and left, suddenly turns to Hogarth, whom it introduces by summoning him to stand forth at the bar in the Court of Conscience, an exemplar of iniquities worse than could have been believed of humanity, were he not there to sustain the character, and authenticate the rightful delineation. Thenceforwards obstreperously railing on, overwhelming the great painter with exaggerated reproaches for envy that persecuted all worth, for untired self-laudation, for painting his unfortunate Sigismunda; and oh! shame of song! for the advancing infirmities of old age. The merits of Hogarth, as master of comic painting, are acknowledged in lines that have been often quoted, and are of very moderate merit—not worth a rush. "The description of his age and infirmities," as Garrick said at the time, "is too shocking and barbarous." It nauseates the soul; and unmasks in the Satirist the rancorous and malignant hostility which assumes the disguise of a righteous indignation.

"Hogarth! stand forth.—Nay, hang not thus aloof—
Now, Candor! now thou shalt receive such proof,
Such damning proof, that henceforth thou shalt fear
To tax my wrath, and own my conduct clear—
Hogarth! stand forth—I dare thee to be try'd
In that great court where Conscience must preside;
At that most solemn bar hold up thy hand;
Think before whom, on what account, you stand—
Speak, but consider well—from first to last
Review thy life, weigh ev'ry action past—
Nay, you shall have no reason to complain—
Take longer time, and view them o'er again—
Canst thou remember from thy earliest youth,
And, as thy God must judge thee, speak the truth;
A single instance where, self laid aside,
And justice taking place of fear and pride,
Thou with an equal eye did'st genius view,
And give to merit what was merit's due?
Genius and merit are a sure offence,
And thy soul sickens at the name of sense.
Is any one so foolish to succeed?
On Envy's altar he is doom'd to bleed;
Hogarth, a guilty pleasure in his eyes,
The place of executioner supplies:
See how he glotes, enjoys the sacred feast,
And proves himself by cruelty a priest.
"Whilst the weak artist, to thy whims a slave,
Would bury all those pow'rs which Nature gave;
Would suffer black concealment to obscure
Those rays thy jealousy could not endure;
To feed thy vanity would rust unknown,
And to secure thy credit blast his own,
In Hogarth he was sure to find a friend
He could not fear, and therefore might commend:
[Pg 378]But when his Spirit, rous'd by honest shame,
Shook off that lethargy, and soar'd to fame;
When, with the pride of man, resolv'd and strong,
He scorn'd those fears which did his honour wrong,
And, on himself determin'd to rely,
Brought forth his labours to the public eye,
No friend in thee could such a rebel know;
He had desert, and Hogarth was his foe.
"Souls of a tim'rous cast, of petty name
In Envy's court, not yet quite dead to shame,
May some remorse, some qualms of conscience feel,
And suffer honour to abate their zeal;
But the man truly and completely great
Allows no rule of action but his hate;
Thro' ev'ry bar he bravely breaks his way,
Passion his principle, and parts his prey.
Mediums in vice and virtue speak a mind
Within the pale of temperance confin'd;
The daring spirit scorns her narrow schemes,
And, good or bad, is always in extremes.
"Man's practice duly weigh'd, thro' ev'ry age
On the same plan hath Envy form'd her rage,
'Gainst those whom fortune hath our rivals made,
In way of science and in way of trade:
Stung with mean jealousy she arms her spite,
First works, then views their ruin with delight.
Our Hogarth here a grand improver shines,
And nobly on the gen'ral plan refines:
He like himself o'erleaps the servile bound;
Worth is his mark, wherever worth is found;
Should painters only his vast wrath suffice?
Genius in ev'ry walk is lawful prize:
'Tis a gross insult to his o'ergrown state;
His love to merit is to feel his hate.
"When Wilkes, our countryman, our common friend,
Arose, his king, his country, to defend;
When tools of pow'r he bar'd to public view,
And from their holes the sneaking cowards drew;
When Rancour found it far beyond her reach
To soil his honour and his truth impeach;
What could induce thee, at a time and place
Where manly foes had blush'd to show their face,
To make that effort which must damn thy name,
And sink thee deep, deep, in thy grave with shame?
Did virtue move thee? No; 'twas pride, rank pride,
And if thou had'st not done it thou had'st dy'd.
Malice, (who, disappointed of her end,
Whether to work the bane of foe or friend,
Preys on herself, and driven to the stake,
Gives virtue that revenge she scorns to take,)
Had kill'd thee, tott'ring on life's utmost verge,
Had Wilkes and Liberty escap'd thy scourge.
"When that Great Charter, which our fathers brought;
With their best blood, was into question bought,
When, big with ruin, o'er each English head
Vile slav'ry hung suspended by a thread;
When Liberty, all trembling and aghast,
Fear'd for the future, knowing what was past;
When ev'ry breast was chill'd with deep despair,
Till reason pointed out that Pratt was there;
Lurking most ruffian-like behind a screen,
[Pg 379]So plac'd all things to see, himself unseen,
Virtue, with due contempt, saw Hogarth stand,
The murd'rous pencil in his palsied hand.
What was the cause of Liberty to him,
Or what was Honour? let them sink or swim,
So he may gratify without control
The mean resentment of his selfish soul;
Let freedom perish, if, to freedom true,
In the same ruin Wilkes may perish too.
"With all the symptoms of assur'd decay,
With age and sickness pinch'd and worn away,
Pale qiuv'ring lips, lank cheeks, and falt'ring tongue,
The spirits out of tune, the nerves unstrung,
The body shrivell'd up, thy dim eyes sunk
Within their sockets deep, thy weak hams shrunk,
The body's weight unable to sustain,
The stream of life scarce trembling, thro' the vein,
More than half-kill'd by honest truths, which fell
Thro' thy own fault from men who wish'd thee well,
Canst thou, ev'n thus, thy thoughts to vengeance give,
And, dead to all things else, to malice live?
Hence, Dotard! to thy closet; shut thee in;
By deep repentance wash away thy sin;
From haunts of men to shame and sorrow fly,
And, on the verge of death, learn how to die."

What was Hogarth's unpardonable sin? Nature had lodged the unlovely soul of Jack Wilkes in an unlovely and ludicrous person, which the wicked and inimitable pencil of Hogarth had made a little unlovelier perhaps, and a little more ludicrous. Horace Walpole spoke in his usual clear-cutting style of Mr Charles Pylades and Mr John Orestes. They liked one another, and ran the scent, strong as a trail of rancid fish-guts, of the same pleasures—but let not such hunting in couples profane the name of friendship.

"For me, who warm and zealous for my friend,
In spite of railing thousands, will commend,
And, no less warm and zealous 'gainst my foes,
Spite of commending thousands, will oppose—
I dare thy worst, with scorn behold thy rage;
But with an eye of pity view thy age—
Thy feeble age! in which, as in a glass,
We see how men to dissolution pass.
Thou wretched being! whom, on reason's plan,
So chang'd, so lost, I cannot call a man—
What could persuade thee at this time of life,
To launch afresh into the sea of strife!
Better for thee, scarce crawling on the earth,
Almost as much a child as at thy birth;
To have resign'd in peace thy parting breath,
And sunk unnotic'd in the arms of death.
Why would thy gray, gray hairs resentment brave,
Thus to go down with sorrow to the grave?
Now, by my soul! it makes me blush to know
My spirit could descend to such a foe:
Whatever cause the vengeance might provoke;
It seems rank cowardice to give the stroke.
"Sure 'tis a curse which angry Fates impose
To mortify man's arrogance, that those
Who're fashion'd of some better sort of clay
Much sooner than the common herd decay.
What bitter pangs must humble Genius feel
[Pg 380]In their last hours, to view a Swift and Steele!
How must ill-boding horrors fill her breast,
When she beholds men mark'd above the rest
For qualities most dear, plung'd from that height,
And sunk, deep sunk, in second childhood's night!
Are men, indeed, such things? and are the best
More subject to this evil than the rest;
To drivel out whole years of idiot breath,
And sit the monuments of living Death!
O! galling circumstance to human pride!
Abasing thought! but not to be deny'd.
With curious art the brain, too finely wrought,
Preys on herself, and is destroy'd by thought.
Constant attention wears the active mind,
Blots out her pow'rs, and leaves a blank behind,
But let not youth, to insolence ally'd,
In heat of blood, in full career of pride,
Possess'd of genius, with unhallow'd rage
Mock the infirmities of rev'rend age:
The greatest genius to this fate may bow;
Reynolds in time may be like Hogarth now."

One makes allowance, in reading, for the inflamed temper of the times, for a judgment disturbed with personal anger, and for the self-consciousness which, hardly separable from talent, stirs and sustains its energies. But—Churchill demolishing Hogarth! It is startling—rather melancholy—and very amusing. One compares fame with fame—the transitory and the imperishable. The wave, lashed into fury, that comes on, mountain-swollen, all rage, and froth, and thunder, to dash itself into spray against some Atlas of the Deep—some huge brother of Time, whose cheeks the wings of the centuries caress, and of whose hand storms that distract heaven and earth are but toys.

Of the "Prophecy of Famine," Wilkes, before its publication, said he "was sure it would take, as it was at once personal, poetical, and political." And take it did—going off in thousands, and tens of thousands. The Whig coteries, of course, cried it up to the skies; and the established authorities declared that Pope must now hide his diminished head. Such nonsense Churchill swallowed; for he had tried to take it into his head that Pope was a fool to him, and in his cups was wont to vent a wish that little Alec were alive, that he might break his heart. That was the delusion of delirium. Inflated with vanity as he was, he must, when sober, have known well he could not with his cudgel, readily though he flourished it, have lived for five minutes before that Master of the rapier.

Scotsmen as we are to the spine, it is possible that we may be incapacitated by the strength of our backbone for perceiving the mighty merit of this astonishing satire. Steeped to the lips in national prejudices in favour of Scotland, (not against England—heaven forbid!) imbibed with the first gulp of Glenlivet that more than three quarters of a century ago went gurgling down our filial throats—inured to hunger from our tenderest years—"in life's morning march when our spirits were young," ignorant of shoes, though haply not inexpert of sulphur—to us, thus born and thus bred, it may not be given to behold with our outward eyes, and feel with our inward hearts, the full glory of "The Prophecy of Famine." Boswell, with an uneasy smirk, rather than a ghastly grin, said, "It is indeed falsely applied to Scotland, but may on that account be allowed a greater share of invention." Johnson in his heart loved Scotland, as all his jeers show; and perhaps on that account was, like ourselves, no fair judge of Churchill's genius. "I called the fellow a blockhead at first—and I call him a blockhead still," comprehended all his performances in one general contempt. In later times, Jeffrey has dismissed him with little ceremony to find his place at the Third Table. Campbell, who, though a Whig, cared nothing about Churchill, acknowledges having been amused by[Pg 381] the laughable extravagance of the "Prophecy." And Lord Mahon says, "that it may yet be read with all the admiration which the most vigorous powers of verse and the most lively touches of wit can earn in the cause of slander and falsehood."

Suppose, rough-and-ready Readers, that you judge for yourselves. You have not a copy of Churchill—so passing over the first part of the poem—about three hundred lines—as dull as ditchwater in the season of powheads—let us give you the cream, or marrow, or pith of the famous "Prophecy of Famine," before which Scotia, "our auld respectit mither," bowed down and fell, and was thought by some to have given up the ghost, or at least "tined her dam."

"Two boys, whose birth, beyond all question, springs
From great and glorious tho' forgotten kings,
Shepherds of Scottish lineage, born and bred
On the same bleak and barren mountain's head;
By niggard Nature doom'd on the same rocks
To spin out life, and starve themselves and flocks;
Fresh as the morning which, enrob'd in mist,
The mountain's top with usual dulness kiss'd,
Jockey and Sawney, to their labours rose;
Soon clad I ween where Nature needs no clothes,
Where, from their youth inur'd to winter-skies,
Dress and her vain refinements they despise.
"Jockey, whose manly high-bon'd cheeks to crown,
With freckles spotted flam'd the golden down,
With meikle art could on the bagpipes play,
Ev'n from the rising to the setting day:
Sawney as long without remorse could bawl
Home's madrigals, and ditties from Fingal:
Oft at his strains, all natural tho' rude,
The Highland lass forgot her want of food;
And, whilst she scratch'd her lover into rest,
Sunk pleas'd, tho' hungry, on her Sawney's breast.
"Far as the eye could reach no tree was seen,
Earth, clad in russet, scorn'd the lively green:
The plague of locusts they secure defy,
For in three hours a grasshopper must die:
No living thing, whate'er its food, feasts there,
But the chameleon, who can feast on air.
No birds, except as birds of passage, flew;
No bee was known to hum, no dove to coo:
No streams, as amber smooth, as amber clear,
Were seen to glide, or heard to warble here:
Rebellion's spring, which thro' the country ran,
Furnish'd with bitter draughts the steady clan:
No flow'rs embalm'd the air but one White Rose,
Which on the tenth of June by instinct blows,
By instinct blows at morn, and when the shades
Of drizzly eve prevail, by instinct fades.
"One, and but one, poor solitary cave,
Too sparing of her favours, Nature gave;
That one alone (hard tax on Scottish pride!)
Shelter at once for man and beast supply'd.
Their snares without entangling briers spread,
And thistles, arm'd against the invader's head,
Stood in close ranks, all entrance to oppose,
Thistles! now held more precious than the Rose.
All creatures which, on Nature's earliest plan,
Were form'd to loathe and to be loath'd by man,
Which ow'd their birth to nastiness and spite,
[Pg 382]Deadly to touch, and hateful to the sight;
Creatures, which, when admitted in the ark,
Their saviour shunn'd, and rankled in the dark,
Found place within. Marking her noisome road
With poison's trail, here crawl'd the bloated toad;
There webs were spread of more than common size,
And half-starv'd spiders prey'd on half-starv'd flies;
In quest of food, efts strove in vain to crawl;
Slugs, pinch'd with hunger, smear'd the slimy wall:
The cave around with hissing serpents rung;
On the damp roof unhealthy vapour hung;
And Famine, by her children always known,
As proud as poor, here fix'd her native throne.
"Here, for the sullen sky as overcast,
And summer shrunk beneath a wintry blast,
A native blast, which, arm'd with hail and rain,
Beat unrelenting on the naked swain,
The boys for shelter made: behind the sheep,
Of which those shepherds ev'ry day take keep,
Sickly crept on, and, with complainings rude,
On Nature seem'd to call and bleat for food.
"Jockey. Sith to this cave by tempest we're confin'd,
And within ken our flocks, under the wind,
Safe from the pelting of this per'lous storm,
Are laid among yon' thistles, dry and warm,
What, Sawney! if by shepherds' art we try
To mock the rigour of this cruel sky?
What if we tune some merry roundelay?
Well dost thou sing, nor ill doth Jockey play.
"Sawney. Ah Jockey, ill advisest thou, I wis,
To think of songs at such a time as this;
Sooner shall herbage crown these barren rocks,
Sooner shall fleeces clothe these ragged flocks,
Sooner shall want seize shepherds of the south,
And we forget to live from hand to mouth,
Than Sawney, out of season, shall impart
Tho songs of gladness with an aching heart.
"Jockey. Still have I known thee for a silly swain;
Of things past help what boots it to complain?
Nothing but mirth can conquer Fortune's spite;
No sky is heavy if the heart be light:
Patience is sorrow's salve: what can't be cur'd,
So Donald right areeds, must be endur'd.
"Sawney. Full silly swain, I wot, is Jockey now;
How didst thou bear thy Maggy's falsehood? how,
When with a foreign loon she stole away,
Didst thou forswear thy pipe and shepherd's lay?
Where was thy boasted wisdom then, when I
Apply'd those proverbs which you now apply?
"Jockey. O she was bonny! all the Highlands round
Was there a rival to my Maggy found?
More precious (tho' that precious is to all)
Than the rare med'cine which we Brimstone call,
Or that choice plant, so grateful to the nose,
Which in I-know-not-what-far country grows,
Was Maggy unto me: dear do I rue
A lass so fair should ever prove untrue.
"Sawney. Whether with pipe or song to charm the ear,
Thro' all the land did Jamie find a peer?
Curs'd be that year by ev'ry honest Scot,
And in the shepherds' kalendar forgot,
That fatal year, when Jamie, hapless swain!
[Pg 383]In evil hour forsook the peaceful plain:
Jamie, when our young laird discreetly fled,
Was seiz'd, and hang'd till he was dead, dead, dead.
"Jockey. Full sorely may we all lament that day,
For all were losers in the deadly fray;
Five brothers had I on the Scottish plains,
Well dost thou know were none more hopeful swains;
Five brothers there I lost, in manhood's pride,
Two in the field, and three on gibbets dy'd:
Ah! silly swains! to follow war's alarms;
Ah! what hath shepherd's life to do with arms?
"Sawney. Mention it not—There saw I strangers clad
In all the honours of our ravish'd Plaid;
Saw the Ferrara, too, our nation's pride,
Unwilling grace the awkward victor's side.
There fell our choicest youth, and from that day
Mote never Sawney tune the merry lay;
Bless'd those which fell! curs'd those which still survive!
To mourn Fifteen renew'd in Forty-five."

As our memory of our personal experiences about the period in Scottish history at which the above scene is laid is extremely obscure, we cannot take upon ourselves to speak authoritatively of the fidelity of the picture. But Churchill, we grieve to say it, was a regular—a thorough Cockney. The instant a Cockney opens his mouth, or puts pen to paper about Scotland, he stands confessed. Here Charles's attempt at the Scottish dialect betrays the taint. Not a single one of the words he chucklingly puts into the lips of Jockey and Sawney as characteristically Scoto-Arcadian, was ever heard or seen by the breechless swains of that pastoral realm. Never does an alien look so silly to the natives, be they who they may, as when instructing them in their own language, or mimicking the niceties and delicacies of its dialects. They pardonably think him little better than a fool; nor does he mend the matter much by telling them that he is satirical and a wit.

Considerable latitude in the article of language must be allowed to the poet, who presents to us engaged in dialogue two natives of a country where clothes and victuals are nearly unknown. "Rude must they be in speech—and little graced with the set phrase of peace." Churchill was bound to have conceived for them an utterance natural to their condition, as Shakspeare did for Caliban. But over and above the Cockneyisms committed by him, he makes them twaddle like middle-aged men in middle-sized towns, who had passed all their nights in blankets, and all their days in breeches, with as liberal an allowance of food as parish paupers.

"To mock the rigour of this cruel sky,"
"In all the honours of our ravish'd plaid"—
"Unwilling grace the awkward victor's side,"

have here no dramatic propriety we opine—and show the slobberer.

The Satirist betrays the same poverty of invention in the sentiments as in the language of the Swains. They illustrate no concealed character—they reveal no latent truth.

"Rebellion's spring, which through the country ran,
Furnished with bitter draughts the steady clan;"

and yet the swains are averse from war, and exclaim—

"Ah! silly swains! to follow war's alarms;
Ah! what hath shepherd's life to do with arms?"

And, at the same time, they talk of—

"the Ferrara, too, our nation's pride."

The dialogue is throughout absolutely stupid. You are not made by it either to hate or despise the Swains, nor are you led to laugh at them; but lay down the satire for minute or two, peevishly suspecting that you have been reading arrant nonsense.

You take up the trash again; and, being a Scotsman, you are perhaps not altogether quite so well pleased to find that it suddenly waxes into something very like poetry. The description of the cave had made you[Pg 384] wince—why, you knew not; for nothing the least like it ever existed in Scotland, or out of it; and your high cheekbones had tingled. The reprobate can write, you are forced to confess, while Christopher North holds up to your confusion the picture of Famine.

"Thus plain'd the boys, when from her throne of turf
With boils emboss'd, and overgrown with scurf,
Vile humours, which, in life's corrupted well,
Mix'd at the birth, not abstinence could quell,
Pale Famine rear'd the head; her eager eyes,
Where hunger ev'n to madness seem'd to rise,
Speaking aloud her throes and pangs of heart,
Strain'd to get loose, and from their orbs to start.
Her hollow cheeks were each a deep sunk cell,
Where wretchedness and horror lov'd to dwell:
With double rows of useless teeth supply'd,
Her mouth from ear to ear extended wide,
Which when for want of food her entrails pin'd
She op'd, and, cursing, swallow'd nought but wind:
All shrivell'd was her skin; and here and there,
Making their way by force, her bones lay bare:
Such filthy sight to hide from human view
O'er her foul limbs a tatter'd plaid she threw.
"'Cease,' cry'd the goddess, 'cease, despairing swains!
And from a parent hear what Jove ordains.
"'Pent in this barren corner of the isle,
Where partial Fortune never deign'd to smile,
Like Nature's bastards, reaping for our share
What was rejected by the lawful heir;
Unknown amongst the nations of the earth,
Or only known to raise contempt and mirth;
Long free, because the race of Roman braves
Thought it not worth their while to make us slaves,
Then into bondage by that nation brought
Whose ruin we for ages vainly sought,
Whom still with unslak'd hate we view, and still,
The pow'r of mischief lost, retain the will;
Consider'd as the refuse of mankind,
A mass till the last moment left behind,
Which frugal Nature doubted, as it lay,
Whether to stamp with life or throw away;
Which, form'd in haste, was planted in this nook,
But never enter'd in Creation's book,
Branded as traitors, who, for love of gold,
Would sell their God, as once their king they sold;
Long have we borne this mighty weight of ill,
These vile injurious taunts, and bear them still;
But times of happier note are now at hand,
And the full promise of a better land:
There, like the sons of Isr'el, having trode
For the fix'd term of years ordain'd by God,
A barren desert, we shall seize rich plains,
Where milk with honey flows, and plenty reigns:
With some few natives join'd, some pliant few,
Who worship int'rest, and our track pursue;
There shall we, tho' the wretched people grieve,
Ravage at large, nor ask the owners' leave.
"'For us the earth shall bring forth her increase;
For us the flocks shall wear a golden fleece;
Fat beeves shall yield us dainties not our own,
And the grape bleed a nectar yet unknown:
For our advantage shall their harvests grow,
[Pg 385]And Scotsmen reap what they disdain'd to sow:
For us the sun shall climb the eastern hill;
For us the rain shall fall, the dew distil:
When to our wishes Nature cannot rise,
Art shall be task'd to grant us fresh supplies;
His brawny arm shall drudging Labour strain,
And for our pleasure suffer daily pain:
Trade shall for us exert her utmost pow'rs,
Hers all the toil, and all the profit ours:
For us the oak shall from his native steep
Descend, and fearless travel thro' the deep;
The sail of commerce, for our use unfurl'd,
Shall waft the treasures of each distant world;
For us sublimer heights shall science reach;
For us their statesmen plot, their churchmen preach:
Their noblest limbs of counsel we'll disjoint,
And, mocking, new ones of our own appoint:
Devouring War, imprison'd in the north,
Shall at our call in horrid pomp break forth;
And when, his chariot wheels with thunder hung,
Fell Discord braying with her brazen tongue,
Death in the van, with Anger, Hate, and Fear,
And Desolation stalking in the rear,
Revenge, by Justice guided, in his train,
He drives inpet'ous o'er the trembling plain,
Shall at our bidding quit his lawful prey,
And to meek, gentle, gen'rous Peace give way.
"'Think not, my sons! that this so bless'd estate
Stands at a distance on the roll of Fate;
Already big with hopes of future sway,
Ev'n from this cave I scent my destin'd prey.
Think not that this dominion o'er a race,
Whose former deeds shall Time's last annals grace,
In the rough face of peril must be sought,
And with the lives of thousands dearly bought:
No—fool'd by cunning, by that happy art
Which laughs to scorn the blund'ring hero's heart,
Into the snare shall our kind neighbours fall,
With open eyes, and fondly give us all."

Alongside of any one of the masterpieces of Dryden or Pope, this, perhaps the most vigorous thing of Churchill's, is seen to be a daub. Yet Cockney connoisseurs still think it a fine picture. When fresh from the easel, it was thus praised by a metropolitan critic:—

"You'll own the great Churchill possesses, I hope,
More fancy than Cowley, more numbers than Pope;
More strength, too, than Dryden—for, think on what's past,
He has not only rivall'd, but beat them at last."

A hearty national prejudice is no bad foundation for a Poem. It implies one great requisite of success—a secure large sympathy. This "trusted home" animates the poet; and a reception, answering to the confidence, awaits the work. Moreover, ungrounded or exaggerated as these depreciations and antipathies are likely to be, they usually spring out of some deep-laid element in the character of those who entertain them, and have thus the vital warmth and strength that feed poetry, and an original truth of nature mixed up amongst fallacies of opinion. Caricatured representation is the proper vehicle. For Censure is then half disarmed, when to her exception, "This is not so," the reply lies upon the face of the performance, "Neither is it offered for true." The hyperbole of the phrase covers the distortion of the thinking. If we are to find fault with Churchill's "Prophecy of Famine," it must be upon some other ground than the injustice or cruelty of the attack upon poor Scotland, or the hardness of the hits delivered, it may be, by a fist gloved in iron.

[Pg 386]Who grudges the attack? Not Sawney himself, if it is made in masterly style. A magnanimous combatant, who has the true enthusiasm of the fight, admires the skill of the stroke that threatens him with defeat or death. Spite, malice, aversion, enmity, are not ingratiating demonstrations. Far from it. Ill-will is naturally met with ill-will. But besides that which is unavoidably self-regarding in such a relation of parties, room is open for views of a more general feature, of a more generous complexion. John Bull scowls at Sawney, and makes mouths at his oatmeal diet, with lips to which the memory of his own roast-beef cleaves. The last-mentioned dish is not altogether unknown north of the Tweed. But John Bull knows not the unimaginable fact, or knew it not, for the barrier is now widely broken down. Sawney has humour enough to be amused by the writhing apprehension of dry and lean fare which deforms the well-fed and jocund face of the bacon-bolter.

There is in the description and Amabæan lament of the two gaunt and shivering young Arcadians, and in the cave of the tutelary Goddess, Famine, the intention at least of the picturesque and poetical. The fault is, that the thing has no bringing out or completeness. It is incomposite—as a plan, unintelligible. Are the dramatis personæ, Sawney, Jockey, and the Goddess, with Sawney's love, the whole population of Scotland? Do the two lads, and their sheep, and Famine, occupy the same sole cave which is all the houses in Scotland? Is it a comprehensive Allegory under the guise of a pastoral Idyl? A ground is laid; and it is easy to conceive that a Hogarth in verse, with his stored eye, and that hand mimic and creative, which, by some unmistaken touch of nature, sets upon capricious extravagance the known seal of truth, might have finished a picture which experience itself would have half-believed in spite of its conviction, that never had there been such an hungered race. But such a Hogarth in verse was not Churchill. Upon the ground laid, a Satire might have been made out by such a genius, exaggerated, witty, poetical—pleasing even to the posterity of the victims. But instead of crowded ideas, here are but three or four. This writing does, in fact, not express the national prejudices of South Britain against North Britain. It expresses the zeal of party and of a partizan. One can hardly conceive such an ignorance of Scotland in England, as that a man of ability wishing to traduce and ridicule the country, should sit down contented under such a paucity of mischievous information. He writes under one simple rule—negation. To deny food, to deny clothes, to deny houses, to deny sunshine, grass, rivers even, requires no mental effort of any kind, and is the part of a dunce and an ignoramus. For any thing positive, the Scotch are proud, have high cheekbones, and love brimstone and rebellion. That is the amount of the picture. Famine consoles the two hungry lads who mourn over the Fifteen and the Forty-five, with prophesying the invasion and conquest of England by the Bute Administration—a glorious hope, a national redress, and a private filling of empty purses and stomachs. Churchill was himself poverty-stricken in mind, during the composition of this blunder, to a degree that never befell any true poet.

An Englishman of this day must be puzzled to bring back the time when Scotland was so completely a terra incognita to her sister, as that this rude and unlearned caricature could pass. Indeed, he hardly understands the hate—he to whom prose and verse, from one great hand, and poetry profusedly scattered like flowers all over the soil from another, have made hallowed the land of romance, and of dreams more beautiful than romance, and for whom the words, "Caledonia, stern and wild," mean any thing but repulsion. But one must remember, that poetry was at the time at a low ebb, almost stagnant in England, and that any thing that looked like an image was aprodigy. If Gray and Collins now and then struck the lyre, they stood apart from the prevailing prosaic and common-place tone of the times. An Englishman of to-day knows the name of Home by one of the most popular tragedies on his stage, if not one of the most vigorous, yet[Pg 387] amongst modern dramas, one of the most affecting; and he wonders when that name is introduced by Churchill for the purpose of aggravating the contempt of Scotland, represented as a region Bœotian in wit, quite as much as by its atmosphere. He understands by what attraction Collins addressed to Home his "Ode on the Superstitions of the Highlands." Political hatred, the dislike, the indignation, which may have been widely enough diffused through the nation, at the interloping of Scotchmen in the high places of power and emolument—this was the sentiment in the national bosom which gave a meaning to the poem, and found it a reception. Such a sentiment is not scrupulous or critical—it is passionate merely—and asks not the happinesses of humour, wit, fancy, of the graphical and the characteristic. It asks bitter animosity, and vile vituperation, and is satisfied.

The individuality of a nation is curiously made up. The country which they inhabit makes a part of it, the most easily understood. Their manners, customs, and institutions make another part of it, much of which is outward, picturesque, and easily seen. Their history, that which they have done, and that which they have endured, makes a part. And lastly, that which runs through all, rises out of all, animates all, their proper personality, their intellectual and moral character, makes a part—and now you have the whole. We demand of the writer who will, in earnest, paint the people, that he shall know all these things extensively, variously, profoundly. And of the Satirist, who will hold up the nation to dislike and to laughter, that he too shall show he knows them, their defects and their deformities, their crimes and their customs, their sins and their sorrows, their sufferings and their absurdities, their monstrosities and their misfortunes, God's curse or of their own consciences, that may have stricken their country and their condition, and starved the paupers in body and in soul. Such chastisement might be terrible, and not undeserved. But to inflict it, was far beyond the power of poor Charles Churchill.

"Waft me, some Muse, to Tweed's enchanting stream,
Where all the little Loves and Graces dream:
Where, slowly winding, the dull waters creep,
And seem themselves to own the power of sleep;
Where on the surface lead, like feathers, swims;
There let me bathe my yet unhallow'd limbs,
As once a Syrian bathed in Jordan's flood;
Wash off my native stains, correct that blood
Which mutinies at call of English pride,
And, deaf to prudence, rolls a patriot tide."

Ay, much the better would he have been of a dip in the Tweed. He was a big, burly fellow; but, though no great swimmer, he would have found it buoyant after a debauch. His native stains, washed off, would, alas! have sadly discoloured the Angler's Delight. Worse than a hundred Sheep-washings. But at one gleam of the showery bow, the waters would have resumed their lustre. He was the last man in the world who ought to have abused brimstone; for his soul had the Itch. A wallow in the sweet mould—the pure mire of Cardronna Mains—on a dropping day, would have been of service to his body, bloated with foul blood. Smeared with that sanative soil, he might have been born again—no more a leper.

"I remember well," says Dr Kippis, "that he dressed his younger son [the son of his wife—not of the mistress for whom he abandoned her] in a Scottish plaid, like a little Highlander, and carried him every where in that garb. The boy being asked by a gentleman with whom I was in company, why he was clothed in such a manner, answered with great vivacity,—'Sir, my father hates the Scotch, and does it to plague them.'" For a father to dress up his son in the garb of a people, despised and detested with perpetual scunner, seems an odd demonstration either of party spite or of paternal fondness—about as sensible as, on the anniversary of his birth-day, in compliment to his mother, to have dressed him up like a monkey.

[Pg 388]The Patriot Satirist! The question inevitably obtrudes itself—what is the pointing of destiny, which singles out Churchill for the indignant protector, in verse, of England's freedom and welfare? What calls his hand into the van of battle, with the strong lance of justice laid in rest, to tilt against the ill-defended breast of poor, proud, hungry, jacobinical, place-loving, coin-attached and coin-attaching, muse-left, gibbet-favoured, tartan-clad, sulphur-scented, and thistle-growing Scotland? The hero of liberty, the self-offered martyr for the rights and the wrongs of a great people, should carry on his front, one might suppose, some evidence of the over-mastering spirit which, like a necessity, finds him out, and throws him, as if a lot-drawn champion, alone into the jaws and jeopardy of the war. It should be one, of whom, if you knew him yet obscure, you might divine and say, "This is his hour—his is the mind that consecrates its possessor to a consecrated cause, that discriminates, essentially as the spirits of light as divided from the spirits of darkness, the lover of his country from the factious partizan, and from the seditious demagogue." There should be a private life and character that but repeat themselves in the public ones, on a bolder and gigantic scale. Else how ready does the apprehension rise, that the professed hostility to unjust men in power is no more than the reluctance of an ill-disciplined spirit, under the offence and constraint of institutions which set superiors over his head, and gall him by bridling an unruly will;—whilst the clamorous zeal for the general good is purely the choice of the staking gamester between red and black, and the preference of the million-headed patron to the cheapener with a few heads or with one. The two known traits, which largely comprehend the private life of Churchill, do not prepossess one in his favour. He left his profession, the church; and he exchanged his wife, after many years' cohabitation, for a mistress; two paramount desecrations unhappily met. And the trumpet-call to the war-field of patriotism sings but uncheeringly, when the blast is winded by the breath of Wilkes.

When the shame of England burns in the heart of Cowper, you must believe him; for through that heart rolled the best of England's blood. But Churchill! Faugh!


Edinburgh: Printed Ballantyne and Hughes, Paul's Work.




[1] Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, Esq., R.A. Composed chiefly of his Letters. By C. R. Leslie, R.A. Second Edition. Longmans.

[2] Even there we see that he viewed the matter as a task, and piqued himself only on having succeeded in a tour-de-force. Writing to Archdeacon Fisher, he says—"It was the most difficult subject in landscape I ever had on my easel. I have not flinched at the windows, buttresses, &c.; but I have still kept to my grand organ, colour, and have as usual made my escape in the evanescence of chiaroscuro."—(P. 109.)

[3] "I cannot but recall here a passage in a letter to Mr Fisher, written by Constable nearly ten years before his death, in which, after speaking of having removed his family to Hampstead, he says, 'I could gladly exclaim, here let me take my everlasting rest!'"

[4] One of the greatest and most memorable of the Turkish princes was Mahmood the Ghaznavide, who reigned in the eastern provinces of Persia, A.D. 997-1028. His father, Sebactagi, arose from the condition of a slave to the command of the city and province of Ghazna. In the fall of the dynasty of the Sammanides, the fortune of Mahmood was confirmed. For him the title of sultan (signifying lord and master) was first invented, and his kingdom was enlarged from Transoxiana to the neighbourhood of Ispahan, from the shores of the Caspian to the mouth of the Indus. The prowess and magnificence of Mahmood, his twelve expeditions into Hindostan, and the holy wars he waged against the idol-worship of that country, in one of which he destroyed an image of peculiar sanctity at Diu or Du in Guzerat, and carried off the gates of Somnauth, (so recently, once more, become a trophy of triumph and defeat,) the vast treasures amassed in his campaigns, and the extent and greatness of the Ghaznavide empire, have always been favourite subjects with Eastern historians. The instance of his justice recorded in the verses, is given by Gibbon, from whose history this note is chiefly taken.

Ghazna, from being the emporium of India, and the metropolis of a vast dominion, had almost shrunk from the eye of the geographer, until, under the modified appellation of Ghizni, it again emerged into importance in our Affghan war. A curious crowd of associations is suggested by the fact, that the town which gave its name to a dynasty that shook the successors of Mahomet on their thrones, now confers the dignity of Baron on a native of one of the obscurest villages in Ireland—Lord Keane of Ghizni, and of Cappoquin in the county of Waterford.

[5] Kaff of late years is considered to have been more a creation of Eastern mythology, than a genuine incontestable mountain. Its position is supposed to be at the highest point of the great Hindoo-Kosh range. Such was its astonishing altitude, that, says D'Herbelot, "vous trouvez souvent dans leurs anciens livres, pour exprimer le lever du soleil, cette façon de parler, aussitôt que cet astre parût sur la cime du Mont Cáf, le monde fut éclairé de sa lumière: de même pour comprendre toute l'etendue de la terre et de l'eau, ils disent Depuis Cáf à Cáf—c'est à dire, d'une de ses extremités à l'autre."

[6] The name of Sind, Attok, or Indus, is applied indifferently to the mighty stream that forms the western boundary of Hindostan.

[7] The tribes of savage warriors inhabiting the Kipchak, or table-land of Tartary, have been distinguished by the name of the Golden Hordes. There is a magnificent lyric on their Battle-charge, by Dr Croly, in the Friendship's Offering for 1834.

[8] Essays on Natural History, chiefly Ornithology. By Charles Waterton, Esq., author of "Wanderings in South America." Second Series; with a continuation of the Autobiography of the Author.

[9] "'I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment within this realm,' &c. In framing that abominable oath, I don't believe that Sir Robert Peel cared one fig's-end whether the soul of a Catholic went up, after death, to the King of Brightness or descended to the King of Brimstone. His only aim seems to have been to secure to the Church by law established the full possession of the loaves and fishes."—Essays, 1st series, p. 19.

[10] A long-protracted lawsuit between this artist and Prince Giustiniani has since attracted much public notice. On cleaning a painting apparently of little value, which he had purchased at a sale of the refuse of the prince's gallery, Signor Vallati detected traces of a superior production beneath that painted over it, on removing which, the long-lost duplicate of Correggio's Reading Magdalen was brought to light. A claim was now set up by Prince Giustiniani for the restitution of the picture, or payment of its full value:—but the cause, after being carried from one tribunal to another, was at last decided in favour of the right of Vallati to his prize.

[11] A close analogy, according to this system, existed between pigs and humming-birds—each representing the gliriform type in their respective circles, and resembling each other in their small eyes and suctorial propensities!—See Swainson's Classification of Birds in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia, i. 43.


"Mopso Nisa datur. Quid non speremus amantes?
Jungentur jam gryphes equis."
Virgil, Eclog. viii. 26.

[13] A Popular and Practical Introduction to Law Studies, &c. &c. By Samuel Warren, Esq., F.R.S., of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-Law.

[14] P. 71.

[15] The following extract from a memoir of Lord Wynford, written evidently by a lawyer, manifests, in rather an amusing manner, the esprit de corps of the profession, and shows how the excitement of the contest between the advocates effaces the dull interest of what are called the merits of the case. Note how combative, how military, is the style:—"He (Lord Wynford) was a dangerous, because he was a most watchful and enterprising adversary. You could not any more sleep in his neighbourhood than could the Duke while Massena was near, though he might, in the neighbourhood of others, enjoy some repose. But if you never could be sure of his not making some venturous move himself, and were thus kept on the watch, so also you could not venture upon moves in the hope of his eyes being closed. It may almost safely be pronounced that he never failed to see or to profit by the slip of his adversary; to say that he never, seldom, made slips himself, would be very wide of the truth. In fact, he was not always a safe leader. Circumspect enough to see when his antagonist failed, he took a very narrow, or very one-sided, view of his own risks. Bold to rashness, hasty in his resolutions, quick in all his thoughts and all his movements, he was often in dangers wholly needless to be encountered; and though he would occasionally, by desperate courses, escape beyond all calculation from risks, both inevitable and of his own seeking, he could not be called a successful advocate."—Article on Lord Wynford, No. III., Law Review.

[16] Correspondence between Count Münster and the Baron von Stein, in vol. ii. of the Lebensbilder aus dem Befreiungskriege, Jena: 1841.

Letters of Baron Stein to Baron Gagern, in Von Gagern's Antheil an der Politik, vol. iv. Stuttgart and Tübingen: 1833.

[17] Besides the correspondence of Münster and Gagern, which refer only to the latter part of Stein's life, from 1811 to his death, we have only a notice in the Conversations Lexikon, and a short biographical sketch by Arndt, (the Baron's secretary,) appended to his Erinnerungen, (Leipsig, 1840,) to guide us in the early part of Stein's career. There are some notices in the body of Arndt's Reminiscences, in Varnhagen's Memoirs, and in some others, none of which, however, go further back than the year 1811.

[18] In Prag halten sich die stärksten Mächte und Autriche zum Hassen gegen Napoleon Zugammengehäuft.Varnhagen von Ense, iii. 195, first edition.

[19] "Donnerschwangere Fulgurationer."—Hormayr, in the Lebensbilder, i. 63.

[20] Scharnhorst, Count Dohna, and President von Schoen, mentioned by Stein in a previous letter not translated.

[21] Essai sur les Fictions.