Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 7, May, 1858
Part 4 out of 5
And here for the present we leave him, moving in Vienna, as in Bonn,
in the higher circles of society, in the full sunshine of prosperity,
enjoying all that his ardent nature could demand of esteem and
admiration in the saloons of the great, in the society of his brother
artists, in the popular estimation.
* * * * *
A WORD TO THE WISE.
Love hailed a little maid,
Romping through the meadow:
Heedless in the sun she played,
Scornful of the shadow.
"Come with me," whispered he;
"Listen, sweet, to love and reason."
"By and by," she mocked reply;
"Love's not in season."
Years went, years came;
Light mixed with shadow.
Love met the maid again,
Dreaming through the meadow.
"Not so coy," urged the boy;
"List in time to love and reason."
"By and by," she mused reply;
"Love's still in season."
Years went, years came;
Light changed to shadow.
Love saw the maid again,
Waiting in the meadow.
"Pass no more; my dream is o'er;
I can listen now to reason."
"Keep thee coy," mocked the boy;
"Love's out of season."
HENRY WARD BEECHER.[A]
[Footnote A: _Life Thoughts, gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses
of Henry Ward Beecher._ By a Member of his Congregation. Boston:
Phillips, Sampson & Co. 1858. pp. 299.]
There are more than thirty thousand preachers in the United States,
whereof twenty-eight thousand are Protestants, the rest Catholics,--one
minister to a thousand men. They make an exceeding great army,--mostly
serious, often self-denying and earnest. Nay, sometimes you find them
men of large talent, perhaps even of genius. No thirty thousand
farmers, mechanics, lawyers, doctors, or traders have so much of that
book-learning which is popularly called "Education."
No class has such opportunities for influence, such means of power; even
now the press ranks second to the pulpit. Some of the old traditional
respect for the theocratic class continues in service, and waits upon
the ministers. It has come down from Celtic and Teutonic fathers,
hundreds of years behind us, who transferred to a Roman priesthood the
allegiance once paid to the servants of a deity quite different from the
Catholic. The Puritans founded an ecclesiastical oligarchy which is by
no means ended yet; with the most obstinate "liberty of prophesying"
there was mixed a certain respect for such as only wore the prophet's
mantle; nor is it wholly gone.
What personal means of controlling the public the minister has at his
command! Of their own accord, men "assemble and meet together," and look
up to him. In the country, the town-roads centre at the meeting-house,
which is also the _terminus a quo_, the golden mile-stone, whence
distances are measured off. Once a week, the wheels of business, and
even of pleasure, drop into the old customary ruts, and turn thither.
Sunday morning, all the land is still. Labor puts off his iron apron and
arrays him in clean human clothes,--a symbol of universal humanity, not
merely of special toil. Trade closes the shop; his business-pen, well
wiped, is laid up for to-morrow's use; the account-book is shut,--men
thinking of their trespasses as well as their debts. For six days, aye,
and so many nights, Broadway roars with the great stream which sets this
way and that, as wind and tide press up and down. How noisy is this
great channel of business, wherein Humanity rolls to and fro, now
running into shops, now sucked down into cellars, then dashed high up
the tall, steep banks, to come down again a continuous drip and be lost
in the general flood! What a fringe of foam colors the margin on either
side, and what gay bubbles float therein, with more varied gorgeousness
than the Queen of Sheba dreamed of putting on when she courted the eye
of Hebrew Solomon! Sunday, this noise is still. Broadway is a quiet
stream, looking sober, or even dull; its voice is but a gentle murmur of
many waters calmly flowing where the ecclesiastical gates are open
to let them in. The channel of business has shrunk to a little
church-canal. Even in this great Babel of commerce one day in seven is
given up to the minister. The world may have the other six; this is for
the Church;--for so have Abram and Lot divided the field of Time, that
there be no strife between the rival herdsmen of the Church and the
World. Sunday morning, Time rings the bell. At the familiar sound, by
long habit born in them, and older than memory, men assemble at the
meeting-house, nestle themselves devoutly in their snug pews, and button
themselves in with wonted care. There is the shepherd, and here is the
flock, fenced off into so many little private pens. With dumb, yet
eloquent patience, they look up listless, perhaps longing, for such
fodder as he may pull out from his spiritual mow and shake down before
them. What he gives they gather.
Other speakers must have some magnetism of personal power or public
reputation to attract men; but the minister can dispense with that;
to him men answer before he calls, and even when they are not sent by
others are drawn by him. Twice a week, nay, three times, if he will, do
they lend him their ears to be filled with his words. No man of science
or letters has such access to men. Besides, he is to speak on the
grandest of all themes,--of Man, of God, of Religion, man's deepest
desires, his loftiest aspirings. Before him the rich and the poor meet
together, conscious of the one God, Master of them all, who is no
respecter of persons. To the minister the children look up, and their
pliant faces are moulded by his plastic hand. The young men and maidens
are there,--such possibility of life and character before them, such
hope is there, such faith in man and God, as comes instinctively to
those who have youth on their side. There are the old: men and women
with white crowns on their heads; faces which warn and scare with the
ice and storm of eighty winters, or guide and charm with the beauty
of four-score summers,--rich in promise once, in harvest now. Very
beautiful is the presence of old men, and of that venerable sisterhood
whose experienced temples are turbaned with the raiment of such as have
come out of much tribulation, and now shine as white stars foretelling
an eternal day. Young men all around, a young man in the pulpit, the old
men's look of experienced life says "Amen" to the best word, and their
countenance is a benediction.
The minister is not expected to appeal to the selfish motives which
are addressed by the market, the forum, or the bar, but to the eternal
principle of Right. He must not be guided by the statutes of men,
changeable as the clouds, but must fix his eye on the bright particular
star of Justice, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. To him,
office, money, social rank, and fame are but toys or counters which the
game of life is played withal; while wisdom, integrity, benevolence,
piety are the prizes the game is for. He digs through the dazzling sand,
and bids men build on the rock of ages.
Surely, no men have such opportunity of speech and power as these thirty
thousand ministers. What have they to show for it all? The hunter,
fisher, woodman, miner, farmer, mechanic, has each his special wealth.
What have this multitude of ministers to show?--how much knowledge
given, what wise guidance, what inspiration of humanity? Let the best
This ministerial army may be separated into three divisions. First, the
Church Militant, the Fighting Church, as the ecclesiastical dictionaries
define it. Reverend men serve devoutly in its ranks. Their work is
negative, oppositional. Under various banners, with diverse, and
discordant war-cries, trumpets braying a certain or uncertain sound, and
weapons of strange pattern, though made of trusty steel, they do battle
against the enemy. What shots from antique pistols, matchlocks, from
crossbows and catapults, are let fly at the foe! Now the champion
attacks "New Views," "Ultraism," "Neology," "Innovation," "Discontent,"
"Carnal Reason"; then he lays lance in rest, and rides valiantly
upon "Unitarianism," "Popery," "Infidelity," "Atheism," "Deism,"
"Spiritualism"; and though one by one he runs them through, yet he never
quite slays the Evil One;--the severed limbs unite again, and a new
monster takes the old one's place. It is serious men who make up the
Church Militant,--grim, earnest, valiant. If mustered in the ninth
century, there had been no better soldiers nor elder.
Next is the Church Termagant They are the Scolds of the Church-hold,
terrible from the beginning hitherto. Their work is denouncing; they
have always a burden against something. _Obsta decisis_ is their
motto,--"Hate all that is agreed upon." When the "contrary-minded" are
called for, the Church Termagant holds up its hand. A turbulent people,
and a troublesome, are these sons of thunder,--a brotherhood of
universal come-outers. Their only concord is disagreement. It is not
often, perhaps, that they have better thoughts than the rest of men,
but a superior aptitude to find fault; their growling proves, "not
that themselves are wise, but others weak." So their pulpit is a
brawling-tub, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." They have a
deal of thunder, and much lightning, but no light, nor any continuous
warmth, only spasms of heat. _Odi presentem laudare absentem_,--the
Latin tells their story. They come down and trouble every Bethesda in
the world, but heal none of the impotent folk. To them,
"Of old things, all are over old,
Of new things, none is new enough."
They have a rage for fault-finding, and betake themselves to the pulpit
as others are sent to Bedlam. Men of all denominations are here, and it
is a deal of mischief they do,--the worst, indirectly, by making a sober
man distrust the religious faculty they appeal to, and set his face
against all mending of anything, no matter how badly it is broken. These
Theudases, boasting themselves to be somebody, and leading men off to
perish in the wilderness, frighten every sober man from all thought of
moving out of his bad neighborhood or seeking to make it better.--But
this is a small portion of the ecclesiastic host. Let us be tolerant to
their noise and bigotry.
Last of all is the Church Beneficent or Constructant. Their work is
positive,--critical of the old, creative also of the new. They take hold
of the strongest of all human faculties,--the religious,--and use this
great river of God, always full of water, to moisten hill-side and
meadow, to turn lonely saw-mills, and drive the wheels in great
factories, which make a metropolis of manufactures,--to bear alike the
lumberman's logs and the trader's ships to their appointed place; the
stream feeding many a little forget-me-not, as it passes by. Men of
all denominations belong to this Church Catholic; yet all are of one
_persuasion_, the brotherhood of Humanity,--for the one spirit loves
manifoldness of form. They trouble themselves little about Sin, the
universal but invisible enemy whom the Church Termagant attempts to
shell and dislodge; but are very busy in attacking Sins. These ministers
of religion would rout Drunkenness and Want, Ignorance, Idleness, Lust,
Covetousness, Vanity, Hate, and Pride, vices of instinctive passion or
reflective ambition. Yet the work of these men is to build up; they cut
down the forest and scare off the wild beasts only to replace them with
civil crops, cattle, corn, and men. Instead of the howling wilderness,
they would have the village or the city, full of comfort and wealth and
musical with knowledge and with love. How often are they misunderstood!
Some savage hears the ring of the axe, the crash of falling timber,
or the rifle's crack and the drop of wolf or bear, and cries out, "A
destructive and dangerous man; he has no reverence for the ancient
wilderness, but would abolish it and its inhabitants; away with him!"
But look again at this destroyer, and in place of the desert woods,
lurked in by a few wild beasts and wilder men, behold, a whole New
England of civilization has come up! The minister of this Church of the
Good Samaritans delivers the poor that cry, and the fatherless, and him
that hath none to help him; he makes the widow's heart sing for joy, and
the blessing of such as are ready to perish comes on him; he is eyes to
the blind, feet to the lame; the cause of evil which he knows not he
searches out; breaking the jaws of the wicked to pluck one spirit out
of their teeth. In a world of work, he would have no idler in the
market-place; in a world of bread, he would not eat his morsel alone
while the fatherless has nought; nor would he see any perish for want of
clothing. He knows the wise God made man for a good end, and provided
adequate means thereto; so he looks for them where they were placed,
in the world of matter and of men, not outside of either. So while he
entertains every old Truth, he looks out also into the crowd of new
Opinions, hoping to find others of their kin: and the new thought does
not lodge in the street; he opens his doors to the traveller, not
forgetful to entertain strangers,--knowing that some have also thereby
entertained angels unawares. He does not fear the great multitude, nor
does the contempt of a few families make him afraid.
This Church Constructant has a long apostolical succession of great men,
and many nations are gathered in its fold. And what a variety of beliefs
it has! But while each man on his private account says, CREDO, and
believes as he must and shall, and writes or speaks his opinions in what
speech he likes best,--they all, with one accordant mouth, say likewise,
FACIAMUS, and betake them to the one great work of developing man's
possibility of knowledge and virtue.
Mr. Beecher belongs to this Church Constructant. He is one of its
eminent members, its most popular and effective preacher. No minister
in the United States is so well known, none so widely beloved. He is
as well known in Ottawa as in Broadway. He has the largest Protestant
congregation in America, and an ungathered parish which no man attempts
to number. He has church members in Maine, Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas,
California, and all the way between. Men look on him as a national
institution, a part of the public property. Not a Sunday in the year but
representative men from every State in the Union fix their eyes on him,
are instructed by his sermons and uplifted by his prayers. He is
the most popular of American lecturers. In the celestial sphere of
theological journals, his papers are the bright particular star in that
constellation called the "Independent": men look up to and bless the
useful light, and learn therefrom the signs of the times. He is one of
the bulwarks of freedom in Kansas,--a detached fort. He was a great
force in the last Presidential campaign, and several stump-speakers
were specially detailed to overtake and offset him. But the one man
surrounded the many. Scarcely is there a Northern minister so bitterly
hated at the South. The slave-traders, the border-ruffians, the
purchased officials know no Higher Law; "nor Hale nor Devil can make
them afraid"; yet they fear the terrible whip of Henry Ward Beecher.
The time has not come--may it long be far distant!--to analyze his
talents and count up his merits and defects. But there are certain
obvious excellences which account for his success and for the honor paid
Mr. Beecher has great strength of instinct,--of spontaneous human
feeling. Many men lose this in "getting an education"; they have tanks
of rain-water, barrels of well-water; but on their premises is no
spring, and it never rains there. A mountain-spring supplies Mr. Beecher
with fresh, living water.
He has great love for Nature, and sees the symbolical value of material
beauty and its effect on man.
He has great fellow-feeling with the joys and sorrows of men. Hence he
is always on the side of the suffering, and especially of the oppressed;
all his sermons and lectures indicate this. It endears him to millions,
and also draws upon him the hatred and loathing of a few Pharisees, some
of them members of his own sect.
Listen to this:--
"Looked at without educated associations, there is no difference between
a man in bed and a man in a coffin. And yet such is the power of the
heart to redeem the animal life, that there is nothing more exquisitely
refined and pure and beautiful than the chamber of the house. The couch!
From the day that the bride sanctifies it, to the day when the aged
mother is borne from it, it stands clothed with loveliness and dignity.
Cursed be the tongue that dares speak evil of the household bed! By its
side oscillates the cradle. Not far from it is the crib. In this sacred
precinct, the mother's chamber, lies the heart of the family. Here the
child learns its prayer. Hither, night by night, angels troop. It is the
Holy of Holies."
How well he understands the ministry of grief!
"A Christian man's life is laid in the loom of time to a pattern which
he does not see, but God does; and his heart is a shuttle. On one side
of the loom is sorrow, and on the other is joy; and the shuttle, struck
alternately by each, flies back and forth, carrying the thread, which
is white or black, as the pattern needs; and in the end, when God shall
lift up the finished garment, and all its changing hues shall glance
out, it will then appear that the deep and dark colors were as needful
to beauty as the bright and high colors."
He loves children, and the boy still fresh in his manhood.
"When your own child comes in from the street, and has learned to swear
from the bad boys congregated there, it is a very different thing to
you from what it was when you heard the profanity of those boys as you
passed them. Now it takes hold of you, and makes you feel that you are a
stockholder in the public morality. Children make men better citizens.
Of what use would an engine be to a ship, if it were lying loose in the
hull? It must be fastened to it with bolts and screws, before it can
propel the vessel. Now a childless man is just like a loose engine. A
man must be bolted and screwed to the community before he can begin to
work for its advancement; and there are no such screws and bolts as
He has a most Christ-like contempt for the hypocrite, whom he scourges
with heavy evangelical whips,--but the tenderest Christian love for
earnest men struggling after nobleness.
"I think the wickedest people on earth are those who use a force of
genius to make themselves selfish in the noblest things, keeping
themselves aloof from the vulgar and the ignorant and the unknown;
rising higher and higher in taste, till they sit, ice upon ice, on the
mountain-top of eternal congelation."
"Men are afraid of slight outward acts which will injure them in the
eyes of others, while they are heedless of the damnation which throbs in
their souls in hatreds and jealousies and revenges."
"Many people use their refinements as a spider uses his web, to catch
the weak upon, that they may he mercilessly devoured. Christian men
should use refinement on this principle: the more I have, the more I owe
to those who are less than I."
He values the substance of man more than his accidents.
"We say a man is 'made.' What do we mean? That he has got the control of
his lower instincts, so that they are only fuel to his higher feelings,
giving force to his nature? That his affections are like vines, sending
out on all sides blossoms and clustering fruits? That his tastes are so
cultivated, that all beautiful things speak to him, and bring him their
delights? That his understanding is opened, so that he walks through
every hall of knowledge, and gathers its treasures? That his moral
feelings are so developed and quickened, that he holds sweet commerce
with Heaven? Oh, no!--none of these things! He is cold and dead in heart
and mind and soul. Only his passions are alive; but--he is worth five
hundred thousand dollars!
"And we say a man is 'ruined.' Are his wife and children dead? Oh, no!
Have they had a quarrel, and are they separated from him? Oh, no! Has he
lost his reputation through crime? No. Is his reason gone? Oh, no! it's
as sound as ever. Is he struck through with disease? No. He has lost his
property, and he is ruined. The _man_ ruined? When shall we learn
that 'a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he
Mr. Beecher's God has the gentle and philanthropic qualities of Jesus
of Nazareth, with omnipotence added. Religious emotion comes out in his
prayers, sermons, and lectures, as the vegetative power of the earth in
the manifold plants and flowers of spring.
"The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide
world's joy. The lonely pine on the mountain-top waves its sombre
boughs, and cries, 'Thou art my sun!' And the little meadow-violet lifts
its cup of blue, and whispers with its perfumed breath, 'Thou art my
sun!' And the grain in a thousand fields rustles in the wind, and makes
answer, 'Thou art my sun!'
"So God sits effulgent in heaven, not for a favored few, but for the
universe of life; and there is no creature so poor or low, than he may
not look up with childlike confidence and say, 'My Father! thou art
"When once the filial feeling is breathed into the heart, the soul
cannot be terrified by augustness, or justice, or any form of Divine
grandeur; for then, to such a one, _all the attributes of God are but so
many arms stretched abroad through the universe, to gather and to press
to his bosom those whom he loves. The greater he is, the gladder are
we_, so that he be our Father still.
"But, if one consciously turns away from God, or fears him, the nobler
and grander the representation be, the more terrible is his conception
of the Divine Adversary that frowns upon him. The God whom love beholds
rises upon the horizon like mountains which carry summer up their sides
to the very top; but that sternly just God whom sinners fear stands
cold against the sky, like Mont Blanc; and from his icy sides the soul,
quickly sliding, plunges headlong down to unrecalled destruction."
He has hard words for such as get only the form of religion, or but
little of its substance.
"There are some Christians whose secular life is an arid, worldly
strife, and whose religion is but a turbid sentimentalism. Their life
runs along that line where the overflow of the Nile meets the desert.
_It is the boundary line between sand and mud_."
"_That gospel which sanctions ignorance and oppression for three
millions of men_, what fruit or flower has it to shake down for the
healing of the nations? _It is cursed in its own roots, and blasted in
its own boughs_."
"Many of our churches defy Protestantism. Grand cathedrals are they,
which make us shiver as we enter them. The windows are so constructed
as to exclude the light and inspire a religious awe. The walls are of
stone, which makes us think of our last home. The ceilings are sombre,
and the pews coffin-colored. Then the services are composed to these
circumstances, and hushed music goes trembling along the aisles, and men
move softly, and would on no account put on their hats before they reach
the door; but when they do, they take a long breath, and have such a
sense of relief to be in the free air, and comfort themselves with the
thought that they've been good Christians!
"Now this idea of worship is narrow and false. The house of God should
be a joyous place for the right use of all our faculties."
"There ought to be such an atmosphere in every Christian church, that
a man going there and sitting two hours should take the contagion of
heaven, and carry home a fire to kindle the altar whence he came."
"The call to religion is not a call to be better than your fellows, _but
to be better than yourself_. Religion is relative to the individual."
"My best presentations of the gospel to you are so incomplete!
Sometimes, when I am alone, I have such sweet and rapturous visions of
the love of God and the truths of his word, that I think, if I could
speak to you then, I should move your hearts. I am like a child, who,
walking forth some sunny summer's morning, sees grass and glower all
shining with drops of dew. 'Oh,' he cries, 'I'll carry these beautiful
things to my mother!' And, eagerly plucking them, the dew drops into his
little palm, and all the charm is gone. There is but grass in his hand,
and no longer pearls."
"There are many professing Christians who are secretly vexed on account
of the charity they have to bestow and the self-denial they have to use.
If, instead of the smooth prayers which they _do_ pray, they should
speak out the things which they really feel, they would say, when they
go home at night, 'O Lord, I met a poor curmudgeon of yours to-day, a
miserable, unwashed brat, and I gave him sixpence, and I have been sorry
for it ever since'; or, 'O Lord, if I had not signed those articles of
faith, I might have gone to the theatre this evening. Your religion
deprives me of a great deal of enjoyment, but I mean to stick to it.
There's no other way of getting into heaven, I suppose.'
"The sooner such men are out of the church, the better."
"The youth-time of churches produces enterprise; their age, indolence;
but even this might be borne, did not _these dead men sit in the door
of their sepulchres, crying out against every living man who refuses to
wear the livery of death_. In India, when the husband dies, they burn
his widow with him. I am almost tempted to think, that, if, with the end
of every pastorate, the church itself were disbanded and destroyed, to
be gathered again by the succeeding teacher, we should thus secure an
immortality of youth."
"A religious life is not a thing which spends itself. It is like a river
which widens continually, and is never so broad or so deep as at its
mouth, where it rolls into the ocean of eternity."
"God made the world to relieve an over-full creative thought,--as
musicians sing, as we talk, as artists sketch, when full of suggestions.
What profusion is there in his work! When trees blossom, there is not
a single breastpin, but a whole bosom full of gems; and of leaves they
have so many suits, that they can throw them away to the winds all
summer long. What unnumbered cathedrals has he reared in the forest
shades, vast and grand, full of curious carvings, and haunted evermore
by tremulous music! and in the heavens above, how do stars seem to have
flown out of his hand, faster than sparks out of a mighty forge!"
"Oh, let the soul alone! Let it go to God as best it may! It is
entangled enough. It is hard enough for it to rise above the
distractions which environ it. Let a man teach the rain how to fall, the
clouds how to shape themselves and move their airy rounds, the seasons
how to cherish and garner the universal abundance; but let him not teach
a soul to pray, on whom the Holy Ghost doth brood!"
He recognizes the difference between religion and theology.
"How sad is that field from which battle hath just departed! By as much
as the valley was exquisite in its loveliness, is it now sublimely sad
in its desolation. Such to me is the Bible, when a fighting theologian
has gone through it.
"How wretched a spectacle is a garden into which the cloven-footed
beasts have entered! That which yesterday was fragrant, and shone all
over with crowded beauty, is to-day rooted, despoiled, trampled, and
utterly devoured, and all over the ground you shall find but the
rejected cuds of flowers and leaves, and forms that have been champed
for their juices and then rejected. Such to me is the Bible, when the
pragmatic prophecy-monger and the swinish utilitarian have toothed its
fruits and craunched its blossoms.
"O garden of the Lord! whose seeds dropped down from heaven, and to
whom angels bear watering dews night by night! O flowers and plants of
righteousness! O sweet and holy fruits! We walk among you, and gaze with
loving eyes, and rest under your odorous shadows; nor will we, with
sacrilegious hand, tear you, that we may search the secret of your
roots, nor spoil you, that we may know how such wondrous grace and
goodness are evolved within you!"
"What a pin is, when the diamond has dropped from its setting, is the
Bible, when its emotive truths have been taken away. What a babe's
clothes are, when the babe has slipped out of them into death and the
mother's arms clasp only raiment, would be the Bible, if the Babe of
Bethlehem, and the truths of deep-heartedness that clothed his life,
should slip out of it."
"There is no food for soul or body which God has not symbolized. He
is light for the eye, sound for the ear, bread for food, wine for
weariness, peace for trouble. Every faculty of the soul, if it would but
open its door, might see Christ standing over against it, and silently
asking by his smile, 'Shall I come in unto thee?' But men open the door
and look down, not up, and thus see him not. So it is that men sigh on,
not knowing what the soul wants, but only that it needs something. Our
yearnings are homesickness for heaven; our sighings are for God; just
as children that cry themselves asleep away from home, and sob in
their slumber, know not that they sob for their parents. The soul's
inarticulate moanings are the affections yearning for the Infinite, but
having no one to tell them what it is that ails them."
"I feel sensitive about theologies. Theology is good in its place; but
when it puts its hoof upon a living, palpitating, human heart, my heart
cries out against it."
"There are men marching along in the company of Christians on earth,
who, when they knock at the gate of heaven, will hear God answer,
'I never knew you.'--'But the ministers did, and the church-books
did.'--'That may be. I never did.'
"It is no matter who knows a man on earth, if God does not know him."
"The heart-knowledge, through God's teaching, is true wealth, and they
are often poorest who deem themselves most rich. I, in the pulpit,
preach with proud forms to many a humble widow and stricken man who
might well teach me. The student, spectacled and gray with wisdom, and
stuffed with lumbered lore, maybe childish and ignorant beside some old
singing saint who brings the wood into his study, and who, with the
lens of his own experience, brings down the orbs of truth, and beholds
through his faith and his humility things of which the white-haired
scholar never dreamed."
He has eminent integrity, is faithful to his own soul, and to every
delegated trust. No words are needed here as proof. His life is daily
argument. The public will understand this; men whose taste he offends,
and whose theology he shocks, or to whose philosophy he is repugnant,
have confidence in the integrity of the man. He means what he says,--is
solid all through.
"From the beginning, I educated myself to speak along the line and in
the current of my moral convictions; and though, in later days, it
has carried me through places where there were some batterings and
bruisings, yet I have been supremely grateful that I was led to
adopt this course. I would rather speak the truth to ten men than
blandishments and lying to a million. Try it, ye who think there is
nothing in it! try what it is to speak with God behind you,--to speak so
as to be only the arrow in the bow which the Almighty draws."
With what affectionate tenderness does this great, faithful soul pour
out his love to his own church! He invites men to the communion-service.
"Christian brethren, in heaven you are known by the name of Christ.
On earth, for convenience's sake, you are known by the name of
Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists, and
the like. Let me speak the language of heaven, and call you simply
Christians. Whoever of you has known the name of Christ, and feels
Christ's life beating within him, is invited to remain and sit with us
at the table of the Lord."
And again, when a hundred were added to his church, he says:--
"My friends, my heart is large to-day. I am like a tree upon which rains
have fallen till every leaf is covered with drops of dew; and no wind
goes through the boughs but I hear the pattering of some thought of joy
and gratitude. I love you all more than ever before. You are crystalline
to me; your faces are radiant; and I look through your eyes, as through
windows, into heaven. I behold in each of you an imprisoned angel, that
is yet to burst forth, and to live and shine in the better sphere."
He has admirable power of making a popular statement of his opinions. He
does not analyze a matter to its last elements, put the ultimate facts
in a row and find out their causes or their law of action, nor aim at
large synthesis of generalization, the highest effort of philosophy,
which groups things into a whole;--it is commonly thought both of these
processes are out of place in meeting-houses and lecture-halls,--that
the people can comprehend neither the one nor the other;--but he gives
a popular view of the thing to be discussed, which can be understood on
the spot without painful reflection. He speaks for the ear which takes
in at once and understands. He never makes attention painful. He
illustrates his subject from daily life; the fields, the streets, stars,
flowers, music, and babies are his favorite emblems. He remembers that
he does not speak to scholars, to minds disciplined by long habits of
thought, but to men with common education, careful and troubled about
many things; and they keep his words and ponder them in their hearts. So
he has the diffuseness of a wide natural field, which properly spreads
out its clover, dandelions, dock, buttercups, grasses, violets, with
here and there a delicate Arethusa that seems to have run under this
sea of common vegetation and come up in a strange place. He has not the
artificial condensation of a garden, where luxuriant Nature assumes the
form of Art. His dramatic power makes his sermon also a life in the
pulpit; his _auditorium_ is also a _theatrum_, for he acts to the eye
what he addresses to the ear, and at once wisdom enters at the two
gates. The extracts show his power of thought and speech as well as of
feeling. Here are specimens of that peculiar humor which appears in all
"Sects and Christians that desire to be known by the undue prominence of
some single feature of Christianity are necessarily imperfect just in
proportion to the distinctness of their peculiarities. The power of
Christian truth is in its unity and symmetry, and not in the saliency
or brilliancy of any of its special doctrines. If among painters of
the human face and form there should spring up a sect of the eyes, and
another sect of the nose, a sect of the hand, and a sect of the foot,
and all of them should agree but in the one thing of forgetting that
there was a living spirit behind the features more important than them
all, they would too much resemble the schools and cliques of Christians;
for the spirit of Christ is the great essential truth; doctrines are but
the features of the face, and ordinances but the hands and feet."
Here are some separate maxims:--
"It is not well for a man to pray cream and live skim-mink."
"The mother's heart is the child's school-room."
"They are not reformers who simply abhor evil. Such men become in the
end abhorrent themselves."
"There are many troubles which you can't cure by the Bible and the
Hymn-book, but which you can cure by a good perspiration and a breath of
"The most dangerous infidelity of the day is the infidelity of rich and
"The fact that a nation is growing is God's own charter of change."
"There is no class in society who can so ill afford to undermine the
conscience of the community, or to set it loose from its moorings in
the eternal sphere, as merchants who live upon confidence and credit.
Anything which weakens or paralyzes this is taking beams from the
foundations of the merchant's own warehouse."
"It would almost seem as if there were a certain drollery of art which
leads men who think they are doing one thing to do another and very
different one. Thus, men have set up in their painted church-windows the
symbolisms of virtues and graces, and the images of saints, and even
of Divinity itself. Yet now, what does the window do but mock the
separations and proud isolations of Christian men? For there sit
the audience, each one taking a separate color; and there are blue
Christians and red Christians, there are yellow saints and orange
saints, there are purple Christians and green Christians; but how few
are simple, pure, white Christians, uniting all the cardinal graces, and
proud, not of separate colors, but of the whole manhood of Christ!"
"Every mind is entered, like every house, through its own door."
"Doctrine is nothing but the skin of Truth set up and stuffed."
"Compromise is the word that men use when the Devil gets a victory over
"A man in the right, with God on his side, is in the majority, though he
be alone; for God is multitudinous above all populations of the earth."
But this was first said by Frederic Douglas, and better: "_One with God
is a majority._"
"A lie always needs a truth for a handle to it; else the hand would cut
itself, which sought to drive it home upon another. The worst lies,
therefore, are those whose blade is false, but whose handle is true."
"It is not conviction of truth which does men good; it is moral
consciousness of truth."
"A conservative young man has wound up his life before it was unreeled.
We expect old men to be conservative; but when a nation's young men are
so, its funeral-bell is already rung."
"Night-labor, in time, will destroy the student; for it is marrow from
his own bones with which he fills his lamp."
A great-hearted, eloquent, fervent, live man, full of religious emotion,
of humanity and love,--no wonder he is dear to the people of America.
Long may he bring instruction to the lecture associations of the North!
Long may he stand in his pulpit at Brooklyn with his heavenly candle,
which goeth not out at all by day, to kindle the devotion and piety of
the thousands who cluster around him, and carry thence light and warmth
to all the borders of the land!
We should do injustice to our own feelings, did we not, in closing, add
a word of hearty thanks and commendation to the Member of Mr. Beecher's
Congregation to whom we are indebted for a volume that has given us
so much pleasure. The selection covers a wide range of topics, and
testifies at once to the good taste and the culture of the editress.
Many of the finest passages were conceived and uttered in the rapid
inspiration of speaking, and but for her admiring intelligence and care,
the eloquence, wit, and wisdom, which are here preserved to us, would
have faded into air with the last vibration of the preacher's voice.
Under a sultry, yellow sky,
On the yellow sand I lie;
The crinkled vapors smite my brain,
I smoulder in a fiery pain.
Above the crags the condor flies;
He knows where the red gold lies,
He knows where the diamonds shine;--
If I knew, would she be mine?
Mercedes in her hammock swings;
In her court a palm-tree flings
Its slender shadow on the ground,
The fountain falls with silver sound.
Her lips are like this cactus cup;
With my hand I crush it up;
I tear its flaming leaves apart;--
Would that I could tear her heart!
Last night a man was at her gate;
In the hedge I lay in wait;
I saw Mercedes meet him there,
By the fire-flies in her hair.
I waited till the break of day,
Then I rose and stole away;
I drove my dagger through the gate;--
Now she knows her lover's fate!
* * * * *
THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL.
[This particular record is noteworthy principally for containing a paper
by my friend, the Professor, with a poem or two annexed or intercalated.
I would suggest to young persons that they should pass over it for the
present, and read, instead of it, that story about the young man who was
in love with the young lady, and in great trouble for something like
nine pages, but happily married on the tenth page or thereabouts, which,
I take it for granted, will be contained in the periodical where this
is found, unless it differ from all other publications of the kind.
Perhaps, if such young people will lay the number aside, and take it
up ten years, or a little more, from the present time, they may find
something in it for their advantage. They can't possibly understand it
My friend, the Professor, began talking with me one day in a dreary sort
of way. I couldn't get at the difficulty for a good while, but at last
it turned out that somebody had been calling him an old man.--He didn't
mind his students calling him _the_ old man, he said. That was a
technical expression, and he thought that he remembered hearing it
applied to himself when he was about twenty-five. It may be considered
as a familiar and sometimes endearing appellation. An Irish-woman calls
her husband "the old man," and he returns the caressing expression by
speaking of her as "the old woman." But now, said he, just suppose a
case like one of these. A young stranger is overheard talking of you as
a very nice old gentleman. A friendly and genial critic speaks of your
green old age as illustrating the truth of some axiom you had uttered
with reference to that period of life. What _I_ call an old man is a
person with a smooth, shining crown and a fringe of scattered white
hairs, seen in the streets on sunshiny days, stooping as he walks,
bearing a cane, moving cautiously and slowly; telling old stories,
smiling at present follies, living in a narrow world of dry habits; one
that remains waking when others have dropped asleep, and keeps a little
night-lamp-flame of life burning year after year, if the lamp is not
upset, and there is only a careful hand held round it to prevent the
puffs of wind from blowing the flame out. That's what I call an old man.
Now, said the Professor, you don't mean to tell me that I have got to
that yet? Why, bless you, I am several years short of the time when--[I
knew what was coming, and could hardly keep from laughing; twenty years
ago he used to quote it as one of those absurd speeches men of genius
will make, and now he is going to argue from it]--several years short
of the time when Balzac says that men are--most--you know--dangerous
to--the hearts of--in short, most to be dreaded by duennas that
have charge of susceptible females.--What age is that? said I,
statistically.--Fifty-two years, answered the Professor.--Balzac ought
to know, said I, if it is true that Goethe said of him that each of his
stories must have been dug out of a woman's heart. But fifty-two is a
Stand in the light of the window, Professor, said I.--The Professor took
up the desired position.--You have white hairs, I said.--Had 'em any
time these twenty years, said the Professor.--And the crow's-foot,--_pes
anserinus_, rather.--The Professor smiled, as I wanted him to, and the
folds radiated like the ridges of a half-opened fan, from the outer
corner of the eyes to the temples.--And the calipers, said I.--What
are the _calipers_? he asked, curiously.--Why, the parenthesis, said
I.--_Parenthesis_? said the Professor; what's that?--Why, look in the
glass when you are disposed to laugh, and see if your mouth isn't framed
in a couple of crescent lines,--so, my boy ( ).--It's all nonsense, said
the Professor; just look at my _biceps_;--and he began pulling off his
coat to show me his arm.--Be careful, said I; you can't bear exposure to
the air, at your time of life, as you could once.--I will box with you,
said the Professor, row with you, walk with you, ride with you, swim
with you, or sit at table with you, for fifty dollars a side.--Pluck
survives stamina, I answered.
The Professor went off a little out of humor. A few weeks afterwards he
came in, looking very good-natured, and brought me a paper, which I
have here, and from which I shall read you some portions, if you don't
object. He had been thinking the matter over, he said,--had read Cicero.
"De Senectute," and made up his mind to meet old age half way. These
were some of his reflections that he had written down; so here you have
THE PROFESSOR'S PAPER.
There is no doubt when old age begins. The human body is a furnace which
keeps in blast three-score years and ten, more or less. It burns about
three hundred pounds of carbon a year, (besides other fuel,) when in
fair working order, according to a great chemist's estimate. When the
fire slackens, life declines; when it goes out, we are dead.
It has been shown by some noted French experimenters, that the amount of
combustion increases up to about the thirtieth year, remains stationary
to about forty-five, and then diminishes. This last is the point where
old age starts from. The great fact of physical life is the perpetual
commerce with the elements, and the fire is the measure of it.
About this time of life, if food is plenty where you live,--for that,
you know, regulates matrimony,--you may be expecting to find yourself a
grandfather some fine morning; a kind of domestic felicity that gives
one a cool shiver of delight to think of, as among the not remotely
I don't mind much those slipshod lines Dr. Johnson wrote to Thrale,
telling her about life's declining from _thirty-five_; the furnace is in
full blast for ten years longer, as I have said. The Romans came very
near the mark; their age of enlistment reached from seventeen to
What is the use of fighting against the seasons, or the tides, or the
movements of the planetary bodies, or this ebb in the wave of life that
flows through us? We are old fellows from the moment the fire begins to
go out. Let us always behave like gentlemen when we are introduced to
_Incipit Allegoria Senectutis_.
Old Age, this is Mr. Professor; Mr. Professor, this is Old Age.
_Old Age_.--Mr. Professor, I hope to see you well. I have known you for
some time, though I think you did not know me. Shall we walk down the
_Professor_. (drawing back a little)--We can talk more quietly,
perhaps, in my study. Will you tell me how it is you seem to be
acquainted with everybody you are introduced to, though he evidently
considers you an entire stranger?
_Old Age_.--I make it a rule never to force myself upon a person's
recognition until I have known him at least _five years_.
_Professor_.--Do you mean to say that you have known me so long as that?
_Old Age_.--I do. I left my card on you longer ago than that, but I am
afraid you never read it; yet I see you have it with you.
_Old Age_.--There, between your eyebrows,--three straight lines running
up and down; all the probate courts know that token,--"Old Age, his
mark." Put your forefinger on the inner end of one eyebrow, and your
middle finger on the inner end of the other eyebrow; now separate the
fingers, and you will smooth out my sign-manual; that's the way you used
to look before I left my card on you.
_Professor_.--What message do people generally send back when you first
call on them?
_Old Age.--Not at home_. Then I leave a card and go. Next year I call;
get the same answer; leave another card. So for five or six,--sometimes
ten years or more. At last, if they don't let me in, I break in through
the front door or the windows.
We talked together in this way some time. Then Old Age said again,--
Come, let us walk down the street together,--and offered me a cane, an
eyeglass, a tippet, and a pair of over-shoes.--No, much obliged to you,
said I. I don't want those things, and I had a little rather talk with
you here, privately, in my study. So I dressed myself up in a jaunty way
and walked out alone;--got a fall, caught a cold, was laid up with a
lumbago, and had time to think over this whole matter.
_Explicit Allegoria Senectutis_.
We have settled when old age begins. Like all Nature's processes, it is
gentle and gradual in its approaches, strewed with illusions, and all
its little griefs soothed by natural sedatives. But the iron hand is
not less irresistible because it wears the velvet glove. The buttonwood
throws off its bark in large flakes, which one may find lying at its
foot, pushed out, and at last pushed off, by that tranquil movement from
beneath, which is too slow to be seen, but too powerful to be arrested.
One finds them always, but one rarely sees them fall. So it is our youth
drops from us,--scales off, sapless and lifeless, and lays bare the
tender and immature fresh growth of old age. Looked at collectively,
the changes of old age appear as a series of personal insults and
indignities, terminating at last in death, which Sir Thomas Browne has
called "the very disgrace and ignominy of our natures."
My lady's cheek can boast no more
The cranberry white and pink it wore;
And where her shining locks divide,
The parting line is all too wide----
No, no,--this will never do. Talk about men, if you will, but spare the
We have a brief description of seven stages of life by a remarkably good
observer. It is very presumptuous to attempt to add to it, yet I have
been struck with the fact that life admits of a natural analysis into no
less than fifteen distinct periods. Taking the five primary divisions,
infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, old age, each of these has its
own three periods of immaturity, complete development, and decline. I
recognize an _old_ baby at once,--with its "pipe and mug," (a stick of
candy and a porringer,)--so does everybody; and an old child shedding
its milk-teeth is only a little prototype of the old man shedding his
permanent ones. Fifty or thereabouts is only the childhood, as it were,
of old age; the graybeard youngster must be weaned from his late suppers
now. So you will see that you have to make fifteen stages at any rate,
and that it would not be hard to make twenty-five; five primary, each
with five secondary divisions.
The infancy and childhood of commencing old age have the same ingenuous
simplicity and delightful unconsciousness about them that the first
stage of the earlier periods of life shows. The great delusion of
mankind is in supposing that to be individual and exceptional which is
universal and according to law. A person is always startled when he
hears himself seriously called an old man for the first time.
Nature gets us out of youth into manhood, as sailors are hurried on
board of vessels,--in a state of intoxication. We are hustled into
maturity reeling with our passions and imaginations, and we have drifted
far away from port before we awake out of our illusions. But to carry us
out of maturity into old age, without our knowing where we are going,
she drugs us with strong opiates, and so we stagger along with wide open
eyes that see nothing until snow enough has fallen on our heads to rouse
our comatose brains out of their stupid trances.
There is one mark of age that strikes me more than any of the physical
ones;--I mean the formation of _Habits_. An old man who shrinks into
himself falls into ways that become as positive and as much beyond the
reach of outside influences as if they were governed by clockwork. The
_animal_ functions, as the physiologists call them, in distinction from
the _organic_, tend, in the process of deterioration to which age
and neglect united gradually lead them, to assume the periodical or
rhythmical type of movement. Every man's _heart_ (this organ belongs,
you know, to the organic system) has a regular mode of action; but I
know a great many men whose _brains_, and all their voluntary existence
flowing from their brains, have a _systole_ and _diastole_ as regular
as that of the heart itself. Habit is the approximation of the animal
system to the organic. It is a confession of failure in the highest
function of being, which involves a perpetual self-determination, in
full view of all existing circumstances. But habit, you see, is an
action in present circumstances from past motives. It is substituting a
_vis a tergo_ for the evolution of living force.
When a man, instead of burning up three hundred pounds of carbon a
year, has got down to two hundred and fifty, it is plain enough he must
economize force somewhere. Now habit is a labor-saving invention which
enables a man to get along with less fuel,--that is all; for fuel is
force, you know, just as much in the page I am writing for you as in the
locomotive or the legs that carry it to you. Carbon is the same thing,
whether you call it wood, or coal, or bread and cheese. A reverend
gentleman demurred to this statement,--as if, because combustion is
asserted to be the _sine qua non_ of thought, therefore thought is
alleged to be a purely chemical process. Facts of chemistry are one
thing, I told him, and facts of consciousness another. It can be proved
to him, by a very simple analysis of some of his spare elements,
that every Sunday, when he does his duty faithfully, he uses up more
phosphorus out of his brain and nerves than on ordinary days. But then
he had his choice whether to do his duty, or to neglect it, and save his
phosphorus and other combustibles.
It follows from all this that _the formation of habits_ ought naturally
to be, as it is, the special characteristic of age. As for the muscular
powers, they pass their maximum long before the time when the true
decline of life begins, if we may judge by the experience of the ring. A
man is "stale," I think, in their language, soon after thirty,--often,
no doubt, much earlier, as gentlemen of the pugilistic profession are
exceedingly apt to keep their vital fire burning _with the blower up_.
----So far without Tully. But in the mean time I have been reading the
treatise, "De Senectute." It is not long, but a leisurely performance.
The old gentleman was sixty-three years of age when he addressed it to
his friend T. Pomponius Atticus, Eq., a person of distinction, some two
or three years older. We read it when we are schoolboys, forget all
about it for thirty years, and then take it up again by a natural
instinct,--provided always that we read Latin as we drink water, without
stopping to taste it, as all of us who ever learned it at school or
college ought to do.
Cato is the chief speaker in the dialogue. A good deal of it is what
would be called in vulgar phrase "slow." It unpacks and unfolds
incidental illustrations which a modern writer would look at the back
of, and toss each to its pigeonhole. I think ancient classics and
ancient people are alike in the tendency to this kind of expansion.
An old doctor came to me once (this is literal fact) with some
contrivance or other for people with broken kneepans. As the patient
would be confined for a good while, he might find it dull work to sit
with his hands in his lap. Reading, the ingenious inventor suggested,
would be an agreeable mode of passing the time. He mentioned, in his
written account of his contrivance, various works that might amuse the
weary hour. I remember only three,--Don Quixote, Tom Jones, and _Watts
on the Mind_.
It is not generally understood that Cicero's essay was delivered as a
lyceum lecture, (_concio popularis_,) at the Temple of Mercury. The
journals (_papyri_) of the day ("Tempora Quotidiana,"--"Tribunus
Quirinalis,"--"Praeco Romanus," and the rest) gave abstracts of it, one
of which I have translated and modernized, as being a substitute for the
analysis I intended to make.
IV. Kal. Mart....
The lecture at the Temple of Mercury, last evening, was well attended
by the _elite_ of our great city. Two hundred thousand sestertia were
thought to have been represented in the house. The doors were besieged
by a mob of shabby fellows, (_illotum vulgus_,) who were at length
quieted after two or three had been somewhat roughly handled (_gladio
jugulati_). The speaker was the well-known Mark Tully, Eq.,--the
subject, Old Age. Mr. T. has a lean and scraggy person, with a very
unpleasant excrescence upon his nasal feature, from which his nickname
of _chick-pea_ (Cicero) is said by some to be derived. As a lecturer is
public property, we may remark, that his outer garment (_toga_) was of
cheap stuff and somewhat worn, and that his general style and appearance
of dress and manner (_habitus, vestitusque_) were somewhat provincial.
The lecture consisted of an imaginary dialogue between Cato and Laelius.
We found the first portion rather heavy, and retired a few moments for
refreshment (_pocula quoedam vini_).--All want to reach old age, says
Cato, and grumble when they get it; therefore they are donkeys.--The
lecturer will allow us to say that he is the donkey; we know we shall
grumble at old age, but we want to live through youth and manhood, _in
spite_ of the troubles we shall groan over.--There was considerable
prosing as to what old age can do and can't--True, but not new.
Certainly, old folks can't jump,--break the necks of their thigh-bones,
(_femorum cervices_,) if they do, can't crack nuts with their teeth;
can't climb a greased pole (_malum inunctum scandere non possunt_); but
they can tell old stories and give you good advice; if they know what
you have made up your mind to do when you ask them.--All this is well
enough, but won't set the Tiber on fire (_Tiberim accendere nequaquam
There were some clever things enough, (_dicta haud inepta_,) a few of
which are worth reporting.--Old people are accused of being forgetful;
but they never forget where they have put their money.--Nobody is so old
he doesn't think he can live a year.--The lecturer quoted an ancient
maxim,--Grow old early, if you would be old long,--but disputed it.--
Authority, he thought, was the chief privilege of age.--It is not great
to have money, but fine to govern those that have it.--Old age begins
at _forty-six_ years, according to the common opinion.--It is not every
kind of old age or of wine that grows sour with time.--Some excellent
remarks were made on immortality, but mainly borrowed from and credited
to Plato.--Several pleasing anecdotes were told.--Old Milo, champion of
the heavy weights in his day, looked at his arms and whimpered, "They
are dead." Not so dead as you, you old fool,--says Cato;--you never
were good for anything but for your shoulders and flanks.--Pisistratus
asked Solon what made him dare to be so obstinate. Old age, said Solon.
The lecture was on the whole acceptable, and a credit to our culture
and civilization.--The reporter goes on to state that there will be no
lecture next week, on account of the expected combat between the bear
and the barbarian. Betting (_sponsio_) two to one (_duo ad unum_) on the
----After all, the most encouraging things I find in the treatise, "De
Senectute," are the stories of men who have found new occupations when
growing old, or kept up their common pursuits in the extreme period of
life. Cato learned Greek when he was old, and speaks of wishing to learn
the fiddle, or some such instrument, (_fidibus_,) after the example of
Socrates. Solon learned something new, every day, in his old age, as he
gloried to proclaim. Cyrus pointed out with pride and pleasure the trees
he had planted with his own hand. [I remember a pillar on the Duke of
Northumberland's estate at Alnwick, with an inscription in similar
words, if not the same. That, like other country pleasures, never wears
out. None is too rich, none too poor, none too young, none too old to
enjoy it.] There is a New England story I have heard more to the point,
however, than any of Cicero's. A young farmer was urged to set out some
apple-trees.--No, said he, they are too long growing, and I don't want
to plant for other people. The young farmer's father was spoken to about
it; but he, with better reason, alleged that apple-trees were slow and
life was fleeting. At last some one mentioned it to the old grandfather
of the young farmer. He had nothing else to do,--so he stuck in some
trees. He lived long enough to drink barrels of cider made from the
apples that grew on those trees.
As for myself, after visiting a friend lately,--[Do remember all the
time that this is the Professor's paper,]--I satisfied myself that I had
better concede the fact that--my contemporaries are not so young as they
have been,--and that,--awkward as it is,--science and history agree in
telling me that I can claim the immunities and must own the humiliations
of the early stage of senility. Ah! but we have all gone down the hill
together. The dandies of my time have split their waistbands and taken
to high-low shoes. The beauties of my recollections--where are they?
They have run the gantlet of the years as well as I. First the years
pelted them with red roses till their cheeks were all on fire. By and by
they began throwing white roses, and that morning flush passed away. At
last one of the years threw a snow-ball, and after that no year let
the poor girls pass without throwing snow-balls. And then came rougher
missiles,--ice and stones; and from time to time an arrow whistled and
down went one of the poor girls. So there are but few left; and we don't
call those few _girls_, but----
Ah, me! here am I groaning just as the old Greek sighed _Ai, ai!_ and
the old Roman, _Eheu!_ I have no doubt we should die of shame and grief
at the indignities offered us by age, if it were not that we see so many
others as badly or worse off than ourselves. We always compare ourselves
with our contemporaries.
[I was interrupted in my reading just here. Before I began at the next
breakfast, I read them these verses;--I hope you will like them, and get
a useful lesson from them.]
THE LAST BLOSSOM.
Though young no more, we still would dream
Of beauty's dear deluding wiles;
The leagues of life to graybeards seem
Shorter than boyhood's lingering miles.
Who knows a woman's wild caprice?
It played with Goethe's silvered hair,
And many a Holy Father's "niece"
Has softly smoothed the papal chair.
When sixty bids us sigh in vain
To melt the heart of sweet sixteen,
We think upon those ladies twain
Who loved so well the tough old Dean.
We see the Patriarch's wintry face,
The maid of Egypt's dusky glow,
And dream that Youth and Age embrace,
As April violets fill with snow.
Tranced in her Lord's Olympian smile
His lotus-loving Memphian lies,--
The musky daughter of the Nile
With plaited hair and almond eyes.
Might we but share one wild caress
Ere life's autumnal blossoms fall,
And Earth's brown, clinging lips impress
The long cold kiss that waits us all!
My bosom heaves, remembering yet
The morning of that blissful day
When Rose, the flower of spring, I met,
And gave my raptured soul away.
Flung from her eyes of purest blue,
A lasso, with its leaping chain
Light as a loop of larkspurs, flew
O'er sense and spirit, heart and brain.
Thou com'st to cheer my waning age,
Sweet vision, waited for so long!
Dove that wouldst seek the poet's cage.
Lured by the magic breath of song!
She blushes! Ah, reluctant maid,
Love's _drapeau rouge_ the truth has told!
O'er girlhood's yielding barricade
Floats the great Leveller's crimson fold!
Come to my arms!--love heeds not years;
No frost the bud of passion knows.--
Ha! what is this my frenzy hears?
A voice behind me uttered,--Rose!
Sweet was her smile,--but not for me;
Alas, when woman looks _too_ kind,
Just turn your foolish head and see,--
Some youth is walking close behind!
As to _giving up_ because the almanac or the Family-Bible says that it
is about time to do it, I have no intention of doing any such thing. I
grant you that I burn less carbon than some years ago. I see people
of my standing really good for nothing, decrepit, effete, _la levre
inferieure deja pendante_, with what little life they have left mainly
concentrated in their epigastrium. But as the disease of old age is
epidemic, endemic, and sporadic, and everybody that lives long enough is
sure to catch it, I am going to say, for the encouragement of such as
need it, how I treat the malady in my own case.
First. As I feel, that, when I have anything to do, there is less time
for it than when I was younger, I find that I give my attention more
thoroughly, and use my time more economically than ever before; so that
I can learn anything twice as easily as in my earlier days. I am not,
therefore, afraid to attack a new study. I took up a difficult language
a very few years ago with good success, and think of mathematics and
Secondly. I have opened my eyes to a good many neglected privileges and
pleasures within my reach, and requiring only a little courage to enjoy
them. You may well suppose it pleased me to find that old Cato was
thinking of learning to play the fiddle, when I had deliberately taken
it up in my old age, and satisfied myself that I could get much comfort,
if not much music, out of it.
Thirdly. I have found that some of those active exercises, which are
commonly thought to belong to young folks only, may be enjoyed at a much
A young friend has lately written an admirable article in one of the
journals, entitled, "Saints and their Bodies." Approving of his general
doctrines, and grateful for his records of personal experience, I cannot
refuse to add my own experimental confirmation of his eulogy of one
particular form, of active exercise and amusement, namely, _boating_.
For the past nine years, I have rowed about, during a good part of the
summer, on fresh or salt water. My present fleet on the river Charles
consists of three rowboats. 1. A small flat-bottomed skiff of the shape
of a flat-iron, kept mainly to lend to boys. 2. A fancy "dory" for two
pairs of sculls, in which I sometimes go out with my young folks. 3.
My own particular water-sulky, a "skeleton" or "shell" race-boat,
twenty-two feet long, with huge outriggers, which boat I pull with
ten-foot sculls,--alone, of course, as it holds but one, and tips him
out, if he doesn't mind what he is about. In this I glide around the
Back Bay, down the stream, up the Charles to Cambridge and Watertown, up
the Mystic, round the wharves, in the wake of steamboats, which have
a swell after them delightful to rock upon; I linger under the
bridges,--those "caterpillar bridges," as my brother Professor so
happily called them; rub against the black sides of old wood-schooners;
cool down under the overhanging stern of some tall India-man; stretch
across to the Navy-Yard, where the sentinel warns me off from the
Ohio,--just as if I should hurt her by lying in her shadow; then strike
out into the harbor, where the water gets clear and the air smells of
the ocean,--till all at once I remember, that, if a west wind blows up
of a sudden, I shall drift along past the islands, out of sight of the
dear old State-house,--plate, tumbler, knife and fork all waiting at
home, but no chair drawn up at the table,--all the dear people waiting,
waiting, waiting, while the boat is sliding, sliding, sliding into the
great desert, where there is no tree and no fountain. As I don't want
my wreck to be washed up on one of the beaches in company with
devils'-aprons, bladder-weeds, dead horse-shoes, and bleached
crab-shells, I turn about and flap my long, narrow wings for home. When
the tide is running out swiftly, I have a splendid fight to get through
the bridges, but always make it a rule to beat,--though I have been
jammed up into pretty tight places at times, and was caught once between
a vessel swinging round and the pier, until our bones (the boat's, that
is) cracked as if we had been in the jaws of Behemoth. Then back to my
moorings at the foot of the Common, off with the rowing-dress, dash
under the green translucent wave, return to the garb of civilization,
walk through my Garden, take a look at my elms on the Common, and,
reaching my habitat, in consideration of my advanced period of life,
indulge in the Elysian abandonment of a huge recumbent chair.
When I have established a pair of well-pronounced feathering-calluses on
my thumbs, when I am in training so that I can do my fifteen miles at a
stretch without coming to grief in any way, when I can perform my mile
in eight minutes or a little less, then I feel as if I had old Time's
head in chancery, and could give it to him at my leisure.
I do not deny the attraction of walking. I have bored this ancient city
through and through in my daily travels, until I know it as an old
inhabitant of a Cheshire knows his cheese. Why, it was I who, in the
course of these rambles, discovered that remarkable avenue called
_Myrtle Street_, stretching in one long line from east of the Reservoir
to a precipitous and rudely paved cliff which looks down on the grim
abode of Science, and beyond it to the far hills; a promenade so
delicious in its repose, so cheerfully varied with glimpses down the
northern slope into busy Cambridge Street with its iron river of the
horse-railroad, and wheeled barges gliding back and forward over it,--so
delightfully closing at its western extremity in sunny courts and
passages where I know peace, and beauty, and virtue, and serene old age
must be perpetual tenants,--so alluring to all who desire to take their
daily stroll, in the words of Dr. Watts,--
"Alike unknowing and unknown,"--
that nothing but a sense of duty would have prompted me to reveal the
secret of its existence. I concede, therefore, that walking is an
immeasurably fine invention, of which old age ought constantly to avail
Saddle-leather is in some respects even preferable to sole-leather. The
principal objection to it is of a financial character. But you may be
sure that Bacon and Sydenham did not recommend it for nothing. One's
_hepar_, or, in vulgar language, liver,--a ponderous organ, weighing
some three or four pounds,--goes up and down like the dasher of a
churn in the midst of the other vital arrangements, at every step of
a trotting horse. The brains also are shaken up like coppers in a
moneybox. Riding is good, for those that are born with a silver-mounted
bridle in their hand, and can ride as much and as often as they like,
without thinking all the time they hear that steady grinding sound as
the horse's jaws triturate with calm lateral movement the bank-bills and
promises to pay upon which it is notorious that the profligate animal in
question feeds day and night.
Instead, however, of considering these kinds of exercise in this
empirical way, I will devote a brief space to an examination of them in
a more scientific form.
The pleasure of exercise is due first to a purely physical impression,
and secondly to a sense of power in action. The first source of pleasure
varies of course with our condition and the state of the surrounding
circumstances; the second with the amount and kind of power, and the
extent and kind of action. In all forms of active exercise there are
three powers simultaneously in action,--the will, the muscles, and the
intellect. Each of these predominates in different kinds of exercise.
In walking, the will and muscles are so accustomed to work together
and perform their task with so little expenditure of force, that the
intellect is left comparatively free. The mental pleasure in walking,
as such, is in the sense of power over all our moving machinery. But in
riding, I have the additional pleasure of governing another will, and my
muscles extend to the tips of the animal's ears and to his four hoofs,
instead of stopping at my hands and feet. Now in this extension of
my volition and my physical frame into another animal, my tyrannical
instincts and my desire for heroic strength are at once gratified. When
the horse ceases to have a will of his own and his muscles require no
special attention on your part, then you may live on horseback as Wesley
did, and write sermons or take naps, as you like. But you will observe,
that, in riding on horseback, you always have a feeling, that, after
all, it is not you that do the work, but the animal, and this prevents
the satisfaction from being complete.
Now let us look at the conditions of rowing. I won't suppose you to be
disgracing yourself in one of those miserable tubs, tugging in which is
to rowing the true boat what riding a cow is to bestriding an Arab. You
know the Esquimaux _kayak_, (if that is the name of it,) don't you? Look
at that model of one over my door. Sharp, rather?--On the contrary, it
is a lubber to the one you and I must have; a Dutch fish-wife to
Psyche, contrasted with what I will tell you about.--Our boat, then, is
something of the shape of a pickerel, as you look down upon his back,
he lying in the sunshine just where the sharp edge of the water cuts in
among the lily-pads. It is a kind of a giant _pod_, as one may say,--
tight everywhere, except in a little place in the middle, where you sit.
Its length is from seven to ten yards, and as it is only from sixteen to
thirty inches wide in its widest part, you understand why you want those
"outriggers," or projecting iron frames with the rowlocks in which the
oars play. My rowlocks are five feet apart; double or more than double
the greatest width of the boat.
Here you are, then, afloat with a body a rod and a half long, with arms,
or wings, as you may choose to call them, stretching more than twenty
feet from tip to tip; every volition of yours extending as perfectly
into them as if your spinal cord ran down the centre strip of your boat,
and the nerves of your arms tingled as far as the broad blades of your
oars,--oars of spruce, balanced, leathered, and ringed under your own
special direction. This, in sober earnest, is the nearest approach to
flying that man has ever made or perhaps ever will make. As the hawk
sails without flapping his pinions, so you drift with the tide when you
will, in the most luxurious form of locomotion indulged to an embodied
spirit. But if your blood wants rousing, turn round that stake in the
river, which you see a mile from here; and when you come in in sixteen
minutes, (if you do, for we are old boys, and not champion scullers, you
remember,) then say if you begin to feel a little warmed up or not! You
can row easily and gently all day, and you can row yourself blind and
black in the face in ten minutes, just as you like. It has been long
agreed that there is no way in which a man can accomplish so much labor
with his muscles as in rowing. It is in the boat, then, that man finds
the largest extension of his volitional and muscular existence; and
yet he may tax both of them so slightly, in that most delicious of
exercises, that he shall mentally write his sermon, or his poem, or
recall the remarks he has made in company and put them in form for the
public, as well as in his easy-chair.
I dare not publicly name the rare joys, the infinite delights, that
intoxicate me on some sweet June morning, when the river and bay are
smooth as a sheet of beryl-green silk, and I run along ripping it up
with my knife-edged shell of a boat, the rent closing after me like
those wounds of angels which Milton tells of, but the seam still shining
for many a long rood behind me. To lie still over the Flats, where the
waters are shallow, and see the crabs crawling and the sculpins gliding
busily and silently beneath the boat,--to rustle in through the long
harsh grass that leads up some tranquil creek,--to take shelter from the
sunbeams under one of the thousand-footed bridges, and look down its
interminable colonnades, crusted with green and oozy growths, studded
with minute barnacles, and belted with rings of dark muscles, while
overhead streams and thunders that other river whose every wave is
a human soul flowing to eternity as the river below flows to the
ocean,--lying there moored unseen, in loneliness so profound that
the columns of Tadmor in the Desert could not seem more remote from
life,--the cool breeze on one's forehead, the stream whispering against
the half-sunken pillars,--why should I tell of these things, that I
should live to see my beloved haunts invaded and the waves blackened
with boats as with a swarm of water-beetles? What a city of idiots
we must be not to have covered this glorious bay with gondolas and
wherries, as we have just learned to cover the ice in winter with
I am satisfied that such a set of black-coated, stiff-jointed,
soft-muscled, paste-complexioned youth as we can boast in our Atlantic
cities never before sprang from loins of Anglo-Saxon lineage. Of the
females that are the mates of these males I do not here speak. I
preached my sermon from the lay-pulpit on this matter a good while
ago. Of course, if you heard it, you know my belief is that the total
climatic influences here are getting up a number of new patterns of
humanity, some of which are not an improvement on the old model.
Clipper-built, sharp in the bows, long in the spars, slender to look at,
and fast to go, the ship, which is the great organ of our national
life of relation, is but a reproduction of the typical form which the
elements impress upon its builder. All this we cannot help; but we can
make the best of these influences, such as they are. We have a few
good boatmen,--no good horsemen that I hear of,--nothing remarkable, I
believe, in cricketing,--and as for any great athletic feat performed
by a gentleman in these latitudes, society would drop a man who should
run round the Common in five minutes. Some of our amateur fencers,
single-stick players, and boxers, we have no reason to be ashamed of.
Boxing is rough play, but not too rough for a hearty young fellow.
Anything is better than this white-blooded degeneration to which we all
I dropped into a gentlemen's sparring exhibition only last evening. It
did my heart good to see that there were a few young and youngish youths
left who could take care of their own heads in case of emergency. It is
a fine sight, that of a gentleman resolving himself Into the primitive
constituents of his humanity. Here is a delicate young man now, with an
intellectual countenance, a slight figure, a sub-pallid complexion, a
most unassuming deportment, a mild adolescent in fact, that any Hiram or
Jonathan from between the ploughtails would of course expect to handle
with perfect ease. Oh, he is taking off his gold-bowed spectacles! Ah,
he is divesting himself of his cravat! Why, he is stripping off his
coat! Well, here he is, sure enough, in a tight silk shirt, and with two
things that look like batter puddings in the place of his fists. Now see
that other fellow with another pair of batter puddings,--the big one
with the broad shoulders; he will certainly knock the little man's
head off, if he strikes him. Feinting, dodging, stopping, hitting,
countering,--little man's head not off yet. You might as well try to
jump upon your own shadow as to hit the little man's intellectual
features. He needn't have taken off the gold-bowed spectacles at all.
Quick, cautious, shifty, nimble, cool, he catches all the fierce lunges
or gets out of their reach, till his turn comes, and then, whack goes
one of the batter puddings against the big one's ribs, and bang goes the
other into the big one's face, and, staggering, shuffling, slipping,
tripping, collapsing, sprawling, down goes the big one in a
miscellaneous bundle.--If my young friend, whose excellent article I
have referred to, could only introduce the manly art of self-defence
among the clergy, I am satisfied that we should have better sermons and
an infinitely less quarrelsome church-militant. A bout with the gloves
would let off the ill-nature, and cure the indigestion, which, united,
have embroiled their subject in a bitter controversy. We should then
often hear that a point of difference between an infallible and a
heretic, instead of being vehemently discussed in a series of newspaper
articles, had been settled by a friendly contest in several rounds,
at the close of which the parties shook hands and appeared cordially
But boxing you and I are too old for, I am afraid. I was for a moment
tempted, by the contagion of muscular electricity last evening, to try
the gloves with the Benicia Boy, who looked in as a friend to the noble
art; but remembering that he had twice my weight and half my age,
besides the advantage of his training, I sat still and said nothing.
There is one other delicate point I wish to speak of with reference
to old age. I refer to the use of dioptric media which correct the
diminished refracting power of the humors of the eye,--in other words,
spectacles. I don't use them. All I ask is a large, fair type, a strong
daylight or gas-light, and one yard of focal distance, and my eyes are
as good as ever. But if _your_ eyes fail, I can tell you something
encouraging. There is now living in New York State an old gentleman who,
perceiving his sight to fail, immediately took to exercising it on the
finest print, and in this way fairly bullied Nature out of her foolish
habit of taking liberties at five-and-forty, or thereabout. And now
this old gentleman performs the most extraordinary feats with his pen,
showing that his eyes must be a pair of microscopes. I should be afraid
to say to you how much he writes in the compass of a half-dime,--
whether the Psalms or the Gospels, or the Psalms _and_ the Gospels, I
won't be positive.
But now let me tell you this. If the time comes when you must lay down
the fiddle and the bow, because your fingers are too stiff, and drop the
ten-foot sculls, because your arms are too weak, and, after dallying
awhile with eye-glasses, come at last to the undisguised reality of
spectacles,--if the time comes when that fire of life we spoke of has
burned so low that where its flames reverberated there is only the
sombre stain of regret, and where its coals glowed, only the white ashes
that cover the embers of memory,--don't let your heart grow cold, and
you may carry cheerfulness and love with you into the teens of your
second century, if you can last so long. As our friend, the Poet, once
said, in some of those old-fashioned heroics of his which he keeps for
his private reading,--
Call him not old, whose visionary brain
Holds o'er the past its undivided reign.
For him in vain the envious seasons roll
Who bears eternal summer in his soul.
If yet the minstrel's song, the poet's lay,
Spring with her birds, or children with their play,
Or maiden's smile, or heavenly dream of art
Stir the few life-drops creeping round his heart,--
Turn to the record where his years are told,--
Count his gray hairs,--they cannot make him old!
_End of the Professor's paper_.
[The above essay was not read at one time, but in several instalments,
and accompanied by various comments from different persons at the table.
The company were in the main attentive, with the exception of a little
somnolence on the part of the old gentleman opposite at times, and a
few sly, malicious questions about the "old boys" on the part of that
forward young fellow who has figured occasionally, not always to his
advantage, in these reports.
On Sunday mornings, in obedience to a feeling I am not ashamed of,
I have always tried to give a more appropriate character to our
conversation. I have never read them my sermon yet, and I don't know
that I shall, as some of them might take my convictions as a personal
indignity to themselves. But having read our company so much of the
Professor's talk about age and other subjects connected with physical
life, I took the next Sunday morning to repeat to them the following
poem of his, which I have had by me some time. He calls it--I suppose,
for his professional friends--THE ANATOMIST'S HYMN; but I shall name
THE LIVING TEMPLE.
Not in the world of light alone,
Where God has built his blazing throne,
Nor yet alone in earth below,
With belted seas that come and go,
And endless isles of sunlit green,
Is all thy Maker's glory seen:
Look in upon thy wondrous frame,--
Eternal wisdom still the same!
The smooth, soft air with pulse-like waves
Flows murmuring through its hidden caves
Whose streams of brightening purple rush
Fired with a new and livelier blush,
While all their burden of decay
The ebbing current steals away,
And red with Nature's flame they start
From the warm fountains of the heart.
No rest that throbbing slave may ask,
Forever quivering o'er his task,
While far and wide a crimson jet
Leaps forth to fill the woven net
Which in unnumbered crossing tides
The flood of burning life divides,
Then kindling each decaying part
Creeps back to find the throbbing heart.
But warmed with that unchanging flame
Behold the outward moving frame,
Its living marbles jointed strong
With glistening band and silvery thong,
And linked to reason's guiding reins
By myriad rings in trembling chains,
Each graven with the threaded zone
Which claims it us the master's own.
See how yon beam of seeming white
Is braided out of seven-hued light,
Yet in those lucid gloves no ray
By any chance shall break astray.
Hark how the rolling surge of sound,
Arches and spirals circling round,
Wakes the hushed spirit through thine ear
With music it is heaven to hear.
Then mark the cloven sphere that holds
all thoughts in its mysterious folks,
That feels sensation's faintest thrill
And flashes for the sovereign will;
Think on the stormy world that dwells
Locked in its dim and clustering cells!
The lightning gleams of power it sheds
Along its hollow glassy threads!
O Father! grant thy love divine
To make these mystic temples thine!
When wasting age and wearying strife
Have sapped the leaning walls of life.
When darkness gathers over all,
And the last tottering pillars fall,
Take the poor dust thy mercy warms
And mould it into heavenly forms!
* * * * *
_Library of Old Authors.--Works of John Marston_. London: John Russell
MR. HALLIWELL, at the close of his Preface to the Works of Marston,
(Vol. I. p. xxii.,) says, "The dramas now collected together are
reprinted absolutely from the early editions, which were placed in the
hands of our printers, who thus had the advantage of following them
without the intervention of a transcriber. They are given as nearly as
possible in their original state, the only modernizations attempted
consisting in the alternations of the letters _i_ and _j_, and _u_ and
_v_, the retention of which" (does Mr. Halliwell mean the letters or the
"alternations"?) "would have answered no useful purpose, while it would
have unnecessarily perplexed the modern reader."
This not very clear; but as Mr. Halliwell is a member of several learned
foreign societies, and especially of the Royal _Irish_ Academy, perhaps
it would he unfair to demand that he should write clear English. As one
of Mr. Smith's editors, it was to be expected that he should not write
it idiomatically. Some malign constellation (Taurus, perhaps, whose
infaust aspect may be supposed to preside over the makers of bulls and
blunders) seems to have been in conjunction with heavy Saturn when the
Library was projected. At the top of the same page from which we have
made our quotation, Mr. Halliwell speaks of "conveying a favorable
impression _on_ modern readers." It was surely to no such phrase as this
that Ensign Pistol alluded when he said, "_Convey_ the _wise_ it call."
A literal reprint of an old author may be of value in two ways: the
orthography may in certain cases indicate the ancient pronunciation, or
it may put us on a scent which shall lead us to the burrow of a word
among the roots of language. But in order to this, it surely is not
needful to undertake the reproduction of all the original errors of the
press; and even were it so, the proofs of carelessness in the editorial
department are so glaring, that we are left in doubt, after all, if we
may congratulate ourselves on possessing all these sacred blunders
of the Elizabethan typesetters in their integrity and without any
debasement of modern alloy. If it be gratifying to know that there lived
stupid men before our contemporary Agamemnons in that kind, yet we
demand absolute accuracy in the report of the _phenomena_ in order to
arrive at anything like safe statistics. For instance, we find (Vol. I.
p. 89) "ACTUS SECUNDUS, SCENA PRIMUS," and (Vol. III. p. 174) "_exit
ambo_," and we are interested to know that in a London printing-house,
two centuries and a half ago, there was a philanthropist who wished to
simplify the study of the Latin language by reducing all the nouns to
one gender and all the verbs to one number. Had his emancipated theories
of grammar prevailed, how much easier would that part of boys which
cherubs want have found the school-room benches! How would birchen bark,
as an educational tonic, have fallen in repute! How white would have
been the (now black-and-blue) memories of Dr. Busby and so many other
educational _lictors_, who, with their bundles of rods, heralded not
alone the consuls, but all other Roman antiquities to us! We dare not,
however, indulge in the grateful vision, since there are circumstances
which lead us to infer that Mr. Halliwell himself (member though he be
of so many learned societies) has those vague notions of the speech of
ancient Rome which are apt to prevail in regions which count not the
_betula_ in their _Flora_. On page xv. of his Preface, he makes
Drummond say that Ben Jonson "was dilated" (_delated_,--Gifford gives it
in English, _accused_) "to the king by Sir James Murray,"--Ben, whose
corpulent person stood in so little need of that malicious increment!
What is Mr. Halliwell's conception of editorial duty? As we read along,
and the once fair complexion of the margin grew more and more pimply
with pencil-marks, like that of a bad proof-sheet, we began to think
that he was acting on the principle of every man his own washerwoman,
--that he was making blunders of set purpose, (as teachers of languages
do in their exercises,) in order that we might correct them for
ourselves, and so fit us in time to be editors also, and members of
various learned societies, even as Mr. Halliwell himself is. We fancied,
that, magnanimously waving aside the laurel with which a grateful
posterity crowned General Wade, he wished us "to see these roads
_before_ they were made," and develope our intellectual muscles in
getting over them. But no; Mr. Halliwell has appended notes to his
edition, and among them are some which correct misprints, and therefore
seem to imply that he considers that service as belonging properly to
the editorial function. We are obliged, then, to give up our theory that
his intention was to make every reader an editor, and to suppose that he
wished rather to show how disgracefully a book might be edited and yet
receive the commendation of professional critics who read with the ends
of their fingers. If this were his intention, Marston himself never
published so biting a satire.
Let us look at a few of the intricate passages, to help us through
which Mr. Halliwell lends us the light of his editorial lantern. In the
Induction to "What you Will" occurs the striking and unusual phrase,
"Now out up-pont," and Mr. Halliwell favors us with the following note:
"Page 221, line 10. _Up-pont_.--That is, upon't." Again in the same play
"Let twattling fame cheatd others rest,
I um no dish for rumors feast."
Of course, it should read,--
"Let twattling [twaddling] Fame cheate others' rest,
I am no dish for Rumor's feast."
Mr. Halliwell comes to our assistance thus: "Page 244, line 21, [22
it should be,] _I um_,--a printer's error for _I am." Dignus vindice
nodus_! Five lines above, we have "whole" for "who'll," and four lines
below, "helmeth" for "whelmeth"; but Mr. Halliwell vouchsafes no note.
In the "Fawn" we read, "Wise _neads_ use few words," and the editor says
in a note, "a misprint for _heads_"! Kind Mr. Halliwell!
Having given a few examples of our "Editor's" corrections, we proceed to
quote a passage or two which, it is to be presumed, he thought perfectly
"A man can skarce put on a tuckt-up cap,
A button'd frizado sute, skarce eate good meate,
_Anchoves, caviare_, but hee's satyred
And term'd phantasticall. By the muddy spawne
Of slymie neughtes, when troth, phantasticknesse--
That which the naturall sophysters tearme
_Phantusia incomplexa_--is a function
Even of the bright immortal part of man.
It is the common passe, the sacred dore,
Unto the prive chamber of the soule;
That bar'd, nought passeth past the baser court.
Of outward scence by it th' inamorate
Most lively thinkes he sees the absent beauties
Of his lov'd mistres."--Vol. I. p. 241.
In this case, also, the true readings are clear enough:--
"And termed fantastical by the muddy spawn
Of slimy newts";
----"past the baser court
Of outward sense";--
but, if anything was to be explained, why are we here deserted by our
Again, (Vol. II. pp. 55-56,) we read, "This Granuffo is a right wise
good lord, a man of excellent discourse, and never speakes his signes to
me, and men of profound reach instruct aboundantly; hee begges suites
with signes, gives thanks with signes," etc.
This Granuffo is qualified among the "Interlocutors" as "a silent lord,"
and what fun there is in the character (which, it must be confessed, is
rather of a lenten kind) consists in his genius for saying nothing.
It is plain enough that the passage should read, "a man of excellent
discourse, and never speaks; his signs to me and men of profound reach
instruct abundantly," etc.
In both the passages we have quoted, it is not difficult for the reader
to set the text right. But if not difficult for the reader, it should
certainly not have been so for the editor, who should have done what
Broome was said to have done for Pope in his Homer,--"gone before and
swept the way." An edition of an English author ought to be intelligible
to English readers, and, if the editor do not make it so, he wrongs the
old poet, for two centuries lapt in lead, to whose works he undertakes
to play the gentleman-usher. A play written in our own tongue should not
be as tough to us as Aeschylus to a ten-years' graduate, nor do we wish
to be reduced to the level of a chimpanzee, and forced to gnaw our way
through a thick shell of misprints and mispointings only to find (as is
generally the case with Marston) a rancid kernel of meaning after all.
But even Marston sometimes deviates into poetry, as a man who wrote in
that age could hardly help doing, and one of the few instances of it
is in a speech of _Erichtho_, in the first scene of the fourth act of
"Sophonisba," (Vol. I. p. 197,) which Mr. Halliwell presents to us in
----"hard by the reverent (!) ruines
Of a once glorious temple rear'd to Jove
Whose very rubbish....
A deathlesse majesty, though now quite rac'd, [razed,]
Hurl'd down by wrath and lust of impious kings,
So that where holy Flamins [Flamens] wont to sing
Sweet hymnes to Heaven, there the daw and crow,
The ill-voyc'd raven, and still chattering pye,
Send out ungratefull sounds and loathsome filth;
Where statues and Joves acts were vively limbs,
* * * * *
Where tombs and beautious urnes of well dead men
Stood in assured rest," etc.
The verse and a half in Italics are worthy of Chapman; but why did not
Mr. Halliwell, who explains _up-pont_ and _I um_, change "Joves acts
were vively limbs" to "Jove's acts were lively limned," which was
unquestionably what Marston wrote?
In the "Scourge of Villanie," (Vol. III. p. 252,) there is a passage
which has a modern application in America, though happily archaic in
England, which Mr. Halliwell suffers to stand thus:--
"Once Albion lived in such a cruel age
Than man did hold by servile vilenage:
Poore brats were slaves of bondmen that were borne,
And marted, sold: but that rude law is torne
And disannuld, as too too inhumane."
This should read--
"_Man_ man did hold in servile villanage;
Poor brats were slaves (of bondmen that were born)";
and we hope that some American poet will one day be able to write in the
past tense similar verses of the barbarity of his forefathers.
We will give one more scrap of Mr. Halliwell's text:--
"Yfaith, why then, caprichious mirth,
Skip, light moriscoes, in our frolick blond,
Flagg'd veines, sweete, plump with fresh-infused joyes!"
which Marston, doubtless, wrote thus:--
"I'faith, why then, capricious Mirth,
Skip light moriscoes in our frolic blood!
Flagged veins, swell plump with fresh-infused joys!"
We have quoted only a few examples from among the scores that we had
marked, and against such a style of "editing" we invoke the shade of
Marston himself. In the Preface to the Second Edition of the "Fawn,"
he says, "Reader, know I have perused this coppy, _to make some
satisfaction for the first faulty impression; yet so urgent hath been my
business that some errors have styll passed, which thy discretion may
Literally, to be sure, Mr. Halliwell has availed himself of the
permission of the poet, in leaving all emendation to the reader; but
certainly he has been false to the spirit of it in his self-assumed
office of editor. The notes to explain _up-pont_ and _I um_ give us a
kind of standard of the highest intelligence which Mr. Halliwell dares
to take for granted in the ordinary reader. Supposing this _nousometer_
of his to be a centigrade, in what hitherto unconceived depths of cold
obstruction can he find his zero-point of entire idiocy? The expansive
force of average wits cannot be reckoned upon, as we see, to drive them
up as far as the temperate degree of misprints in one syllable, and
those, too, in their native tongue. _A fortiori_, then, Mr. Halliwell is
bound to lend us the aid of his great learning wherever his author has
introduced foreign words and the old printers have made _pie_ of them.
In a single case he has accepted his responsibility as dragoman, and the
amount of his success is not such as to give us any poignant regret that
he has everywhere else left us to our own devices. On p. 119, Vol. II.,
_Francischina_, a Dutchwoman, exclaims, "O, mine aderliver love." Here
is Mr. Halliwell's note. "_Aderliver_.--This is the speaker's error for
_alder-liever_, the best beloved by all." Certainly not "the _speaker's_
error," for Marston was no such fool as intentionally to make a
Dutchwoman blunder in her own language. But is it an error for
_alder-liever?_ No, but for _alderliefster_. Mr. Halliwell might have
found it in many an old Dutch song. For example, No. 96 of Hoffmann von
Fallersleben's "Niederlaendische Volkslieder" begins thus:--
"Mijn hert altijt heeft verlanghen
Naer u, die _alderliefste_ mijn."
But does the word mean "best beloved by all"? No such thing, of course;
but "best-beloved of all,"--that is, by the speaker.
In "Antonio and Mellida" (Vol. I. pp. 50-51) occur some Italian verses,
and here we hoped to fare better; for Mr. Halliwell (as we learn from
the title-page of his Dictionary) is a member of the "_Reale Academia
di Firenze_." This is the _Accademia della Crusca_, founded for the
conservation of the Italian language in its purity, and it is rather
a fatal symptom that Mr. Halliwell should indulge in the heresy of
spelling _Accademia_ with only one _c_. But let us see what our Della
Cruscan's notions of conserving are. Here is a specimen:--
"Bassiammi, coglier l'aura odorata
Che in sua neggia in quello dolce labra.
Dammi pimpero del tuo gradit' amore."
It is clear enough that the first and third verses ought to read,
"Lasciami coglier,--Dammi l'impero,"
though we confess that we could make nothing of _in sua neggia_ till
an Italian friend suggested _ha sua seggia_. But a Della Cruscan
academician might at least have corrected by his dictionary the spelling
We think that we have sustained our indictment of Mr. Halliwell's text
with ample proof. The title of the book should have been, "The Works
of John Marston, containing all the Misprints of the Original Copies,
together with a few added for the First Time in this Edition, the whole
carefully let alone by James Orchard Halliwell, F.R.S., F.S.A." It
occurs to us that Mr. Halliwell may be also a Fellow of the Geological
Society, and may have caught from its members the enthusiasm which leads
him to attach so extraordinary a value to every goose-track of the
Elizabethan formation. It is bad enough to be, as Marston was, one of
those middling poets whom neither gods nor men nor columns (Horace had
never seen a newspaper) tolerate; but, really, even they do not deserve
the frightful retribution of being reprinted by a Halliwell.
We have said that we could not feel even the dubious satisfaction of
knowing that the blunders of the old copies had been faithfully followed
in the reprinting. We see reason for doubting whether Mr. Halliwell ever
read the proof-sheets. In his own notes we have found several mistakes.
For instance, he refers to p. 159 when he means p. 153; he cites "I,
but her _life_," instead of "_lip_"; and he makes Spenser speak of "old
Pithonus." Marston is not an author of enough importance to make it
desirable that we should be put in possession of all the corrupted
readings of his text, were such a thing possible even with the most
minute painstaking, and Mr. Halliwell's edition loses its only claim to
value the moment a doubt is cast upon the accuracy of its inaccuracies.
It is a matter of special import to us (whose means of access to
originals are exceedingly limited) that the English editors of our old
authors should be faithful and trustworthy, and we have singled out Mr.
Halliwell's Marston for particular animadversion only because we think
it on the whole the worst edition we ever saw of any author.
Having exposed the condition in which our editor has left the text, we
proceed to test his competency in another respect, by examining some of
the emendations and explanations of doubtful passages which he proposes.
These are very few; but had they been even fewer, they had been too
Among the _dramatis personae_ of the "Fawn," as we said before, occurs
"Granuffo, _a silent lord_." He speaks only once during the play, and
that in the last scene. In Act I., Scene 2, _Gonzago_ says, speaking to
"Now, sure, thou are a man
Of a most learned _scilence_, and one whose words
Have bin most pretious to me."
This seems quite plain, but Mr. Halliwell annotates
thus:--"_Scilence_.--Query, _science?_ The common, reading, _silence_,
may, however, be what is intended." That the spelling should have
troubled Mr. Halliwell is remarkable; for elsewhere we find "god-boy"
for "good-bye," "seace" for "cease," "bodies" for "boddice," "pollice"
for "policy," "pitittying" for "pitying," "scence" for "sense,"
"Misenzius" for "Mezentius," "Ferazes" for "Ferrarese,"--and plenty
beside, equally odd. That he should have doubted the meaning is no less
strange; for on page 41 of the same play we read, "My Lord Granuffo, you
may likewise stay, for I know _you'l say nothing_,"--on pp. 55-56, "This
Granuffo is a right wise good lord, _a man of excellent discourse and
never speaks_,"--and on p. 94, we find the following dialogue:--
"_Gon._ My Lord Granuffo, this Fawne is an excellent fellow.
"_Gon._ _I warrant you for my lord here._"
In the same play (p. 44) are these lines.--
"I apt for love?
Let lazy idlenes, fild full of wine
Heated with meates, high fedde with lustfull ease
Goe dote on culler [color]. As for me, why, death a sence,
I court the ladie?"
This is Mr. Halliwell's note:--"_Death a sence_.--'Earth a sense,' ed.
1633. Mr. Dilke suggests:--'For me, why, earth's as sensible.' The
original is not necessarily corrupt. It may mean,--why, you might as
well think Death was a sense, one of the senses. See a like phrase at
p. 77." What help we should get by thinking Death one of the senses, it
would demand another Oedipus to unriddle. Mr. Halliwell can astonish us
no longer, but we are surprised at Mr. Dilke, the very competent editor
of the "Old English Plays," 1815. From him we might have hoped for
better things. "Death o' sense!" is an exclamation. Throughout these
volumes we find _a_ for _o_',--as, "a clock" for "o'clock," "a the side"
for "o' the side."
A similar exclamation is to be found in three other places in the same
play, where the sense is obvious. Mr. Halliwell refers to one of them
on p. 77,--"Death a man! is she delivered!" The others are,--"Death a
justice! are we in Normandy?" (p. 98); and "Death a discretion! if I
should prove a foole now," or, as given by Mr. Halliwell, "Death, a
discretion!" Now let us apply Mr. Halliwell's explanation. "Death a
man!" you might as well think Death was a man, that is, one of the
men!--or a discretion, that is, one of the discretions!--or a justice,
that is, one of the quorum! We trust Mr. Halliwell may never have the
editing of Bob Acres's imprecations. "Odd's triggers!" he would say,
"that is, as odd as, or as strange as, triggers."
Vol. III., p. 77,--"the vote-killing mandrake." Mr. Halliwell's note
is, "_vote-killing_.--'Voice-killing,' ed. 1613. It may well he doubted
whether either be the correct reading." He then gives a familiar
citation from Browne's "Vulgar Errors." "Vote-killing" may be a mere
misprint for "note-killing," but "voice-killing" is certainly the better
reading. Either, however, makes sense. Although Sir Thomas Browne does
not allude to the deadly property of the mandrake's shriek, yet Mr.
Halliwell, who has edited Shakspeare, might have remembered the
"Would curses kill, _as doth the mandrake's groan_,"
(2d Part Henry VI., Act III. Scene 2.)
and the notes thereon in the _variorum_ edition. In Jacob Grimm's
"Deutsche Mythologie," (Vol. II. p. 1154,) under the word _Alraun_, may
be found a full account of the superstitions concerning the mandrake.
"When it is dug up, it groans and shrieks so dreadfully that the digger
will surely die. One must, therefore, before sunrise on a Friday, having
first stopped one's ears with wax or cotton-wool, take with him an
entirely black dog without a white hair on him, make the sign of the
cross three times over the _alraun_, and dig about it till the root
holds only by thin fibres. Then tie these by a string to the tail of the
dog, show him a piece of bread, and run away as fast as possible. The
dog runs eagerly after the bread, pulls up the root, and falls stricken
dead by its groan of pain."
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