Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 21, July, 1859

Part 3 out of 5

thought you were wedded to science." This was all the felicitation he
had to offer; and without asking for the bride, he plunged into the
discussion which was the object of the visit.

In 1835 commenced the geological survey of Connecticut, and I became
Percival's companion in labor. To him was intrusted the geology proper,
and to myself the mineralogy and its economical applications. During the
first season, we prosecuted our investigations together, travelling in
a one-horse wagon, which carried all our necessary implements, and
visiting, before the campaign ended, every parish in the State. Great
was the wonder our strange outfit and occupation excited in some rustic
neighborhoods; and very often were we called upon to enlighten the
popular mind with regard to our object and its uses. This was never a
pleasant task to Percival. He did not relish long confabulations with a
sovereign people somewhat ignorant of geology; and, moreover, his style
of describing our business was so peculiar, that it rarely failed to
transfer the curiosity to himself, and lead to tiresome delays. In New
Milford, an inquisitive farmer requested us, in a somewhat ungracious
manner, to give an account of ourselves. Percival replied, that we were
acting under a commission from the Governor to ascertain the useful
minerals of the State; whereupon our utilitarian friend immediately
demanded to be informed how the citizens at large, including himself,
were to be benefited by the undertaking,--putting question on question
in a fashion which was most pertinacious and almost impertinent.
Percival became impatient, and tried to hurry away. "I demand the
information," exclaimed the New Milfordite; "I demand it as my right.
You are only servants of the people; and you are paid, in part, at
least, out of my pocket." "I'll tell you what we'll do," said Percival;
"we can't stop, but we'll refund. Your portion of the geological
tax,--let me see,--it must be about two cents. We prefer handing you
this to encountering a further delay." Our agricultural friend and
master did not take the money, although he did the hint,--and in sulky
silence withdrew from our company.

Driving through the town of Warren, we stopped a farmer to inquire
the way to certain places in the vicinity. He gave us the information
sought, staring at us meanwhile with a benevolently inquisitive
expression, and, at last, volunteering the remark, that, if we wanted a
job, we had better stop at the factory in the hollow. We thanked him
for his goodness, and thought, perhaps, of Sedgewick geologizing by the
road-side, and getting a charitable half-crown flung at him by a noble
lady who was on her way to dine in his company at the house of a mutual

Let us grant here one brief parenthesis of respect and astonishment to
the scientific knowledge and philological acumen of a distinguished
graduate of Yale College, and member of Congress, whom we encountered
on our travels. Hearing us speak of mosaic granite, a rock occurring
in Woodbridge, to which we had given this name, from the checker-like
arrangement of its felspathic ingredient, he concluded that we
attributed its formation to the era of Moses, and asked Percival what
evidence he had for such an opinion. Small blame to him, perhaps, for
the blunder, but it seemed a very droll one to geologists.

In Greenwich, the extreme southwestern town of the State, we encountered
an incident to which my companion would sometimes refer with a slight
degree of merriment. In general, he was no joker, no anecdotist, and had
but a feeble appreciation of droll sayings or humorous matters of
any kind. But in Greenwich he heard a memorable phrase. Among the
tavern-loungers was a man who had evidently seen better days, and who,
either for that reason or because of the large amount of rum he had
swallowed, entertained a lofty opinion of himself, and discoursed _de
omnibus rebus_ in a most consequential fashion. He soon made himself a
sort of medium between ourselves and his fellow-loafers. Overhearing us
say that we wished to pass the New York frontier for the sake of tracing
out the strata then under examination, he proceeded with much pomposity
to declare to his deeply curious auditory, that "it was his opinion
that the Governor of the State should confer upon these gentlemen
_discretionary powers_ to pass the limits of Connecticut, whenever and
wherever, in the prosecution of their labors, the interests of science
required them so to do." After this, we rarely crossed the State line
but Percival observed, "We are now taking advantage of our discretionary

Of the few stories Percival told me, here is one. In one of our
country-places, a plain, shrewd townsman fell into chance conversation
with him, and entertained him with some account of a neighbor who had
been seized with a mania for high Art, and had let loose his frenzy upon
canvas in a deluge of oil-colors. If I mistake not, Percival was invited
to inspect these productions of untaught and perhaps unteachable genius.
They were vast attempts at historical scenes, in which the heads and
legs of heroes were visible, but played a very secondary part in the
interest, compared with a perfect tempest of drapery, which rolled in
ungovernable masses, like the clouds of a thunder-storm.

"What do you think of them?" inquired Percival.

"Well, I don't claim to be a judge of such things," replied his
cicerone; "but the fact is, (and I told the painter so,) that, when I
look at 'em, about the only thing I can think of is a resurrection of
old clothes."

In the town of Lebanon, an incident occurred which affected us rather
more seriously. Turning a corner suddenly, we came upon an old man
digging up cobble-stones by the road-side and breaking them in pieces
with an axe. "A brother-geologist," was our first impression. At that
moment the old man sprang toward us, the axe in one hand and half a
brick in the other, shouting eagerly,--

"I guess Mr. ----" (name indistinguishable) "will be glad to see you,

"For what?"

"Why, he has got several boxes of jewels; and I gave an advertisement in
the paper."

"Whose are they?"

"King Jerome's."

"And who is he?"

"The king of the world!" shouted the maniac, still advancing with a
menacing air, and so near the wagon by this time that he might almost
have hit Percival with his axe.

Without pausing to hear more about the jewels, a sudden blow to the
horse barely enabled us to escape the reach of our fellow-laborer before
he had time to use his axe on our own formations.

In the following year, when Percival was pursuing the survey by himself,
on horseback, some of the elements of this adventure were repeated,
but reversed after a very odd fashion. The late Dr. Carrington, of
Farmington, who told me the tale, being ten miles from home on a
professional excursion, drove up to a tavern and found himself welcomed
with extraordinary emphasis by the innkeeper. The Doctor was just the
person he wanted to see; the Doctor's opinion was very much needed about
that strange man out there; he wished the Doctor to have a talk with
him, and see whether he was crazy or not. The fellow had been there a
day or two, picking up stones about the lots; and some of the boys had
been sent to watch him, but could get nothing out of him. This morning
he wanted to go away, and ordered his horse; but the neighbors wouldn't
let it be brought up, for they said he was surely some mad chap who
had taken another man's horse. Thus talking, the landlord pointed out
Percival, surrounded by a group of villagers, who, quietly, and under
pretence of conversation, were holding him under a sort of arrest. The
Doctor rushed into the circle, addressed his friend Percival by name,
spoke of the survey, and thus satisfied the bystanders, who, guessing
their mistake, dispersed silently. No open remonstrance was needed,
and perhaps Percival never understood the adventure in which he thus
unconsciously formed the principal character.

While we were in Berlin, the native town of Percival, he related to me
several incidents of his earlier life. His father was discussing some
geographical question with a neighbor; and the future geologist, then
a boy of seven or eight, sat by listening until the ignorance of his
elders tempted him to speak. "Where did you learn that?" they asked,
in astonishment. With timid reluctance, he confessed that he had been
reading clandestinely Morse's large geography, of which there was a copy
in a society-library kept at his father's house. The book, he added, had
an indescribable attraction for him; and even at that almost infantile
age he was familiar with its contents. It was this reading of Morse,
perhaps, which determined his taste for those geographical studies
in which he subsequently became so distinguished. With him, as with
Humboldt and Guyot, geography was a term of wide signification. Far from
confining it to the names and boundaries of countries, seas, and lakes,
to the courses of rivers and the altitudes of mountains, he connected
with it meteorology, natural history, and the leading facts of human
history, ethnology, and archaeology. He knew London as thoroughly as
most Americans know New York or Philadelphia, and yet he had never
crossed the Atlantic.

An instance of the minuteness of his geographical information was
related to me by the Rev. Mr. Adam, a Scottish clergyman, long resident
at Benares, but subsequently settled over the Congregational Church in
Amherst, Massachusetts. On his way to visit me at New Haven, he met in
the stage-coach a countryman of his, who soon opened a controversy with
him respecting the course of a certain river in Scotland. The discussion
had continued for some time, when another passenger offered a suggestion
which opened the eyes of the debaters to the fact (not unfrequently the
case in such controversies) that they were both wrong. "How long since
you were there, Sir?" they asked; and the reply was, "I never was in
Scotland." "Who are you, Sir?" Mr. Adam wanted to ask, but kept the
question until he could put it to me. I did not feel much hesitation in
telling him that the stranger must have been Percival; and Percival it
was, as I afterwards learned by questioning him of the circumstance.

But we must return to Berlin, in order to hear one more of Percival's
stories. Passing a field, half a mile from his early home, he told an
incident connected with it, and related to his favorite study of natural
history. The field had belonged to his father, who, besides being the
physician of Berlin, indulged a taste for agriculture. Just before the
harvest season, it became palpable that this field, then waving with
wheat, was depredated upon to a wasteful extent by some unknown subjects
of the animal kingdom. Having watched for the pilferers in vain by
day, the proprietor resolved to mount guard by night, and accordingly
ambushed himself in the invaded territory. Near midnight, he saw his own
flock of geese, hitherto considered so trustworthy, approach silently
in single file, make their entry between the rails, and commence
transferring the wheat-crop into their own crops, after a ravenous
fashion. Having eaten their fill, they re-formed their column of march,
with a venerable gander at the head, and trudged silently homeward,
cautiously followed by their owner, who noticed, that, on regaining his
door-yard, they set up a vociferous cackle, such as he had repeatedly
heard from them before at about the same hour. It was a most evident
attempt to establish an _alibi_; it was as much as to say, "If you miss
any wheat, we didn't take it; we are honest birds, and stay at
home o'nights, Dr. Percival." The next morning, however, a general
decapitation overtook the flock of feathered hypocrites. "It was a
curious instance of the domestic goose reverting to its wild habit of
nocturnal feeding," remarked my narrator, dwelling characteristically
upon the natural-history aspect of the fact.

Percival was almost incapable of an irrelevancy. The survey was the
business in hand, and he rarely discoursed much of things disconnected
with it, except, perhaps, when we were retracing our routes, or when the
labors of the day were over. Of poets and poetry he was not inclined to
speak. I never heard him quote a line, either his own or another's, nor
indulge in a single poetic observation concerning the objects which
met us in our wanderings. Indeed, he confessed that he no longer felt
disposed to write verses, being satisfied that his productions were
not acceptable to the prevailing taste; although he admitted that he
composed a few stanzas occasionally, in order to make trial of some
unusual measure or new language. He told me that he had versified in
thirteen languages; and I have heard from others that he had imitated
all the Greek and German metres.

Of politics, foreign and domestic, he talked frequently, but always
philosophically and dispassionately, much as if he were speaking of
geological stratification. His views of humanity were deduced from a
most extensive survey of the race in all its historical and geographical
relations. He distinctly recognized the fact of its steady advance
from one stage to another, in accordance with a plan of intellectually
organic development, as marked as that detected by the geologist in
the gradual preparation of the earth for the abode of our species. The
slowness and seeming vacillation of man's upward movement could not
stagger his faith; for if it had taken thousands of ages to make earth
habitable, why should it not take thousands more to bring man to his
completeness? Equally free was he from misgiving on account of the
remaining presence of so much misery and wretchedness; for these he
considered as the indispensable stimuli to progress. Even war, he used
to say, is sometimes necessary to the welfare of nations, as sickness
and sorrow plainly are to that of individuals; although, to his moral
sense, the human authors of this scourge were no more admirable than the
devisers of any private calamity. Improvements in knowledge he regarded
as the only elements of real progress; and these he looked upon as true
germinal principles, bound up organically in the constitution of the
human soul. Indeed, that philosophical calmness which was characteristic
of him seemed to flow in some measure from his settled persuasion that
the same matchless wisdom and benevolence he recognized throughout
Nature wrought with a still higher providence and a more earnest love
for man and would make all things finally conduce to his welfare. It was
clear that he drew a profound tranquillity from the thought that he was
a part of the vast and harmonious whole.

Concerning his religious views he was exceedingly taciturn. He had no
taste for metaphysical or theological discussions, although his library
contained a large number of standard works on these subjects. Religion
itself he never alluded to but with the deepest respect. Talking to
me of Christianity, he quoted the observation of Goethe, that "it had
brought into the world a light never to be extinguished." He spoke of
Jesus with poetic, if not with Christian fervor. He contrasted his
teachings and deeds with the prevailing maxims and practice of the
people among whom he appeared, with the dead orthodoxy of its religious
teachers, and with the general ignorance and hypocrisy of the masses.
"Had I lived in such a state of society," he said, "I am certain that it
would have driven me mad."

He expressed an earnest esteem for the doctrines of the Evangelical
clergy, and even approved, though more moderately, the religious
awakenings which occur under their labors. He described to me, with
some particularity, a revival he had witnessed in his native town, when
young; and repeated some of the quaint exhortations of the lay brethren,
all in a manner perfectly serious, but calculated, perhaps, to leave the
impression, that such views of religion were not necessary to himself,
although they might be quite suited to the minds of others.

The rational theology he regarded as anti-poetic in influence, and of
very doubtful efficacy in working upon the masses. He appreciated,
however, the honesty and superior culture of the Unitarian scholars and
clergy of Boston, with many of whom he had been on terms as intimate as
his shyness accorded to any one.

He attended church but once with me while we were engaged in the survey.
We heard a discourse from a Rev. Dr. E----, upon the conduct of the
young ruler who inquired his duty of Christ. The speaker argued from the
sacred narrative a universal obligation to devote our possessions
to religious purposes,--and upheld, as an example to all men, the
self-devotion of a young missionary (then somewhat known) who had
despised a splendid fortune, offered him on condition of his remaining
at home, and had consecrated himself to the Christianization of Africa.

"How did you like the sermon?" I inquired of Percival.

"I consider it an animating and probably useful performance," he
replied; "but it does not accord with comprehensive conceptions of
humanity, inasmuch as its main inference was drawn from the exception,
and not from the rule. There always have been, and probably always
will be, men possessed of the self-immolating or martyr spirit. Such
instances are undoubtedly useful, and have my admiration; but they
cannot become general, and never were meant to be."

During the survey, we were invited to pass an evening in a family
remarkable for its musical talent, and I remember distinctly the evident
pleasure with which Percival listened to the chorus of organ tones and
rich cultivated voices. In general, however, his appreciation of music
was subordinate to his study of syllabic movement in versification; and
it was with reference chiefly to poetic measure, I have been told, that
he acquired what mastery he had over the accordion and guitar.

Percival's favorite topics, when evening came and we rested from our
stony labors, were the modern languages and the philosophy of universal
grammar. They seemed to have filled the niches in his heart, from which
he had banished, or tried to banish, the Muses. The subtile refinements
of Bopp were a perpetual luxury to him; he derived language from
language as easily as word from word; and, once started in the
intricacies of the Russian or the Basque, there was no predicting the
end of the discourse. Thus were thrown away, upon a solitary listener,
midnight lectures which would have done honor to the class-rooms of
Berlin or the Sorbonne. In looking at such an instance of intellectual
pleasure and acumen, as connected in no small degree with the study of
foreign languages, one cannot avoid associating together the unsolved
mystery of that discrepancy of tongues prevailing in different countries
with the disagreeing _floras_ and _faunas_ of the same regions,--each
diversity bearing alike the unmistakable marks of Omnipotent design for
the happiness and improvement of man.

The perfection of his memory was amazing. During the year following
the survey, when we had frequent occasion to compare recollections, I
observed that no circumstance of our labors was shadowy or incomplete
in his memory. He could refer to every trifling incident of the tour,
recall every road and path that we had followed, every field and ledge
that we had examined, particularize the day of the week on which we had
dined or supped at such a tavern, and mention the name of the landlord.
I asked him how he was able to remember such minutiae He replied, that
it was his custom, on going to bed, to call up, in the darkness and
stillness, all the incidents of the day's experience, in their proper
order, and cause them to move before him like a diorama through a
spiritual morning, noon, and evening. "It has often appeared to me," he
said, "that in this purely mental process I see objects more distinctly
than I behold them in the reality."

But his memory doubtless gained an immense additional advantage from his
habitual seclusion, from his unconcern with the distracting customs of
society, and, most of all, from the imperturbable abstraction under
which he studied and observed. With him there was no blending of
collateral subjects, no permitted intrusion of things irrelevant or
trivial, so that the channels of his thoughts were always single,
deep, and traceable. It was a mental straightforwardness and
conscientiousness, as rare, perhaps, as moral rectitude itself.

In diet, Percival was the most abstemious person I ever knew. His health
was uniformly good,--the specimens of a geologist, when he collects them
himself, being as favorable to digestion and appetite as the pebbles to
a chicken; yet, I am persuaded, my companion in no case violated the
golden rule of leaving the table unsated. No matter how long had been
his fast, he showed no impatience of hunger, made no remark upon the
excellence of any dish, found fault with nothing, or, at most, only
seemed to miss drinkable coffee and good bread, articles seldom to be
met with in the country. He ate slowly, selecting his food with the
discrimination which ought to belong to a chemist or physiologist, and
then thought no more about it. Alcoholic drinks he never tasted, except
an occasional glass of wine, to which his attention perhaps had been
called on account of its age or superior excellence. Even then it
was not the flavor which interested him, so much as the history,
geographical and other.

Peculiar as he was in his own habits of diet, he offered no strictures
upon the practice of others, however different, unless it ran into
hurtful excesses. The maxim of Epictetus in the "Enchiridion," "Never
preach how others ought to eat, but eat you as becomes you," seemed to
be his rule. Indeed, Percival was one of those rare men who withhold
alike censure and praise respecting the minor matters of life. Not that
he was without opinions on such subjects; but, to obtain them, one was
forced to question him. On the whole, I do not think it would be going
too far to apply to him the above-named moralist's description of the
wise man:--"He reproves nobody, praises nobody, blames nobody, nor even
speaks of himself; if any one praises him, in his own mind he contemns
the flatterer; if any one reproves him, he looks with care that he be
not unsettled in the state of tranquillity that he has entered into.
All his desires depend on things within his power; he transfers all
his aversions to those things which Nature commands us to avoid. His
appetites are always moderate. He is indifferent whether he be thought
foolish or ignorant. He observes himself with the nicety of an enemy or
a spy, and looks on his own wishes as betrayers."

Percival's solitary habits, combined with the invariable seriousness
of his manner, led many persons to believe him melancholy, and even
disposed to suicide. He did, indeed, confess to me, that he sometimes
felt giddy on the edge of a precipice. This was his nearest approach, I
am confident, to the idea of self-destruction. While we were examining
the great iron furnaces of Salisbury, he told me that he was afraid of
walking near the throat of a chimney when in blast, and that more than
once he had turned and run from the lurid, murky orifice, lest a sudden
failure of self-control should cause him to reel into the consuming
abyss. No,--Percival neither felt nor expressed disgust with life.
On the contrary, he was strongly attached to it; the acquisition of
knowledge clothed it with inexpressible value; the longest day was ever
too short to fulfil his designs. Like the wise, laborious men of all
ages, he almost repined at the swiftness of the years. "I am amazed at
the flight of time," he said to me, on the arrival of his forty-second
birthday; "it seems only a year since I was thirty-two;--I have lost ten
years of my life."

Before entering upon the survey of Connecticut, he was not specially
devoted to any one branch of physics, although his tastes inclined him
most toward geology. While he could sympathize perfectly, he said, with
those who threw their whole force into a single study, he felt
himself attracted equally by the entire circle of Nature, and thought
omniscience a nobler object of ambition than any one science. He
admitted that the search after all knowledge is incompatible with
eminence in any particular department; but he believed that it affords
higher pleasure to the mind, and confers ability to do signal service
to mankind in pointing out the grand connections, the general laws, of

It is not, perhaps, widely known, that Percival was a well-informed
botanist. He studied this branch when a medical student under Professor
Ives, and assisted his instructor in laying out a small botanical
garden, the plants of which were arranged after the natural orders of
Jussieu. Soon after finishing his medical education, he gave a course of
lectures on botany in Charleston, South Carolina, before a very select
audience, composed mostly of Ladies. The only drawback to the lecturer's
success was his excessive timidity. As an evidence of the assiduity with
which he botanized, it may be mentioned that he had seen the _Geranium
Robertianum_ (a plant which nestles in the sunny clefts of our trap
mountains) in bloom, during every month of the year. One year he found
its blossoms in December, another in January, and so on, until the round
of the monthly calendar was completed.

Percival was an earnest advocate of popular education. He manifested
much interest in the first systematic attempt (at the instance of
Mr. James Brewster) to furnish the people of New Haven with popular
instruction in the form of lectures. At a public dinner, given by Mr.
Brewster, on the occasion of opening the building in which rooms had
been fitted up for these lectures, the late Mr. Skinner gave the toast,
"Our mechanics, the right arm of New Haven," and Percival followed with,
"Science, the right eye which directs the right arm of New Haven." He
believed most fully in the superiority of intelligent labor. He pointed
out cases in which a college-training had been connected with signal
eminence in mechanical invention, and said, that, according to his
observations, persons engaged in industrial pursuits usually succeeded
in proportion to the thoroughness of their education.

Percival himself gave a course of lectures, or rather, lessons, in New
Haven,--not in the building above mentioned, for his natural timidity
was too great to encounter a public audience, but in the theological
lecture-room of Yale College. They were on the German language, and
consisted chiefly of translations of prose and poetry into English,
intermingled with philosophical commentaries on the peculiarities of the
original. It was pure grammar; he did not talk German, and claimed no
acquaintance with the niceties of pronunciation; but all his listeners,
most of whom were graduates, were struck with his perfect mastery of the

Percival held one peculiar opinion concerning a branch of college
education. He objected to the modern practice of teaching the natural
sciences by means of a profusion of drawings, models, showy experiments,
and other expedients addressing the mind so strongly through the eye.
While these might be allowable in popular lectures, before audiences
lacking in early intellectual discipline, where amusement was a
consideration, and where without it the public ear could not be secured,
he thought that the collegian should study differently,--that his
understanding should be taxed severely, and that he should be inured,
from the first, to rigid attention, in order to a lasting remembrance
of the truths offered to him. It would be a useful exercise for the
instructor, he thought, to elucidate obscure phenomena and complicated
structures by words only, assisting himself, perhaps, occasionally, by
extemporaneous drawings. Such a course would inspire the scholar with
deference for his teacher, and confidence in his own ability to acquire
a similar grasp of the subject. While there is certainly some truth in
this opinion, it would not be difficult, perhaps, to invalidate its
general force. Why should the ear be the only admitted means of
acquiring knowledge? Nature, the greatest of teachers, does not judge
thus: she conveys half her wisdom to us by sight, instead of by faith;
she gives her first lessons to the infant through the eye. Would
Percival, in looking for his attentive audiences, have preferred a
congregation of blind men?

Speaking of literary composition, he said that he often took great pains
with his productions, shifting words and phrases in many ways, before
satisfying himself that he had attained the best form of expression; and
he assured me that these slowly elaborated passages were the very ones
in which he afterwards recognized the most ease and nature, and which
others supposed him to have thrown off carelessly. I asked him how it
was that children, in their unpremeditated way, expressed themselves
with so much directness and beauty. They have but a single idea to
present at a time, he said; they seize without hesitation on the first
words that offer for its expression, unperplexed by any such choice of
terms as would surely occur to maturer minds; and most important of
all, perhaps, they are wholly unembarrassed by limiting qualifications
arising from a fuller knowledge of the subject.

His prose style is a rare exemplification of classic severity and
perspicuousness. In each paragraph the ideas arrange themselves in
faultless connection, like the molecules of a crystal around its centre.
The sentences are not long, the construction is simple, the words are
English in its purity, without admixture of foreign phrase or idiom. But
the most striking peculiarity of his diction is the utter absence
of ornament; for Percival evidently held that the chief merits of
composition are clearness and directness. Poetic imagery, brilliant
climaxes and antitheses, fanciful or grotesque turns of expression, he
rejected as unfavorable to that simple truth for which he studied and
wrote. This dry, almost mathematical style, was no necessity with him;
few men, surely, have had at command a richer vocabulary, English and
foreign, than Percival; few could have adorned thought with more or
choicer garlands from the fields of knowledge and imagination.

To letter-writing he had a great aversion. I have never seen a letter
or note from him to which his signature was attached. The
autograph-fanciers, therefore, will find a scanty harvest when they come
to forage after the name of Percival. His handwriting corresponded in
some sense with his character. It was fine; the lines straight and
parallel; the letters completely formed, though without fulness of
curve; no flourishes, and no unnecessary prolongations of stroke, above
or below the general run of the line. There were few erasures, the
punctuation was perfect, and the manuscript was fit for the press as it
left his hand.

Literary criticism he rarely indulged in, being too disinclined to
praise or blame, and too intensely devoted to the acquisition of
positive knowledge. If he commented severely upon anything, it was
usually the slovenly diction of some of our State Surveys, or the
inaccuracies of translations from foreign languages.

His only published criticism, of which I am aware, was discharged at
a phrenological lecturer, whose extraordinary assumptions and
_ad-captandum_ style had excited his disgust. Percival did not reverence
the science of bumps, and believed, in the words of William Von
Humboldt, that "it is one of those discoveries which, when stripped of
all the _charlatanerie_ that surrounds them, will show but a very meagre
portion of truth." Dr. Barber, an Englishman, and a somewhat noted
teacher of elocution, having been converted to the phrenological faith,
delivered certain magniloquent lectures on the same to the citizens of
New Haven, and took pay therefor, after the manner of his sect. Percival
responded with a sharp newspaper pasquinade, entitled "A Lecture on
Nosology." At the head of the article was a wood-cut of a gigantic nose,
mapped out into faculties. "Gentlemen, the nose is the most prominent
feature in this bill," commenced the parody. "The nose is the true seat
of the mind; and therefore, gentlemen, Nosology, or the science of the
nose, is the true phrenology. He, who knows his nose, foreknows; for he
knows that which is before him. Therefore Nosology is the surest guide
to conduct. Whatever progress an individual may make, his nose is always
in advance. But society is only a congeries of individuals; consequently
its nose is always in advance,--therefore its proper guide. The nose,
rightly understood, will assuredly work wonders in the cause of
improvement; for it is always going ahead, always first in every
undertaking, always soonest at the goal. The ancients did not neglect
the nose. Look at their busts and statues! What magnification and
abduction in Jove! What insinuation and elongation in the Apollo!
Then [Greek: nous] (intellect) was surely the nose,--[Greek: gnosis]
(knowledge) noses,--[Greek: Minos] my nose. What intussusception, what
potation, and, as a necessary consequence, alas! what rubification! But
I have seen such noses. Beware of them!--they are bad noses,--very bad
noses, I assure you.... Do not, I pray you, consider me irreverent,
if I say that Nosology will prove highly favorable to the cause of
religion. This is indeed an awful subject, and I would not touch it on
slight grounds; but I sincerely believe that what I say is true.
Nosology will prove highly favorable to the cause of religion! Does
not the nose stand forth like a watchman on the walls of Zion, on the
look-out for all assailants? and when our faces are directed upwards in
devotion, does not the nose ascend the highest and most especially tend
heavenward?... Nosology is a manly science. It stands out in the open
light. It does not conceal itself behind scratches and periwigs,--nor
does it, like certain false teachers mentioned by St. Paul, go about
from house to house, leading astray silly women......Finally, gentlemen,
you may rest assured that Nosology will not gently submit to insult.
_Noli me tangere!_ Who ever endured a tweak of the nose? It will know
how to take vengeance. As Jupiter metamorphosed the inhospitable Lycians
into frogs, so its contemners will suddenly find themselves [Greek:

Percival has been thought over-tenacious of his opinions. He was
certainly very circumspect in changing them. I have witnessed, however,
several instances in which he yielded to the force of evidence in
the modification of his views. He seemed to recognize geology, in
particular, as a progressive science, in which new facts are constantly
accruing, and therefore compelling re-adaptations of our views. He felt,
indeed, in respect to all knowledge, the mathematics excepted, that
modifications of belief, in well-regulated minds, are unavoidable, as
the result of new information. Approach to higher truth through the
sciences he seemed to regard under the aspect of that of besiegers to a
beleaguered fortress. Principles and deductions, which were a boon and a
triumph for us yesterday, lose their value to-day, when a new parallel
of approach has been attained. He lost his interest in what was
abandoned, necessary as it had been to the present position, only in the
advantage of which, and its sure promise of what was still higher, he
allowed himself to rejoice.

But where evidence was wanting, he was never to be moved to a change by
any amount of importunity or temptation. This trait of character made
him somewhat impracticable as a collaborator, in the philological task
he was employed to perform under Dr. Noah Webster. Disagreements were to
have been anticipated from the striking contrasts in their minds.
They agreed in industry; but Webster was decided, practical, strongly
self-reliant, and always satisfied with doing the best that could
be done with the time and means at command. Percival was timid and
cautious, and, from the very breadth of his linguistic attainments,
undecided. He often craved more time for arriving at conclusions. When
he happened to differ from the great lexicographer, he would never yield
an iota of his ground. These differences led to an early rupture in
the engagement, almost before two letters of the alphabet had been
completed. He much preferred to relinquish a profitable undertaking to
going forward with it under circumstances not agreeable to his elevated
standard of literary accuracy and completeness. He felt that he could
live on bread and water, or even give up these, if necessary; but he
could not violate his convictions of what was true and right. He was a
perfect martyr to his literary and scientific conscientiousness.

He evinced the same spirit in respect to the geological survey. As his
mind was not satisfied, he would not make known his results to the
Legislature. They demanded the report, and he asked for an extension of
time. Thus he continued his labors from year to year, upon a stipend
scarcely adequate to cover his expenses. Instead, however, of nearing
the goal, he only receded from it. New difficulties met him in the work;
fresh questions arose, in the progress of geology itself, that called
for reexaminations. His notes swelled to volumes, and his specimens
increased to thousands. He was in danger of being crushed under the
weight of his doubts and his materials. At last, the people clamored
for the end of the work. The Legislature became peremptory, and forced
Percival to acquiesce.

In 1842 (seven years from the commencement of the survey) he rendered an
octavo report of four hundred and ninety-five pages, in the introduction
to which he observes,--"I regret to say, I have not had the means
allowed me for additional investigations, nor even for a proper use of
my materials, either notes or specimens. The number of localities from
which I have collected specimens I have estimated at nearly eight
thousand; the records of dips and bearings are still more numerous.
The report which follows is but a hasty outline, written mainly from
recollection, with only occasional reference to my materials, and under
circumstances little calculated for cool consideration. It was written,
however, with an intention to state nothing of the truth or probability
of which I did not feel satisfied. None can regret more than I do its
imperfection; still I cannot but hope that it will contribute something
towards the solution of the problem of the highest practical as well as
scientific importance, the exact determination of the geological system
of the State."

Of this remarkable production it may very briefly be said, that it will
ever remain a monument to the scientific and literary powers of its
author. It describes every shade of variation in the different rocks,
and their exact distribution over the surface of the State. This it
accomplishes with a minuteness never before essayed in any similar work.
The closeness and brevity of his descriptions make it one of the dryest
productions ever issued on geological science, scarcely omitting the
work of Humboldt, in which he sought to represent the whole of geology
by algebraic symbols. Percival's work actually demands, and would richly
repay, a translation into the vernacular of descriptive geology,--the
language and mode of illustration employed by Murchison and Hitchcock.
In its present form, it is safe to say, it has never found a single
reader among the persons for whose benefit it was written.

It is no part of my plan to speak of his poetical reputation. This I
leave to others better able to do him justice. Indeed, he had nearly
abandoned poetical composition before our acquaintance began. But it is
safe, perhaps, to say here, that his writings have placed him among
the first of our national poets; and had he resumed this species of
composition, he could scarcely have failed of maintaining, in the
fullest manner, his poetic fame. He possessed all the qualities reckoned
essential to poetical excellence. We have already spoken of his
astonishing memory, a trait regarded of such importance to the poet by
the ancients as to have led them to call the Muses the daughters of this
mental faculty. His powers of abstraction and imagination were no less
remarkable,--while for extreme sensitiveness he was unsurpassed. His
judgment was clear, and his appreciation of language refined to the last
degree. His musical feeling, too, as well of time as of harmony, was
intense; while he had at command the universal stores of literature and

In closing these reminiscences, I cannot avoid noticing some of the
useful impressions exerted by Percival upon the literary community
amidst which he passed so large a portion of his life. To some the
influence of such a recluse will doubtless seem insignificant. The
reverse, however, I am persuaded, was the fact. Few students came to New
Haven without bringing with them, imprinted on their youthful memories,
some beautiful line of his poetry. Few had not heard of his universal
scholarship and profound learning. Next to an acquaintance with the
teachers from whom they expected to derive their educational training,
their curiosity led them to inquire for Percival. The sight of this
modest, shrinking individual, as the possessor of such mines of
intellectual wealth, it may well be understood, produced the deepest
interest. In him they recognized a man superior to the clamor of vulgar
gratification; his indifference to gain, to luxury, and every form of
display, his constant preference of the spiritual over the sensual, was
always an impressive example to them. The indigent student took fresh
courage as he saw in him to what a narrow compass exterior wants might
be reduced; the man of fashion and the fop stood abashed before the
simplicity of his dress and daily life. And wherever the spirit of
classic literature had been imbibed, and the capacity acquired of
perceiving the severe worth of the true philosopher, the inspection of
such a character, compared with the mere description of it in history,
was like the difference between a statue and a living, breathing man. As
at early dawn or in the gray twilight his slender form glided by, the
thoughtful and poetic scholar could scarce refrain from uttering to
himself,--"There goes Diogenes or Chrysippus! There goes one, by the
side of whom many a bustler in letters is only a worthless drone, many
an idolized celebrity a weak and pitiful sham!" Such a character as
Percival's, in the presence of a scholastic community, was a perpetual
incentive to industry and manliness; and although he rarely spoke in its
hearing, and has left us fewer published works than many others, still
I believe that thousands yet live to thank him for lessons derived from
the simple survey of his daily life.

Though there is little likelihood that his example of self-abnegation
and devotion to study will be followed by many of our youth,
nevertheless, the occurrence of such a model now and then in the
republic of letters constitutes a pleasing as well as useful
phenomenon,--if for no other reason, because it breaks in upon the
monotony of literary biography, and communicates a portion of that
picturesqueness to scholastic life which belongs to Nature in everything
else. That his course was fraught with happiness to himself cannot be
doubted; that it was beneficial also to his fellow-men is equally
true; and though he may be judged less leniently by minds incapable of
pronouncing that to be a character honorable in the sight of God or
man, which deviates from their own standard or creed,--to others, who
recognize the highest possible cultivation of the mental faculties and
unsullied purity of life as the noblest ends of our being, he will ever
occupy a position shared by few of mortal race.

* * * * *




Who does not remember his first play?--the proudly concealed impatience
which seemed seething in the very blood,--the provoking coolness of old
play-goers,--the music that rather excited than soothed the fever
of expectation,--the mystery of mimic life that throbbed behind the
curtain,--the welcome tinkle of the prompter's bell,--the capricious
swaying to and fro of that mighty painted scroll,--its slow uplift,
revealing for an instant, perhaps, the twinkle of flying dancers' feet
and the shuffle of belated buskins? And then, the unveiled wonders
of that strange, new world of canvas and pasteboard and
trap-doors,--people, Nature, Art, and architecture, never before beheld,
and but faintly conceived of,--the magic of shifting scenes,--the
suddenness and awfulness of subterranean and aerial descents and
ascents,--the solemn stage-walk of the heroine,--the majestic strut
of the hero,--the princely sweep of velvet,--the illusive sparkle of
paste,--the rattle of Brobdignagian pearls,--the saucy tossing of pages'
plumes,--the smiles, the wiles, the astonishing bounds and bewildering
pirouettes of the dancing Houries,--the great sobs and small shrieks
of persecuted beauty,--the blighting smile of the villain,--the lofty
indifference of supernumeraries!

It was the first play of our heroine, Zelma Burleigh, and of her Cousin
Bessie. The morning before, a fragrant May morning, scores of summers
ago, Roger Burleigh, a stout Northumbrian Squire, had rolled himself,
in his ponderous way, into the snug family-parlor at the Grange, and
addressed his worthy dame with a bluff--

"Well, good wife, wouldn't like to go see the players to-night?"

Ere the good lady could collect herself to reply with the decorous
deliberateness becoming her years and station, an embroidery-frame at
her side was overturned, and there sprang eagerly forward a comely
young damsel of the pure Saxon stock, with eyes like England's
violets,--clear, dewy, and wide-awake,--cheeks and lips like its
rose-bloom, and hair which held tangled in close, golden folds its
fickle and flying sunshine.

"Ay, father!" she cried, "that we would! Zelma and I have never seen any
players, save the tumblers over at the Hall, on Sir Harry's birthday,
and we are in sad need of a little pleasuring."

"Who spoke to you, or of you, Mistress Bessie?" replied the Squire,
playfully. "And what is all your useless, chattering life but
pleasuring? The playhouse is but a perilous place for giddy-brained
lasses like you; but for once, harkee, for _once_, we'll venture on
taking you, if you'll promise to keep your silly head safe under the
mother-hen's wing."

"Not so close but that I can get a peep at the players now and then,"
said Bessie, archly. "They say there are some handsome young men and a
pretty woman or two among them. Eh, Zelma?"

"Handsome young men!--pretty women!" exclaimed the Squire, with an
explosive snort of contempt. "An arrant set of vagabonds and tramps,--of
ranting, strutting, apish creatures, with neither local habitations nor
names of their own. And what does Zelma know about them? Out with it,

The person thus addressed, without lifting the folds of a heavy
window-curtain which concealed her, replied in a quiet, though somewhat
haughty tone,--

"I saw them all, yesterday afternoon, on their way to Arden. I found
them near the entrance to our avenue. One of their carts had broken
down, and somebody was hurt. I dismounted to see if I could be of any
assistance. My pony pulled away from me and ran up the road. One of the
young men caught her for me. I told Cousin Bessie I thought him handsome
and proud enough for a lord. I think so still. That is all I know of the

"And, gad, that's enough! Take _you_ to the play, indeed! Why, we shall
have you strolling next, like your"--Here the Squire, for some reason
known to himself, suddenly paused and grew very red in the face. Dame
Margery took the word, and, in a tone meant to be severe, but which was
only dry, remarked,--

"Zelma is quite too young to go to the play."

"Just one week younger than my Cousin Bessie. So, please you, aunt, I
will wait a few days," was the quiet reply from the invisible.

"Right cleverly answered, lass!" said the Squire, with a good-humored
chuckle. "Well, we will try you, too, for once; but mind, if I find you
making eyes at any of the villains, I'll cut you off with a shilling."

"That is more than I look for from you, Uncle Roger," replied the
hitherto hidden speaker, emerging from the window-seat, holding in her
hand the fashionable and interminable novel of "Sir Charles Grandison."
As she spoke, she laughed lightly, but her voice was somewhat cold and
bitter, and there was in her laugh more of defiance than merriment.

"Oh, _don't_, Zella!" exclaimed the Squire, with a look of comic
deprecation,--"don't speak in that way to your old uncle! He's
blunt and rough-spoken, but he means kindly, and does kindly, in his
way,--don't he?"

"Yes, that he does!" said the young girl, frankly; "and I beg his pardon
for my pettishness."

Zelma Burleigh, as she stood thus, a faint, regretful smile softening
the habitual _hauteur_ of her face, was beautiful, and something more;
yet nobody in the country round about the Grange had ever dreamed of
calling her "a beauty." She was a tall, gracefully-formed girl, with
that strong, untamable character of figure and feature, and that
peculiar, sun-tinted, forest-shadowed hue of the skin, which betray the
slightest admixture of gypsy blood. In fact, Zelma Burleigh was the
fruit of a strange _mesalliance_ between the younger brother of the
Squire, a reckless, dissipated soldier of fortune, and a beautiful
Spanish Zineala, whom he met in a foreign campaign, and whom he could
not bind to himself by any tie less honorable than marriage. She was
said to be of Rommany blood-royal, and was actually disowned by her
tribe for _her mesalliance_. She followed the camp for a few years, the
willing, though sad and fast-fading slave of her Ishmaelitish lord,
himself the slave of lawless passions, yet not wholly depraved,
--fitfully tender and tyrannic,--and when, at last, he fell in some
inglorious skirmish, she buried him with her own hands, and wept and
fasted over his shallow grave till she died. There was a child, but she
had no look of the father to charm that poor, broken heart back to life;
she was left in the camp and became a little "Daughter of the Regiment."
At last, however, she was taken to England by a faithful comrade of the
dead soldier, who sought out her uncle and left her in his care, taking
leave of the frightened, clinging little creature with a grim, unspoken
tenderness, and a strange quiver of his gray moustache.

Roger Burleigh, after having made himself sure of the legitimacy of
the child, adopted the poor, wild thing, made her the companion of his
daughter, and honestly strove to treat her, at all times, with parental
care and affection.

Here, in the hospitable circle of an English home, the orphan alien
had grown up with her kinsfolk, but not of them,--proud, reticent,
ambitious, secretly hating the monotonous duties and pursuits, the
decorous forms and prescribed pleasures of the social and domestic life
around her. Nomadic and lawless instincts stirred in her blood; vague
longings for freedom and change, though in wandering, peril, and want,
sometimes filled her soul with the spirit of revolt and unrest.

In her bluff uncle's house all were kind, and one, at least, was fond.
Her Cousin Bessie, gay and tender heart, had found the southern exposure
of her nature, and had crept up it, and clambered over it, and clasped
it, and bloomed against it, and ripened on it, till nothing cold, hard,
or defiant could be seen on that side. And Zelma seemed well content to
be the sombre background and strong support of so much bloom, sweetness,
and graceful dependence.

Nothing could be more unlike than the two cousins. Bessie was small,
her form inclining to fulness, her face childlike in dimpled smiles and
innocent blushes,--betraying no lack of intellect, but most expressive
of a quiet, almost indolent amiability. Zelma was large, but lithe,
supple, and vigorous, with a pard-like freedom and elasticity of
movement,--dark, with a subdued and changing color,--the fluttering
signal of sudden emotion, not the stationary sign of robust health. She
had hair of a glistening blackness, which she wore turned back from a
strong, compact forehead, in the somewhat severe style which imperial
beauty has rendered classic in our time. Her eyes were of the Oriental
type,--full, heavy-lidded, ambushed in thick, black lashes,--themselves
dark and unfathomable as the long night of mystery which hangs over the
history of her wild and wandering race, those unsubduable, unseducible
children of Nature,--the voluntary Pariahs of the world. Sad were those
eyes always, but with a vague, uncommunicable sadness; soft they were in
times of quiet; beautiful and terrible they could be, with live gleams
of suddenly awakened passion.

With but one affection not poisoned by a sense of obligation and
condescension, and that a sentiment in which her intellect had little
share, a gentle, protective, household love, which quickened no daring
fancy, inspired no dream of freedom or power, Zelma's mind was driven
in upon itself, and out of the seclusion and triteness of her life
fashioned a fairy world of romance and beauty. With the high-wrought,
sentimental fictions of the day for her mental aliment, she grew more
and more distinct and apart from the actual, prosaic existences around
her; the smouldering fires of genius and ambition glowed out almost
fiercely at times, through the dark dream of her eyes, startling the
dullest apprehension, as she moved amid a narrow circle of country
gentry, the fox-hunting guests of her uncle, the prim gossips of her
aunt, the gay lovers and companions of her cousin, an unrecognized
heroine, an uncrowned tragedy-queen.

The small provincial town of Arden possessed no playhouse proper, but,
after a good deal of hesitation and discussion, the venerable Hall
of St. George, the glory of all Ardenites, had been accorded to the
players, "for a few nights only."

On the night of the first performance, Squire Burleigh and his family
arrived betimes, and took their places with some bustle and ceremony.

The master of Burleigh Grange appeared in the almost forgotten glory of
his court suit,--a coat of crimson velvet, a flowered waistcoat, satin
knee-breeches, and a sword at his side. The mistress wore an equally
memorable brocade, enormous bouquets thrown upon a silvery ground, so
stiff and shiny that it seemed a texture of ice and frozen flowers. Her
hair was cushioned and powdered; she looked comely and stately, and
wore her lustres well. The pretty Bessie was attired in maidenly
white muslin, an India fabric of marvellous fineness, with a sash and
streamers of blue, and the light fleecy curls of her hair unadorned save
by a slight pendent spray of jasmines. Her cousin's dress, though in
reality less costly, was more striking, being composed of materials and
colors which admirably harmonized with the darkness and richness of her
beauty. Her lustrous black hair was arranged as usual; but a wreath,
formed of some delicate vine hung thick with drooping scarlet blossoms,
ran like flowering flame around her head. Like the sumptuous exotic of
Zenobia, it was an ornament which seemed to bloom out of the character
of the woman.

Bessie cast about her bright, innocent looks of girlish curiosity, which
yet shrank from any chance encounter with the furtive glance or cool
stare of admiration. Zelma sat motionless and impassive. Her eyes
wandered naturally, but coldly, over the audience, seeming to take no
cognizance of any face, strange or familiar; but when they were lifted
above the crowd, to the old carved ceiling of the hall, or dropped upon
the beautiful hands which lay listlessly folded in her lap, the cold,
blank look she had set against the world went out of them. Then, in
their mystic depths of brooding, introverted thought, new spheres of
life, rarer, brighter, fairer, seemed rounding into form and dawning
like stars.

Mrs. Margery Burleigh sat with her face turned from the stage, to
dissemble the secret impatience with which she awaited the uprolling of
the curtain, and slowly waved to and fro a huge, flowered fan, which
charged the air with a heavy Indian perfume.

At length, soft, mournful music arose from the orchestra, and every
heart stirred to the premonitory waver and lift of the curtain. Slowly
it rose, and discovered a mourning apartment, with a lady in mourning,
sitting in a mourning chair, and attended by a mourning maid. The play
was Congreve's tragedy of "The Mourning Bride," one of the best of a
class of sentimental and stiltified dramatic productions which the
public of our great-grandfathers meekly accepted,--quaffing the frothy
small-beer of rant and affectation, in lieu of deep draughts of Nature
and passion, the rich, red wine of human life, poured generously
forth by the dramatists of a better era. The excesses of fashion then
prevailing, hoops, high heels, powder, and patches, were not more
essentially absurd and artificial than such representations of high-life
and high-tragedy.

"The Mourning Bride" contains a few situations in which real passion can
have play, some fine points and poetic passages, and its moral tone is
at least respectable,--not great things to say of a famous tragedy,
certainly, but they give it an honorable distinction over many plays of
its time. There figure in it one or two characters which can be made
interesting, and even impressive, by uncommon power in the actor; though
they were usually given, at the period of which I write, in a manner
sufficiently tame to suit the dullest of courts,--likely to disturb
neither my lord in his napping nor my lady in her prim flirting.

Zara, the Captive Queen, is beyond comparison the strong character of
this play. There is a spice and fire even in her wickedness, which
make her terribly attractive, and give her a more powerful hold on the
sympathies than the decorous and dolorous Almeria, for all her virtuous
sorrows and perplexities. Zara's passion is of the true Oriental type,
leaping from the extremes of love and hate with the fierceness and
rapidity of lightning.

It is a character in which several great actresses have distinguished
themselves,--chief among them Siddons. On the memorable night at Arden,
however, it was but wretchedly rendered by a tall, small-voiced,
flaxen-haired young woman, who stalked about the stage in high-heeled
shoes and prodigious hoops, and declaimed the most fiery passages with
an execrable drawl. The remainder of the company were barely passable as
strolling players, with the exception of the actor who personated Osmyn.
This was a young man named Bury, of respectable parentage and education,
it was said, and considerable reputation, though his aspiring buskin had
never yet trod the London boards. He was a handsome, shapely person,
with an assured, dashing manner, and a great amount of spirit and fire,
which usually passed with his audience, and always with himself, for

His voice was powerful and resonant, his elocution effective, if not
faultless, and his physical energy inexhaustible. Understanding and
managing perfectly his own resources, he produced upon most provincial
critics the impression of extraordinary power and promise, few
perceiving that he had already come into full possession of his dramatic

Only finely-trained ears could discover in this sounding, shining metal
the lack of the sharp, musical ring of the genuine coin. Young men grew
frantic in applause of his bold action, his stormy declamation,
his startling _tours de force_; while young women wondered, wept,
languished, and swooned. It was said, that, whenever he died in Romeo,
Pierre, or Zanga, numbers of his fair slain were borne out of the
playhouse, to be revived with difficulty by the application of salts and
the severing of stay-lacings.

But his effects, though so positive, were superficial and
evanescent,--audible, visible, and, as it were, physical. There was
always wanting that fine shock of genuine passion, striking home to
kindred passions in the breasts of his auditors, and sending through
every nerve a magnetic shiver of delight,--that subtile, mysterious
element of genius, playing like quick flame along the dullest lines of
the poet and charging them with its own life and fire.

In the virtuous, but negative character of Osmyn there was little room
for effective declamation; our actor was fain to content himself with
being interesting, through the misfortunes of the Prince of Valentia,
his woful lawful love, and the besettings of an unreturned passion. In
this he succeeded so well, that the feminine portion of his audience
grew tender with Almeria, and despairing with Zara.

In the first scene with Almeria, who was a shade worse than the Zara of
the night, the young actor indulged himself in a cool, comprehensive
glance at the house, over her fair shoulders. As his keen gaze swept
round the small aristocratic circle, it encountered and seemed
to recognize the face of Zelma Burleigh, now kindling with a new
enthusiasm, which was never wholly to die out of her breast. There was
something in the watchful, absorbed gaze of her great dark eyes so
unlike the wondering or languishing looks usually bent by women upon
the rising actor, that on the instant he was struck, pierced, by those
subtile shafts of light, to the heart he had believed till then vowed
alone to the love of his art and the schemes of a sleepless ambition.

Reluctantly he withdrew his regard from a face which bespoke a character
of singular originality and force, not wanting either in womanly pride
or tenderness,--a face in which beauty itself was so subordinate to
something higher, more ineffable, that one could scarcely define feature
or color through the illuminated and changeful atmosphere of soul which
hung about it,--the shadows of great thoughts, the light mists of dreamy
and evanescent fancy.

It was toward the close of the second act, when Sir Harry Willerton, of
Willerton Hall, entered his box, accompanied by three or four dashing
companions, who, it was soon whispered about, were titled young bloods
from London.

Sir Harry Willerton was a fresh, frank-looking young gallant,--fast,
from the fiery impulses of youth and a high spirit,--not pricked on by
vanity, nor goaded by low passions,--not heartless, not _blase_,--the
only kind of a rake for whom reformation is possible or reclamation
worth the while.

Sir Harry was not fond of tragedy; and after five minutes' strained
attention to the players, he turned his eyes from the stage, and began
casting easy, good-humored glances of curiosity or recognition over
the audience. He bowed to all his neighbors with a kindly familiarity,
untainted by condescension, but most courteously, perhaps, to the party
from the Grange. He liked the bluff Squire heartily,--as who did not?
Then his eye--a laughing blue eye it was--rested and lingered, not on
the dark, dramatic face of Zelma, but on the pretty, girlish head of her

Bessie sat with her face partly averted from the baronet's gay party,
and her gaze fixed intently upon the stage. Sir Harry could only see
half the rose of one cheek, and the soft sweep of golden hair which
lightly shaded it; and feasting his fancy on that bit of fluctuating
color, entangled in the meshes of a tremulous screen of curls, he
settled himself to await the close of the act.

It was with a child's eager interest and pliant imagination that Bessie
looked and listened,--susceptible, credulous, unfastidious. To her,
the Osmyn of the night was radiant with all heroic qualities and manly
graces, the weakly simulated sorrow of Almeria brought real tears to her
eyes, and she drew her white shoulders forward with a shudder when
the wooden Zara kindled into cursing and jealous rage. Illusions most
transparent to others hoodwinked her senses; her willing fancy supplied
feeling, and even made up for deficiencies of art in the players, till
the mimic world before her became more real than reality.

Not so with Zelma. She was satisfied, even charmed, with the personation
of Osmyn; but, from the first, she could not abide either of the
heroines, who, each in her part, strove to outdo the other in mincing,
mouthing, attitudinizing, and all imaginable small sins against Nature
and Art. She saw at once, by the sure intuitions of genius, how
everything they did could be done better, and burned to do it. The part
of Almeria she soon dismissed from her thoughts, as mere milk-and-water;
but she saw that in that of Zara there was a stream of lava, though
dulled and crusted over by the coldness of the actress, which might
be made to sweep all before it. Her critical dissatisfaction with the
personation became, at last, little short of torture; there was an
involuntary lowering of her dark brows, a scornful quiver of her
spirited nostril, she bit her lip with angry impatience, and shrugged
her shoulders with irrepressible contempt.

In the great scene where Zara surprises Almeria in the cell of Osmyn,
it was astonishing how the flaxen-haired representative of the Captive
Queen managed to turn her fiery rain of curses into a little pattering
shower of womanish reproaches. It was really a masterly performance, in
its way.

At this point Zelma threw herself back in utter weariness and disgust,
exclaiming, audibly,--"Miserable!--most miserable." When, looking round,
she saw the traces of her cousin's innocent emotion, the flush and
tearfulness which bespoke her uncritical sympathy with passions so
unskilfully represented, she could not suppress a smile at such childish
simplicity. And yet this was also her first play.

The tragedy was succeeded by a farce, at which Bessie laughed as
heartily as she had wept a little while before, but which was utterly
distasteful to Zelma; and at an alarmingly late hour, for that quiet
community, the green curtain came heavily plunging down on the final
scene of all, and the audience dispersed to their homes.

On the day following, Sir Harry Willerton's guests returned to town,
but, to their surprise, unaccompanied by their host, who seemed to have
suddenly discovered that his presence was needed on his estate. So he
remained. Soon it was remarked that a singular intimacy had sprung
up between him and Squire Burleigh, with whom, at length, the larger
portion of his time was passed, either in following the hounds or dining
at the Grange. There were rumors and surmises that the attractions which
drew the young baronet to his bluff neighbor's hospitable hall were not
the Squire's hearty cheer, old wine, and older stories, but a pair of
shy, yet tender eyes,--red lips, that smiled a wordless welcome, and
sometimes pouted at a late coming,--cheeks whose blushes daily grew
warmer in love's ripening glow,--a voice whose tones daily grew deeper,
and seemed freighted with more delicious meanings.

There was little discussion as to which of the young ladies of the
Grange was the enchantress and the elect Lady Willerton.

"Surely," said the gossips, "it cannot be that gypsy niece of the
Squire, that odd, black-browed girl, who scours over the country in all
weathers, on that elfish black pony, with her hair flying,--for all the
world as though in search of her wild relations. No, the blood of the
Willertons would never run so low as that;--it must be sweet Miss
Bessie, and she is a match for a lord."

For once the gossips were right. But it is with the poor "Rommany girl,"
not with the heiress of Burleigh Grange, that we have to do.

On the morning succeeding the play, Zelma Burleigh, taking in her hand
an odd volume of Shakspeare, one of the few specimens of dramatic
literature which her uncle's scant library afforded, strolled down a
lonely lane, running back from the house, toward the high pasture-lands,
on which grazed and basked the wealthy Squire's goodly flocks and
herds. This was her favorite walk, as it was the most quiet, shaded,
out-of-the-way by-path on the estate. She now directed her steps to a
little rustic seat, almost hidden from view by the pendent branches
of an old willow-tree, and close under a hawthorn-hedge, now in full,
fragrant bloom. Here she seated herself, or rather flung herself down,
half languidly, half petulantly, an expression of _ennui_ and unrest
darkening her face,--the dusky traces of a sleepless night hanging
heavily about her eyes. She opened her book at the play of "Romeo and
Juliet," and began to read, not silently, nor yet aloud, but in a low,
dreamy tone, in which the sounds of Nature about her, the gurgle of a
brook behind the hedge, the sighing of the winds among the pendulous
branches of the willow, the silver shiver of the lance-like leaves, the
murmurous coming and going of bees, the loving duets of nest-building
birds, all seemed to mingle and merge. As she read, a new light seemed
to illumine the page, caught from her recent experience of dramatic
personation and scenic effects, limited and unsatisfactory though that
experience had been. In fancy, she floated over the stage, as the gay
young Juliet at the masquerade; then she caught sight of young Romeo,
and, lo! his face was that of the sentimental hero of the last night's
tragedy, but ennobled by the glow and dignity of genuine passion. In
fancy, she sat on the balcony, communing with night and the stars,--the
newly-risen star of love silvering all life for her. Then, leaning her
cheek upon her hand, she poured forth Juliet's impassioned apostrophe.
When she came to the passage,--

"O Romeo, Romeo!--wherefore art thou Romeo?"

she was startled by a rustling of the leaves behind her. She paused and
looked round fearfully. A blackbird darted out of the hedge and away
over the fields. Zelma smiled at her own alarm, and read on, till she
reached the tender adjuration,--

"Romeo, doff thy name;
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself!"

when,--suddenly, a fragrant shower of hawthorn-blossoms fell upon the
page before her, and the next instant there lightly vaulted over the
hedge at her side the hero of her secret thoughts, the young player,
Lawrence Bury! He stood before her, flushed and smiling, with his head
uncovered, and in an attitude of respectful homage; yet, with a look and
tone of tender, unmistakable meaning, took up the words of the play,--

"I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I'll be new-baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo."

Poor Zelma did not have the presence of mind to greet this sudden
apparition of a lover in the apt words of her part,--

"What man art thou, that, thus bescreened in night,
So stumblest on my counsel?"

She had no words at all for the intruder, but, frightened and
bewildered, sprang from her seat and turned her face toward home, with a
startled bird's first impulse to flight. As she rose, her book slid from
her lap and fell among the daisies at her feet. The actor caught it up
and presented it to her, with the grace of a courtly knight restoring
the dropped glove of a princess, but, as he did so, exclaimed, in a
half-playful tone, looking at the volume rather than the lady,--

"I thank thee, O my master, for affording me so fair an excuse for mine

Then, assuming a more earnest manner, he proceeded to make excuses and
entreat pardon for the suddenness, informality, and presumption of his
appearance before her:--

"You know, Madam," he said,--"if, indeed, you are so unfortunate as
to know anything about us,--that we players are an impulsive,
unconventional class of beings, lawless and irresponsible, the Gypsies
of Art."

Here Zelma flushed and drew herself up, while a suspicious glance shot
from her eyes;--but the stranger seemed not to understand or perceive
it, for he went on quite innocently, and with increasing earnestness of
tone and manner:--

"I know I have been presuming, impertinent, audacious, in thus intruding
myself upon you, and acknowledge that you would be but severely just in
banishing me instantly from your bright presence, and in withdrawing
from me forever the light of your adorable eyes. Oh, those eyes!" he
continued, clasping his hands in an ecstasy of lover-like enthusiasm,
--"those wild, sweet orbs!--bewildering lights of love, dear as life,
but cruel as death!--can they not quicken, even as they slay? Oh, gentle
lady, be like her of Verona!--be gracious, be kind, or, at least, be
merciful, and do not banish me!--

'For exile hath more terror in his look,
Much more, than death; do not say banishment!'"

He paused, but did not remove his passionate looks from the young girl's
face,--looks which, though cast down, for he was much the taller of the
two, had the effect of most lowly and deprecating entreaty;--and then
there happened an event,--a very slight, common, natural event,--the
result more of girlish embarrassment than of any conscious emotion or
purpose, yet of incalculable importance at that moment, and, perhaps,
decisive of the fate of two human hearts,--Zelma smiled. It was a
quick, involuntary smile, which seemed to _escape_ from the firm lips
and half-averted eyes, flashed over the face, touched the cold features
with strange radiance, and then was gone,--and, in its place, the old
shadow of reserve and distrust, for the moment, darker than ever.

But to the adventurous lover that brief light had revealed his doubtful
way clear before him. He saw, with a thrill of exultation, that
henceforth he had really nothing to fear from such womanly defences as
he had counted on,--coldness, prejudice, disdain,--that all he had taken
for these were but unsubstantial shadows. Still he showed no premature
triumph in word or lock, but remained silent and humble, waiting the
reply to his passionate appeal, as though life or death, in very truth,
were depending upon it. And Zelma spoke at last,--briefly and coldly,
but in a manner neither suspicious nor unfriendly. She herself, she
said, was unconventional, in her instincts, at least,--so could afford
to pardon somewhat of lawlessness in another,--especially, she added,
with a shy smile, in one whom Melpomene, rather than Cupid, had made
mad. Still she was not a Juliet, though he, for all she knew, might be
a Romeo; and only in lands verging on the tropics, or in the soul of a
poet, could a passion like that of the gentle Veronese spring up, bud,
and blossom, in a single night. As for her, the fogs of England, the
heavy chill of its social atmosphere, had obstructed the ripening
sunshine of romance and repressed the flowering of the heart--

"And kept your beautiful nature all the more pure and fresh!" exclaimed
Mr. Lawrence Bury, with real or well-assumed enthusiasm; but Zelma,
replying to his interruption only by a slight blush, went on to say,
that she had been taught that poetry, art, and romances were all idle
pastimes and perilous lures, unbecoming and unwholesome to a young
English gentlewoman, whose manifest destiny it was to tread the dull,
beaten track of domestic duty, with spirit chastened and conformed.
She had had, she would acknowledge, some aspirations and rebellious
repinings, some wild day-dreams of life of another sort; but it was best
that she should put these down,--yes, doubtless, best that she should
fall into her place in the ranks of duty and staid respectability,
and be a mere gentlewoman, like the rest.--Here a slight shrug of the
shoulders and curl of the lip contradicted her words,--yet, with a tone
of rigid determination, she added, that it was also best she should
cherish no tastes and form no associations which might distract her
imagination and further turn her heart from this virtuous resolution;
and therefore must she say farewell, firmly and finally, to the, she
doubted not, most worthy gentleman who had done her the honor to
entertain for her sentiments of such high consideration and romantic
devotion. She would not deny that his intrusion on her privacy had, at
first, startled and displeased her,--but she already accepted it as an
eccentricity of dramatic genius, a thoughtless offence, and, being, as
she trusted, at once the first and the last, pardonable. She wished him
happiness, fame, fortune,--and a very good morning! Then, with a wave
of the hand which would have done honor to Oldfield herself, she turned
and walked proudly up the lane.

Mr. Bury saw her depart silently, standing in a submissive, dejected
attitude, but with a quiet, supercilious smile lightly curling his
finely-cut lips; for did he not know that she would return to her haunt
the next day, and that he would be there to see?

And Zelma did return the next day,--persuading herself that she was
only acting naturally, and with proper dignity and independence. She
argued with herself that to abandon her favorite walk or avoid her usual
resting-place would be to confess, if not a fear of the stranger's
presuming and persistent suit, at least, a disturbing consciousness of
his proximity, and of the possibility of his braving her displeasure
by a second and unpardonable intrusion. No, she would live as she had
lived, freely, carelessly; she would go and come, ride and walk, just as
though nothing had happened,--for, indeed, nothing _had_ happened that
a woman of sense and pride should take cognizance of. So, after a
half-hour's strange hesitation, she took her book and went to the old
place. Longer than usual she sat there, idly and abstractedly turning
over the leaves of her Shakspeare, starting and flushing with every
chance sound that broke on the still, sweet air; yet no presumptuous
intruder disturbed her maiden meditations, and she rose wearily at last,
and walked slowly homeward, saying to herself, "It is well. I have
conquered," but feeling that nothing was well in life, or her own heart,
and that she was miserably defeated. Ah, little did she suspect that her
clouded, dissatisfied face had been keenly scanned by the very eyes she
dreaded, yet secretly longed to meet,--that her most unconscious sigh
of disappointment had been heard by her Romeo of the previous day, now
lying just behind the hedge, buried in the long brook-side grass, and
laughing to himself a very pleasant laugh of gratulation and triumph.

That night, the good Squire of Burleigh Grange relented from his
virtuous resolve, and took his wife, daughter, and niece to the play.

The piece was Howe's tragedy of "Tamerlane." Mr. Bury personated the
imperial Tartar, a noble _role_, which so well became him, costumes
and all, and brought him so much applause, that Zelma's heart was
effectually softened, and she even felt a regretful pride in having
received and rejected the homage of a man of such parts.

The next day, as the hour for her stroll arrived, she said to herself,
"I can surely take my walks in safety now,--_he_ will never come near me
more." So she went,--but, to her unspeakable confusion, she found
him, quietly seated in her little rustic bower, his head bared to
the sunshine, and his "Hyperion curls" tossed and tumbled about by
a frolicsome wind. He rose when the lady appeared, stammered out an
apology, bowed respectfully, and would have retired, but that Zelma,
feeling that she was the intruder this time, begged him to remain. She
thought herself, simple child! merely courteous and duly hospitable, in
giving this invitation; but the quick, eager ear of the actor and lover
heard, quivering through the assumed indifference and cold politeness
of her tones, the genuine impulse and ardent wish of her heart. So
he yielded and lingered, proffering apologies and exchanging polite

After a little time, Zelma, to prove her freedom from embarrassment or
suspicion, quietly seated herself on the rustic bench, giving, as she
did so, a regal spread to her ample skirts, that there might be no
vacant place beside her. The actor stood for a while before her, just
going, but never gone, talking gayly, but respectfully, on indifferent
topics,--till, at last, touching on some theme of deeper interest, and
apparently forgetting everything but it and the fair lady, who neither
expressed nor looked a desire to shorten the interview, he flung
himself, with what seemed a boy's natural impulse, upon the soft,
inviting turf, under the shade of the willow. There, reclining in the
attitude of Hamlet at the feet of Ophelia, he rambled on from subject
to subject, in a careless, graceful way, plucking up grass and picking
daisies to pieces, as he talked, giving every now and then, from beneath
the languid sweep of his heavy eyelashes, quick flashes of tender
meaning, as fitful and beautiful as the "heat-lightnings" of summer
twilights, and _apparently_ as harmless.

There was something so magnetic and contagious in this frank,
confiding manner, that Zelma, ere she was aware, grew unrestrained and
communicative in turn. One by one, the icicles of pride and reserve,
which a strange and ungenial atmosphere had hung around her affluent and
spontaneous nature, melted in the unwanted sunshine, dropped away from
her, and the quick bloom of a Southern heart revealed itself in
smiles and blushes. The divine poet whose volume she now held clasped
caressingly in both hands had prepared the way for this, by sending
through every vein and fibre of her being the sweet, subtile essence of
passionate thought,--the spring-tide of youth and love, which makes the
story of Romeo and Juliet glow and throb with immortal freshness and

So, at length, those two talked freely and pleasantly together. They
discussed the quiet rural scenery around them, the deep green valley of
Arden, shut in by an almost unbroken circle of hills, and Zelma told of
a peculiar silvery mist which sometimes floated over it, like the ghost
of the lake which, it was said, once filled it; they spoke of wood,
stream, moor, and waterfall, sunsets and moonlight and stars, poetry
and--love; floating slowly, and almost unconsciously, down the smooth
current of summer talk and youthful fancies, toward the ocean of all
their thoughts, whose mysterious murmurs already filled one heart at
least with a tender awe and a vague longing, which was yet half fear.

The next day, and the next, and every day while the players remained at
Arden, the two friends met by tacit agreement in the lane of Burleigh
Grange, and, gradually, Lawrence Bury became less the actor and more
the man, in the presence of a genuine woman, without affectation or
artifice, stage-rant or art-cant,--one from whose face the glare of the
foot-lights had not stricken the natural bloom, whose heart had never
burned with the feverish excitement of the stage, its insatiable
ambition, its animosities and exceeding fierce jealousies. For Zelma,
she grew more humble and simple and less exacting, the more she bestowed
from a "bounty boundless as the sea."

It was but a brief while, scarcely the lifetime of a rose,--the fragrant
snow of the hawthorn blossoms had not melted from the hedges since they
met,--and yet, in that little season, the deepest, divinest mystery of
human life had grown clear and familiar to their hearts, and was conned
as the simplest lesson of Nature.

To Zelma the romance and secrecy of this love had an inexpressible
charm. The Zincala in her nature revelled in its wildness and adventure,
in its crime against the respectable conventionalities she despised. She
had a keen pleasure in the very management and concealment to which she
was compelled;--her imagination, even more than her heart, was engaged
in hiding and guarding this charming mystery.

On the day succeeding her first interview with the young actor in the
lane, she had tried to beguile her _ennui_, while lingering in her
lonely bower, by curiously peering into the nest of a blackbird, deeply
hidden in the long grass at the foot of the hedge, and which she had
before discovered by the prophetic murmurs of the mother-bird. She found
five eggs in the nest. She took the little blue wonders in her hand,
and thought what lives of sinless joy, what raptures and loves, what
exultations of song and soaring slept in those tiny shells! Suddenly,
there was an alarmed cry and an anxious flutter of wings in the hedge
above her! She turned, and saw the mother-bird eyeing her askance. From
that day the lowly nest with its profaned treasures was forsaken, and
the world was the poorer in gladness and melody by five bird-lives of
joy and song that might have been.

So, had any luckless intruder chanced to discover Zelma's
trysting-place, thrown open to the world the hidden romance in which
she took such shy and secret delight, and handled in idle gossip the
delicate joys and fragile hopes of young love, it is more than likely
that she would have been frightened away from bower and lane, shocked
and disenchanted. But the preoccupation of her cousin and her own
eccentric and solitary habits prevented suspicion and inquiry,--no
unfriendly spy, no rude, untoward event, disturbed the quiet and
seclusion of this charmed scene of her wooing, where Nature, Romance,
and Poetry were in league with Love.

The players played out their engagement at Arden, with the usual
supplement, "A few nights only by special request," and were off to a
neighboring town. On their last night, after the play, Zelma met her
lover by moonlight, at the trysting-place in the lane, for a parting

It was there that the actor, doffing the jaunty hat which usually
crowned his "comely head," and, flinging himself on his knees before
his fair mistress, entreated her to rule his wayward heart, share his
precarious fortunes, and bear his humble name.

Poor Zelma, when in imagination she had rehearsed her betrothal scene,
had made her part something like this:--"And then will I extend my hand
with stately grace, and say to my kneeling knight, 'Arise!'--and after,
in such brief, gracious words as queens may use, (for is not every woman
beloved a queen?) pronounce his happy doom."

But when that scene in her life-drama came on, it was the woman, not the
tragedy-queen, that acted. Naturally and tenderly, like any simple girl,
she bent over her lover, laid her hand upon his head, and caressingly
smoothed back from his brow the straggling curls, damp with night-dew.
As she did so, every lock seemed to thrill to her touch, and to wake in
her soft, timorous fingers a thousand exquisite nerves that had never
stirred before. And then, with broken words and tears, and probing
questions and solemn adjurations, she plighted her vows, and sought to
bind to her heart forever a faith to which she trusted herself, alas!
too tremblingly.

The melodramatic lover was not content with a simple promise, though
wrung from the heart with sobs. "_Swear_ it to me!" he said, in a hoarse
stage-whisper; and Zelma, again laying her hand upon his head, and
looking starward, swore to be his, to command, to call, to hold,--in
life, in death, here, hereafter, evermore.

[To be continued.]

* * * * *



Somewhat more than three-quarters of a century ago, George Steevens, the
acutest, and, perhaps, the most accomplished, but certainly the most
perverse and unreliable of Shakespeare's commentators and critics, wrote
thus of Shakespeare's life: "All that is known, with any degree
of certainty, concerning Shakespeare, is, that he was born at
Stratford-upon-Avon; married and had children there; went to London,
where he commenced actor,[A] and wrote poems and plays; returned to
Stratford, made his will, died, and was buried." From 1780, when this
was written, to the present day, the search after well-authenticated
particulars of Shakespeare's life has been kept up with a faithfulness
equal to that of Sir Palomides after the beast glatisaunt, and by as
many devotees and with as much hope of glory as in the quest for the
Sangreal. But the fortune of the paynim, rather than the virgin knight,
has fallen to all the members of the self-devoted band, and we
know little more of the man Shakespeare than was known by our
great-grandfathers. For, although there have been issued to us of the
present generation pamphlets professing to give new particulars of the
life of Shakespeare, and tomes with even more pretentious titles, from
all these there has been small satisfaction, save to those who can
persuade themselves, that, by knowing what Shakespeare might have done,
they know what he did, or that the reflex of his daily life is to
be found in documents inscribed on parchment, and beginning, "This
indenture made," etc., or "_Noverint universi per presentes_." It is
with no disrespect for the enthusiasm of Mr. Knight, and as little
disposition to underrate the laborious researches of Mr. Collier and Mr.
Halliwell, that we thus reiterate the assertion of the world's ignorance
of Shakespeare's life: nay, it is with a mingled thankfulness and
sorrowful sympathy that we contemplate them wasting the light of the
blessed sun (when it shines in England) and wearing out good eyes (or
better barnacles) in poring over sentences as musty as the parchments
on which they are written and as dry as the dust that covers them.
But although we gladly concede that these labors have resulted in the
diffusion of a knowledge of the times and the circumstances in
which Shakespeare lived, and in the unearthing of much interesting
illustration of his works from the mould of antiquity, we cannot accept
the documents which have been so plentifully produced and so pitilessly
printed,--the extracts from parish-registers and old account-books,--not
Shakespeare's,--the inventories, the last wills and testaments, the
leases, the deeds, the bonds, the declarations, pleas, replications,
rejoinders, surrejoinders, rebutters, and surrebutters,--as having aught
to do with the life of such a man as William Shakespeare. We hunger,
and we receive these husks; we open our months for bread, and break our
teeth against these stones. As to the law-pleadings, what have their
discords, in linked harshness long drawn out, to do with the life of
him whom his friends delighted to call Sweet Will? We wish that they at
least had been allowed to rest. Those who were parties to them have been
more than two centuries in their graves,--

"Secure from worldly chances and mishaps.
_There_ lurks no treason, _there_ no envy swells,
_There_ grow no damned grudges; _there_ no storms,
No noise, but silence and eternal sleep."

Why awaken the slumbering echoes of their living strife?

[Footnote A: _Commenced actor, commenced author, commenced tinker,
commenced tailor, commenced candlestick-maker:_--Elegant phraseology,
though we venture to think, hardly idiomatic or logical, which came into
vogue in England in the early part of the last century, and which,'
as it is never uttered here by cultivated people, it may be proper to
remark, is there used by the best writers. Akin to it is another mode of
expression as commonly met with in English books and periodicals, e.g.,
"immediately he arrived at London he went upon the stage," meaning, as
soon us he arrived, etc., or, when he arrived at London, he immediately
went upon the stage. As far as our observation extends, Lord Macaulay,
alone of all Great-Britons, has neglected to add the latter lucid
construction to the graces of his style.]

Yet these very law-papers, in the reduplicated folds of which dead
quarrels lie embalmed in hideous and grotesque semblance of their living
shapes, their lifeblood dried that lent them all their little dignity,
their action and their glow, and exhaling only a faint, sickening
odor of the venom that has kept them from crumbling into
forgetfulness,--these law-papers are now held by some to have special
interest Shakespeare-ward, as having to do with a profession for which
he made preparatory studies, even if he did not enter upon its practice.
Yes, in spite of our alleged ignorance of Shakespeare's life, and
especially of the utter darkness which has been thought to rest upon the
years which intervened between his marriage in Stratford and his joining
the Lord Chamberlain's company of players in London, the question is,
now, whether the next historical novel may not begin in this wise:--



At the close of a lovely summer's day, two horsemen might have been seen
slowly pacing through the main street of Stratford-on-Avon. Attracting
no little attention from the group of loiterers around the market-cross,
they passed the White-Lion Inn, and, turning into Henley Street, soon
drew their bridles before a goodly cottage built of heavy timbers and
standing with one of its peaked gables to the street. On the door was a
shingle upon which was painted,

Willm. Shakspere,

Attornei at Lawe and Solicitor
in Chancere.

One of the travellers--a grave man, whose head was sprinkled with the
snows of fifty winters--dismounted, and, approaching the door, knocked
at it with the steel hilt of his sword. He received no answer; but
presently the lattice opened above his head, and a sharp voice sharply

"Who knocks?"

"'Tis I, good wife!" replied the horseman. "Where is thy husband? I
would see him!"

"Oh, Master John a Combe, is it you? I knew you not. Neither know I
where that unthrift William is these two days. It was but three nights
gone that he went with Will Squele and Dick Burbage, one of the player
folk, to take a deer out of Sir Thomas Lucy's park, and, as Will's
ill-luck would have it, they were taken, as well as the deer, and there
was great ado. But Will--that's my Will--and Dick Burbage, brake from
the keepers in Sir Thomas' very hall, and got off; and that's the last
that has been heard of them; and here be I left a lone woman with these
three children, and----Be quiet, Hamnet! Would ye pour my supper ale
upon the hat of the worshipful Master John a Combe?"

"What! deer-stealing?" exclaimed John a Combe. "Is it thus that he apes
the follies of his betters? I had more hope of the lad, for he hath a
good heart and a quick engine; and I trusted that ere now he had
drawn the lease of my Wilmecote farm to Master Tilney here. But
deer-stealing!--like a lord's son, or a knight's at the least. Could not
the rifling of a rabbit-warren serve his turn? Deer-stealing! I fear me
he will come to nought!"

The speaker remounted, and soon the two horsemen might again have been
seen wending their way back through the deepening twilight.

* * * * *

There are several points that would be novel in such a passage. Among
others, we would modestly indicate the incident of the two horsemen
as evincing some ingenuity, and as likely to charm the reader by its
freshness and originality. But one point, we must confess, is not
new, and that is the representation of Shakespeare as a lawyer. The
supposition, that the author of "Macbeth," "Hamlet," and "King Lear,"
was a bustling young attorney, is of respectable age, and has years
enough upon its heard, if not discretion. It has been brought forward
afresh by two members of the profession for which is claimed the honor
of having Shakespeare's name upon its roll,--William L. Rushton,
Esquire, a London Barrister, and John Campbell, Lord Chief Justice of
the Queen's Bench.[B] Lord Campbell, indeed, addressing himself to
Mr. John Payne Collier, says, (p. 21,) that this is a notion "first
suggested by Chalmers, and since countenanced by Malone, yourself, and
others." An assertion this which savors little of legal accuracy. For
Chalmers, so far from being the first to suggest that Shakespeare passed
his adolescent years in an attorney's office, was the first to sneer at
Malone for bringing forward that conjecture.[C] Malone, in his first
edition of Shakespeare's works, published in 1790, has this passage, in
the course of a discussion of the period when "Hamlet" was produced:--

"The comprehensive mind of our poet embraced almost every object of
Nature, every trade, every art, the manners of every description of men,
and the general language of almost every profession: but his knowledge
of legal terms is not such as might be acquired by the casual
observation of even his all-comprehending mind; it has the appearance of
_technical_ skill; and he is so fond of displaying it, on all occasions,
that I suspect he was early initiated in at least the forms of law, and
was employed, while he remained at Stratford, in the office of some
country attorney, who was at the same time a petty conveyancer, and
perhaps, also, the seneschal of some manor court."--Vol. I. Part I. p.

[Footnote B: _Shakespeare a Lawyer_. By William L. Rushton. 16mo. pp.
50. London: 1858.

_Shakespeare's Legal Acquirements Considered_. By John Lord Campbell,
LL.D., F.R.S.E. 12mo. pp. 117. London: 1859.]

[Footnote C: Into the trap so innocently set the London _Athenaeum_ thus
plunges headlong:--"Chalmers, we believe, first put Shakespeare in an
attorney's office. Malone _accepted the hint_."]

To this, Chalmers, some years after, (1797,) in his "Apology for the
Believers in the Shakespeare Papers which were exhibited in Norfolk
Street," (some contemptible forgeries, by a young scapegrace named
William Ireland, which should not have deceived an English scholar of
six months' standing,) made the following reply:--

"Mr. Malone places the aspiring poet 'in the office of some country
attorney, or the seneschal of some manor court'; and for this violation
of probability he produces many passages from his dramas to evince
Shakespeare's _technical skill_ in the _forms of law_. ...But was it not
the practice of the times, for other makers, like the bees tolling from
every flower the virtuous _sweets_, to gather from the thistles of the
law _the sweetest_ honey? Does not Spenser gather many a metaphor from
these weeds, that are most apt to grow in _fattest_ soil? Has not
Spenser his law-terms: his _capias, defeasance_, and _duresse_; his
_emparlance_; his _enure, essoyn_, and _escheat_; his _folkmote,
forestall_ and _gage_; his _livery_ and _seasin, wage_ and _waif_? It
will be said, however, that, whatever the learning of Spenser may have
gleaned, the law-books of that age were impervious to the illiterature
of Shakespeare. No: such an intellect, when employed on the drudgery of
a wool-stapler, who had been high-bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon, might
have derived all that was necessary from a very few books; from Totell's
'Presidents,' 1572; from Pulton's 'Statutes,' 1578; and from the
'Lawier's Logike,' 1588. It is one of the axioms of the 'Flores Regii,'
that, To answer an improbable imagination is to fight against a
vanishing shadow."--p. 553.

And again, in his "Supplemental Apology," etc., 1799, Chalmers

"The biographers, without adequate proofs, have bound Shakespeare an
apprentice to some country attorney; as Mr. Malone has sent him without
sufficient warrant to the desk of some seneschal of a county court: but
these are obscurities that require other lights than conjecture and
assertion, which, by proving nothing, only establish disbelief."--p.

So much for Chalmers's having "first suggested" the theory, of which
Lord Campbell has undertaken the support. Surely his Lordship must have
been verifying Rosalind's assertion, that lawyers sleep between term and
term, or else he is guilty of having loosely made a direct assertion in
regard to a subject upon which he had not taken the trouble to inform
himself; although he professes (p. 10) to have "read nearly all that has
been written on Shakespeare's _ante-Londinensian_ life, and carefully
examined his writings with a view to obtain internal evidence as to his
education and breeding."

One exhibition of his Lordship's inaccuracy is surprising. Commenting
upon Falstaff's threat, "Woe to my Lord Chief Justice!" (2d _Henry_ IV.,
Act V., Sc. 4,) he remarks, (p. 73,) "Sir W. Gascoigne was _continued_
as Lord Chief Justice _in the new reign_; but, according to law and
custom, he was removable, and he no doubt expected to be removed, from
his office." Lord Campbell has yet to rival the fifth wife of the
missionary who wrote the lives of "her predecessors"; but surely _he_
should have known that the expectations which he attributes to Sir
William Gascoigne were not disappointed, and that (although the contrary
is generally believed) the object of Falstaff's menace was superseded
(by Sir William Hankford) March 29th, 1413, just eight days after the
prince whom he committed to prison came to the throne,--a removal the
promptness of which would satisfy the strictest disciplinarian in the
Democratic party. The Records show this; but his Lordship need not have
gone to them; he would have found it mentioned, and the authority cited,
by Tyler in his "Memoirs of Henry the Fifth."

And while we are considering the disparity between his Lordship's
performances and his pretensions, we may as well examine his fitness to
bring about a "fusion of Law and Literature," which he says, with some
reason, have, like Law and Equity, been too long kept apart in England.
We fear, that, whatever may be the excellence of his Lordship's
intentions, he must set himself seriously to the task of acquiring more
skill in the use of the English tongue, and a nicer discrimination
between processes of thought, before his writings will prove to be the
flux that promotes that fusion.

For, in the third paragraph of his letter, he says to Mr. Collier, "I
cannot refuse to communicate to you my _sentiments_ upon the subject,"
and in the following sentence adds, that this communication of his
"_sentiments_" will drive from his mind "the _recollection_ of the
wranglings of Westminster Hall." His Lordship probably meant to refer to
the communication of his _opinions_, for which word "sentiments" is
not usually substituted, except by gentlemen who remark with emphasis,
"Them's my sentiments"; and he also probably intended to allude to
the _memory_ of the wranglings of which he is professionally a
witness,--having forgotten, for a moment, that recollection is a purely
voluntary act, and not either a condition or a faculty of the mind.

Again, when his Lordship says, (p. 18,) "That during this interval (A.D.
1579 to 1586) he [Shakespeare] was merely an operative, earning his
bread by manual labor, in stitching gloves, sorting wool, or killing
calves, no sensible man can possibly _imagine_" we applaud the decision;
but can hardly do as much for the language in which it is expressed.
Lord Campbell quite surely meant to say that no man could possibly
_believe_, or _suppose_, or _assent to_ the proposition which he sets
forth; and when (on p. 26) he again says, "I do not _imagine_ that when
he [Shakespeare] went up to London, he carried a tragedy in his pocket,"
there can be no doubt that his Lordship meant to say, "I do not _think_
that when," etc. He should again have gathered from his Shakespearean
studies a lesson in the exact use of language, and have learned from the
lips of "that duke hight Theseus" that imagination has nothing to do
with assent to or dissent from a proposition, but that

"The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
* * * * *
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name."

_A Midsummer Night's Dream_, Act V. Sc. 1.

We would not protract this finding of faults, and will only add, that,
when his Lordship says, (p. 116,) that Henry V. "astonished the world
with his universal _wisdom_" he entirely overlooks the fact, that wisdom
is a faculty of the mind, or, rather, a mode of intellectual action,
of which universality can no more be predicated than of folly, or of
honesty, or of muscular strength; and that it is not knowledge, or
at all like knowledge; which, indeed, is often acquired in a very
remarkable degree by persons eminent for unwisdom. Lord Campbell might
as well have said that Henry V. astonished the world with his universal
prowess in the battle-field.

The censure to which Mr. Rushton's pamphlet is occasionally open in
regard to style may properly be averted by the modesty of its tone and
its unpretending character.

But to pass from the manner to the matter of the learned gentlemen who
appear on behalf of Malone's theory. Lord Campbell, after stating, in
the introductory part of his letter, that in "The Two Gentlemen of
Verona," "Twelfth Night," "Julius Caesar," "Cymbeline," "Timon of
Athens," "The Tempest," "King Richard II.," "King Henry V.," "King Henry
VI., Part I.," "King Henry VI., Part III.," "King Richard III.," "King
Henry VIII.," "Pericles," and "Titus Andronicus,"--fourteen of the
thirty-seven dramas generally attributed to Shakespeare,--he finds
"nothing that fairly bears upon this controversy," goes on to produce
from the remaining plays, _seriatim_, such passages as in his judgment
do bear upon the question, and to remark upon them, thus isolated and
disconnected from each other. Mr. Rushton is more methodic and logical.
He does not merely quote or cite all the passages which he has noticed
in which legal terms occur, but brings together all such as contain the
same terms or refer to kindred proceedings or instruments; and he thus
presents his case with much more compactness and consequent strength
than results from Lord Campbell's loose and unmethodical mode of
treating the subject. We can arrive, at the merits of the case on either
presentation only by an examination of some of the more important of the
passages cited.

Lord Campbell, as we have just seen, mentions "Henry VIII." as one of
the fourteen plays in which he has found nothing which relates to the
question in hand; but Mr. Rushton opens his batteries with the following
passage from the very play just named; and to most readers it will seem
a bomb of the largest dimensions, sent right into the citadel of his

"_Suff_. Lord Cardinal, the king's further pleasure is,--
Because all those things you have done of late
By your power legatine within this kingdom
Fall into compass of a _premunire_,--
That therefore such a writ be sued against you,
To forfeit, all your goods, lands, tenements,
Chattels, and whatsoever, and to be
Out of the king's protection:--this is my

_King Henry VIII_. Act iii. Sc. 2.

We shall first remark, that, in spite of his declaration as to "Henry
VIII.," Lord Campbell does cite and quote this very passage (p. 42);
and, indeed, he must have been as unappreciative as he seems to have
been inaccurate, had he failed to do so; for, upon its face, it is, with
one or two exceptions, the most important passage of the kind to be
found in Shakespeare's works. _Premunire_ is thus defined in an old
law-book which was accessible to Shakespeare:--

"Premunire is a writ, and it lieth where any man sueth any other in the
spirituall court for anything that is determinable in the King's
Court, and that is ordeined by certaine statutes, and great punishment
therefore ordeined, as it appeareth by the same statutes, viz., that
he shall be out of the King's protection, and that he be put in prison
without baile or mainprise till that he have made fine at the King's
will, and that his landes and goods shal be forfait, if he come not
within ij. moneths."--_Termes de la Ley_, 1595, fol. 144.

The object of the writ was to prevent the abuse of spiritual power. Now,
here is a law-term quite out of the common, which is used by Shakespeare
with a well-deployed knowledge of the power of the writ of which it is
the name. Must we, therefore, suppose that Shakespeare had obtained his
knowledge of the purpose and the power of this writ in the course
of professional reading or practice? If we looked no farther than
Shakespeare's page, such a supposition might seem to be warranted.
But if we turn to Michael Drayton's "Legend of Great Cromwell," first
published, we believe, in 1607, but certainly some years before "Henry
VIII." was written, and the subject of which figures in that play, we
find these lines,--

"This Me to urge the _Premunire_ wonne,
Ordain'd in matters dangerous and hie;
In t' which the heedlesse Prelacie were runne
That back into the Papacie did fie."

Ed. 1619, p. 382.

Here is the very phrase in question, used with a knowledge of its
meaning and of the functions of the writ hardly less remarkable than
that evinced in the passage from "Henry VIII.," though expressed in
a different manner, owing chiefly to the fact that Drayton wrote a
didactic poem and Shakespeare a drama. But Drayton is not known to have
been an attorney's clerk, nor has he been suspected, from his writings,
or any other cause, to have had any knowledge of the law. Both he and
Shakespeare, however, read the Chronicles. Reading men perused Hall's
and Holinshed's huge black-letter folios in Queen Elizabeth's time with
as much interest as they do Macaulay's or Prescott's elegant octavos in
the reign of her successor, Victoria. Shakespeare drew again and again
upon the former for the material of his historical plays; and in writing
"Henry VIII.," he adopted often the very language of the Chronicler. The
well-known description of Wolsey, which he puts into the mouth of Queen

"He was a man
Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking
Himself with princes; one that by suggestion
Tith'd all the kingdom: Simony was fair play:
His own opinion was his law: I' the presence
He would say untruths; and be ever double,
Both in his words and meaning; He was never,
But where he meant to ruin, pitiful:
His promises were, as he then was, mighty;
But his performance, as he is now, nothing:
Of his own body he was ill, and gave
The clergy ill example,"--

is little more than the following paragraph from Holinshed put into

"This cardinal! (its you may perceive in this storie) was of a great
stomach, for he compted himselfe equall with princes, and by craftie
suggestion gat into his hands innumerable treasure: he forced little
on simonie, [i.e., regarded it as of little consequence,] and was not
pittifull, and stood affectionate in his owne opinion: in open presence
he would lie and saie untruth, and was double both in speach and
meaning: he would promise much and performe little: he was vicious of
his bodie, and gave the clergie evill example."--Ed. 1587, vol. iii. p.

Turning back from the page on which the Chronicler comments upon the
life of the dead prime-minister, to that on which he records his fall,
we find these passages:--

"In the meane time, the king, being informed that all those things that
the cardinall had doone by his _power legatine within this realme_ were
in the case of the _premunire_ and provision, caused his attornie,
Christopher Hales, to sue out a writ of premunire against him. ...After
this in the king's bench his matter for the premunire being called upon,
two atturneis which he had authorised by his warrant, signed with his
owne hand, confessed the action, and so had judgement to _forfeit all
his lands, tenements, goods, and cattels, and to be out of the king's
protection_."--Ib. p. 909.

If the reader will look back at the passage touching the premunire,
quoted above, he will see that these few lines from Raphael Holinshed
are somewhat fatal to an argument in favor of Shakespeare's "legal
acquirements," in so far as it rests in any degree upon the use of terms
or the knowledge displayed in that passage. Shakespeare and Drayton are
here in the same boat, though "not with the same sculls."

Before we shelve Holinshed,--for the good Raphael's folios are like
Falstaff in size, if not in wit, and, when once laid flat-long, require
levers to set them up on end again,--let us see if he cannot help us to
account for more of the "legalisms" that our Lord Chief Justice and
our barrister have "smelt out" in Shakespeare's historical plays. Mr.
Rushton quotes the following passages from "Richard II.":--

"_York_. Is not Gaunt dead? and doth not
Hereford live?

* * * * *

Take Hereford's rights away, and take from time
His _charters_ and his _customary rights_;
Let not to-morrow, then, ensue to-day:
Be not thyself; for how art thou a king,
But by fair sequence and succession?
Now, afore God, (God forbid I say true!)
If you do wrongfully seize Hereford's rights,
Call in the _letters patents_ that he hath
By his _attorneys-general_ to sue
_His livery_, and deny his _offer'd homage_,
You pluck a thousand dangers on your head."
Act ii. Sc. I.

"_Bol_. I am denied to _sue my livery_ here,
And yet my _letters patents_ give me leave:
My father's _goods are all distrain'd_ and sold;
And these, and all, are all amiss employed.
What would you have me do? I am a subject,
And challenge law: _Attorneys are denied_ me;
And therefore personally I lay my claim
To my _inheritance_ of free descent."--_Ib_. Sc. 3.

And Lord Campbell, although he passes by these passages in "Richard
II.," quotes, as important, from a speech of Hotspur's in the "First
Part of Henry IV.," the following lines, which, it will be seen, refer
to the same act of oppression on the part of Richard II. towards

"He came but to be Duke of Lancaster,
To _sue his livery_ and beg his bread."
Act iv. Sc. 3.

But, here again, Shakespeare, although he may have known more law than
Holinshed, or even Hall, who was a barrister, only used the law-terms
that he found in the paragraph which furnished him with the incident
that he dramatized. For, after recording the death of Gaunt, the
Chronicle goes on:--

"The death of this duke gave occasion of increasing more hatred in the
people of this realme toward the king; for he seized into his hands all
the rents and reuenues of his lands which ought to have descended vnto
the duke of Hereford by lawfull _inheritance_, in reuoking _his letters
patents_ which he had granted to him before, by virtue whereof he might
make his _attorneis generall_ to _sue liverie_ for him of any manner of
_inheritances_ or possessions that might from thencefoorth fall unto
him, and that his homage _might_ be respited with making reasonable
fine," etc.--HOLINSHED, Ed. 1587, p. 496.

The only legal phrase, however, in these passages of "Richard II," which
seems to imply very extraordinary legal knowledge, is the one repeated
in "Henry IV.,"--"sue his livery,"--which was the term applied to the
process by which, in the old feudal tenures, wards, whether of the king
or other guardian, on arriving at legal age, could compel a delivery
of their estates to them from their guardians. But hence it became a
metaphorical expression to mean merely the attainment of majority, and
in this sense seems to have been very generally understood and not
uncommonly used. See the following from an author who was no attorney or
attorney's clerk:--

"If Cupid
Shoot arrows of that weight, I'll swear devoutly
H'as _sued his livery_ and is no more a boy."
FLETCHER'S _Woman's Prize_, Act ii. Sc. 1.

And this, from the works of a divine:--


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