Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 62, December, 1862

Part 1 out of 5

Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Tonya Allen and PG Distributed





In Cuba there is a blossoming shrub whose multitudinous crimson flowers
are so seductive to the humming-birds that they hover all day around it,
buried in its blossoms until petal and wing seem one. At first upright,
the gorgeous bells droop downward, and fall unwithered to the ground,
and are thence called by the Creoles "Cupid's Tears." Frederika Bremer
relates that daily she brought home handfuls of these blossoms to her
chamber, and nightly they all disappeared. One morning she looked toward
the wall of the apartment, and there, in a long crimson line, the
delicate flowers went ascending one by one to the ceiling, and passed
from sight. She found that each was borne laboriously onward by a little
colorless ant much smaller than itself: the bearer was invisible, but
the lovely burdens festooned the wall with beauty.

To a watcher from the sky, the march of the flowers of any zone across
the year would seem as beautiful as that West-Indian pageant. These
frail creatures, rooted where they stand, a part of the "still life" of
Nature, yet share her ceaseless motion. In the most sultry silence of
summer noons, the vital current is coursing with desperate speed through
the innumerable veins of every leaflet; and the apparent stillness, like
the sleeping of a child's top, is in truth the very ecstasy of perfected

Not in the tropics only, but even in England, whence most of our floral
associations and traditions come, the march of the flowers is in an
endless circle, and, unlike our experience, something is always in
bloom. In the Northern United States, it is said, the active growth of
most plants is condensed into ten weeks, while in the mother-country the
full activity is maintained through sixteen. But even the English winter
does not seem to be a winter, in the same sense as ours, appearing more
like a chilly and comfortless autumn. There is no month in the year
when some special plant does not bloom: the Coltsfoot there opens
its fragrant flowers from December to February; the yellow-flowered
Hellebore, and its cousin, the sacred Christmas Rose of Glastonbury,
extend from January to March; and the Snowdrop and Primrose often come
before the first of February. Something may be gained, much lost, by
that perennial succession; those links, however slight, must make the
floral period continuous to the imagination; while our year gives a
pause and an interval to its children, and after exhausted October has
effloresced into Witch-Hazel, there is an absolute reserve of blossom,
until the Alders wave again.

No symbol could so well represent Nature's first yielding in spring-time
as this blossoming of the Alder, this drooping of the tresses of these
tender things. Before the frost is gone, and while the newborn season is
yet too weak to assert itself by actually uplifting anything, it can at
least let fall these blossoms, one by one, till they wave defiance to
the winter on a thousand boughs. How patiently they have waited! Men are
perplexed with anxieties about their own immortality; but these catkins,
which hang, almost full-formed, above the ice all winter, show no such
solicitude, but when March wooes them they are ready. Once relaxing,
their pollen is so prompt to fall that it sprinkles your hand as you
gather them; then, for one day, they are the perfection of grace upon
your table, and next day they are weary and emaciated, and their little
contribution to the spring is done.

Then many eyes watch for the opening of the May-flower, day by day,
and a few for the Hepatica. So marked and fantastic are the local
preferences of all our plants, that, with miles of woods and meadows
open to their choice, each selects only some few spots for its
accustomed abodes, and some one among them all for its very earliest
blossoming. There is always some single chosen nook, which you might
almost cover with your handkerchief, where each flower seems to bloom
earliest, without variation, year by year. I know one such place for
Hepatica a mile northeast,--another for May-flower two miles southwest;
and each year the whimsical creature is in bloom on that little spot,
when not another flower can be found open through the whole country
round. Accidental as the choice may appear, it is undoubtedly based
on laws more eternal than the stars; yet why all subtile influences
conspire to bless that undistinguishable knoll no man can say. Another
and similar puzzle offers itself in the distribution of the tints
of flowers,--in these two species among the rest. There are certain
localities, near by, where the Hepatica is all but white, and others
where the May-flower is sumptuous in pink; yet it is not traceable to
wet or dry, sun or shadow, and no agricultural chemistry can disclose
the secret. Is it by some Darwinian law of selection that the white
Hepatica has utterly overpowered the blue, in our Cascade Woods, for
instance, while yet in the very midst of this pale plantation a single
clump will sometimes bloom with all heaven on its petals? Why can one
recognize the Plymouth May-flower, as soon as seen, by its wondrous
depth of color? Does it blush with triumph to see how Nature has
outwitted the Pilgrims, and even succeeded in preserving her deer like
an English duke, still maintaining the deepest woods in Massachusetts
precisely where those sturdy immigrants first began their clearings?

The Hepatica (called also Liverwort, Squirrel-Cup, or Blue Anemone) has
been found in Worcester as early as March seventeenth, and in Danvers on
March twelfth,--dates which appear almost the extreme of credibility.

Our next wild-flower in this region is the Claytonia, or Spring-Beauty,
which is common in the Middle States, but here found in only a few
localities. It is the Indian _Miskodeed_, and was said to have been
left behind when mighty Peboan, the Winter, was melted by the breath
of Spring. It is an exquisitely delicate little creature, bears its
blossoms in clusters, unlike most of the early species, and opens in
gradual succession each white and pink-veined bell. It grows in moist
places on the sunny edges of woods, and prolongs its shy career from
about the tenth of April until almost the end of May.

A week farther into April, and the Bloodroot opens,--a name of guilt,
and a type of innocence. This fresh and lovely thing appears to
concentrate all its stains within its ensanguined root, that it may
condense all purity in the peculiar whiteness of its petals. It emerges
from the ground with each shy blossom wrapt in its own pale-green leaf,
then doffs the cloak and spreads its long petals round a group of yellow
stamens. The flower falls apart so easily that when in full bloom it
will hardly bear transportation, but with a touch the stem stands naked,
a bare gold-tipped sceptre amid drifts of snow. And the contradiction
of its hues seems carried into its habits. One of the most shy of wild
plants, easily banished from its locality by any invasion, it yet takes
to the garden with unpardonable readiness, doubles its size, blossoms
earlier, repudiates its love of water, and flaunts its great leaves in
the unnatural confinement until it elbows out the exotics. Its charm is
gone, unless one find it in its native haunts, beside some cascade which
streams over rocks that are dark with moisture, green with moss, and
snowy with white bubbles. Each spray of dripping feather-moss exudes a
tiny torrent of its own, or braided with some tiny neighbor, above the
little water-fonts which sleep sunless in ever-verdant caves. Sometimes
along these emerald canals there comes a sudden rush and hurry, as if
some anxious housekeeper upon the hill above were afraid that things
were not stirring fast enough,--and then again the waving and sinuous
lines of water are quieted to a serener flow. The delicious red-thrush
and the busy little yellow-throat are not yet come to this their summer
haunt; but all day long the answering field-sparrows trill out their
sweet, shy, accelerating lay.

In the same localities with the Bloodroot, though some days later, grows
the Dog-Tooth Violet,--a name hopelessly inappropriate, but likely
never to be changed. These hardy and prolific creatures have also
many localities of their own; for, though they do not acquiesce in
cultivation, like the sycophantic Bloodroot, yet they are hard to banish
from their native haunts, but linger after the woods are cleared and the
meadow drained. The bright flowers blaze back all the yellow light of
noonday as the gay petals curl and spread themselves above their beds of
mottled leaves; but it is always a disappointment to gather them, for
indoors they miss the full ardor of the sunbeams, and are apt to go to
sleep and nod expressionless from the stalk.

And almost on the same day with this bright apparition one may greet a
multitude of concurrent visitors, arriving so accurately together that
it is almost a matter of accident which of the party shall first report
himself. Perhaps the Dandelion should have the earliest place; indeed,
I once found it in Brookline on the seventh of April. But it cannot
ordinarily be expected before the twentieth, in Eastern Massachusetts,
and rather later in the interior; while by the same date I have also
found near Boston the Cowslip or Marsh-Marigold, the Spring-Saxifrage,
the Anemones, the Violets, the Bellwort, the Houstonia, the Cinquefoil,
and the Strawberry-blossom. Varying, of course, in different spots and
years, the arrival of this coterie is yet nearly simultaneous, and they
may all be expected hereabouts before May-day at the very latest. After
all, in spite of the croakers, this festival could not have been much
better-timed, the delicate blossoms which mark the period are usually in
perfection on this day, and it is not long before they are past their

Some early plants which have now almost disappeared from Eastern
Massachusetts are still found near Worcester in the greatest
abundance,--as the larger Yellow Violet, the Red Trillium, the Dwarf
Ginseng, the Clintonia or Wild Lily-of-the-Valley, and the pretty
fringed Polygala, which Miss Cooper christened "Gay-Wings." Others again
are now rare in this vicinity, and growing rarer, though still abundant
a hundred miles farther inland. In several bits of old swampy wood one
may still find, usually close together, the Hobble-Bush and the Painted
Trillium, the Mitella, or Bishop's-Cap, and the snowy Tiarella. Others
again have entirely vanished within ten years, and that in some cases
without any adequate explanation. The dainty white Corydalis, profanely
called "Dutchman's-Breeches," and the quaint woolly Ledum, or Labrador
Tea, have disappeared within that time. The beautiful Linnaea is still
found annually, but flowers no more; as is also the case, in all but one
distant locality, with the once abundant Rhododendron. Nothing in Nature
has for me a more fascinating interest than these secret movements of
vegetation,--the sweet blind instinct with which flowers cling to old
domains until absolutely compelled to forsake them. How touching is the
fact, now well known, that salt-water plants still flower beside the
Great Lakes, yet dreaming of the time when those waters were briny as
the sea! Nothing in the demonstrations of Geology seems grander than the
light lately thrown by Professor Gray, from the analogies between the
flora of Japan and of North America, upon the successive epochs of heat
which led the wandering flowers along the Arctic lands, and of cold
which isolated them once more. Yet doubtless these humble movements
of our local plants may be laying up results as important, and may
hereafter supply evidence of earth's changes upon some smaller scale.

May expands to its prime of beauty; the summer birds come with the
fruit-blossoms, the gardens are deluged with bloom and the air with
melody, while in the woods the timid spring-flowers fold themselves away
in silence and give place to a brighter splendor. On the margin of some
quiet swamp a myriad of bare twigs seem suddenly overspread with purple
butterflies, and we know that the Rhodora is in bloom. Wordsworth never
immortalized a flower more surely than Emerson this, and it needs no
weaker words; there is nothing else in which the change from nakedness
to beauty is so sudden, and when you bring home the great mass of
blossoms they appear all ready to flutter away again from your hands and
leave you disenchanted.

At the same time the beautiful Cornel-tree is in perfection; startling
as a tree of the tropics, it flaunts its great flowers high up among the
forest-branches, intermingling its long slender twigs with theirs, and
garnishing them with alien blooms. It is very available for household
decoration, with its four great creamy petals,--flowers they are not,
but floral involucres,--each with a fantastic curl and stain at its tip,
as if the fireflies had alighted on them and scorched them; and yet I
like it best as it peers out in barbaric splendor from the delicate
green of young Maples. And beneath it grows often its more abundant
kinsman, the Dwarf Cornel, with the same four great petals enveloping
its floral cluster, but lingering low upon the ground,--an herb whose
blossoms mimic the statelier tree.

The same rich creamy hue and texture show themselves in the Wild Calla,
which grows at this season in dark, sequestered water-courses, and
sometimes well rivals, in all but size, that superb whiteness out of
a land of darkness, the Ethiopic Calla of the conservatory. At this
season, too, we seek another semi-aquatic rarity, whose homely name
cannot deprive it of a certain garden-like elegance, the Buckbean. This
is one of the shy plants which yet grow in profusion within their own
domain. I have found it of old in Cambridge, and then upon the pleasant
shallows of the Artichoke, that loveliest tributary of the Merrimack,
and I have never seen it where it occupied a patch more than a few yards
square, while yet within that space the multitudinous spikes grow always
tall and close, reminding one of hyacinths, when in perfection, but more
delicate and beautiful. The only locality I know for it in this vicinity
lies seven miles away, where a little inlet from the lower winding bays
of Lake Quinsigamond goes stealing up among a farmer's hay-fields, and
there, close beside the public road and in full of the farm-house, this
rare creature fills the water. But to reach it we commonly row down
the lake to a sheltered lagoon, separated from the main lake by a long
island which is gradually forming itself like the coral isles, growing
each year denser with alder thickets where the king-birds build;--there
leave the boat among the lily-leaves, and take a lane which winds among
the meadows and gives a fitting avenue for the pretty thing we seek.
But it is not safe to vary many days from the twentieth of May, for the
plant is not long in perfection, and is past its prime when the lower
blossoms begin to wither on the stem.

But should we miss this delicate adjustment of time, it is easy to
console ourselves with bright armfuls of Lupine, which bounteously
flowers for six weeks along our lake-side, ranging from the twenty-third
of May to the sixth of July. The Lupine is one of our most travelled
plants; for, though never seen off the American continent, it stretches
to the Pacific, and is found upon the Arctic coast. On these banks of
Lake Quinsigamond it grows in great families, and should be gathered in
masses and placed in a vase by itself; for it needs no relief from other
flowers, its own soft leaves afford background enough, and though the
white variety rarely occurs, yet the varying tints of blue upon the same
stalk are a perpetual gratification to the eye. I know not why shaded
blues should be so beautiful in flowers, and yet avoided as distasteful
in ladies' fancy-work; but it is a mystery like that which repudiates
blue-and-green from all well-regulated costumes, while Nature yet
evidently prefers it to any other combination in her wardrobe.

Another constant ornament of the end of May is the large pink
Lady's-Slipper, or Moccason-Flower, the "Cypripedium not due
till to-morrow" which Emerson attributes to the note-book of
Thoreau,--to-morrow, in these parts, meaning about the twentieth of May.
It belongs to the family of Orchids, a high-bred race, fastidious in
habits, sensitive as to abodes. Of the ten species named as rarest among
American endogenous plants by Dr. Gray, in his valuable essay on the
statistics of our Northern Flora, all but one are Orchids. And even an
abundant species, like the present, retains the family traits in its
person, and never loses its high-born air and its delicate veining.
I know a grove where it can be gathered by the hundreds within a
half-acre, and yet I never can divest myself of the feeling that each
specimen is a choice novelty. But the actual rarity occurs, at least
in this region, when one finds the smaller and more beautiful Yellow
Moccason-Flower,--_parviflorum_,--which accepts only our very choicest
botanical locality, the "Rattlesnake Ledge" on Tatessit Hill,--and may,
for aught I know, have been the very plant which Elsie Venner laid upon
her school-mistress's desk.

June is an intermediate month between the spring and summer flowers. Of
the more delicate early blossoms, the Dwarf Cornel, the Solomon's-Seal,
and the Yellow Violet still linger in the woods, but rapidly make way
for larger masses and more conspicuous hues. The meadows are gorgeous
with Clover, Buttercups, and Wild Geranium; but Nature is a little chary
for a week or two, maturing a more abundant show. Meanwhile one
may afford to take some pains to search for another rarity, almost
disappearing from this region,--the lovely Pink Azalea. It still grows
plentifully in a few sequestered places, selecting woody swamps to hide
itself; and certainly no shrub suggests, when found, more tropical
associations. Those great, nodding, airy, fragrant clusters, tossing far
above one's head their slender cups of honey, seem scarcely to belong to
our sober zone, any more than the scarlet tanager which sometimes builds
its nest beside them. They appear bright exotics, which have wandered
into our woods, and seem too happy to feel any wish for exit. And just
as they fade, their humbler sister in white begins to bloom, and carries
on through the summer the same intoxicating fragrance.

But when June is at its height, the sculptured chalices of the Mountain
Laurel begin to unfold, and thenceforward, for more than a month,
extends the reign of this our woodland queen. I know not why one should
sigh after the blossoming gorges of the Himalaya, when our forests are
all so crowded with this glowing magnificence,--rounding the tangled
swamps into smoothness, lighting up the underwoods, overtopping the
pastures, lining the rural lanes, and rearing its great pinkish masses
till they meet overhead. The color ranges from the purest white to a
perfect rose-pink, and there is an inexhaustible vegetable vigor about
the whole thing, which puts to shame those tenderer shrubs that shrink
before the progress of cultivation. There is the Rhododendron, for
instance, a plant of the same natural family with the Laurel and the
Azalea, and looking more robust and woody than either: it once grew in
many localities in this region, and still lingers in a few, without
consenting either to die or to blossom, and there is only one remote
place from which any one now brings into our streets those large
luxuriant flowers, waving white above the dark green leaves, and bearing
"just a dream of sunset on their edges, and just a breath from the green
sea in their hearts." But the Laurel, on the other hand, maintains its
ground, imperturbable and almost impassable, on every hill-side, takes
no hints, suspects no danger, and nothing but the most unmistakable
onset from spade or axe can diminish its profusion. Gathering it on the
most lavish scale seems only to serve as wholesome pruning; nor can I
conceive that the Indians, who once ruled over this whole county from
Wigwam Hill, could ever have found it more inconveniently abundant than
now. We have perhaps no single spot where it grows in such perfect
picturesqueness as at "The Laurels," on the Merrimack, just above
Newburyport,--a whole hill-side scooped out and the hollow piled
solidly with flowers, the pines curving around it above, and the river
encircling it below, on which your boat glides along, and you look up
through glimmering arcades of bloom. But for the last half of June it
monopolizes everything in the Worcester woods,--no one picks anything
else; and it fades so slowly that I have found a perfect blossom on the
last day of July.

At the same time with this royalty of the woods, the queen of the water
ascends her throne, for a reign as undisputed and far more prolonged.
The extremes of the Water-Lily in this vicinity, so far as I have known,
are the eighteenth of June and the thirteenth of October,--a longer
range than belongs to any other conspicuous wild-flower, unless we
except the Dandelion and Houstonia. It is not only the most fascinating
of all flowers to gather, but more available for decorative purposes
than almost any other, if it can only be kept fresh. The best method for
this purpose, I believe, is to cut the stalk very short before placing
in the vase; then, at night, the lily will close and the stalk curl
upward;--refresh them by changing the water, and in the morning the
stalk will be straight and the flower open.

From this time forth Summer has it all her own way. After the first of
July the yellow flowers begin to watch the yellow fireflies; Hawkweeds,
Loosestrifes, Primroses bloom, and the bushy Wild Indigo. The variety of
hues increases; delicate purple Orchises bloom in their chosen
haunts, and Wild Roses blush over hill and dale. On peat meadows the
Adder's-Tongue Arethusa (now called _Pogonia_) flowers profusely, with a
faint, delicious perfume,--and its more elegant cousin, the Calopogon,
by its side. In this vicinity we miss the blue Harebell, the identical
harebell of Ellen Douglas, which I remember waving its exquisite flowers
along the banks of the Merrimack, and again at Brattleboro', below the
cascade in the village, where it has climbed the precipitous sides
of old buildings, and nods inaccessibly from their crevices, in that
picturesque spot, looking down on the hurrying river. But with this
exception, there is nothing wanting here of the flowers of early summer.

The more closely one studies Nature, the finer her adaptations grow. For
instance, the change of seasons is analogous to a change of zones, and
summer assimilates our vegetation to that of the tropics.

In those lands, Humboldt has remarked, one misses the beauty of
wild-flowers in the grass, because the luxuriance of vegetation develops
everything into shrubs. The form and color are beautiful, "but, being
too high above the soil, they disturb that harmonious proportion which
characterizes the plants of our European meadows. Nature has, in every
zone, stamped on the landscape the peculiar type of beauty proper to
the locality." But every midsummer reveals the same tendency. In early
spring, when all is bare, and small objects are easily made prominent,
the wild-flowers are generally delicate. Later, when all verdure is
profusely expanded, these miniature strokes would be lost, and Nature
then practises landscape-gardening in large, lights up the copses with
great masses of White Alder, makes the roadsides gay with Aster and
Golden-Rod, and tops the tall coarse Meadow-Grass with nodding Lilies
and tufted Spiraea. One instinctively follows these plain hints, and
gathers bouquets sparingly in spring and exuberantly in summer.

The use of wild-flowers for decorative purposes merits a word in
passing, for it is unquestionably a branch of high art in favored hands.
It is true that we are bidden, on high authority, to love the wood-rose
and leave it on its stalk; but against this may be set the saying of
Bettine, that "all flowers which are broken become immortal in the
sacrifice"; and certainly the secret harmonies of these fair creatures
are so marked and delicate that we do not understand them till we try to
group floral decorations for ourselves. The most successful artists
will not, for instance, consent to put those together which do not grow
together; Nature understands her business, and distributes her masses
and backgrounds unerringly. Yonder soft and feathery Meadow-Sweet longs
to be combined with Wild Roses: it yearns towards them in the field,
and, after withering in the hand most readily, it revives in water as if
to be with them in the vase. In the same way the White Spiraea serves as
natural background for the Field-Lilies. These lilies, by the way, are
the brightest adornment of our meadows during the short period of their
perfection. We have two species: one slender, erect, solitary, scarlet,
looking up to heaven with all its blushes on; the other clustered,
drooping, pale-yellow. I never saw the former in such profusion as last
week, on the bare summit of Wachusett. The granite ribs have there a
thin covering of crispest moss, spangled with the white starry blossoms
of the Mountain Cinquefoil; and as I lay and watched the red lilies that
waved their innumerable urns around me, it needed but little imagination
to see a thousand altars, sending visible flames forever upward to the
answering sun.

August comes: the Thistles are out, beloved of butterflies; deeper and
deeper tints, more passionate intensities of color, prepare the way for
the year's decline. A wealth of gorgeous Golden-Rod waves over all the
hills, and enriches every bouquet one gathers; its bright colors command
the eye, and it is graceful as an elm. Fitly arranged, it gives a bright
relief to the superb beauty of the Cardinal-Flowers, the brilliant
blue-purple of the Vervain, the pearl-white of the Life-Everlasting,
the delicate lilac of the Monkey-Flower, the soft pink and white of
the Spiraeas,--for the white yet lingers,--all surrounded by trailing
wreaths of blossoming Clematis.

But the Cardinal-Flower is best seen by itself, and, indeed, needs the
surroundings of its native haunts to display its fullest beauty. Its
favorite abode is along the dank mossy stones of some black and winding
brook, shaded with overarching bushes, and running one long stream of
scarlet with these superb occupants. It seems amazing how anything so
brilliant can mature in such a darkness. When a ray of sunlight strays
in upon it, the wondrous creature seems to hover on the stalk, ready to
take flight, like some lost tropic bird. There is a spot whence I have
in ten minutes brought away as many as I could hold in both arms, some
bearing fifty blossoms on a single stalk; and I could not believe that
there was such another mass of color in the world. Nothing cultivated
is comparable to them; and, with all the talent lately lavished on
wild-flower painting, I have never seen the peculiar sheen of these
petals in the least degree delineated. It seems some new and separate
tint, equally distinct from scarlet and from crimson, a splendor for
which there is as yet no name, but only the reality.

It seems the signal of autumn, when September exhibits the first
Barrel-Gentian by the roadside; and there is a pretty insect in the
meadows--the Mourning-Cloak Moth it might be called--which gives
coincident warning. The innumerable Asters mark this period with their
varied and wide-spread beauty; the meadows are full of rose-colored
Polygala, of the white spiral spikes of the Ladies'-Tresses, and of
the fringed loveliness of the Gentian. This flower, always unique and
beautiful, opening its delicate eyelashes every morning to the sunlight,
closing them again each night, has also a thoughtful charm about it
as the last of the year's especial darlings. It lingers long, each
remaining blossom growing larger and more deep in color, as with many
other flowers; and after it there is nothing for which to look forward,
save the fantastic Witch-Hazel.

On the water, meanwhile, the last White Lilies are sinking beneath the
surface, the last gay Pickerel-Weed is gone, though the rootless plants
of the delicate Bladder-Wort, spreading over acres of shallows, still
impurple the wide, smooth surface. Harriet Prescott says that some souls
are like the Water-Lilies, fixed, yet floating. But others are like this
graceful purple blossom, floating unfixed, kept in place only by its
fellows around it, until perhaps a breeze comes, and, breaking the
accidental cohesion, sweeps them all away.

The season reluctantly yields its reign, and over the quiet autumnal
landscape everywhere, even after the glory of the trees is past, there
are tints and fascinations of minor beauty. Last October, for instance,
in walking, I found myself on a little knoll, looking northward.
Overhead was a bower of climbing Waxwork, with its yellowish pods scarce
disclosing their scarlet berries,--a wild Grape-vine, with its
fruit withered by the frost into still purple raisins,--and yellow
Beech-leaves, detaching themselves with an effort audible to the ear.
In the foreground were blue Raspberry-stems, yet bearing greenish
leaves,--pale-yellow Witch-Hazel, almost leafless,--purple
Viburnum-berries,--the silky cocoons of the Milkweed,--and, amid the
underbrush, a few lingering Asters and Golden-Rods, Ferns still green,
and Maidenhair bleached white. In the background were hazy hills,
white Birches bare and snow-like, and a Maple half-way up a sheltered
hill-side, one mass of canary-color, its fallen leaves making an
apparent reflection on the earth at its foot,--and then a real
reflection, fused into a glassy light intenser than itself, upon the
smooth, dark stream below.

The beautiful disrobing suggested the persistent and unconquerable
delicacy of Nature, who shrinks from nakedness and is always seeking
to veil her graceful boughs,--if not with leaves, then with feathery
hoar-frost, ermined snow, or transparent icy armor.

But, after all, the fascination of summer lies not in any details,
however perfect, but in the sense of total wealth which summer gives.
Wholly to enjoy this, one must give one's self passively to it, and not
expect to reproduce it in words. We strive to picture heaven, when
we are barely at the threshold of the inconceivable beauty of earth.
Perhaps the truant boy who simply bathes himself in the lake and then
basks in the sunshine, dimly conscious of the exquisite loveliness
around him, is wiser, because humbler, than is he who with presumptuous
phrases tries to utter it. There are multitudes of moments when the
atmosphere is so surcharged with luxury that every pore of the body
becomes an ample gate for sensation to flow in, and one has simply to
sit still and be filled. In after-years the memory of books seems barren
or vanishing, compared with the immortal bequest of hours like these.
Other sources of illumination seem cisterns only; these are fountains.
They may not increase the mere quantity of available thought, but they
impart to it a quality which is priceless. No man can measure what a
single hour with Nature may have contributed to the moulding of his
mind. The influence is self-renewing, and if for a long time it baffles
expression by reason of its fineness, so much the better in the end.

The soul is like a musical instrument: it is not enough that it be
framed for the very most delicate vibration, but it must vibrate long
and often before the fibres grow mellow to the finest waves of sympathy.
I perceive that in the veery's carolling, the clover's scent, the
glistening of the water, the waving wings of butterflies, the sunset
tints, the floating clouds, there are attainable infinitely more
subtile modulations of delight than I can yet reach the sensibility to
discriminate, much less describe. If, in the simple process of writing,
one could physically impart to this page the fragrance of this spray of
azalea beside me, what a wonder would it seem!--and yet one ought to be
able, by the mere use of language, to supply to every reader the total
of that white, honeyed, trailing sweetness, which summer insects haunt
and the Spirit of the Universe loves. The defect is not in language,
but in men. There is no conceivable beauty of blossom so beautiful as
words,--none so graceful, none so perfumed. It is possible to dream of
combinations of syllables so delicious that all the dawning and decay of
summer cannot rival their perfections, nor winter's stainless white
and azure match their purity and their charm. To write them, were it
possible, would be to take rank with Nature; nor is there any other
method, even by music, for human art to reach so high.

* * * * *


After a practice in the legal profession of more than twenty years, I am
persuaded that a more interesting volume could not be written than the
revelations of a lawyer's office. The plots there discovered before they
were matured,--the conspiracies there detected

"Ere they hail reached their last fatal periods,"--

the various devices of the Prince of Darkness,--the weapons with which
he fought, and those by which he was overcome,--the curious phenomena of
intense activity and love of gain,--the arts of the detective, and those
by which he was eluded,--and the never-ending and ever-varying surprises
and startling incidents,--would present such a panorama of human affairs
as would outfly our fancy, and modify our unbelief in that much-abused
doctrine of the depravity of our nature.

To illustrate, let me introduce to you "one of my clients," whom I will
call Mr. Sidney, and with whom, perhaps, you may hereafter become better
acquainted. His counterpart in personal appearance you may find in the
thoroughfare at, any hour of the day. There is nothing about him to
attract attention. He is nearly forty-five years of age, and weighs,
perhaps, two hundred pounds. His face is florid and his hair sandy. His
eyes are small, piercing, and gray. His motions are slow, and none are
made without a purpose. Intellectually he is above the average, and his
perceptive faculties are well developed. The wrinkles in his lips are at
right angles with his mouth, and a close observer might detect in his
countenance self-reliance and tenacity of will and purpose. But with
ordinary faculties much may be accomplished: in this sketch, let us see
how much in two particulars.

His first entrance into my office was in the spring of 1853. He
handed me a package of papers, saying, if I would name an hour for a
professional consultation, he would be punctual. The time was agreed
upon and he withdrew. On examination of his papers, I found that his
letters of introduction were from several United States Senators, Judges
of Supreme Courts, Cabinet Officers, and Governors, and one was from a
Presidential candidate in the last election. Those directed specially
to me were from a Senator and a Member of Congress, both of whom were
lawyers and my personal friends, men in whose judgment I placed great
confidence. They all spoke in the highest terms of Mr. Sidney's
integrity, ability, and energy, and concluded by saying I might
implicitly rely upon his judgment and be governed by his counsels.

What man of the masses can this one be, thus heralded by the authorities
of the nation, and what his labor, so commended by the rulers? I glanced
at him mentally again. Perhaps he is laboring for the endowment of some
great literary or benevolent institution, for the building of a national
monument. No. Perhaps he has some theory that thousands of facts must
prove and illustrate; or it may be he is a voracious gatherer of
statistics. The last is the most probable; but the more I mused, the
more the fire burned within me to know more of his mission.

I awaited impatiently his coming. It was on the stroke of the hour
appointed. The object of that interview may not with propriety be
stated, nor the results described; but it may be said that that hour was
the most intensely exciting of any of my professional life, causing the
blood to chill and boil alternately. The business was so peculiar, and
connected with men so exalted in position, and conducted with such
wonderful ability and tact, that now, years after, scarcely a day passes
that my mind does not revert to those hours and do homage to those
transcendent abilities by which it was conducted, till I sometimes think
the possessor of them was an overmatch for Lucifer himself. My eyes
were for the first time opened to the marvellous in his department
of knowledge and art; and the region of impossibility was materially
circumscribed, and the domain of the prince of the powers of the air
extended _ad infinitum_. Into those regions it is not my present purpose
to delve.

After a business acquaintance of several years with Mr. Sidney, I have
learned that he was formerly a rich manufacturer, and that he was nearly
ruined in fortune by the burning of several warehouses in which he had
stored a large amount of merchandise that was uninsured. The owners of
these store-houses were men of wealth, influence, and respectability.
Alone of all the citizens, Mr. Sidney suspected that the block was
intentionally set on fire to defraud the insurance-offices. Without
any aid or knowledge of other parties, he began an investigation, and
ascertained that the buildings were insured far beyond their value.
He also ascertained that insurance had been obtained on a far greater
amount of merchandise than the stores could contain; and still further,
that the goods insured, as being deposited there, were not so deposited
at the time of the fire. He likewise procured a long array of facts
tending to fix the burning upon the "merchant princes" who held the
policies. To his mind, they were convincing. He therefore confronted
these men, accused them of the arson, and demanded payment for his own
loss. This was, of course, declined. Whereupon he gave them formal
notice, that, if his demand were not liquidated within thirty days,
never thereafter would an opportunity be afforded for a settlement. That
the notice produced peculiar excitement was evident. _Yet the thirty
days elapsed and his claim was not adjusted_.

From that hour, with a just appreciation of the enormity of the offence
which he believed to have been committed, he consecrated his vast
energies to the detection of crime. His whole soul was fired almost to
frenzy with the greatness of his work, and he pursued it with a firmness
of principle and fixedness of purpose that seemed almost madness, till
he exposed to the world the most stupendous league of robbers ever
dreamed of, extending into every State and Territory of the Union,
and numbering, to his personal knowledge, over seven hundred men of
influence and power, whose business as a copartnership was forgery,
counterfeiting, burglary, arson, and any other crimes that might afford
rich pecuniary remuneration.

I will not now stop to describe the organization of this band, which is
as perfect as that of any corporation; nor the enormous resources at its
command, being computed by millions; nor the great respectability of
its directors and State agents; nor the bloody oaths and forfeitures by
which the members are bound together; nor the places of their annual
meetings; nor a thousand other particulars, more startling than anything
in fiction or history. Nor will I enumerate the great number of
convictions of members of this gang for various offences through Mr.
Sidney's efforts. Prosecuting no other parties than these,--thwarting
them in those defences that had never before failed,--testifying in
open court against the character of their witnesses, who appeared to be
polished gentlemen, and enumerating the offences of which they had
been guilty,--and harassing them by all legal and legitimate means, he
gathered around him a storm that not one man in a thousand could have
withstood for an hour. Eleven times was food analyzed that had been
suspiciously set before him, and in each instance poison was detected in
it; while in hundreds of instances he declined to receive from unknown
hands presents about which hung similar suspicions. Numerous were the
infernal-machines sent him, the explosion of some of which he escaped as
if by miracle, and several exploded in his own dwelling. Without number
were the anonymous letters he received, threatening his life, if he did
not desist from prosecuting this band of robbers. Yet not for one moment
swerved from his purpose, he moved unharmed through ten thousand perils,
till at last he fell a victim to the enemy that had so long been hunting
his life. On no one has his mantle fallen.

His sole object in life seemed to be the breaking-up of this villanous
gang of plunderers, and he pursued it with a genius and strength, a
devotion, self-sacrifice, and true heroism, that are deserving of

Not long before his death, while one of the directors of this band was
confined in prison at Mr. Sidney's instigation, awaiting a preliminary
examination, he sent for Mr. Sidney and offered him one hundred thousand
dollars, if he would desist from pursuing him alone. Mr. Sidney replied,
that he had many times before been offered the like sum, if he would
cease prosecuting the directors, and that the same reason which had
inclined him to reject that proposition would compel him to refuse this.
Whereupon the director offered, as an additional inducement, one-half of
the money taken from the messenger of the Newport banks, while on his
way to Providence to redeem their bills at the Merchants Bank, and also
the mint where they had coined the composition that had passed current
for years through all the banks and banking-houses of the country, and
which stood every test that could be applied, without the destruction of
the coin itself, which mint had cost its owners upwards of two hundred
thousand dollars. All of which Mr. Sidney indignantly rejected. And it
was not till the year after his death that the coin became known, when
it was also reported and believed that a million and a quarter of the
same was locked up in the vaults of the--Government.

The United States Government sought Mr. Sidney's services, as appears of
record. Those high in authority had decided on his employment, a fact
which in less than six hours thereafter was known to the directors, and
within that space of time five of them had arrived in Washington and
paid over to their attorney the sum of thirty-five hundred dollars for
some purpose,--the attorney being no less a personage than an honorable
member of a supreme court. The service desired of Mr. Sidney he was
willing to perform, on the condition that he should not be called upon
to prosecute any other parties than those to whose conviction he had
sworn to devote his life.

As a detective, Mr. Sidney was unequalled in this country. Vidocq may
have been his superior in dissimulation, but in that alone. He certainly
had not a tithe of Mr. Sidney's genius and strength of mind and moral
power to discern the truth, though never so deeply hidden, and to expose
it to the clear light of day.

"His blood and judgment were so well commingled,"

that his conclusions seemed akin to prophecy.

But it is not as a detective that Mr. Sidney is here presented. This
slight sketch of this remarkable man is given, that the reader may more
willingly believe that he possessed, among other wonderful powers, one
that is not known ever to have been attained to such a degree by any
other individual, namely:--

_The power of discerning, in a single specimen of handwriting, the
character, the occupation, the habits, the temperament, the health,
the age, the sex, the size, the nationality, the benevolence or the
penuriousness, the boldness or the timidity, the morality or the
immorality, the affectation or the hypocrisy, and often the intention of
the writer_.

At the age of thirty-five, the genius of Mr. Sidney as a physiognomist,
expert, and detective, remained wholly undeveloped. He was not
aware, nor were his friends, of his wonderful powers of observation,
dissection, and deduction. Nor had he taken his first lesson by being
brought in contact with the rogues. How, then, did he acquire this
almost miraculous power?

After he had ascertained the names of the directors and State agents
of the band, he collected many hundred specimens of their handwriting.
These he studied with that energy which was equalled only by his
patience. In a surprisingly short time he first of all began to perceive
the differences between a moral and an immoral signature. Afterwards he
proceeded to study the occupation, age, habits, temperament, and all
the other characteristics of the writers, and in this he was equally
successful. If this be doubted by any, let him collect a number of
signatures of Frenchmen, Englishmen, Germans, and Americans, or, what
is still better, of Jews of all nations, and at least in the latter
instance, with ordinary perceptive faculties, there will be no
difficulty in determining the question of nationality; a person with
half an eye need never mistake the handwriting of a Jew. Many can detect
pride and affectation, and most persons the sex, in handwriting, how
much soever it may be disguised.

"The bridegroom's letters stand in row above,
Tapering, yet straight, like pine-trees in his grove;
While free and fine the bride's appear below,
As light and slender as her jasmines grow."

Why, then, should it be strange, if remarkable powers of observation,
analysis, and patient and energetic study should accomplish much
more? In this department the Government had afforded Mr. Sidney great
facilities, till at last he would take the letters dropped during the
night in the post-office of a great city, and as rapidly as a skilful
cashier could detect a counterfeit in counting bank-bills, and with
unerring certainty, he would throw out those suspiciously superscribed.
"In each of these nine," he would say, "there is no letter, but money
only. This parcel is from the W--Street office. These are directed to
men that are not called by these names: they are fictitious, and assumed
for iniquitous purposes. Those are from thieves to thieves, and hint at
opportunities," and so on.

Travelling over the principal railways of the country without charge,
entertained at hotels where compensation was declined, Mr. Sidney was in
some instances induced to impart to his friends some of that knowledge
which he took much pains to conceal, believing that by so doing he
should best serve the great purposes of his life. Whether he desired
this remarkable power to be kept from the rogues, or whether he thought
he should be too much annoyed by being called upon as an expert in
handwriting in civil cases, or what his purpose was, is not known, and
probably a large number of his intimate friends are not aware of his
genius in this.

On one occasion he was in a Canadian city for the first time, and
stopped at a principal hotel. When about to depart, he was surprised
that his host declined compensation. The landlord then requested Mr.
Sidney to give him the character of a man whose handwriting he produced.
Mr. Sidney consented, and, having retired to the private office, gave
the writer's age within a year, his nationality, being a native-born
Frenchman, his height and size, being very short and fleshy, his
temperament and occupation; and described him as a generous, high-toned,
public-spirited man, of strong religious convictions and remarkable
modesty: all of which the landlord pronounced to be entirely correct.

The hotel-register was then brought, and to nearly every name Mr. Sidney
gave the marked character or peculiarity of the man. One was very
nervous, another very tall and lean; this one was penurious, that one
stubborn; this was a farmer, and that a clergyman; this name was written
in a frolic; this was a genuine name, though not written by the man
himself,--and that written by the man himself, but it was not his true
name. Of the person last specified the clerk desired a full description,
and obtained it in nearly these words:--

"He, Sir, was not christened by that name. He could never have written
it before he was thirty. He has assumed it within a year. The character
is bad,--very bad. I judge he is a gambler by profession, and--something
worse. He evidently is not confined to one department of rascality. He
was born and educated in New England, is aged about thirty-nine, is
about five feet ten in height, and is broad-shouldered and stout. His
nerves are strong, and he is bold, hypocritical, and mean. He is just
the kind of man to talk like a saint and act like a devil."

The little company raised their hands in holy horror.

"As to age, size, nerve, etc.," said the landlord, "you are entirely
correct, but in his moral character you are much mistaken"; and the
clerk laughed outright.

"Not mistaken at all," replied Mr. Sidney; "the immorality of the
signature is the most perspicuous, and it is more than an even chance
that he has graduated from a State's prison. At any rate, he will show
his true character wherever he remains a year."

"But, my dear Sir, you are doing the greatest possible damage to your
reputation; he is a boarder of mine, and"----

"You had better be rid of him," chimed in Mr. Sidney.

"Why, Mr. Sidney, he is the _clergyman_ who has been preaching very
acceptably at the ---- Church these two months!"

"Just as I told you," said Mr. Sidney; "he is a hypocrite and a rascal
by profession. Will you allow me to demonstrate this?"

The landlord assented. A servant was called, and Mr. Sidney, having
written on a card, sent it to the clergyman's room, with the request
that he would come immediately to the office. It was delivered, and the
landlord waited patiently for his Reverence.

"You think he will come?" asked Mr. Sidney.

The landlord replied affirmatively.

Mr. Sidney shook his head, and said,--"You will see."

A short time after, the servant was again ordered to make a
reconnoissance, and reported that there was no response to his knocking,
and that the door was locked on the inside. Whereupon Mr. Sidney
expressed the hope that the religious society were responsible for the
board, for he would never again lead that flock like a shepherd. It was
subsequently ascertained that the parson had in a very irreverent manner
slipped down the spout to the kitchen and jumped from there to the
ground, and, what is "very remarkable," like the load of voters upset by
Sam Weller into the canal, "was never heard of after."[A]

[Footnote A: There is a curious story connected with this "clergyman,"
which may yet appear in the biography of Mr. S.]

* * * * *

"Individual handwriting," says Lavater, "is inimitable. The more I
compare the different handwritings which fall in my way, the more am
I confirmed in the idea that they are so many expressions, so many
emanations, of the character of the writer. Every country, every nation,
every city has its peculiar handwriting." And the same might be said of
painting; for, if one hundred painters copy the same figure, an artist
will distinguish the copyist.

Some years since, a certain bank placed in my hands two promissory notes
for large amounts, purporting to be signed by a Mr. Temple and indorsed
by a Mr. Conway, and which both maker and indorser pronounced forgeries.
Both notes were written on common white paper, and were purchased by the
bank of a certain broker at a time when it was difficult to make loans
by discount in the usual manner. Before the maturity of the notes, the
broker, who was a Jew, had left for parts unknown. He left behind him
no liabilities, unless he might be holden for the payment of the notes
above specified, and several others signed and indorsed in the same
manner in the hands of other parties. Several attempts had been made by
professional experts to trace resemblances between the forgeries and the
genuine handwriting of said Temple and Conway, as well as the broker,
but all had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the signatures were
as dissimilar as well could be. The cashier was exceedingly embarrassed
by the fact that Mr. Conway was one of the directors of the bank, and
he was presumed to have been so familiar with his signature as to be
incapable of being deceived.

After a most diligent investigation and the expenditure of much time and
money, and after skilful experts and detectives had given up in despair
of ascertaining either the whereabouts of the Jew or anything further
till he could be produced, the holders of this paper had settled down
quietly in the belief that the broker was the guilty party and that all
further effort was useless. At this point of time, when all excitement
had subsided, these notes came into my possession. I immediately
telegraphed to Mr. Sidney, and it was with great joy that I received the
reply that he was on his way. At three o'clock in the morning I met him
at the railroad station. He complimented me by saying there was not
another man living for whom he would have left the city of ---- on a
similar message. I thanked him, and we walked to the office. Before
arriving there, I had merely informed him that I desired his services in
the investigation of a forgery that baffled our art. He demanded all the
papers. I produced the forged notes, several genuine checks and letters
of Mr. Temple and Mr. Conway, and several specimens of the handwriting
of the broker.

Long as I live I can never forget the almost supernatural glow that came
over his features. I could almost see the halo. No language can describe
such a marked and rapid change of countenance. His whole soul seemed
wrapt in a delightful vision. I cannot say how long this continued, as
I was lost in admiration, as he was in contemplation. I spoke, but he
seemed not to hear. At last his muscles relaxed, and he began to breathe
as if greatly fatigued. He wiped the perspiration from his brow, and
said, as if to himself,--


I asked what was sure. A few minutes elapsed, and he said more loudly,--

"As sure as you are born,"--without seeming to have heard my inquiry.

I proposed to state what could be proved, and the suspicions that were
entertained of the cashier. He objected, and said,--

"I take my departure from these papers. Mr. Temple is aged thirty-eight,
a large, well-built man, full six feet high, strongly nerved, bold,
proud, and fearless. His mind is active, and in his day he has been
professor in a college. He fares well and is fashionably dressed. I
think he is not in any legitimate business. He is a German by birth,
though he has been in this country several years. He is somewhat
affected and immensely hypocritical. I think he is a gambler and dealer
in counterfeit money. He certainly is not confined to one department of
rascality. This is not the name by which he was christened, if indeed he
was ever christened at all. He could not have written it in his youth,
and must have assumed it within a year and a half." (Exact in every
known particular.)

"Mr. Conway I at first thought an attorney-at-law, but he is not. I
reckon he administers on estates, acts as guardian, and settles up the
affairs of the unfortunate in trade as their assignee, in connection
with his business of notary and note-shaver. He is aged fifty-six, was
born and educated in New England, and is probably a native of this city.
He is tall, lean, and bony. His nerves are not steady, and he is easily
excited. He probably has the dyspepsia, but he would not lose the
writing of a deed to be rid of it. The remarkable feature of his
character is stinginess. His natural abilities being good and his mind
strong, he must therefore be a man of means, and I think it matters
little to his conscience how he comes by his wealth. At the same time,
he has considerable pride and caution, which, with his interest, keep
him honest, as the world goes. If he were not an old bachelor, I should
think better of his heart, and he would be less miserly.

"The Jew's signature is the most honest of the three. Timidity is the
marked character of the man. He could not succeed in any department of
roguery. It is physically, as well as mentally and morally, impossible
for him to have had any connection with the forgery. He would be
frightened out of his wits at the very suggestion of his complicity."

"And so, Mr. Sidney," said I, "you know all about these parties and the
particulars of the forgery?"

"Nothing whatever," he replied, "save by these specimens of their
handwriting. I never heard of the forgery, nor of these men, till this

To which I replied,--

"I cannot believe that you can give such a perfectly accurate
description of them (saving their moral characters, of which I know
little) without other means of knowledge. It _must_ have been that you
knew Temple to be a German, Conway to be the most penurious old bachelor
in town, and the broker the most timid. And _how_, in the name of all
that is marvellous, _could_ you have known Conway to be afflicted with

"Then," answered Mr. Sidney, "you are not prepared to believe one other
thing, more strange and paradoxical than all the rest. Listen! These
notes are forgeries both of the maker and the indorser. And who think
you are the criminals?"

"The Jew?"


"The cashier?"

"No. But, as sure as you are born, these notes are in the handwriting of
Temple and Conway, and the signatures are not only genuine, but they are
forgeries also: for both had formed a well-matured and deliberate design
of disputing them before placing them on the paper. And, Sir, from
my notion of Conway's character and temperament, as expressed in his
handwriting, I venture the assertion that I can make him own it, and pay
the notes. He shall even faint away at my pleasure. Temple is another
kind of man, and would never own it, were it ten times proved."

A meeting of the directors of the bank was to be holden at nine o'clock
of the same morning. None of them knew Mr. Sidney, or were known by
him. It was arranged that he should meet them, Mr. Conway included,
and exhibit his skill, and if he should convince them of his power of
divination, he should discuss the genuineness of the signatures of the
supposed forgeries.

For several hours he was on trial before the board with a very large
number of specimens of handwriting of men of mark, and he astonished
them all beyond measure by giving the occupation, age, height, size,
temperament, strength of nerve, nationality, morality, and other
peculiarities of every one of the writers. His success was not partial,
it was complete. There was not simply a preponderance of evidence, it
was beyond a doubt. The directors did not question the fact; but how was
it done? Some thought mesmerism could account for it, and others thought
it miraculous.

The first experiment was this. Each director wrote on a piece of paper
the names of all the board. Eleven lists were handed him, and he
specified the writer of each by the manner in which he wrote his own
name. He then asked them to write their own or any other name, with as
much disguise as they pleased, and as many as pleased writing on the
same piece of paper; and in every instance he named the writer.

As an example of the other experiments, take this one. The
superscription of a letter was shown him. He began immediately:--

"A clergyman, without doubt, who reads his sermons, and is a little
short-sighted. He is aged sixty-one, is six feet high, weighs about one
hundred and seventy, is lean, bony, obstinate, irritable, economical,
frank, and without a particle of hypocrisy or conceit. He is naturally
miserly, and bestows charity only from a sense of duty. His mind
is methodical and strong, and he is not a genius or an interesting
preacher. If he has decided upon any doctrine or construction of
Scripture, it would be as impossible to change him as to make him over

The company began to laugh, when one of them said,--

"Come, come, Mr. Sidney, you are disclosing altogether too much of my

And now the supposed forged notes were handed him. He gave the
characteristics of the signatures very nearly as he had before done
in the office, but more particularly and minutely. He analyzed the
handwriting,--showed the points of resemblance, where before none could
be discerned,--showed that the writing, interpreted by itself, was
intended to be disguised,--explained the difference between the
different parts of the notes,--pointed out where the writer was firm in
his purpose, and his nerves well braced, and where his fears overcame
his resolution,--where he had paused to recover his courage, and for a
considerable time,--where he had changed his pen, and how the forgery
was continued through several days,--what parts were done by Temple, and
what by Conway,--

"Till all the interim
Between the acting of the dreadful thing
And the first motion"

was brought so vividly and truthfully to mind that Mr. Conway fell to
the floor as if dead. The cashier, relieved from a pressure that had for
weary months been grinding his very soul, burst into tears. A scene of
strange excitement ensued, during which Mr. Conway muttered incoherent
sentences in condemnation of Temple and then of himself,--now with
penitence, and then with rage. Recovering his composure, he suggested
the Jew as the guilty party. Mr. Sidney then dissected the handwriting
of the Jew, and demonstrated that there was as great a difference
between his chirography and a New-Englander's as between the English and
the Chinese characters,--showed how the Jew must have been exceedingly
timid, and stated the probability that he had left the city not because
he had taken any part in the forgery, but because he had been frightened
away. Then turning to Conway, he gave him a lecture such as no mortal
before ever gave or received. The agony of Conway's mind so distorted
his body as made it painful in the extreme to all beholders. "His inmost
soul seemed stung as by the bite of a serpent." When at last Mr. Sidney
turned and took from his valise a small steel safe, which Conway
recognized as his own, "the terrors of hell got hold of him," and his
anguish was indescribably horrible. The little safe had been by some
unknown and unaccountable process taken from a larger one in Conway's
office, and was unopened. Neither Mr. Sidney nor the directors have ever
seen its contents; but in consideration that it should not be opened,
Mr. Conway confessed his crime in the very form of Mr. Sidney's
description, paid the notes before leaving the bank, and _remains a
director to this day_. As is often the case, the greater criminal goes
unwhipped of justice.

* * * * *

Mr. Sidney, besides the faculty I have described, had acquired another,
less wonderful perhaps, but still quite remarkable, and which was of
incalculable assistance to him in the prosecution of his Herculean
labor. He was a most rare physiognomist. And by physiognomy is here
intended, not simply the art of discerning the character of the mind by
the features of the face, but also the art of discovering the qualities
of the mind by the conformation of the body,--and still further,
(although it may not be a legitimate use of the word,) the power
of distinguishing the character, mental and moral, the capacity,
occupation, and all the distinctive qualities of a person by his figure,
action, dress, deportment, and the like: for Sterne said well, that "the
wise man takes his hat from the peg very differently from a fool."

The ancient Egyptians acquired the greatest skill in this science; and
Tacitus affirms, not without reason, that their keen perception
and acute observation, essential in communicating their ideas in
hieroglyphics, contributed largely to their success. Certainly, few
better proofs of the existence of the science have been furnished than
that given by the Egyptian physiognomist at Athens in the days of Plato.
Zopyrus pronounced the face of Socrates to be that of a libertine. The
physiognomist being derided by the disciples of the great philosopher,
Socrates reproved them, saying that Zopyrus had spoken well, for in his
younger days such indeed had been the truth, and that he had overcome
the proclivities of his nature by philosophy and the severest

Pliny affirms that Apelles could trace the likeness of men so accurately
that a physiognomist could discover the ruling passion to which they
were subject. Dante's characters, in his view of Purgatory, are drawn
with accurate reference to the principles of physiognomy; and Shakspeare
and Sterne, particularly the latter, were clever in the art; while Kempf
and Zimmermann, in their profession, are said seldom to have erred as
physiognomists. Surely it is a higher authority and more practical,
which saith, "A wicked man walketh with a froward mouth; he speaketh
with his feet; he teacheth with his fingers.--A man is known by his
look, and a wise man by the air of his countenance." And yet again, "The
wickedness of a woman changeth her face."

If it be true, as Sultzer declares, that there is not a living creature
that is not more or less skilled in physiognomy as a necessary condition
of its existence, surely _man_, with all his parts fitly joined
together, should be the most expert; and there are circumstances and
conditions, as well as qualities of mind and body, which will conduct
him more surely along the pathway of his research, and direct him onward
towards the goal of perfection. Consider, then, the characteristics of
Mr. Sidney, the circumstances by which he was surrounded, and the school
in which he was taught, in order to determine if there were in him the
elements of success.

Chiefest among the essential qualities is to be named his astonishing
strength of nerve. No danger could agitate him, however imminent or
sudden. No power could deprive him of his imperturbable coolness
and courage. Perils seemed to render his mind more clear and his
self-reliance more firm. (And yet I have heard him say, that there
was among the band of criminals before mentioned one woman of greater
strength of mind and nervous power than any person he had ever seen,
whom alone of all created beings, whether man or devil, he dreaded
to encounter.) Had not Mr. Sidney been thus potently armed, he must,
without doubt or question, have become almost a monomaniac; for,
secondly, he was for years enraged almost to madness that his entire
estate had been swept from his grasp, as he believed, by the torch of
the incendiary; and he was to the last degree exasperated, and with
a just indignation, that the merchant-princes who he supposed had
occasioned his impoverishment yet walked abroad with the confidence of
the community, and were still trusted by many a good man as the very
salt of the city. Nevertheless, Mr. Sidney, solitary and alone, had
arraigned them before a criminal tribunal. He was therefore driven to
his own resources, and there was no place in his nature, or in the
nature of things, for the first retrograde step. All his vast energies
were thenceforth consecrated to, and concentrated in, the detection of
crime. And from the time that he was refused payment for his loss, so
far as my observation extended, he seemed to have been governed by no
other purpose in life than the extermination of that great gang of
robbers which he subsequently discovered. Add to these incentives
and capacities his extraordinary perceptive faculties and power of
analytical observation, together with his wonderful patience, and it
must be granted that he was qualified to discover in any incident
connected with his pursuits more of its component parts than all other
beholders, and had greater opportunities than almost any other man by
which to be informed _how_ it is that "the heart of a man changeth his

If I remember rightly, it was some two years after our acquaintance
commenced that I became aware of Mr. Sidney's proficiency as a
physiognomist, and it was then communicated, not so much by his choice
as by a necessity, for the accomplishment of one of his purposes.

The object of Mr. Sidney's visit to the city of P----, at that time,
was nothing less difficult than the discovery and identification of an
individual of whom no other knowledge or description had been obtained
than what could be extracted from the inspection, in another city, of a
single specimen of his handwriting in the superscription of a letter.
So much from so little. Within three days thereafter, with no other
instrumentalities than what were suggested by Mr. Sidney's expertness
in deciphering character in handwriting and his proficiency as a
physiognomist, the result was reached and the object happily attained.
In the prosecution of the enterprise, it was important, if not
essential, that I should believe that the data were sufficient by which
to arrive at a correct conclusion, and that I should confide in Mr.
Sidney's skill in order that there might be hearty cooeperation.

My office was so situated, that from its windows could most
advantageously be observed, and for a considerable distance, the vast
throng that ebbed and flowed, hour after hour, through the great
thoroughfares of the city. For the greater part of three consecutive
days I sat by Mr. Sidney's side, watching the changing crowd through
the half-opened shutters, listening incredulously, at first, to the
practical application of his science to the unsuspecting individuals
below, till my derision was changed to admiration, and I was thoroughly
convinced of his power. As my friends of both sexes passed under the
ordeal, it was intensely bewitching. Hour after hour would he give, with
rapidity and correctness, the occupation and peculiarity of character
and condition of almost every individual who passed. This was not
occasional, but continuous. The marked men were not singled out, but all
were included. He was a stranger, and yet better acquainted with
the people than any of our citizens. And this was the manner of his

"That physician has a better opinion of himself than the people have
of him: he is superficial, and makes up in effrontery what he lacks in
qualification. The gambler yonder, with a toothpick in his mouth, has of
late succeeded in his tricks. The affairs of this kind-hearted grocer
are troubling him. Were we within a yard of that round-shouldered man
from the country, we should smell leather; for he works on his bench,
and is unmarried. Here comes an atheist who is a joker and stubborn as
a mule. There goes a man of no business at all: very probably it is the
best occupation he is fitted for, as he has no concentrativeness. The
schoolmistress crossing the street is an accomplished teacher, is
very sympathetic, and has great love of approbation. That lawyer is a
bachelor, and distrusts his own strength. This merchant should give up
the use of tobacco, and pay his notes before dinner, else he will become
a dyspeptic. Here comes a man of wealth who despises the common people
and is miserly and hypocritical; and next to him is a scamp. I think it
is Burke who says, 'When the gnawing worm is within, the impression
of the ravage it makes is visible on the outside, which appears quite
disfigured by it': and in that young man the light that was within him
has become darkness, and 'how great is that darkness!'"

Of some qualities of mind he would occasionally decline to speak until
he could see the features in play, as in conversation. Some occupations
he failed to discover, if the arms were folded, or the hands in the
pockets, or the body not in motion. It is not my purpose to specify any
of the rules by which he was governed, though they differed materially
from those of Lavater, Redfield, and others, nor the facts from which he
drew his conclusions, but simply to give results.

I selected from the crowd acquaintances of marked character and
standing, and obtained accurate descriptions of them. Of one he said,
"He is a good merchant, and has done and is doing a large business. He
carries his business home with him at night, as he should not. He has
been wealthy, and is now reduced in circumstances. His disaster weighs
heavily upon him. He has a high sense of honor, a keen conscience, and
is a meek, religious man. He has great goodness of nature, is very
modest and retiring, has more ability than he supposes, and is a man of
family and very fond of his children."

Another he accurately described thus: "He is a mechanic, of a good mind,
who has succeeded so well that I doubt if he is in active business.
Certainly he does not labor. He is very independent and radical,--can
be impudent, if occasion requires,--gives others all their rights, and
pertinaciously insists upon his own." Here the mechanic took his hands
from his pocket. "Hold! I said he was a mechanic. He is not,--he is a

I desired to be informed by what indications he judged him to be a
painter. He replied, that he so judged from the general appearance
and motions, and that it was difficult to specify. I insisted, and he
remarked that "the easy roll of his wrists was indicative."

After obtaining similar correct descriptions of men well known to me,
I spied one whom I did not know, and who was dressed peculiarly. I
inquired his occupation, and Mr. Sidney, without turning a glance
towards me, and still gazing through the half-opened shutters, replied,
"Yes! you never saw him before, yourself. He is a stranger in town, as
is evident from the fact of his being dressed in his best suit, and by
the manner of his taking observations. Besides, there is no opportunity
in these parts for him to follow his trade. He is a glass-blower. You
may perceive he is a little deaf, and the curvature of his motions also
indicates his occupation."

Whether this description was correct or not I failed to ascertain.

Mr. Sidney contended that any man of ordinary perceptive faculties need
never mistake a gambler, as the marks on the tribe were as distinct as
the complexion of the Ethiopian,--that, of honest callings, dealers in
cattle could be most easily discovered,--that immorality indicated its
kind invariably in the muscles of the face,--that sympathetic qualities,
love and the desire of being loved, taste and refinement,--were among
the most perspicuous in the outline of the face.

A man of very gentlemanly appearance was approaching, whom Mr. Sidney
pronounced a gambler, and also engaged in some other branch of iniquity.
His appearance was so remarkably good that I doubted. He turned the
corner, and immediately Mr. Sidney hastened to the street and soon
returned, saying he had ascertained his history: that he was in the
counterfeiting department,--that his conscience affected his nerves,
and consequently his motions,--that he was a stranger in town, and was
restless and disquieted,--that he would not remain many hours here, as
he had an enterprise on hand, and was about it. I remarked, that, as the
contrary never could be proved, he was perfectly safe in his prophecy,
when Mr. Sidney rose from his chair, and, approaching me, slowly said,
with great energy,--

"I will follow that man till it _is_ proved."

The next day but one, I received a note from Mr. Sidney, simply
saying, "I am on his track." He followed the supposed counterfeiter to
Philadelphia, where he ascertained that he had passed five-dollar bills
of the ---- bank of Connecticut. Mr. Sidney obtained the bills the
gambler had passed to compare with the genuine. Failing, however,
to find any of the same denomination, he presented the supposed
counterfeits to a broker skilled in detecting bad bills, and was
surprised to be informed that they were genuine. At Baltimore, he
repeated the inquiry at the counter of a well-known banker relative
to other similar bills, and received the same response. So again in
Washington, Pittsburg, Chicago, and several other cities whither he had
followed the suspected man, and invariably the reply of the cashier
would be, "We will exchange our bills for them, Sir." In some Western
cities he was offered a premium on the bills he had collected. At St.
Louis he obtained a known genuine bill of the bank in question, and in
company with a broker proceeded to examine the two with a microscope.
The broker pronounced the supposed counterfeits to be genuine. In the
mean time the gambler had left the city. Two days after, Mr. Sidney had
overtaken him. So great were his excitement and vexation that he could
scarcely eat or sleep. In a fit of desperation, without law and against
law, he pounced upon the suspected man and put him in irons. He beat a
parley. It was granted, and the two went to the gambler's apartments in
company. In a conversation of several hours, Mr. Sidney extracted
from him the most valuable information relating to the gang he was so
pertinaciously prosecuting, and received into his possession forty-seven
thousand dollars in counterfeits of the aforesaid bank, some of which I
now have in my possession, and which have been pronounced genuine by our
most skilful experts.

* * * * *

It would be gratifying to all lovers of science to be informed that the
practical knowledge acquired by Mr. Sidney had been preserved, and that
at least the elementary principles of the arts in which he became so
nearly perfect had been definitely explained and recorded. I am not
aware, however, that such is the fact, but am persuaded that his uniform
policy of concealment has deprived the world of much that would have
been exceedingly entertaining and instructive. That this knowledge has
not been preserved is owing mainly to the fact that he considered it
of little importance, except as a means for the accomplishment of his
purposes, and that those purposes would be most effectually achieved by
his withholding from the common gaze the instrumentality by which they
were to be attained. That he intended at some future period to make some
communication to the public I am well assured, and some materials were
collected by him with this view; but the hot pursuit of the great idea
that he never for an hour lost sight of would not allow sufficient rest
from his labors, and he deferred the publication to those riper years
of experience and acquirement from which he could survey his whole past

It may be comforting for all rogues to know that he left behind him no
note of that vast amount of statistical knowledge which he possessed,
whether appertaining to crimes or criminals in general or in particular,
or more especially to the band of robbers,--and that with him perished
all knowledge of this organization as such, and the names of all the
parties therewith connected. They also have the consolation, if there be
any, of knowing that he was sent prematurely to his grave by a subtle
poison, administered by unknown hands and in an unknown manner and
moment, and that he died in the firm faith of immortality.


At anchor in Hampton Roads we lay,
On board of the Cumberland sloop-of-war;
And at times from the fortress across the bay
The alarum of drums swept past,
Or a bugle-blast
From the camp on the shore.

Then far away to the South uprose
A little feather of snow-white smoke,
And we knew that the iron ship of our foes
Was steadily steering its course
To try the force
Of our ribs of oak.

Down upon us heavily runs,
Silent and sullen, the floating fort;
Then comes a puff of smoke from her guns,
And leaps the terrible death,
With fiery breath,
From each open port.

We are not idle, but send her straight
Defiance back in a full broadside!
As hail rebounds from a roof of slate,
Rebounds our heavier hail
From each iron scale
Of the monster's hide.

"Strike your flag!" the rebel cries,
In his arrogant old plantation strain.
"Never!" our gallant Morris replies;
"It is better to sink than to yield!"
And the whole air pealed
With the cheers of our men.

Then, like a kraken huge and black,
She crushed our ribs in her iron grasp!
Down went the Cumberland all a wrack,
With a sudden shudder of death,
And the cannon's breath
For her dying gasp.

Next morn, as the sun rose over the bay,
Still floated our flag at the mainmast-head.
Lord, how beautiful was thy day!
Every waft of the air
Was a whisper of prayer,
Or a dirge for the dead.

Ho! brave hearts that went down in the seas!
Ye are at peace in the troubled stream.
Ho! brave land! with hearts like these,
Thy flag, that is rent in twain,
Shall be one again,
And without a seam!


The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been: to
be found in the register of God, not in the records of men. The number
of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The Night of Time far
surpasseth the Day, and who knoweth the Equinox?--Sir THOMAS BROWNE.

What a mysterious and subtile pleasure there is in groping back through
the early twilight of human history! The mind thirsts and longs so to
know the Beginning: who and what manner of men those were who laid
the first foundations of all that is now upon the earth: of what
intellectual power, of what degree of civilization, of what race and
country. We wonder how the fathers of mankind lived, what habitations
they dwelt in, what instruments or tools they employed, what crops they
tilled, what garments they wore. We catch eagerly at any traces that may
remain of their faiths and beliefs and superstitions; and we fancy, as
we gain a clearer insight into them, that we are approaching more nearly
to the mysterious Source of all life in the soul. The germ, to our
limited comprehension, seems nearer the Creator than the perfected
growth. Then the great problem of _Origin_ forever attracts us on,--the
multitudinous and intricate questions relating to "the ordained becoming
of beings": how the Creating Power has worked, whether through an almost
endless chain of gradual and advantageous changes, or by some sudden and
miraculous _ictus_, placing at once a completed body on the earth, as
an abode and instrument for a developed soul,--all these remote and
difficult questions lead us on. And yet the search for human origins, or
the earliest historic and scientific evidences of man on the earth, is
but a groping in the dark.

We turn to the Hebrew and the inspired records; but we soon discover,
that, though containing a picture, unequalled for simplicity and
dignity, of the earliest experiences of the present family of man, they
are by no means a monument or relic of the most remote period, but
belong to a comparatively modern date, and that the question of _Time_
is not at all directly treated in them.

We visit the region where poetry and myth and tradition have placed a
most ancient civilization,--the Black-Land, or Land of the Nile: we
search its royal sepulchres, its manifold history written in funereal
records, in kingly genealogies, in inscriptions, and in the thousand
relics preserved of domestic life, whether in picture, sculpture, or the
embalmed remains of the dead; and we find ourselves thrown back to a
date far beyond any received date of history, and still we have before
us a ripened civilization, an art which could not belong to the
childhood of a race, a language which (so far as we can judge) must have
needed centuries for its development, and the divisions of human races,
whose formation from the original pair our philosophy teaches us must
have required immense and unknown spaces of time,--all as distinct as
they are at the present day.

We traverse the regions to which both the comparison of languages and
the Biblical records assign the original birthplace of mankind,--the
country of the Euphrates and the plateau of Eastern Asia. Buried
kingdoms are revealed to us; the shadowy outlines of magnificent cities
appear which flourished and fell before recorded human history, and of
which even Herodotus never heard; Art and Science are unfolded, reaching
far back into the past; the signs of luxury and splendor are uncovered
from the ruin of ages: but, remote as is the date of these Turanian and
Semitic empires, almost equalling that of the Flood in the ordinary
system of chronology, they cannot be near the origin of things, and
a long process of development must have passed ere they reached the
maturity in which they are revealed to us.

The Chinese records give us an antiquity and an acknowledged date before
the time of Abraham, (if we follow the received chronology,) and
even then their language must have been, as it is now, distinct and
solidified, betraying to the scholar no certain affinity to any other
family of language. The Indian history, so long boasted of for its
immense antiquity, is without doubt the most modern of the ancient
records, and offers no certain date beyond 1800 B.C.

In Europe, the earliest evidences of man disclosed by our investigations
are even more vague and shadowy. Probably, without antedating in time
these historical records of Asia, they reach back to a more primitive
and barbarous era. The earliest history of Europe is not studied from
inscription or manuscript or even monument; it is not, like the Asiatic,
a conscious work of a people leaving a memorial of itself to a future
age. It is rather, like the geological history, an unconscious, gradual
deposit left by the remains of extinct and unknown races in the soil of
the fields or under the sediment of the waters. The earliest European
barbarian, as he burned his canoe from a log, or fabricated his necklace
from a bone, or worked out his knife from a flint, was in reality
writing a history of his race for distant days. We can follow him now
in his wanderings through the rivers and lakes and on the edges of the
forests; we open his simple mounds of burial, and study his barbarian
tools and ornaments; we discover that he knew nothing of metals, and
that bone and flint and amber and coal were his materials; we trace out
his remarkable defences and huts built on piles in the various lakes of
Europe, where the simple savage could escape the few gigantic "fossil"
animals which even then survived, and roved through the forests of
Prussia and France, or the still more terrible human enemies who were
continually pouring into Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland from the
Asiatic plains. We find that the early savage of Switzerland and Sweden
was not entirely ignorant of the care of animals, and that he had
fabricated some rude pottery. Of what race he was, or when he appeared
amid the forests of Northern Europe, no one can confidently say.
Collecting the various indications from the superstitions, language,
and habits of this barbarian people, and comparing them with like
peculiarities of the most ancient races now existing in Europe, we can
frame a very plausible hypothesis that these early savages belonged to
that great family of which the Finns and Laps, and possibly the Basques,
are scattered members. Their skulls, also, are analogous in form to
those of the Finnish race. This age the archaeologists have denominated
the "Stone Age" of European antiquity.

Following this is what has been called by them the "Bronze Age."
Another, more powerful, and more cultivated race or collection of
peoples inundates Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland, and other
districts. They make war against and destroy the early barbarians; they
burn their water-huts, and force them to the mountains, or to the most
northern portions of the continent. This new race has a taste for
objects of beauty. They work copper and bronze; they make use of
beautiful vases of earthenware and ornaments of the precious metals;
but they have yet no knowledge of iron or steel. Their dead are burned
instead of being buried, as was done by the preceding races. They are
evidently more warlike and more advanced than the Finnish barbarians. Of
their race or family it is difficult to say anything trustworthy. Their
skulls belong to the "long-skulled" races, and would ally them to the
Kelts. Antiquaries have called their remains "Keltic remains."

Still another age in this ancient history is the "Iron Age," when the
tribes of Europe used iron weapons and implements, and had advanced from
the nomadic condition to that of cultivators of the ground, though still
gaining most of their livelihood from fishing and hunting. This period
no doubt approached the period of historical annals, and the iron men
may have been the earliest Teutons of the North,--our own forefathers;
but of their race or mixture of races we have no certain evidence,
and can only make approximate hypotheses,--the division of "ages" by
archaeologists, it should be remembered, being not in any way a fixed
division of races, but only indicating the probability of different
races at those different early periods. What was the date of these ages
cannot at all be determined; the earlier are long before any recorded
European annals, but there is no reason to believe that they approach in
antiquity the Asiatic records and remains.

Such, until recently, were the historic and scientific evidences with
regard to the antiquity of man. His most venerable records, his most
ancient dates of historic chronology were but of yesterday, when
compared with the age of existing species of plants and animals, or
with the opening of the present geologic era. Every new scientific
investigation seemed, from its negative evidence, to render more
improbable the existence of the "fossil man." It is true that in various
parts of the world, during the past few years, human bones have been
discovered in connection with the bones of the fossil mammalia; but they
were generally found in caves or in lime-deposits, where they might
have been dropped or swept in by currents of water, or inserted in
more modern periods, and yet covered with the same deposit as the more
ancient relics. Geologists have uniformly reasoned on the _a priori_
improbability of these being fossil bones, and have somewhat strained
the evidence--as some distinguished _savans_[A] now believe--against the
theory of a great human antiquity.

[Footnote A: Pictet.]

And yet the "negative evidence" against the existence of the fossil
man was open to many doubts. The records of geology are notoriously
imperfect. We probably read but a few leaves of a mighty library of
volumes. Moreover, the last ages preceding the present period were
witnesses of a series of changes and slowly acting agencies of
destruction, from which man may have in general escaped. We have reason
to believe that during long periods of time the land was gradually
elevated and subject to oscillations, so that the courses of rivers and
the beds of lakes were disturbed, and even the bottom of the ocean was
raised. The results were the inundation of some countries, and the
pouring of great currents of water over others, wearing down the hills
and depositing in the course of ages the regular layers of gravel, sand,
and marl, which now cover so large a part of Europe. This was still
further followed by a period in which the temperature of the earth was
lowered, and ice and glaciers had perhaps a part in forming the present
surface of the northern hemisphere. During the first period, which may
be called the "Quaternary Period,"[B] the mighty animals lived whose
bones are now found in caverns, or under the slowly deposited sediment
of the waters, or preserved in bog,--the mammoth, and rhinoceros, and
elk, and bear, and elephant, as well as many others of extinct species.

[Footnote B: We should bear in mind that the Quaternary or Diluvian
Period, however ancient in point of time, has no clearly distinguishing
line of separation from the present period. The great difference lies in
the extinction of certain species of animals, which lived then, whose
destruction may be due both to gradual changes of climate and to

We may suppose, that, if man did exist during these convulsions and
inundations, his superior intelligence would enable him to escape
the fate of the animals that were submerged,--or that, if his few
burial-places were invaded by the waters, his remains are now completely
covered by marine deposits under the ocean. If, however, in his
barbarian condition, he had fashioned implements of any hard material,
and especially if, as do the savages of the present family of man, he
had accidentally deposited them, or had buried them with the dead in
mighty mounds, the invading waters might well sweep them together from
their place and deposit them almost in mass, in situations where the
eddies should leave their gravel and sand.[C]

[Footnote C: Sir C. Lyell, in his remarks before the British Association
in 1859, said upon the discovery alluded to here: "I am reminded of a
large Indian mound which I saw in St. Simon's Island in Georgia,--a
mound ten acres in area, and having an average height of five feet,
chiefly composed of cast-away oyster-shells, throughout which
arrow-heads, stone axes, and Indian pottery were dispersed. If the
neighboring river, the Altamalia, or the sea which is at hand, should
invade, sweep away, and stratify the contents of this mound, it might
produce a very analogous accumulation of human implements, unmixed,
perhaps, with human bones."--_Athenaeum_, September 21, 1859.]

Such seems in reality to have been the case; though in regard to so
important a fact in the history of the world much caution must be
exercised in accepting the evidence. We will state briefly the proofs,
as they now appear, of the existence of a race of human beings on this
earth in an immense antiquity.

A French gentleman, M. Boucher de Perthes, has for thirty-four years
been devoting his time and his fortune, with rare perseverance, to the
investigation of certain antiquities in the later geological deposits
in the North of France. His first work, "Les Antiquites Celtiques and
Antediluviennes," published in 1847, was received with much incredulity
and opposition; a second, under the same title, in 1857, met with a
scarce better reception, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he
could induce even the _savans_ of his own country to look at the mass of
evidence he had collected on this subject.

He made the extraordinary claim to have discovered a great quantity of
rough implements of flint, fashioned by art, in the undisturbed beds of
clay, gravel, and sand, known as _drift_, near Abbeville and Amiens.
These beds vary in thickness from ten to twenty feet, and cover the
chalk hills in the vicinity; in portions of them, upon the hills, often
in company with the flints, are discovered numerous bones of the extinct
mammalia, such as the mammoth, the fossil rhinoceros, tiger, bear,
hyena, stag, ox, horse, and others.

The flint implements are found in the lowest beds of gravel, just above
the chalk, while above them are sands with delicate fresh-water shells
and beds of brick-earth,--all this, be it remembered, on table-lands two
hundred feet above the level of the sea, in a country whose level and
face have remained unaltered during any historical period with which we
are acquainted. "It must have required," says Sir Charles Lyell, "a
long period for the wearing down of the chalk which supplied the broken
flints (stones) for the formation of so much gravel at various heights,
sometimes one hundred feet above the level of the Somme, for the
deposition of fine sediment, including entire shells, both terrestrial
and aquatic, and also for the denudation which the entire mass of
stratified drift has undergone, portions having been swept away, so
that what remains of it often terminates abruptly in old river-cliffs,
besides being covered by a newer unstratified drift. To explain these
changes, I should infer considerable oscillations in the level of the
land in that part of France, slow movements of upheaval and subsidence,
deranging, but not wholly displacing the course of ancient rivers."

The President of the British Association, in his opening speech at
the meeting of 1860, affirms the immense antiquity of these flint
implements, and remarks:--"At Menchecourt, in the suburbs of Abbeville,
a nearly entire skeleton of the Siberian rhinoceros is said to have been
taken out about forty years ago,--a fact affording an answer to the
question often raised, as to whether the bones of the extinct mammalia
could have been washed out of an older alluvium into a newer one, and
so redeposited and mingled with the relics of human workmanship.
Far-fetched as was this hypothesis, I am informed that it would not, if
granted, have seriously shaken the proof of the high antiquity of human
productions; for that proof is independent of organic evidence or fossil
remains, and is based on physical data. As was stated to us last year
by Sir Charles Lyell, we should still have to allow time for great
denudation of the chalk, and the removal from place to place, and the
spreading out over the length and breadth of a large valley, of heaps of
chalk-flints in beds from ten to fifteen feet in thickness, covered
by loam and sands of equal thickness, these last often tranquilly
deposited,--all of which operations would require the supposition of a
great lapse of time."

An independent proof of the age of these gravel-beds and the associated
loam, containing fossil remains, is derived by the same authority from
the large deposits of peat in the valley of the Somme, which contain not
only monuments of the Roman, but also those of an older, stone period,
the Finnic period; yet, says Lord Wrottesley, "distinguished geologists
are of opinion that the growth of all the vegetable matter, and even
the original scooping out of the hollows containing it, are events long
posterior in date to the gravel with flint-implements,--nay, posterior
even to the formation of the uppermost of the layers of loam with
fresh-water shells overlaying the gravel."

The number of the flint implements is computed at above fourteen hundred
in an area of fourteen miles in length and half a mile in breadth. They
are of the rudest nature, as if formed by a people in the most degraded
state of barbarism. Some are mere flakes of flint, apparently used for
knives or arrow-heads; some are pointed and with hollowed bases, as if
for spear-heads, varying from four to nine inches in length; some are
almond-shaped, with a cutting edge, from two to nine inches in length.
Others again are fashioned into coarse representations of animals, such
as the whale, saurian, boar, eagle, fish, and even the human profile;
others have representations of foliage upon them; others are either
drilled with holes or are cut with reference to natural holes, so as to
serve as stones for slings, or for amulets, or for ornaments. The edges
in many cases seem formed by a great number of small artificial tips
or blows, and do not at all resemble edges made by a great natural
fracture. Very few are found with polished surfaces like the modern
remains in flint; and the whole workmanship differs from that of flint
arrow-heads in other parts of Europe, as well as from the later Finnish
(or so-called Keltic) remains, discovered in such quantities in France.
The only relics that have been found resembling them are, according to
Mr. Worsaae, some flint arrow-heads and spear-points discovered at great
depths in the bogs of Denmark. A few bone knives and necklaces of bone
have been met with in these deposits, but thus far no human bones. The
people who fabricated these instruments seemed to be a hunting and
fishing people, living in some such condition as the present savages of

These discoveries of M. de Perthes have at length aroused the attention
of English men of science, and during 1859 a number of eminent
gentlemen--among them Sir Charles Lyell, Mr. Prestwich, Dr. Falconer,
and others--visited M. Perthes's collection, and saw the flints _in
situ_. Several of them have avowed their conviction of the genuineness
and antiquity of these relics. Sir Charles Lyell has given a guarded
sanction to the belief that they present one strong proof of a remote
human antiquity.

The objections that would naturally be made to this evidence are, that
the flints are purely natural formations, and not works of man,--that
the deposit is alluvial and modern, rather than of the ancient
drift,--or that these implements had been dropped into crevices, or sunk
from above, in later periods.

The testimony of disinterested observers seems to be sufficient as to
the human contrivance manifest in these flints; and the concurrence of
various scientific men hardly leaves room for doubt that these deposits
are of great antiquity, preceding the time in which the surface of
France took its present form, and dating back to what is called the
Post-Pliocene Period. Their horizontal position, and the great depth
at which the hatchets are found, together with their number, and the
peculiar incrustation and discoloration of each one, as well as their
being in company with the bones of the extinct mammalia, make it
improbable that they could have been dropped into fissures or sunk there
in modern times.[D] In regard to the absence of human bones, it should
be remembered that no bones are easily preserved, unless they are
buried in sediment or in bog; and furthermore, that the extent of the
researches in these formations is very small indeed. Besides, the
country where above all we should expect the most of human remains
in the drift-deposits, as being probably the most ancient abode of
man,--Asia,--has been the least explored for such purposes. Still this
is without doubt the weak point in the evidence, as proving human

[Footnote D: An article in Blackwood, (October, 1860,) which is
understood to be from the pen of Professor H.D. Rogers, admits entirely
that the flints are of human workmanship, and that it is impossible for
them to have dropped through fissures, as, according to the writer's
observation of the deposits, it would be impossible even for a mole to
penetrate them, so close are they. Professor Rogers takes the ground
that human antiquity is not proven from these relics, for two
reasons:--First, because the indications in the deposits inclosing the
flints point clearly to a "turbulent diluvial action," and therefore it
is possible for a violent incursion of the ocean to have taken place in
the historic period, and to have mixed up the more recent works of man
with the previously buried bones or relics of a pre-historic period; and
secondly, because the different geological deposits do not necessarily
prove time, but only succession,--two schools of geology interpreting
all similar phenomena differently, as relating to the time required.

The last position would be admitted by few scientific geologists at
the present day, as the evidence for time, though inferential from the
deposits known to us, is held generally to be conclusive. On the first
point, Professor Rogers has the weight of authority against him: all the
great masters of the science, who have examined the formation and the
deposits of the surrounding country, denying that there is any evidence
of an incursion of the ocean of such a nature, during the historic

The chain of evidence in regard to this important question seems to be
filled out by a recent discovery of M. Edouard Lartet in Aurignac, in
the South of France, on the head-waters of the Garonne. As we have just
observed, the weak point in M. de Perthes's discoveries was the absence
of human bones in the deposits investigated, though this might have been
accounted for by the withdrawal of human beings from the floods of the
period. M. Lartet's investigations have fortunately been conducted in a
spot which was above the reach of the ordinary inundations of the Drift
Period, and whither human beings might have fled for refuge, or where
they might have lived securely during long spaces of time.

Some ten years since, in Aurignac, (Haute Garonne,) in the
_Arrondissement_ of St. Gaudens, near the Pyrenees, a cavern was
discovered in the nummulitic rock. It had been concealed by a heap
of fragments of rock and vegetable soil, gradually detached and
accumulated, probably by atmospheric agency. In it were found the
human remains, it was estimated, of seventeen individuals, which were
afterwards buried formally by the order of the mayor of Aurignac. Along
with the bones were discovered the teeth of mammals, both carnivora and
herbivora; also certain small perforated corals, such as were used by
many ancient peoples as beads, and similar to those gathered in the
deposits of Abbeville. The cave had apparently served as a place of
sacrifice and of burial. In 1860 M. Lartet visited the spot. In
the layer of loose earth at the bottom of the cave he found flint
implements, worked portions of a reindeer's horn, mammal bones, and
human bones in a remarkable state of preservation. In a lower layer of
charcoal and ashes, indicating the presence of man and some ancient
fireplace or hearth, the bones of the animals were scratched and
indented as though by implements employed to remove the flesh; almost
every bone was broken, as if to extract the marrow, as is done by many
modern tribes of savages. The same peculiarity is noticed in the bones
discovered among the "water-huts" of the Danish lakes.

In this deposit M. Lartet picked up many human implements, such as
bone knives, flattened circular stones supposed to have been used for
sharpening flint knives, perforated sling-stones, many arrow-heads and
spear-heads, flint knives, a bodkin made of a roebuck's horn, various
implements of reindeers' horn, and teeth beads, from the teeth of the
great fossil bear (_Ursus spelaeus_). Remains were also found of nine
different species of carnivora, such as the fossil bear, the hyena, cat,
wolf, fox, and others, and of twelve of herbivora, such as the fossil
elephant, the rhinoceros, the great stag, (_Cervus elephas_,) the
European bison, (aurochs,) horse, and others. The most common were the
aurochs, the reindeer, and the fox. How savages, armed only with flint
implements, could have captured these gigantic animals, is somewhat
mysterious; but, as M. Lartet suggests, they may have snared many of
them, or have overwhelmed single monsters with innumerable arrows and
spears, as Livingstone describes the slaying of the elephant by the
negroes at the present day.

With reference to the mode in which these remains were brought to this
place, M. Lartet remarks,--"The fragmentary condition of the bones of
certain animals, the mode in which they are broken, the marks of
the teeth of the hyena on bones, necessarily broken in their recent
condition, even the distribution of the bones and their significant
consecration, lead to the conclusion that the presence of these animals
and the deposit of all these remains are due solely to human agency.
Neither the inclination of the ground nor the surrounding hydrographical
conditions allow us to suppose that the remains could have been brought
where they are found by natural causes."

The conclusion, then, in palaeontology, which would be drawn from these
facts is, that man must have existed in Europe at the same time with the
fossil elephant and rhinoceros, the gigantic hyena, the aurochs, and the
elk, and even the cave-bear. This latter animal is thought by many to
have disappeared in the very opening of the Post-Pliocene Period; so
that this cave would--judging from the remains of that animal--have been
_prior_ to the long period of inundations in which the drift-deposits of
Abbeville and Amiens were made. The drift which fills the valleys of the
Pyrenees has not, it is evident, touched this elevated spot in Aurignac.

In chronology, all that is proved by these discoveries of M. Lartet is
that the fossil animals mentioned above and man were contemporaries on
the earth. The age of each must be determined inferentially by comparing
the age of strata in which these animals are usually found with the age
in which the most ancient traces of man are discovered,--such as the
deposits already described in the North of France.

Similar discoveries on a smaller scale are recorded by Mr. Prestwich
in Suffolk, England, and in Devonshire. We are informed also by Sir C.
Lyell of a recent important discovery near Troyes, France. In the Grotto
d'Arces, a human jaw-bone and teeth have been found imbedded with
_Elephas primigenius_, _Ursus spelaeus_, _Hyaena spelaea_, and other
extinct animals, under layers of stalagmite. Professor Pictet, the
celebrated geologist, who also gives his adhesion to these discoveries
of M. de Perthes, states that the cave-evidence has by no means been
sufficiently valued by geologists, and that there are caverns in Belgium
where the existence of human remains cannot be satisfactorily explained
on the theory of a modern introduction of them. The President of the
British Association (Lord Wrottesley) also states that in the cave of
Brixham, Devonshire, and in another near Palermo, in Sicily, flint
implements were observed by Dr. Falconer, in such a manner as to lead
him to infer that man must have coexisted with several lost species of

Professor Owen, in his "Palaeontology," (1861,) appears to put faith in
the genuineness and antiquity of these flint relics. He also states that
similar flint weapons have been found by Mr. John Frere, F.R.S., in
Suffolk, in a bed of flint gravel, sixteen feet below the surface, of
the same geological age as that in the valley of the Somme.

The conclusion from these discoveries--the most important scientific
discoveries, relating to human history, of modern times--is, that ages
ago, in the period of the extinct mammoth and the fossil bear, perhaps
before the Channel separated England from France, a race of barbarian
human beings lived on the soil of Europe, capable of fabricating rough
implements. The evidence has been carefully weighed by impartial and
experienced men, and thus far it seems complete.

The mind is lost in astonishment, in looking back at such a vast
antiquity of human beings. A tribe of men in existence tens of thousands
of years before any of the received dates of Creation! savages who
hunted, with their flint-headed arrows, the gigantic elk of Ireland and
the buffalo of Germany, or who fled from the savage tiger of France,
or who trapped the immense clumsy mammoth of Northern Europe. Who were
they? we ask ourselves in wonder. Was there with man, as with other
forms of animal life, a long and gradual progression from the lowest
condition to a higher, till at length the world was made ready for a
more developed human being, and the Creator placed the first of the
present family of man upon the earth? Were those European barbarians of
the Drift Period a primeval race, destroyed before the creation of our
own race, and lower and more barbarian than the lowest of the present
inhabitants of the world? or, as seems more probable, were these
mysterious beings--the hunters of the mammoth and the aurochs--the
earliest progenitors of our own family, the childish fathers of the
human race?

The subject hardly yet admits of an exact and scientific answer. We can
merely here suggest the probability of a vast antiquity to human beings,
and of the existence of the FOSSIL or PRE-ADAMITIC MAN.

* * * * *






Ripogenus is a tarn, a lovely oval tarn, within a rim of forest and
hill; and there behold, _O gioja!_ at its eastern end, stooping forward
and filling the sphere, was Katahdin, large and alone.

But we must hasten, for day wanes, and we must see and sketch this
cloudless summit from _terra firma_. A mile and half-way down the lake,
we landed at the foot of a grassy hill-side, where once had been a
lumberman's station and hay-farm. It was abandoned now, and lonely in
that deeper sense in which widowhood is lonelier than celibacy, a home
deserted lonelier than a desert. Tumble-down was the never-painted
house; ditto its three barns. But, besides a camp, there were two things
to be had here,--one certain, one possible, probable even. The view,
that was an inevitable certainty; Iglesias would bag that as his share
of the plunder of Ripogenus. For my bagging, bears, perchance, awaited.
The trappers had seen a bear near the barns. Cancut, in his previous
visit, had seen a disappearance of bear. No sooner had the birch's
bow touched lightly upon the shore than we seized our respective
weapons,--Iglesias his peaceful and creative sketch-book, I my warlike
and destructive gun,--and dashed up the hill-side.

I made for the barns to catch Bruin napping or lolling in the old hay.
I entertain a _vendetta_ toward the ursine family. I had a _duello_,
pistol against claw, with one of them in the mountains of Oregon,
and have nothing to show to point the moral and adorn the tale. My
antagonist of that hand-to-hand fight received two shots, and then
dodged into cover and was lost in the twilight. Soon or late in my life,
I hoped that I should avenge this evasion. Ripogenus would, perhaps,
give what the Nachchese Pass had taken away.

Vain hope! I was not to be an ursicide. I begin to fear that I shall
slay no other than my proper personal bearishness. I did my duty for
another result at Ripogenus. I bolted audaciously into every barn. I
made incursions into the woods around. I found the mark of the beast,
not the beast. He had not long ago decamped, and was now, perhaps,
sucking the meditative paw hard-by in an arbor of his bear-garden.

After a vain hunt, I gave up Beast and turned to Beauty. I looked about
me, seeing much.

Foremost I saw a fellow-man, my comrade, fondled by breeze and
brightness, and whispered to by all sweet sounds. I saw Iglesias below
me, on the slope, sketching. He was preserving the scene at its _bel
momento_. I repented more bitterly of my momentary falseness to Beauty
while I saw him so constant.

Furthermore, I saw a landscape of vigorous simplicity, easy to
comprehend. By mellow sunset the grass slope of the old farm seemed no
longer tanned and rusty, but ripened. The oval lake was blue and calm,
and that is already much to say; shadows of the western hills were
growing over it, but flight after flight of illumined cloud soared
above, to console the sky and the water for the coming of night.
Northward, a forest darkled, whose glades of brightness I could not see.
Eastward, the bank mounted abruptly to a bare fire-swept table-land,
whereon a few dead trees stood, parched and ghostly skeletons draped
with rags of moss.

Furthermost and topmost, I saw Katahdin twenty miles away, a giant
undwarfed by any rival. The remainder landscape was only minor and
judiciously accessory. The hills were low before it, the lake lowly,
and upright above lake and hill lifted the mountain pyramid.
Isolate greatness tells. There were no underling mounts about this
mountain-in-chief. And now on its shoulders and crest sunset shone,
glowing. Warm violet followed the glow, soothing away the harshness of
granite lines. Luminous violet dwelt upon the peak, while below the
clinging forests were purple in sheltered gorges, where they could climb
nearer the summit, loved of light, and lower down gloomed green and
sombre in the shadow.

Meanwhile, as I looked, the quivering violet rose higher and higher, and
at last floated away like a disengaged flame. A smouldering blue dwelt
upon the peak. Ashy-gray overcame the blue. As dusk thickened and stars
trembled into sight, the gray grew luminous. Katahdin's mighty presence
seemed to absorb such dreamy glimmers as float in limpid night-airs:
a faint glory, a twilight of its own, clothed it. King of the
daylit-world, it became queen of the dimmer realms of night, and like a
woman-queen it did not disdain to stoop and study its loveliness in
the polished lake, and stooping thus it overhung the earth, a shadowy
creature of gleam and gloom, an eternized cloud.

I sat staring and straying in sweet reverie, until the scene before me
was dim as metaphysics. Suddenly a flame flashed up in the void. It
grew and steadied, and dark objects became visible about it. In the
loneliness--for Iglesias had disappeared--I allowed myself a moment's


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