Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 30, April, 1860
Part 4 out of 5
of living loveliness. No mercy for you, my love! Justice, strict
justice, you shall certainly have,--neither more nor less. For, look
you, there are dozens, scores, hundreds, with whom you must be weighed
in the balance; and you have got to learn that the "struggle for life"
Mr. Charles Darwin talks about reaches to vertebrates clad in
crinoline, as well as to mollusks in shells, or articulates in jointed
scales, or anything that fights for breathing-room and food and love in
any coat of fur or feather! Happy they who can flash defiance from
bright eyes and snowy shoulders back into the pendants of the insolent
----Miss Mahala Crane did not have these reflections; and no young girl
ever did, or ever will, thank Heaven! Her keen eyes sparkled under her
plainly parted hair, and the green de-laine moulded itself in those
unmistakable lines of natural symmetry in which Nature indulges a small
shopkeeper's daughter occasionally as well as a wholesale dealer's
young ladies. She would have liked a new dress as much as any other
girl, but she meant to go and have a good time at any rate.
The guests were now arriving in the drawing-room pretty fast, and the
Colonel's hand began to burn a good deal with the sharp squeezes which
many of the visitors gave it. Conversation, which had begun like a
summer-shower, in scattering drops, was fast becoming continuous, and
occasionally rising into gusty swells, with now and then a
broad-chested laugh from some Captain or Major or other military
personage,--for it may be noted that all large and loud men in the
impaved districts bear military titles.
Deacon Soper came up presently and entered into conversation with
"I hope to see our pastor present this evenin'," said the Deacon.
"I don't feel quite sure," the Colonel answered. "His dyspepsy has been
bad on him lately. He wrote to say, that, Providence permittin', it
would be agreeable to him to take a part in the exercises of the
evenin'; but I mistrusted he didn't mean to come. To tell the truth,
Deacon Soper, I rather guess he don't like the idee of dancin', and
some of the other little arrangements."
"Well," said the Deacon, "I know there's some condemns dancin'. I've
heerd a good deal of talk about it among the folks round. Some have it
that it never brings a blessin' on a house to have dancin' in it. Judge
Tileston died, you remember, within a month after he had his great
ball, twelve year ago, and some thought it was in the natur' of a
judgment. I don't believe in any of them notions. If a man happened to
be struck dead the night after he'd been givin' a ball," (the Colonel
loosened his black stock a little, and winked and swallowed two or
three times,) "I shouldn't call it a judgment,--I should call it a
coincidence. But I'm a little afraid our pastor won't come. Somethin'
or other's the matter with Mr. Fairweather. I should sooner expect to
see the old Doctor come over out of the Orthodox parsonage-house."
"I've asked him," said the Colonel.
"Well?" said Deacon Soper.
"He said he should like to come, but he didn't know what his people
would say. For his part, he loved to see young folks havin' their
sports together, and very often felt, as if he should like to be one of
'em himself. 'But,' says I, 'Doctor, I don't say there won't be a
little dancin'.' 'Don't!' says he, 'for I want Letty to go,' (she's his
granddaughter that's been stayin' with him,) 'and Letty's mighty fond
of dancin'. You know,' says the Doctor, 'it isn't my business to settle
whether other people's children should dance or not.' And the Doctor
looked as if he should like to rigadoon and sashy across as well as the
young one he was talkin' about. He's got blood in him, the old Doctor
has. I wish our little man and him would swop pulpits."
Deacon Soper started and looked up into the Colonel's face, as if to
see whether he was in earnest.
Mr. Silas Peckham and his lady joined the group.
"Is this to be a Temperance Celebration, Mrs. Sprowle?" asked Mr. Silas
Mrs. Sprowle replied, "that there would be lemonade and srub for those
that preferred such drinks, but that the Colonel had given folks to
understand that he didn't mean to set in judgment on the marriage in
Canaan, and that those that didn't like srub and such things would find
somethin' that would suit them better."
Deacon Soper's countenance assumed a certain air of restrained
cheerfulness. The conversation rose into one of its gusty paroxysms
just then. Master H. Frederic got behind a door and began performing
the experiment of stopping and unstopping his ears in rapid
alternation, greatly rejoicing in the singular effect of mixed
conversation chopped very small, like the contents of a mince-pie,--or
meat pie, as it is more forcibly called in the deep-rutted villages
lying along the unsalted streams. All at once it grew silent just round
the door, where it had been loudest,--and the silence spread itself
like a stain, till it hushed everything but a few corner-duets. A dark,
sad-looking, middle-aged gentleman entered the parlor, with a young
lady on his arm,--his daughter, as it seemed, for she was not wholly
unlike him in feature, and of the same dark complexion.
"Dudley Venner!" exclaimed a dozen people, in startled, but
"What can have brought Dudley out to-night?" said Jefferson Buck, a
young fellow, who had been interrupted in one of the corner-duets which
he was executing in concert with Miss Susy Pettingill.
"How do I know, Jeff?" was Miss Susy's answer. Then, after a
pause,--"Elsie made him come, I guess. Go ask Dr. Kittredge; he knows
all about 'em both, they say."
Dr. Kittredge, the leading physician of Rockland, was a shrewd old man,
who looked pretty keenly into his patients through his spectacles, and
pretty widely at men, women, and things in general over them.
Sixty-three years old,--just the year of the grand climacteric. A bald
crown, as every doctor should have. A consulting practitioner's mouth;
that is, movable round the corners while the case is under examination,
but both corners well drawn down and kept so when the final opinion is
made up. In fact, the Doctor was often sent for to act as "caounsel,"
all over the county, and beyond it. He kept three or four horses,
sometimes riding in the saddle, commonly driving in a sulky, pretty
fast, and looking straight before him, so that people got out of the
way of bowing to him as he passed on the road. There was some talk
about his not being so long-sighted as other folks, but his old
patients laughed and looked knowing when this was spoken of.
The Doctor knew a good many things besides how to drop tinctures and
shake out powders. Thus, he knew a horse, and, what is harder to
understand, a horse-dealer, and was a match for him. He knew what a
nervous woman is, and how to manage her. He could tell at a glance when
she is in that condition of unstable equilibrium in which a rough word
is like blow to her, and the touch of unmagnetized fingers reverses all
her nervous currents. It is not everybody that enters into the soul of
Mozart's or Beethoven's harmonies; and there are vital symphonies in B
flat, and other low, sad keys, which a doctor may know as little of as
a hurdy-gurdy player of the essence of those divine musical mysteries.
The Doctor knew the difference between what men say and what they mean
as well as most people. When he was listening to common talk, he was in
the habit of looking over his spectacles; if he lifted his head so as
to look through them at the person talking, he was busier with that
person's thoughts than with his words.
Jefferson Buck was not bold enough to confront the Doctor with Miss
Susy's question, for he did not look as if he were in the mood to
answer queries put by curious young people. His eyes were fixed
steadily on the dark girl, every movement of whom he seemed to follow.
She was, indeed, an apparition of wild beauty, so unlike the girls
about her that it seemed nothing more than natural, that, when she
moved, the groups should part to let her pass through them, and that
she should carry the centre of all looks and thoughts with her. She was
dressed to please her own fancy, evidently, with small regard to the
modes declared correct by the Rockland milliners and mantua-makers. Her
heavy black hair lay in a braided coil, with a long gold pin shot
through it like a javelin. Round her neck was a golden _torque_, a
round, cord-like chain, such as the Gauls used to wear: the "Dying
Gladiator" has it. Her dress was a grayish watered silk; her collar was
pinned with a flashing diamond brooch, the stones looking as fresh as
morning dew-drops, but the silver setting of the past generation; her
arms were bare, round, but slender rather than large, in keeping with
her lithe round figure. On her wrists she wore bracelets: one was a
circlet of enamelled scales; the other looked as if it might have been
Cleopatra's asp, with its body turned to gold and its eyes to emeralds.
Her father--for Dudley Venner was her father--looked like a man of
culture and breeding, but melancholy and with a distracted air, as one
whose life had met some fatal cross or blight. He saluted hardly
anybody except his entertainers and the Doctor. One would have said, to
look at him, that he was not at the party by choice; and it was natural
enough to think, with Susy Pettingill, that it must have been a freak
of the dark girl's that brought him there, for he had the air of a shy
and sad-hearted recluse.
It was hard to say what could have brought Elsie Venner to the party.
Hardly anybody seemed to know her, and she seemed not at all disposed
to make acquaintances. Here and there was one of the older girls from
the Institute, but she appeared to have nothing in common with them.
Even in the school-room, it may be remembered, she sat apart by her own
choice, and now in the midst of the crowd she made a circle of
isolation round herself. Drawing her arm out of her father's, she stood
against the wall, and looked, with a strange, cold glitter in her eyes,
at the crowd which moved and babbled before her.
The old Doctor came up to her by-and-by.
"Well, Elsie, I am quite surprised to find you here. Do tell me how you
happened to do such a good-natured thing as to let us see you at such a
"It's been dull at the mansion-house," she said, "and I wanted to get
out of it. It's too lonely there,--there's nobody to hate since Dick's
The Doctor laughed good-naturedly, as if this were an amusing bit of
pleasantry,--but he lifted his head and dropped his eyes a little, so
as to see her through his spectacles. She narrowed her lids slightly,
as one often sees a sleepy cat narrow hers,--somewhat as you may
remember our famous Margaret used to, if you remember her at all,--so
that her eyes looked very small, but bright as the diamonds on her
breast. The old Doctor felt very oddly as she looked at him; he did not
like the feeling, so he dropped his head and lifted his eyes and looked
at her over his spectacles again.
"And how have you all been at the mansion-house?" said the Doctor.
"Oh, well enough. But Dick's gone, and there's nobody left but Dudley
and I and the people. I'm tired of it. What kills anybody quickest,
Doctor?" Then, in a whisper, "I ran away again the other day, you
"Where did you go?" The Doctor spoke in a low, serious tone.
"Oh, to the old place. Here, I brought this for you."
The Doctor started as she handed him a flower of the _Atragene
Americana_, for he knew that there was only one spot where it grew, and
that not one where any rash foot, least of all a thin-shod woman's
foot, should venture.
"How long were you gone?" said the Doctor.
"Only one night. You should have heard the horns blowing and the guns
firing. Dudley was frightened out of his wits. Old Sophy told him she'd
had a dream, and that I should be found in Dead-Man's Hollow, with a
great rock lying on me. They hunted all over it, but they did'nt find
me,--I was farther up."
Doctor Kittredge looked cloudy and worried while she was speaking, but
forced a pleasant professional smile, as he said cheerily, and as if
wishing to change the subject,--
"Have a good dance this evening, Elsie. The fiddlers are tuning up.
Where's the young master? Has he come yet? or is he going to be late,
with the other great folks?"
The girl turned away without answering, and looked toward the door.
The "great folks," meaning the mansion-house gentry, were just
beginning to come; Dudley Venner and his daughter had been the first of
them. Judge Thornton, white-headed, fresh-faced, as good at sixty as he
was at forty, with a youngish second wife, and one noble daughter,
Arabella, who, they said, knew as much law as her father, a stately,
Portia-like girl, fit for a premier's wife, not like to find her match
even in the great cities she sometimes visited; the Trecothicks, the
family of a merchant, (in the larger sense,) who, having made himself
rich enough by the time he had reached middle life, threw down his
ledger as Sylla did his dagger, and retired to make a little paradise
around him in one of the stateliest residences of the town, a family
inheritance; the Vaughans, an old Rockland race, descended from its
first settlers, Toryish in tendency in Revolutionary times, and barely
escaping confiscation or worse; the Dunhams, a new family, dating its
gentility only as far back as the Honorable Washington Dunham, M.C.,
but turning out a clever boy or two that went to college, and some
showy girls with white necks and fat arms who had picked up
professional husbands: these were the principal mansion-house people.
All of them had made it a point to come; and as each of them entered,
it seemed to Colonel and Mrs. Sprowle that the lamps burned up with a
more cheerful light, and that the fiddles which sounded from the
uncarpeted room were all half a tone higher and half a beat quicker.
Mr. Bernard came in later than any of them; he had been busy with his
new duties. He looked well; and that is saying a good deal; for nothing
but a gentleman is endurable in full dress. Hair that masses well, a
head set on with an air, a neckerchief tied cleverly by an easy,
practised hand, close-fitting gloves, feet well shaped and well
covered,--these advantages can make us forgive the odious sable
broadcloth suit, which appears to have been adopted by society on the
same principle that condemned all the Venetian gondolas to perpetual
and uniform blackness. Mr. Bernard, introduced by Mr. Geordie, made his
bow to the Colonel and his lady and to Miss Matilda, from whom he got a
particularly gracious curtsy, and then began looking about him for
acquaintances. He found two or three faces he knew,--many more
strangers. There was Silas Peckham,--there was no mistaking him; there
was the inelastic amplitude of Mrs. Peckham; few of the Apollinean
girls, of course, they not being recognized members of society,--but
there is one with the flame in her cheeks and the fire in her eyes, the
girl of vigorous tints and emphatic outlines, whom we saw entering the
school-room the other day. Old Judge Thornton has his eyes on her, and
the Colonel steals a look every now and then at the red brooch which
lifts itself so superbly into the light, as if he thought it a
wonderfully becoming ornament. Mr. Bernard himself was not displeased
with the general effect of the rich-blooded school-girl, as she stood
under the bright lamps, fanning herself in the warm, languid air, fixed
in a kind of passionate surprise at the new life which seemed to be
flowering out in her consciousness. Perhaps he looked at her somewhat
steadily, as some others had done; at any rate, she seemed to feel that
she was looked at, as people often do, and, turning her eyes suddenly
on him, caught his own on her face, gave him a half-bashful smile, and
threw in a blush involuntarily which made it more charming.
"What can I do better," he said to himself, "than have a dance with
Rosa Milburn?" So he carried his handsome pupil into the next room and
took his place with her in a cotillon. Whether the breath of the
Goddess of Love could intoxicate like the cup of Circe,--whether a
woman is ever phosphorescent with the luminous vapor of life that she
exhales,--these and other questions which relate to occult influences
exercised by certain women, we will not now discuss. It is enough that
Mr. Bernard was sensible of a strange fascination, not wholly new to him,
nor unprecedented in the history of human experience, but always a
revelation when it comes over us for the first or the hundredth time,
so pale is the most recent memory by the side of the passing moment with
the flush of any new-born passion on its cheek. Remember that Nature makes
every man love all women, and trusts the trivial matter of special choice
to the commonest accident.
If Mr. Bernard had had nothing to distract his attention, he might have
thought too much about his handsome partner, and then gone home and
dreamed about her, which is always dangerous, and waked up thinking of
her still, and then begun to be deeply interested in her studies, and
so on, through the whole syllogism which ends in Nature's supreme _quod
erat demonstrandum_. What was there to distract him or disturb him? He
did not know,--but there was something. This sumptuous creature, this
Eve just within the gate of an untried Paradise, untutored in the ways
of the world, but on tiptoe to reach the fruit of the tree of
knowledge,--alive to the moist vitality of that warm atmosphere
palpitating with voices and music, as the flower of some diaecious
plant which has grown in a lone corner, and suddenly unfolding its
corolla on some hot-breathing June evening, feels that the air is
perfumed with strange odors and loaded with golden dust wafted from
those other blossoms with which its double life is shared,--this almost
overwomanized woman, might well have bewitched him, but that he had a
vague sense of a counter-charm. It was, perhaps, only the same
consciousness that some one was looking at him which he himself had
just given occasion to in his partner. Presently, in one of the turns
of the dance, he felt his eyes drawn to a figure he had not distinctly
recognized, though he had dimly felt its presence, and saw that Elsie
Venner was looking at him as if she saw nothing else but him. He was
not a nervous person, like the poor lady teacher, yet the glitter of
the diamond eyes affected him strangely. It seemed to disenchant the
air, so fall a moment before of strange attractions. He became silent,
and dreamy, as it were. The round-limbed beauty at his side crushed her
gauzy draperies against him, as they trod the figure of the dance
together, but it was no more to him than if an old nurse had laid her
hand on his sleeve. The young girl chafed at his seeming neglect, and
her imperious blood mounted into her cheeks; but he appeared
unconscious of it.
"There is one of our young ladies I must speak to," he said,--and was
just leaving his partner's side.
"Four hands all round!" shouted the first violin,--and Mr. Bernard
found himself seized and whirled in a circle out of which he could not
escape, and then forced to "cross over," and then to "dozy do," as the
_maestro_ had it,--and when, on getting back to his place, he looked
for Elsie Venner, she was gone.
The dancing went on briskly. Some of the old folks looked on, others
conversed in groups and pairs, and so the evening wore along, until a
little after ten o'clock. About this time there was noticed an
increased bustle in the passages, with a considerable opening and
shutting of doors. Presently it began to be whispered about that they
were going to have supper. Many, who had never been to any large party
before, held their breath for a moment at this announcement. It was
rather with a tremulous interest than with open hilarity that the rumor
was generally received.
One point the Colonel had entirely forgotten to settle. It was a point
involving not merely propriety, but perhaps principle also, or at least
the good report of the house,--and he had never thought to arrange it.
He took Judge Thornton aside and whispered the important question to
him,--in his distress of mind, mistaking pockets and taking out his
bandanna instead of his white handkerchief to wipe his forehead.
"Judge," he said, "do you think, that, before we commence refreshing
ourselves at the tables, it would be the proper thing to--crave a--to
request Deacon Soper or some other elderly person--to ask a blessing?"
The Judge looked as grave as if he were about giving the opinion of the
Court in the great India-rubber case.
"On the whole," he answered, after a pause, "I should think it might,
perhaps, be dispensed with on this occasion. Young folks are noisy, and
it is awkward to have talking and laughing going on while a blessing is
being asked. Unless a clergyman is present and makes a point of it, I
think it will hardly be expected."
The Colonel was infinitely relieved. "Judge, will you take Mrs. Sprowle
in to supper?" And the Colonel returned the compliment by offering his
arm to Mrs. Judge Thornton.
The door of the supper-room was now open, and the company, following
the lead of the host and hostess, began to stream into it, until it was
pretty well filled.
There was an awful kind of pause. Many were beginning to drop their
heads and shut their eyes, in anticipation of the usual petition before
a meal; some expected the music to strike up,--others, that an oration
would now be delivered by the Colonel.
"Make yourselves at home, ladies and gentlemen," said the Colonel;
"good things were made to eat, and you're welcome to all you see before
So saying, he attacked a huge turkey which stood at the head of the
table; and his example being followed first by the bold, then by the
doubtful, and lastly by the timid, the clatter soon made the circuit of
the tables. Some were shocked, however, as the Colonel had feared they
would be, at the want of the customary invocation. Widow Leech, a kind
of relation, who had to be invited, and who came with her old,
back-country-looking string of gold beads round her neck, seemed to
feel very serious about it.
"If she'd ha' known that folks would begrutch cravin' a blessin' over
sech a heap o' provisions, she'd rather have staid t' home. It was a
bad sign, when folks wasn't grateful for the baounties of Providence."
The elder Miss Spinney, to whom she made this remark, assented to it,
at the same time ogling a piece of frosted cake, which she presently
appropriated with great refinement of manner,--taking it between her
thumb and forefinger, keeping the others well spread and the little
finger in extreme divergence, with a graceful undulation of the neck,
and a queer little sound in her throat, as of an _m_ that wanted to get
out and perished in the attempt.
The tables now presented an animated spectacle. Young fellows of the
more dashing sort, with high stand-up collars and voluminous bows to
their neckerchiefs, distinguished themselves by cutting up fowls and
offering portions thereof to the buxom girls these knowing ones had
"A bit of the wing, Roxy, or of the--under limb?"
The first laugh broke out at this, but it was premature, a _sporadic_
laugh, as Dr. Kittredge would have said, which did not become epidemic.
People were very solemn as yet, many of them being new to such splendid
scenes, and crushed, as it were, in the presence of so much crockery
and so many silver spoons, and such a variety of unusual viands and
beverages. When the laugh rose around Roxy and her saucy beau, several
looked in that direction with an anxious expression, as if something
had happened,--a lady fainted, for instance, or a couple of lively
fellows came to high words.
"Young folks will be young folks," said Deacon Soper. "No harm done.
Least said soonest mended."
"Have some of these shell-oysters?" said the Colonel to Mrs.
A delicate emphasis on the word _shell_ implied that the Colonel knew
what was what. To the New England inland native, beyond the reach of
the east winds, the oyster unconditioned, the oyster absolute, without
a qualifying adjective, is the _pickled_ oyster. Mrs. Trecothick, who
knew very well that an oyster long out of his shell (as is apt to be
the case with the rural bivalve) gets homesick and loses his
sprightliness, replied, with the pleasantest smile in the world, that
the chicken she had been helped to was too delicate to be given up even
for the greater rarity. But the word "shell-oysters" had been
overheard; and there was a perceptible crowding movement towards their
newly discovered habitat, a large soup-tureen.
Silas Peckham had meantime fallen upon another locality of these recent
mollusks. He said nothing, but helped himself freely, and made a sign
to Mrs. Peckham.
"Lorindy," he whispered, "shell-oysters!"
And ladled them out to her largely, without betraying any emotion, just
as if they had been the natural inland or pickled article.
After the more solid portion of the banquet had been duly honored, the
cakes and sweet preparations of various kinds began to get their share
of attention. There were great cakes and little cakes, cakes with
raisins in them, cakes with currants, and cakes without either; there
were brown cakes and yellow cakes, frosted cakes, glazed cakes, hearts
and rounds, and _jumbles_, which playful youth slip over the forefinger
before spoiling their annular outline. There were moulds of
_blo'monje_, of the arrowroot variety,--that being undistinguishable
from such as is made with Russia isinglass. There were jellies, that
had been shaking, all the time the young folks were dancing in the next
room, as if they were balancing to partners. There were built-up
fabrics, called _Charlottes_, caky externally, pulpy within; there were
also _marangs_, and likewise custards,--some of the indolent-fluid
sort, others firm, in which every stroke of the teaspoon left a smooth,
conchoidal surface like the fracture of chalcedony, with here and there
a little eye like what one sees in cheeses. Nor was that most wonderful
object of domestic art called _trifle_ wanting, with its charming
confusion of cream and cake and almonds and jam and jelly and wine and
cinnamon and froth; nor yet the marvellous _floating-island_,--name
suggestive of all that is romantic in the imaginations of youthful
"It must have cost you a sight of work, to say nothin' of money, to get
all this beautiful confectionery made for the party," said Mrs. Crane
to Mrs. Sprowle.
"Well, it cost some consid'able labor, no doubt," said Mrs. Sprowle.
"Matilda and our girls and I made 'most all the cake with our own
hands, and we all feel some tired; but if folks get what suits 'em, we
don't begrudge the time nor the work. But I do feel thirsty," said the
poor lady, "and I think a glass of srub would do my throat good; it's
dreadful dry. Mr. Peckham, would you be so polite as to pass me a glass
Silas Peckham bowed with great alacrity, and took from the table a
small glass cup, containing a fluid reddish in hue and subacid in
taste. This was _srub_, a beverage in local repute, of questionable
nature, but suspected of owing its color and sharpness to some kind of
syrup derived from the maroon-colored fruit of the sumac. There were
similar small cups on the table filled with lemonade, and here and
there a decanter of Madeira wine, of the Marsala kind, which some
prefer to, and many more cannot distinguish from, that which comes from
the Atlantic island.
"Take a glass of wine, Judge," said the Colonel; "here is an article
that I rather think 'll suit you."
The Judge knew something of wines, and could tell all the famous old
Madeiras from each other,--"Eclipse," "Juno," the almost fabulously
scarce and precious "White-top," and the rest. He struck the nativity
of the Mediterranean Madeira before it had fairly moistened his lip.
"A sound wine, Colonel, and I should think of a genuine vintage. Your
very good health."
"Deacon Soper," said the Colonel, "here is some Madary Judge Thornton
recommends. Let me fill you a glass of it."
The Deacon's eyes glistened. He was one of those consistent Christians
who stick firmly by the first miracle and Paul's advice to Timothy.
"A little good wine won't hurt anybody," said the Deacon.
"Plenty,--plenty,--plenty. There!" He had not withdrawn his glass,
while the Colonel was pouring, for fear it should spill; and now it was
----It is very odd how all a man's philosophy and theology are at the
mercy of a few drops of a fluid which the chemists say consists of
nothing but C 4, O 2, H 6. The Deacon's theology fell off several
points towards latitudinarianism in the course of the next ten minutes.
He had a deep inward sense that everything was as it should be, human
nature included. The little accidents of humanity, known collectively
to moralists as sin, looked very venial to his growing sense of
universal brotherhood and benevolence.
"It will all come right," the Deacon said to himself,--"I feel a
joyful conviction that everything is for the best. I am favored with
a blessed peace of mind, and a very precious season of good feelin'
toward my fellow-creturs."
A lusty young fellow happened to make a quick step backward just at
that instant, and put his heel, with his weight on top of it, upon the
"Aigh! What the d--d--didos are y' abaout with them great hoofs o'
yourn?" said the Deacon, with an expression upon his features not
exactly that of peace and good-will to man. The lusty young fellow
apologized; but the Deacon's face did not come right, and his theology
backed round several points in the direction of total depravity.
Some of the dashing young men in stand-up collars and extensive
neck-ties, encouraged by Mr. Geordie, made quite free with the
"Madary," and even induced some of the more stylish girls--not of the
mansion-house set, but of the tip-top two-story families--to taste a
little. Most of these young ladies made faces at it, and declared it
was "perfectly horrid," with that aspect of veracity peculiar to their
age and sex.
About this time a movement was made on the part of some of the
mansion-house people to leave the supper-table. Miss Jane Trecothick
had quietly hinted to her mother that she had had enough of it. Miss
Arabella Thornton had whispered to her father that he had better
adjourn this court to the next room. There were signs of migration,--a
loosening of people in their places,--a looking about for arms to hitch
The great folks saw that the play was not over yet, and that it was
only polite to stay and see it out. The word "Ice-Cream" was no sooner
whispered than it passed from one to another all down the tables. The
effect was what might have been anticipated. Many of the guests had
never seen this celebrated product of human skill, and to all the
two-story population of Rockland it was the last expression of the art
of pleasing and astonishing the human palate. Its appearance had been
deferred for several reasons: first, because everybody would have
attacked it, if it had come in with the other luxuries; secondly,
because undue apprehensions were entertained (owing to want of
experience) of its tendency to deliquesce and resolve itself with
alarming rapidity into puddles of creamy fluid; and, thirdly, because
the surprise would make a grand climax to finish off the banquet.
There is something so audacious in the conception of ice-cream, that it
is not strange that a population undebauched by the luxury of great
cities looks upon it with a kind of awe and speaks of it with a certain
emotion. This defiance of the seasons, forcing Nature to do her work of
congelation, in the face of her sultriest noon, might well inspire a
timid mind with fear lest human art were revolting against the Higher
Powers, and raise the same scruples which resisted the use of ether and
chloroform in certain contingencies. Whatever may be the cause, it is
well known that the announcement at any private rural entertainment
that there is to be ice-cream produces an immediate and profound
impression. It may be remarked, as aiding this impression, that
exaggerated ideas are entertained as to the dangerous effects this
congealed food may produce on persons not in the most robust health.
There was silence as the pyramids of ice were placed on the table,
everybody looking on in admiration. The Colonel took a knife and
assailed the one at the head of the table. When he tried to cut off a
slice, it didn't seem to understand it, however, and only tipped, as if
it wanted to upset. The Colonel attacked it on the other side and it
tipped just as badly the other way. It was awkward for the Colonel.
"Permit me," said the Judge,--and he took the knife and struck a sharp
slanting stroke which, sliced off a piece just of the right size, and
offered it to Mrs. Sprowle. This act of dexterity was much admired by
The tables were all alive again.
"Lorindy, here's a plate of ice-cream," said Silas Peckham.
"Come, Mahaly," said a fresh-looking young fellow with a saucerful in
each hand, "here's your ice-cream;--let's go in the corner and have a
celebration, us two." And the old green de-laine, with the young curves
under it to make it sit well, moved off as pleased apparently as if it
had been silk velvet with thousand-dollar laces over it.
"Oh, now, Miss Green! do you think it's safe to put that cold stuff
into your stomick?" said the Widow Leech to a young married lady, who,
finding the air rather warm, thought a little ice would cool her down
very nicely. "It's jest like eatin' snowballs. You don't look very
rugged; and I should be dreadful afeard, if I was you"----
"Carrie," said old Dr. Kittredge, who had overheard this,--"how well
you're looking this evening! But you must be tired and heated;--sit
down here, and let me give you a good slice of ice-cream. How you young
folks do grow up, to be sure! I don't feel quite certain whether it's
you or your mother or your daughter, but I know it's somebody I call
Carrie, and that I've known ever since"----
A sound something between a howl and an oath startled the company and
broke off the Doctor's sentence. Everybody's eyes turned in the
direction from which it came. A group instantly gathered round the
person who had uttered it, who was no other than Deacon Soper.
"He's chokin'! he's chokin'!" was the first exclamation,--"slap him on
Several heavy fists beat such a tattoo on his spine that the Deacon
felt as if at least one of his vertebrae would come up.
"He's black in the face," said Widow Leech,--"he's swallered somethin'
the wrong way. Where's the Doctor?--let the Doctor get to him, can't
"If you will move, my good lady, perhaps I can," said Dr. Kittredge, in
a calm tone of voice.--"He's not choking, my friends," the Doctor added
immediately, when he got sight of him.
"It's apoplexy,--I told you so,--don't you see how red he is in the
face?" said old Mrs. Peake, a famous woman for "nussin" sick
folks,--determined to be a little ahead of the Doctor.
"It's not apoplexy," said Dr. Kittredge.
"What is it, Doctor? what is it? Will he die? Is he dead?--Here's his
poor wife, the Widow Soper that is to be, if she a'n't a'ready."
"Do be quiet, my good woman," said Dr. Kittredge.--"Nothing serious, I
think, Mrs. Soper.--Deacon!"
The sudden attack of Deacon Soper had begun with the extraordinary
sound mentioned above. His features had immediately assumed an
expression of intense pain, his eyes staring wildly, and, clapping his
hands to his face, he had rocked his head backward and forward in
At the Doctor's sharp appeal the Deacon lifted his head.
"It's all right," said the Doctor, as soon as he saw his face. "The
Deacon had a smart attack of neuralgic pain. That's all. Very severe,
but not at all dangerous."
The Doctor kept his countenance, but his diaphragm was shaking the
change in his waistcoat-pockets with subterranean laughter. He had
looked through his spectacles and seen at once what had happened. The
Deacon, not being in the habit of taking his nourishment in the
congealed state, had treated the ice-cream as a pudding of a rare
species, and, to make sure of doing himself justice in its
distribution, had taken a large mouthful of it without the least
precaution. The consequence was a sensation as if a dentist were
killing the nerves of twenty-five teeth at once with hot irons, or cold
ones, which would hurt rather worse.
The Deacon swallowed something with a spasmodic effort, and recovered
pretty soon and received the congratulations of his friends. There were
different versions of the expressions he had used at the onset of his
complaint,--some of the reported exclamations involving a breach of
propriety, to say the least,--but it was agreed that a man in an attack
of neuralgy wasn't to be judged of by the rules that applied to other
The company soon after this retired from the supper-room. The
mansion-house gentry took their leave, and the two-story people soon
followed. Mr. Bernard had staid an hour or two, and left soon after he
found that Elsie Tenner and her father had disappeared. As he passed by
the dormitory of the Institute, he saw a light glimmering from one of
its upper rooms, where the lady teacher was still waking. His heart
ached, when he remembered, that, through all these hours of gayety, or
what was meant for it, the patient girl had been at work in her little
chamber; and he looked up at the silent stars, as if to see that they
were watching over her. The planet Mars was burning like a red coal;
the northern constellation was slanting downward about its central
point of flame; and while he looked, a falling star slid from the
zenith and was lost.
He reached his chamber and was soon dreaming over the Event of the
One after one they left us;
The sweet birds out of our breasts
Went flying away in the morning:
Will they come again to their nests?
Will they come again at nightfall,
With God's breath in their song?
Noon is fierce with the heats of summer,
And summer days are long!
Oh, my Life! with thy upward liftings,
Thy downward-striking roots,
Ripening out of thy tender blossoms
But hard and bitter fruits,--
In thy boughs there is no shelter
For my birds to seek again!
Ah! the desolate nest is broken
And torn with storms and rain!
THE MEXICANS AND THEIR COUNTRY.
On the 21st of December, 1859, General Miramon, at the head of the
forces of the Mexican Republic, met an army of Liberals at Colima, and
overthrew it. The first accounts of the action represented the victory
of the Conservatives to be complete, and as settling the fate of Mexico
for the present, as between the parties headed respectively by Juarez
and Miramon. Later accounts show that there was some exaggeration as to
the details of the action, but the defeat of the Liberals is not
denied. It would be rash to attach great importance to any Mexican
battle; but the Liberal cause was so depressed before the action at
Colima as to create the impression that it could not survive the result
of that day. Whether the cause of which Miramon is the champion be
popular in Mexico or the reverse, it is certain that at the close of
1859 that chief had succeeded in every undertaking in which he had
personally engaged; and our own political history is too full of facts
which show that a successful military man is sure to be a popular
chief, whatever may be his opinions, to allow of our doubting the
effect of victory on the minds of the Mexicans. The mere circumstance
that Miramon is personally victorious, while the Liberals achieve
occasional successes over their foes where he is not present, will be
of much service to him. That "there is nothing so successful as
success" is an idea as old as the day on which the Tempter of Man
caused him to lose Paradise, and to the world's admission of it is to
be attributed the decision of nearly every political contest which has
distracted society. Miramon may have entered upon a career not unlike
to that of Santa Ana, whose early victories enabled him to maintain his
hold on the respect of his countrymen long after it should have been lost
through his cruelties and his disregard of his word and his oath. All,
indeed, that is necessary to complete the power of Miramon is, that
some foreign nation should interfere in Mexican affairs in behalf of
Juarez. Such interference, if made on a sufficiently large scale, might
lead to his defeat and banishment, but it would cause him to reign in
the hearts of the Mexicans; and he would be recalled, as we have seen
Santa Ana recalled, as soon as circumstances should enable the people
to act according to their own sense of right.
Before considering the probable effect of Miramon's success on the
policy of the United States toward Mexico, there is one point that
deserves some attention. Which party, the Liberal or the Conservative,
is possessed of most power in Mexico? The assertions made on this
subject are of a very contradictory character. President Buchanan, in
his last Annual Message, says that the Constitutional government
--meaning that of which Juarez is the head--"is supported by a
a large majority of the people and the States, but there are important
parts of the country where it can enforce no obedience. General Miramon
maintains himself at the capital, and in some of the distant provinces
there are military governors who pay little respect to the decrees of
either government." On the other hand, a Mexican writer, a member of
the Conservative party, who published his views on the condition of his
country just one month before the President's Message appeared,
declares that the five Provinces or States in which the authority of
Miramon was then acknowledged contain a larger population than exists
in the twenty-three States in which it was not acknowledged. Of the
local authorities in these latter States he says,--"It is a great
mistake to imagine that they obey the government of Juarez any more
than they obey the government of General Miramon, or any further than
it suits their own private interest to obey him. It would be curious to
know, for instance, how much of the money collected by these 'local
authorities' for taxes, or contributions, or forced loans, and chiefly
at the seaport towns for custom-house duties, goes to the 'national
treasury' under the Juarez government." In this case, as in many others
of a like nature, the truth probably is, that but a very small number
of the people feel much interest in the contest, while most of them are
prepared to obey whichever chief shall succeed in it without foreign
aid. Of the active men of the country, the majority are now with
Miramon, or Juarez would not be shut up in a seaport, with his party
forming the mere sea-coast fringe of the nation. All that is necessary
to convert him into a national, patriotic ruler is, that a foreign army
should be sent to the assistance of his rival: and that such assistance
shall be sent to Juarez, President Buchanan has virtually pledged the
United States by his words and his actions.
In his last Message to Congress, President Buchanan dwells with much
unction upon the wrongs we have experienced from Mexico, and avers that
we can obtain no redress from the Miramon government. "We may in vain
apply to the Constitutional government at Vera Cruz," he says,
"although it is well disposed to do us justice, for adequate redress.
Whilst its authority is acknowledged in all the important ports and
throughout the sea-coasts of the Republic, its power does not extend to
the city of Mexico and the States in its vicinity, where nearly all the
recent outrages have been committed on American citizens. We must
penetrate into the interior before we can reach the offenders, and this
can only be done by passing through the territory in the occupation of
the Constitutional government. The most acceptable and least difficult
mode of accomplishing the object will be to act in concert with that
government." He then recommends that Congress should authorize him "to
employ a sufficient military force to enter Mexico for the purpose of
obtaining indemnity for the past and security for the future." And he
expresses the opinion that justice would be done by the Constitutional
government; but his faith is not quite so strong as we could wish it to
be, as he carefully adds, "This might be secured in advance by a
Thus has the President pledged the country to help Juarez establish his
authority over Mexico, in words sure to be read and heeded throughout
America and Europe. His actions have been quite as much to the purpose.
He placed himself in communication with Juarez in 1859, and recognized
his government to be the only existing government of Mexico as early as
April 7th, through our envoy, Mr. McLane. That envoy floats about,
having a man-of-war for his home, and ready, it should seem, to receive
the government to which he is accredited, in the event of its being
forced to make a second sea-trip for the preservation of the lives of
its members. As the sole refuge for unpopular European monarchs,
at one time, was a British man-of-war, so are feeble Mexican chiefs
now compelled to rely for safety upon our national ships.
To predict anything respecting Mexican affairs would be almost as idle
as it would be to assume the part of a prophet concerning American
politics; but, unless Miramon's good genius should leave him, his
appearance in Vera Cruz may be looked for at no very distant day, and
then we shall have the Juarez government entirely on our hands, to
support or to neglect, as may be dictated by the exigencies of our
affairs. That base of operations, upon the possession of which
President Buchanan has so confidently calculated, would be lost, and
could be regained only as the consequence of action as comprehensive
and as costly as that which placed Vera Cruz in the hands of General
Scott in 1847. If the policy laid down by President Buchanan should be
adopted and pursued, war should follow between the United States and
Mexico from the triumph of Miramon; and in that war, we should be a
principal, and not the mere ally of one of those parties into which the
Mexican people are divided. Logically, war is inevitable from Mr.
Buchanan's arguments and General Miramon's victories; but, as
circumstances, not logic, govern the actions of politicians, we may
possibly behold all Mexico loyal to the young general, and yet not see
an American army enter that country. The President declares that in
Mexico's "fate and in her fortune, in her power to establish and
maintain a settled government, we have a far deeper interest, socially,
commercially, and politically, than any other nation." The truth of
this will not be disputed; but suppose that Miramon should establish
and maintain a settled government in Mexico, would it not be our duty,
and in accordance "with our wise and settled policy," to acknowledge
that government, and to seek from it redress of those wrongs concerning
which Mr. Buchanan speaks with so much emphasis? Once in a responsible
position, and desirous of having the world's approval of his
countrymen's conduct, Miramon might be even more than willing to
promise as much as Juarez has already promised, we may presume, in the
way of satisfaction. That he would fulfil his promises, or that Juarez
would fulfil those which he has made, it would be too much to assert;
as neither of them would be able, judging from Mexico's past, to
maintain himself long in power.
For the present, if not forever, Juarez may be left out of all American
calculations concerning Mexico; and as to Miramon, though his prospects
are apparently fair, the intelligent observer of Mexican politics
cannot fail to have seen that the glare of the clerical eye is upon
him, and that some faint indications on his part of a determination not
to be the Church's vassal have already placed his supremacy in peril,
and perhaps have caused conspiracies to be formed against him which
shall prove more injurious to his fortunes than the operations of
Liberal armies or the Messages of American Presidents. The Mexican
Church, full-blooded and wealthy as it is, is the skeleton in the
palace of every Mexican chief that spoils his sleep and threatens to
destroy his power, as it has destroyed that of every one of his
predecessors. The armies and banners of the Americans of the
North cannot be half so terrible to Miramon, supposing him
to be a reflecting man, as are the vestments of his clerical
allies. Even those armies, too, may be called into Mexico by
the Church, and those banners become the standards of a crusading host
from among a people which of all that the world has ever seen is the
least given to religious intolerance, and to whom the mere thought of
an established religion is odious. Nor would there be anything strange
in such a solution of the Mexican question, if we are to infer the
character of the future from the character of the past and the present.
A generation that has seen American democracy become the propagandists
of slavery assuredly ought not to be astonished at the spectacle of
American Protestantism upholding the State religion of Mexico, and that
religion embodying the worst abuses of the system of Rome. It was,
perhaps, because he foresaw the possibility of this, that "the
gray-eyed man of destiny," William Walker himself, was reconciled last
year to the ancient Church, and received into her bosom. As a Catholic,
and as a convert to that faith from heresy, he might achieve those
victories for which he longs, but which singularly avoid him as a man
of the sword. It is the old story: Satan, being sick, turns saint for
the time: only that it is heart-sickness in this instance; the hope of
being able to plunder some weak, but wealthy country having been too
long deferred for the patience even of an agent of Fate.
That our government means to persevere in its designs against Mexico,
in spite of the misfortunes of the Liberals, is to be inferred: from
all that we hear from Washington. The victories of Oajaca, Queretaro,
and Colima, won by the Conservatives, have wrought no apparent change
in the Presidential mind. So anxious, indeed, is Mr. Buchanan for the
triumph of his plan, that he is ready to seek aid from his political
opponents. Leading Republicans are to be consulted personally, and they
are to be appealed to and asked patriotically to banish all party and
"sectional" feelings from their minds, while discussing the best mode
of helping "our neighbor" out of the Slough of Despond, so that she may
be enabled to meet the demands we have upon her,--not in money, for
that she has not, and we purpose giving her a round sum, but in land,
of which she has a vast supply, and all of it susceptible of yielding
good returns to servile industry. There is a necessity for this appeal
to Opposition Senators, as the Juarez treaty cannot be ratified without
the aid of some of their number. The ratification vote must consist of
two-thirds of the Senators present and voting; and of the sixty-six men
forming the Senate, but thirty-nine are Democrats, and two are "South
Americans." The Republicans, who could muster but a dozen votes in the
Senate when the present phase of the Slavery contest was begun, have
doubled their strength, and have arrived at the honor of being sought
by men who but yesterday regarded them as objects of scorn. Nor is it
altogether a new thing for the administration to depend upon its
enemies; and the practical adoption of the "one-term" principle in our
Presidential contests, by virtually depriving all administrations of
strict party support, has introduced into our politics a new element,
the first faint workings of which are beginning to be seen, but which
is destined to have grave effects, and not such, in all cases, as are
to be desired.
But it is not from the ambition or the perverseness of the President
that Mexico has much to fear. Were it not for other reasons, which
proceed from the "Manifest Destiny" school, the country would laugh down
the administration's Mexican programme, and it could hardly be expected to
receive the grave consideration of the Senate. What Mexico has to fear
is the rapid increase of the old American opinion, that we were
appointed by Destiny to devour her, and that in spoiling her we are
only fulfilling "our mission," discharging, as we may say, a high moral
and religious duty. It is not that we have any animosity toward Mexico,
but that we are the Heaven-appointed rulers of America, of which she
happens to be no small part. By a happy ordination, and a wise
direction of our skill as missionaries militant, we never waste our
time and our valor on strong countries; and as wolves do not seek to
make meals of lions, preferring mutton, so we have no taste for those
very American countries which are inhabited by the English race, and in
which exist those great political institutions of the enjoyment of
which we are so proud. The obligation to take Mexico is admitted by
most Americans, though some would proceed more rapidly in the work of
acquisition than others; but no one hints that we ought to have
Canada. Our government has repeatedly offered to purchase Cuba of
Spain, which offer that country holds to be an insult; but it has not
yet thought proper to seek possession of Jamaica. Destiny, in our case,
is as judicious as it is imperative, and means that we shall find our
account in doing her work. Had she favored some other nations as much
as we are favored, they might have flourished till now, instead of
becoming wrecks on the sandy shores of the Sea of Time.
The conviction that Mexico is to be ours is no new idea. It is as old,
almost, as the American nation. We found Spain in our path very soon
after she had behaved in so friendly a manner to us during the
Revolution; and one of the earliest thoughts of the West was to get her
out of the way. This was "inevitable," and "Manifest Destiny" was as
actively at work in the days of Rodgers Clarke as in those of Walker,
but with better reason; for the control that Spain exercised over the
navigation of the Mississippi was contrary to common sense. In a few
years, the acquisition of Louisiana (nominally from France, but really
from Spain) removed the evil of which the West complained; but the idea
of seizure remained, and was strengthened by the deed that was meant to
extinguish it. That Louisiana had been obtained without the loss of a
life, and for a sum of money that could be made to sound big only when
reduced to _francs_ was quite enough to cause the continuance of that
system of agitation which had produced results so great with means so
small. Enmity to Spain remained, after the immediate cause of it had
ceased to exist. War with that country was expected in 1806, and the
West anxiously desired it, meaning to invade Mexico. Hence the
popularity of Aaron Burr in that part of the Union, and the favor with
which his schemes were regarded by Western men. Burr was a generation
in advance of his Atlantic contemporaries, but he was not in advance of
the Ultramontanes, only abreast of them, and well adapted to be their
leader, from his military skill and his high political rank; for his
duel with Hamilton had not injured him in their estimation. His
connection with the war party, however, proved fatal to it, and
probably was the cause of the non-realization of its plans fifty years
ago. President Jefferson hated Colonel Burr with all the intensity that
philosophy can give to political rivalry; and so the whole force of the
national government was brought to bear against the arch-plotter, who
fell with a great ruin, and for the time Mexico was saved. Then came
Napoleon's attack on Spain, which necessarily postponed all attempts on
countries that might become subject to him; and before the Peninsular
War had been decided, we were ourselves involved in war with England,
which gave us work enough at home, without troubling "our neighbor."
But the events of that war helped to increase the spirit of acquisition
in the South and the Southwest, while they put an end forever to plans
for the conquest of Canada. The "aid and comfort" which the Spaniards
afforded to both Indians and Britons, from Florida, led to the seizure
of Florida by our forces in time of peace with Spain, and to the
purchase of that country. The same year that saw our title to Florida
perfected saw the end of Spanish rule in Mexico. The first effect of
this change was unfavorable to the extension of American dominion.
Mexico became a republic, taking the United States for a model.
Principle and vanity alike dictated forbearance on our side, and for
some years the new republic was looked upon with warm regard by the
American people; and had her experiment proved successful, our
territory never could have been increased at her expense. But that
experiment proved a total failure. Not even France herself could have
done worse for republicanism than was done by Mexico. Internal wars,
constant political changes, violations of faith, and utter disregard of
the terms of the Constitution,--these things brought Mexico into
contempt, and revived the idea that North America had been especially
created for the use of the Anglo-Saxon race and the abuse of negroes.
As a nation, too, Mexico had been guilty of many acts of violence
toward the United States, which furnished themes for those politicians
who were interested in bringing on a war between the two countries. The
attempt to enforce Centralism on Texas, which contained many Americans,
increased the ill-will toward Mexico. The end came in 1846, when we
made war on that country, a war resulting in the acquisition of much
Mexican territory,--Texas, Upper California, and New Mexico. It cannot
be said we behaved illiberally in our treatment of Mexico, the position
of the parties considered; for we might have taken twice as much of her
land as we did take, and not have paid her a farthing: and we paid her
$15,000,000, besides assuming the claims which Americans held against
her, amounting to $3,250,000 more. The war "blooded" the American
people, and made the idea of acquiring Mexico a national one; whereas
before it had a sectional character. The question of absorbing that
country was held to be merely one of time; and had it not been for the
existence of slavery, much more of Mexico would have been acquired ere
now, either by purchase or by war. There have been few men at the head
of Mexican affairs, since the peace of 1848, who were not ready to sell
us any portion of their country to which we might have laid claim, if
we had tendered them the choice between our purse and our sword. We
paid $10,000,000 for the Mesilla Valley, and for certain navigation
privileges in the Colorado river and the Gulf of California,--a
circumstance that shows how resolute is our determination to have
Mexico, and also that we are not disposed to have the process of
acquisition marked by shabby details.
The law that governs the course of conquest is of a plain and obvious
character. Occasionally there may arise some conqueror, like Timour,
who shall sweep over countries apparently for no other purpose but to play
the part of the destroying angel, though it is not difficult to see that
even such a man has his uses in the orderings of Providence for the
government of the world. But the rule is, that conquest shall, quite as
much as commerce, be a gainful business. Conquerors who proceed
systematically go from bad lands to good lands, and from good lands to
better ones. To get out of the desert into a land flowing with milk and
honey is as much the object of modern and uncalled Gentiles as ever it was
with ancient called and chosen Jews. Historians appear inclined to censure
Darius, because, instead of invading Hellas, equally weak and fertile,
he sought to conquer the poor Scythians, who conquered him. The Romans
organized robbery, and had a wonderful skill in selecting peoples for
enemies who were worth robbing. "The Brood of Winter," who overthrew
the Roman Empire, poured down upon lands where grew the grape and the
rose. The Saracens, who were carried forward, in the first instance, by
fanaticism, had the streams of their conquests lengthened and broadened
and deepened by the wealth and weakness of Greeks and Persians and
Goths and Africans. Had those streams poured into deserts, by the
deserts they would soon have been absorbed, and we should have known
the Mahometan superstition only as we know twenty others of those forms
of faith produced by the East,--as something sudden, strange, and
short-lived. But it was fed by the riches which its votaries gained,
the reward of their piety, and the cement of their religious edifice.
The Normans, that most chivalrous of races, and, like all chivalrous
races, endowed with a keen love of gain, did not seize upon poor
countries, but upon the best lands they could take and hold,--the
beautiful Neustria, the opulent Sicily, and the fertile England, so
admirably situated to become the seat of empire. So, it will be found,
have all conquering, absorbing races proceeded, not even excluding the
Pilgrim Fathers, who, if they paid the Indians for their lands,
generally contrived to get good measure for small disbursements, and to
order things so that the lands purchased should be fat and fair in
Tried by the standard of conquest, the course of the American people
toward Mexico is the most natural in the world. Mexico possesses
immense wealth, and incalculable capabilities in the way of increasing
that wealth; and she is no more competent to defend herself against a
powerful neighbor than Sicily was to maintain her independence against
the Romans. We are her neighbor,--with a population abounding in
adventurers domestic and imported, and with politicians who carve out
states that shall make them senators and representatives and governors,
and perhaps even presidents. As we get nearer to Mexico, the population
is more lawless, less inclined to observe those rules upon faith in
which the weak must depend for existence. The eagles are gathered about
the carcase, and think that to forbid its division among them would be
to perpetrate a great moral wrong. The climate of Mexico seems to
invite the Northern adventurer to that country. "In general," says Mr.
Butterfield, (who has just published a volume that might be called "The
American Conqueror's Guide-Book in Mexico," and to which we take this
occasion to express our obligations,)--"in general, the Republic, with
the exception of the coast and a few other places, which from situation
are extremely hot, enjoys an even and temperate climate, free from the
extremes of heat and cold, in consequence of which the most of the
hills in the cold regions are covered with trees, which never lose
their foliage, and often remind the traveller of the beautiful scenery
of the valleys of Switzerland. In Tierra Caliente we are struck by the
groves of mimosas, liquid amber, palms, and other gigantic plants
characteristic of tropical vegetation; and finally, in Tierra Templada,
by the enormous _haciendas_, many of which are of such extent as to be
lost to the sight in the horizon with which they blend." This picture
is calculated to incite the armed apostles of American liberty, and to
render them impatient until they shall have carried the blessings of
civilization to Mexico, rewarding themselves for their active
benevolence by the appropriation of lands so admirably adapted to the
labors of the descendants of Ham, whom it would be impious in them to
leave unprovided with the best fields to work out _their_
mission,--which is, to produce the greatest possible crops with the
least possible expenditure of capital and care, for the good of that
superior race which kindly supplies the deficiencies of Heaven with
respect to Africa,--a second Providence, as it were, and slightly
tinged with selfishness.
We need not dwell upon the importance of second causes in the
government of mankind. We find them at work in fixing the future of
Mexico. The final cause of the absorption of Mexico by the United
States will be the restless appropriating spirit of our people; but
this might leave her a generation more of national life, were it not
that her territory presents a splendid field for slave-labor, and that,
both from pecuniary and from political motives, our slaveholders are
seeking the increase of the number of Servile States. Mexico is capable
of producing an unlimited amount of sugar and an enormous amount of
cotton. There is a demand for both these articles,--a demand that is
constantly increasing, and which is so great, and grows so rapidly,
that the melancholy prospect of rum without sugar has presented itself
to some minds, not to speak of only half-allowance to all the
tea-tables of Christendom. Africa is beginning to wear shirts, and the
stamp of more than one Yankee manufacturer has been indorsed on the
backs of many African chiefs. Slave-labor, we are assured, can alone
afford an adequate supply of cotton and sugar; for none but negroes can
labor on the plantations where cane and cotton are raised, and they
will labor only under compulsion, and compulsion can be had only under
the system of slavery. The point seems to be as clearly established as
reason can establish it, though the negroes might object to the process
adopted and to the conclusion drawn; but they are interested parties,
and not to be regarded therefore. We must add, that the quality of
Mexican sugar is as good as the yield is enormous, and, were the
cane-fields in our hands, it would be impious to doubt of there being a
fall of a mill on the pound all the world over. Compared with such a
gain to the consuming classes, what would it matter that the producers
were "expended" every four or five years, thereby furnishing an
argument in favor of the revival (we should say extension, for it
appears to be lively enough) of the slave-trade between Africa and
America? So is it with Mexican cotton, which propagates itself, and is
not raised annually from the seed, as in our cotton-growing States. In
the Hot Land of Mexico, the laborers in the cotton-fields merely keep
these fields clear from weeds, as we should say,--no easy task, it may
be assumed, with a soil so luxuriant, and where frost is unknown. Yet
the amount of cotton produced annually in the Hot Land is shamefully
small, not exceeding ten million pounds,--a mere bagatelle, which
Manchester would devour in a week. Consider what an increase in cottons
and calicoes, what a gain in shirts and sheets, would follow from the
seizure of those fields by Americans from Mississippi and Alabama; and
let no idle notions concerning national morality prevent the increase
of those comforts which the poor now know, but which never came to the
knowledge of Caesar Augustus, and which were unknown to Solomon in all
his glory. Where would have been the great English nation, if the
adventurous cut-throats who followed Norman William from Saint Valery
to Hastings had been troubled with squeamish notions about the rights
of the Saxons?
There are other articles, besides cotton and sugar, in the production
of which slave-labor pays, and pays well, too; and all these articles
Mexico is capable of yielding immensely. The world needs more rice;
rice can be cultivated only by negroes, or people much like them; and
rice can be raised in Mexico in incredible quantities, under a
judicious system of industry, such as, we are constantly assured,
slavery ever has been and ever will be. Tobacco is another Mexican
article, and also one in producing which negroes can be profitably
employed; and as tobacco is becoming scarce, while consumers of it are
on the increase, it would seem to be our duty to prepare the fields of
Tabasco for more extended cultivation,--since there, as well as in many
other parts of Mexico, tobacco almost as good as the best that is grown
in Cuba can be produced. Coffee, indigo, and hemp are Mexican articles,
and can all be cultivated by slave-labor. Maize is grown in every part
of the country, yielding three hundred fold in the Hot Land, and twice
that rate in one district; and maize is a slave-grown article. Smaller
articles there are, but valuable, in raising which slaves would be found
useful,--among them cocoa, vanilla, and _frijoles_, the last being to the
Mexicans what the potato is to the Irish, the common food of the common
people. On the supposition that slaves could be made to labor well in
wheat-fields,--and under a stringent system of slavery this would be
far from impossible,--Mexico might afford profitable employment to
myriads of Africans in the course of civilization and Christianization.
Wheat returns sixty for one in the best valleys of the Temperate
Region; and when we call to mind that flour is becoming a luxury to
poor white people even in America, the propriety of having those
valleys filled up with a black population of great industrial
capability stands admitted; and as black people have an unaccountable
aversion to working for others, the necessity of slavery is established
by the high price of flour, and the capacity of the white races for
consuming twice as much as is now produced in the whole world.
It would be no difficult matter to show that Mexico is the most
productive of countries, whether we consider the variety of the
articles there grown, or the capabilities of the land for increasing
their quantity. To the manufacturer and the merchant she is as
attractive as she is to the agriculturist; and her mineral wealth is
apparently inexhaustible, and has passed into a proverb. During the
thirteen generations since the Spanish Conquest, the value of the gold
and silver exported is estimated at $4,640,204,889; and this is
considered a very low estimate by those best qualified to judge of its
correctness. Mr. Butterfield expresses the opinion that the annual
export is now near $40,000,000, much of which is smuggled out of the
country. The land is also rich in the common metals, the production of
which, as well as of gold and silver, would be incalculably increased,
should Mexico pass under the dominion of an energetic race, greedy of
other men's wealth, if not profuse of its own.
We have said enough to show the capabilities of Mexico as a
slaveholding country; and of the desire of American slaveholders to
push their industrial system into countries adapted to it, there are,
unfortunately, but too many proofs. They are prompted by the love of
power and the love of wealth to obtain possession of Mexico, and the
energy that is ever displayed by them when pursuing a favorite object
will not allow us to doubt what the end of the contest upon which the
United States are about to enter must be. We have then, to consider the
character of the people upon whom slavery is to be forced, and the
probable effect of their subjugation to American dominion. The subject
is far from being agreeable, and the consideration of it gives rise to
the most painful thoughts that can move the mind.
The exact number of people in Mexico it is not possible to state. Mr.
Mayer estimated that in 1850 the proximate actual population was
7,626,831, classed as follows:--Whites, 1,100,000; Indians, 4,354,886;
Mestizos, Zambos, Mulattoes, etc., 2,165,345; Negroes, 6,600. Only
one-seventh of the population belongs to that class, or caste, to which,
according to the common sentiment in the United States, dominion over
the earth has been given. The other six-sevenths are, in American
estimation, and would so become in fact, should Mexico own our
rule, mere political Pariahs; and if they should escape personal
slavery, it would be through their rapid extinction under the
blasting effects of civilization. There are, at this time, it
may be assumed, 7,000,000 human beings in Mexico to whom few
Americans are capable of conceding the full rights of humanity. Of
these, about one-third, the negroes and the mixed races, from the fact
that they have African blood in their veins, would be outlawed by the
mere conquest of Mexico by American arms, so far as relates
to the higher conditions of life. As several of our States have
already compelled free negroes to choose between slavery and
banishment, and as the American settlers of Mexico would proceed
principally from States in which the sentiment prevails that has led to
the adoption of so illiberal a policy, a third of the native population
would, it is likely, be reduced to a condition of chattel slavery
within a very short time after the change of government had been
effected. There is not an argument used in behalf of the rigid slave
codes of several of our States which would not be applicable to the
enslavement of the black and mixed Mexicans, all of whom would be of
darker skins and less enlightened minds than the slaves that would be
taken to the conquered land by the conquerors. How could the slaves
thus taken there be allowed to see even their inferiors in the
enjoyment of personal freedom? If the State of Arkansas can condescend
to be afraid of a few hundred free negroes and mulattoes, and can
illustrate its fear by turning them out of their homes in mid-winter,
what might not be expected from a ruling caste in a new country, with
two and a half millions of colored people to strike terror into the
souls of those comprising it? Just or humane legislation could not be
looked for at the hands of such men, who would be guilty of that
cruelty which is born of injustice and terror. The white race of Mexico
would join with the intrusive race to oppress the mixed races; and as
the latter would be compelled to submit to the iron pressure that would
be brought to bear upon them, more than two millions of slaves would be
added to the servile population of America, and would become the basis
of a score of Representatives in the national legislature, and of as
many Presidential Electors; so that the practice of the grossest
tyranny would give to the Slaveholding States, _per saltum_, as great
an increase of political power as the Free States could expect to
achieve through a long term of years illustrated by care and toil and
the most liberal expenditure of capital.
The Indians would fare no better than the mixed races, though the mode
of their degradation might differ from that which would be pursued
toward the latter. The Indians of Mexico are a race quite different
from the Indians whom we have exterminated or driven to the remote
West. They are a sad, a superstitious, and an inert people, upon whom
Spanish tyranny has done its perfect work. Nominally Christians, they
are nearly as much devoted to paganism as were their ancestors of the
age of the Conquistadores. They are the most finished conservatives on
the face of the earth, and see ruin in change quite as readily as if
they lived in New England and their opinions were worth quoting on
State Street. The traveller can see in Mexican fields, to-day, the
manner in which those fields were cultivated in the early days of the
last Montezuma, before the Spaniard had entered the land,--as in Canada
he can occasionally find men following the customs that were brought,
more than two centuries ago, from Brittany or Normandy. The Indians are
practically enslaved by two things: they are so attached to the soil on
which they are born as to regard expulsion from it as the greatest of
all punishments,--thus being much like those serfs who, in some other
countries, are legally bound to the land, and are sold with it; and
they are forever in debt, the consequence of reckless indulgence, and
of that inability to think of the morrow which is the most prominent
characteristic of the inferior races of men. This has caused
the existence of the system of _peonage_, of which so much has been
said in this country, in the attempts that have been made to show that
slavery already prevails in Mexico. But American planters never would
be content with peonage, which does not give to the employer any power
over the Indians' offspring, or convey to him any of those _rights_ of
property in his fellow-men which form the most attractive feature of
slavery as it exists in the United States. They would demand something
more than that; and the system of _repartimientos_, under which the
Indians of the time of Cortes were divided among the conquerors, with
the land, would not improbably follow the annexation of Mexico to the
United States. The natives would be compelled to labor far more
vigorously than they now labor, and their burdens would be increased in
the same ratio in which the American is more energetic and exacting
than the Mexican. Under such a system, the Indians would vanish as
rapidly as they did from Hayti, when a similar system was adopted
there, soon after the discovery of America. Then would arise a demand
for the revival of the slave-trade with Africa, and on the same ground
on which African slavery was introduced into America,--because the
negro is better able than the Indian to meet the demands which the
white man makes upon the weaker races who happen to be placed in his
power. With such unlimited fields for the production of sugar and
cotton, those leading agencies of Christianity and civilization, it
would never do for the world to deny to the new school of planters a
million of negroes, so necessary to the full development of the purpose
of the American crusaders. Observe what a gain it would be to the
shipping interest, could the seas become halcyonized through the
conquest of prejudices by men who believe that God is just, and that He
has made of one flesh and one blood all the nations of the earth!
Even if it should not be sought to enslave the Indians of Mexico, that
race would not be the less doomed. There seems to be no chance for
Indians in any country into which the Anglo-Saxon enters in force. A
system of free labor would be as fatal to the Mexican Indians as a
system of slave labor. The whites who would throng to Mexico, on its
conquest by Americans, and on the supposition that slavery should not
be established there, would regard the Indians with sentiments of
strong aversion. They would hate them, not only because they were
Indians,--which would be deemed reason enough,--but as competitors in
industry, who could afford to work for low wages, their wants being
few, and the cost of their maintenance small. It is charged against the
Indians that they are not flesh-eaters; and white men prefer meat to
any other description of food. Place a flesh-eating race in antagonism
with a race that lives on vegetables, and the former will eat up the
latter. The sentiment of the whites toward the Indians is not unlike
that which has been expressed by an eminent American statesman, who
says that the cause of the failure of Mexico to establish for herself a
national position is to be sought and found in her acknowledgment of
the political equality of her Indian population. He would have them
degraded, if not absolutely enslaved; and degradation, situated as they
are, implies their extinction. This is the opinion of one of the ablest
men in the Democratic party, who, though a son of Massachusetts, is
ready to go as far in behalf of slavery as any son of South Carolina.
Another eminent Democrat, no less a man, indeed, than President
Buchanan, is committed to very different views. He is the patron of
Juarez, whom he would support with all the power of the United States,
and whose government he would carry to "the halls of the Montezumas" in
the train of an American army. Now Juarez is a pure-blooded and
full-blooded Indian. Not a drop of Castilian blood, blue or black,
flows in his veins. He is a genuine Toltec, a member of that mysterious
race which flourished in the Valley of Mexico ages before the arrival
of the Aztecs, and the marvellous remains of whose works astonish the
traveller in Yucatan and Guatemala. He is a native of Oajaca, one of
the Pacific States, and the same that contained the vast estates
bestowed upon Cortes, to whom the Valley of Oajaca furnished his title
of Marquis. A poor Indian boy, and a fruit-seller, Juarez found a
patron, who saw his cleverness, and gave him an education, and so
enabled him to play no common part in his country,--the independence of
which he seems prepared to destroy, in the hope, perhaps, of securing
for it a stable and well-ordered government.
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
_Ludwig van Beethoven. Leben und Schaffen._ Herausgegeben von Adolph
Bernhard Marx, 2 vols. 8vo. Berlin, 1859. pp. 379, 339.
The English or American reader, whose only biography of Beethoven has
been the translation of Schindler's work by Moscheles, will be pleased
to find scattered through Marx's two volumes a number of interesting
extracts from the "Conversation-Books." These are not always given
exactly as in the originals, although the sense is preserved intact.
For instance, (Vol. I. p. 341,) speaking of the original overture to
"Leonore,"--afterwards printed as Op. 138,--Marx says, "It shows us, as
in a mirror of past happiness, a view of that which is hereafter to
reward Leonore and raise Florestan from his woe. Yes, Beethoven himself
is in theory of this opinion. In his Conversation-Books we read the
"Aristotle, in his 'Poetics,' remarks, 'Tragic heroes must at first
live in great happiness and splendor.' This we see in Egmont. 'Wenn sie
nun [so] recht gluecklich sind, [so] kommt mit [auf] einem Mal das
Schicksal und schlingt einen Knoten um ihr Haupt [ueber ihren Haupte]
den sie nicht mehr zu loesen vermoegen. Muth und Trotz tritt an die
Stelle [der Reue] und verwegen sehen sie dem Geschicke, [und sie sehen
verwegen dem Geschicke,] ja, dem Tod in's Aug'.'"
The words in brackets show the variations from the original; they are
slight, but will soon be seen to have significance.
Again, Marx says, (Vol. II. p. 214, note,) "In one of the
Conversation-Books Schindler remarks, 'Ich bin sehr gespannt auf die
Characterizirung [der Saetze] der B dur Trio......Der erste Satz traeumt
von lauter Glueckseligheit [Glueck und Zufriedenheit]. Auch Muthwille,
heiteres Taendeln und Eigensinn (mit Permission--Beethovenscher) ist
darin.'" [Should be "und Eigensinn (Beethovenische) is darin, mit
On page 217 of the same volume is part of a conversation between
Beethoven and his friend Peters, dated 1819. The Conversation-Book from
which it is taken is dated, in Beethoven's own hand, "March and April,
But enough for our purpose, which is to prove that Marx knows nothing
of the Conversation-Books from personal inspection, although he always
quotes them in such a manner as to impress the reader with the idea
that the extracts made are his own. Now, 1st, all his extracts are in
the second edition of Schindler's "Biography;" 2d, all the variations
from the original are found word for word in Schindler's excerpts; 3d,
the first of the above three examples, which Marx takes for an
expression of Beethoven's views, was written by Schindler himself, for
his master's perusal!
But though a biography give us nothing new in relation to the hero,
still it may be of great interest and value from the manner in which
well-known authorities are collected and digested, and the facts
presented in a picturesque, fascinating, living narrative. Such a work
is Irving's "Goldsmith." Such a work is not Marx's "Beethoven." It is
neither one thing nor another,--neither a biography nor a critical
examination of the master's works. It is a little of both,--an attempt
to combine the two, and a very unsuccessful one. Biography and
criticism are so strangely mixed up, jumbled together,--anecdotes of
different periods so absurdly brought into juxtaposition,--chronology
so oddly abused,--that one can obtain a far better idea of the man
Beethoven by reading Marx's authorities than his digest of them; and as
to his works, those upon which we want information, which we have no
opportunity to hear, which have not been subjects of criticism and
discussion for a whole generation,--on these he has little or nothing
But the extreme carelessness with which Marx cites his authorities is
worthy of notice; here are a few examples.
Vol. I. p. 13. Here we find the well-known anecdote of Beethoven's
playing several variations upon Righini's air, "Vieni Amore," from
memory, and improvising others, before the Abbe Sterkel. Wegeler is the
original authority for the anecdote, the point of which depends upon
the fact that the printed variations were a composition by Beethoven.
Marx here and elsewhere in his book attributes them to Sterkel!
Ib. p. 31. Speaking of the pleasure Van Swieten took in Beethoven's
playing of Bach's fugues, and of the dislike of the latter to being
urged to play, Marx quotes as follows: "He came then (relates Ries, who
became his pupil in 1800) back to me with clouded brow and out of
temper," etc. To _me_,--Ries,--a boy of sixteen,--and Beethoven already
the composer all of whose works half a dozen publishers were ready to
take at any prices he chose to fix!--Ries relates no such thing.
Wegeler does, but of a period five years before Ries came to Vienna;
moreover, he relates it in relation to Beethoven's dislike to being
urged to play in mixed companies,--the fact having no relation whatever
to Van Swieten's weekly music-parties.
Ib. p. 33. Beethoven is now twenty-five. "At this time, as it seems,
there has been no talk of ill health." Directly against the statement
Ib. p. 38. The Concerto for Pianoforte and Orchestra, Op. 15, "Probably
composed in 1800, since it was offered to Hofmeister Jan. 5, 1801." He
relates from Wegeler, that Beethoven wrote the finale when suffering
violently from colic. How is it possible for a man to overlook the next
line, "I helped him as much as I could with simple remedies," and not
associate it with Wegeler's statement that he himself left Vienna "in
the middle of 1796"? This fixes the date absolutely four or five years
earlier than Marx's probability. He is equally unlucky in his reading
of the letters of Hofmeister; for the Concerto offered him Jan. 5,
1801, was not this one, but that in B flat, Op. 19.
Ib. p. 186. The Sonata, Op. 22, "Out of the year 1802." If Marx will
turn to the letters to Hofmeister again, he will find this Sonata
offered for publication with the Concerto.
Ib. p. 341. "Schindler, who, however, first became acquainted with
Beethoven in 1808, and first came into close connection with him in
1813." Compare Schindler, 2d ed. p. 95. "It was in the year 1814 that I
first became personally acquainted with Beethoven." In 1808 Schindler
was a boy of thirteen years, in a Gymnasium, and had not yet come to
Vol. II. p. 86. Sonata, Op. 57. "The finale, as Ries relates, was
begotten in a night of storm"; and on this text Marx discourses through
a page or two. Ries relates no such thing.
Ib. p. 179. "Once more, relates Schindler, the two (Goethe and
Beethoven) met each other," etc. For Schindler, read Lenz.
Ib. p. 191. "The Philharmonic Society in London presented to him.....a
magnificent grand-piano forte of Broadwood's manufacture." Schindler
says expressly, "Presented by Ferd. Ries, John Cramer, and Sir George
Smart." Cannot Marx read German?
Ib. p. 329. We give one more instance of Marx's method of citing
authorities,--a very curious one. It is an extract from a letter
written to the Schotts in Mayence, signed A. Schindler, containing an
account of Beethoven's last hours, and published in the "Caecilia," in
full. Here is the passage;--
"When I came to him, on the morning of the 24th of March, (relates
_Anselm Huettenbrenner_, a musical friend and composer of Graetz, who had
hastened thither to see Beethoven once more,) I found his whole
countenance distorted, and him so weak, that, with the greatest
exertions, he could bring out but two or three intelligible words."
Throughout those volumes we find a certain vagueness of statement in
connection with the names of musicians with whom Beethoven came in
contact, which raises the question, whether Marx has no biographical
dictionary in his house, not even a copy of Schilling's Encyclopaedia,
for which he wrote so many biographies, and "indeed all the articles
signed A. B. M."? At times, however, the statements are not so vague.
For instance,--in the anecdote already referred to, Marx makes the two
Rombergs and Franz Ries introduce the "fifteen-year-old virtuoso" to
Sterkel,--that is, in 1785 or '86. At that date, (see Schilling,)
Andreas Romberg was a boy of eighteen, Bernard a boy of fifteen;
moreover, they did not come to Bonn until 1790, when Beethoven was
nearly twenty years old. In 1793-4 Marx makes Schenck "the to him
[Beethoven] well-known and valued composer of the 'Dorfbarbier,'"
--which opera was not written until some years later. In 1815
died Beethoven's "friend and countryman, Salomon of Bonn, in
London." It is possible that Beethoven may have occasionally seen
Salomon at Bonn, but that violinist went to London at least as early as
1781, after having then been for several years in Prince Henry's chapel
These things may, perhaps, strike the reader as of minor importance,
mere blemishes. So be it then; we will turn to a vexed question, which
has a literary importance, and see what light Marx throws upon it. We
refer to Bettine's letters to Goethe upon Beethoven, and the composer's
letters to her, the authority of which has been strongly questioned.
Marx gives them, Vol. II. pp. 121-135, and we turned eagerly to them,
expecting to find, from one who has for thirty years or more lived in
the same city with the authoress, the _questio vexata_ fully put to
rest Nothing of the kind. He quotes them from Schindler with
Schindler's remarks upon them, to which he gives his assent. As to the
letters of Beethoven to Bettine, he has not even done that lady the
justice to give them as she has printed them, but rests satisfied with
a copy confessedly taken from the English translation! Of these Marx
says,--"These letters,--one has not the right, perhaps, to declare them
outright creations of fancy; at all events, there is no judicial proof
of this, no more than of their authenticity,--if they are not imagined,
they are certainly translated... from Beethoven into the Bettine
speech. Never--compare all the letters and writings of Beethoven which
are known with these Bettine epistles--never did Beethoven so
write..... If he wrote to Bettine, then she has poetized [ueberdichtet]
his letters,--and she has not done even this well; we have in them
Beethoven as seen in the mirror Bettine." He adds in a note, "In the
highest degree girl-like and equally un-Beethovenlike are these
constant repetitions: 'liebe, liebste,--liebe, liebe,--liebe,
What does Marx say to this beginning of a letter to Tiedge,--"Jeden Tag
schwebte mir immer folgende Brief an Sie, Sie, Sie, immer vor"? Or to
these repetitions from a series of notes written also from Toeplitz in
the summer of 1812? "Leben Sie wohl liebe, gute A." "Liebe, gute A.,
seit ich gestern," etc. "Scheint der Mond .... so sehen Sie den
kleinsten, kleinsten aller Menschen bei sich," etc.
And so on this point Marx leaves us just as wise as we were before.
There is a gentleman who can decide by a word as to the authenticity of
these letters of Beethoven, since he originally furnished them for
publication in the English translation of Schindler's "Biography." We
refer to Mr. Chorley, of the "London Athenaeum." Meantime we venture to
give Marx's opinion as much weight as we think it deserves, and
continue to believe in the letters; more especially because, as
published by Bettine herself in 1848, each is remarkable for certain
peculiarly Beethoven-like abuses of punctuation, orthography, and
capital letters, which carry more weight to our minds than the
unsupported opinions of a dozen Professors Marx.
Justice requires that we pass from merely biographical topics, which
are evidently not the forte of Professor Marx, to some of those upon
which he has bestowed far more space, and doubtless far more labor and
pains, and upon which, in this work, he doubtless also rests his claims
to our applause.
On page 199 of Vol. I. begins a division of the work, entitled by the
author "Chorische Werke." In previous chapters, Beethoven's pianoforte
compositions-sonatas, trios, the quintett, etc., up to Op. 54,
exclusive of the concertos for that instrument and orchestra-have been
treated. In this we have a very pleasing account of the gradual
progress of the composer from the concerto to the full splendor of the
"The composer Beethoven," says Marx, "was, as we have seen, also a
virtuoso. No one can be both, without feeling himself drawn to the
composition of concertos. These works then follow, and in close
relation to the pianoforte compositions of Beethoven, with and without
the accompaniment of solo instruments; and to them others, which may
just here be best brought under one general head for notice. From them
we look directly upward to orchestral and symphonic works. To all these
we give the general name of 'choral' works, for want of a better,--a
term which in fact belongs but to vocal music, and is exceedingly ill
adapted to a part of the compositions now under consideration. The
term, however, is used here as pointing at the significance of the
orchestra to Beethoven."
Marx's theory of Beethoven's progress, taking continually bolder and
loftier flights until he reaches the symphony, must necessarily be
based upon the chronology of the works in question,--a basis which he
adopts, but evidently, in the case of two or three of them, with some
hesitation; yet the theory has too great a charm for him to be lightly
We will bring into a table the compositions which he is now
considering, together with his dates of their composition, that we may
obtain a clearer view of their bearings upon the point in question.
Concerto in C for Pianoforte and Orchestra, Op. 15. 1800. (See p. 38.)
do. in B flat Op. 19. 1801.
do. in C minor, Op. 37. Not dated.
Six Quatuors for Bowed Instruments, Op. 18. Published in 1801-2,
but "begun earlier."
Quintett, Op. 29. 1802.
Septett, Op. 20. Not dated.
Prometheus, Ballet Op. 43. Performed March 28,
Grand Symphony, Op. 21. 1799 or 1800.
do. do. Op. 36. Performed 1800.
A glance at the dates in this table throws doubt upon the theory; the
doubt is increased by the consideration that all these important works
are, according to Marx, the labor of only three years! But let us turn
back and collect into another table the pianoforte works which are also
attributed to the same epoch.
Pianoforte Trio, Op. 11. 1799.
Three Pianoforte Sonatas, Op. 10. 1799.
Two do. do. Op. 14. 1799.
Adelaide, Song, Op. 46. 1798 or '99.
Sonata for Piano and Horn, Op. 17. 1800.
do. Pathetique, Op. 13. 1800.
Cliristus am Oolberg, Canta Op. 85. 1800.
Quintett, Op. 16. 1801.
Sonata, Op. 22. 1802.
do Op. 26. 1802.
do Op. 28. 1802.
From this list we have excluded works which Marx says were _published_
(_herausgegeben_) during these years, selecting only those which he
calls "aus dem Jahre,"--belonging to such a year.
Marx himself (Vol. I. p. 246 _et seq_.) shows us that the works above
mentioned, dated 1802, belong to an earlier period; for in the "first
months" of that year Beethoven fell into a dangerous illness, which
unfitted him for labor throughout the season.
We have, then, as the labor of three years, three grand pianoforte
concertos with orchestra, six string quartetts, a quintett, a septett,
a grand ballet, and two symphonies, for _great_ works; and for minor
productions,--by-play,--nine pianoforte solo sonatas, one for
pianoforte and horn, a pianoforte trio, a quintett, the "Adelaide," and
the "Christ on the Mount of Olives,"--a productiveness (and such a
productiveness!) not surpassed by Mozart or Handel in their best and
most marvellous years.
But these twenty-eight works, in fact, belong only in part to those
three years. The first concerto was finished before June, 1796; the
second in Prague, 1798; the third was performed late in the autumn of
1800. A performance of the first symphony is recorded at least ten, of
the second at least three, months before that of the ballet. As
this--the "Prometheus"--was written expressly for Vigano, the arranger
of the action, it is not to be supposed that any great lapse of time
took place between the execution of the order for and the production of
the music. In fact, Marx has no authorities, beyond Lenz's notices of
the _publication_ of the works in the above lists, for the dates which
he has given to them; none whatever for placing the works of the first
of our lists in that order; certainly none for placing Op. 37 before
Op. 18, Op. 29 before Op. 20, and Op. 48 before Op. 21 and Op. 36. And
yet, at the close of his remarks upon the septett, Op. 20, we read,
"Each of the compositions here noticed" (namely, those in the first
list down to the septett) "is a step away from the pianoforte to the
orchestra. In the midst of them appears the first (!) orchestral work
since the chivalrous ballet, to which the boy (?) Beethoven in former
days gave being. It was again to be a ballet,--'Gli Uomini di
Prometeo.'" Then follow remarks upon the ballet, closing thus:
"On the 'Prometheus' he had tried the strength of his pinions; in the
first symphony, 'Grande Sinfonie,' Op. 21, he floated calmly upon them
at those heights where the spirit of Mozart had rested."
No, Herr Professor Marx, your pretty fancy is without basis.
Chronology, "the eye of History," makes sad work of your theory. Pity
that in your "researches" you met not one of those lists of the members
of the Electoral Chapel at Bonn, which would have shown you that the
young Beethoven learned to wield the orchestra in that best of all
schools, the orchestra itself!
Three chapters of Book Second (Vol. I. pp. 239-307) are entitled
"Helden Weihe," (Consecration of the Hero,) "Die Sinfonie Eroica und
die ideale Musik," (The Heroic Symphony and Ideal Music,) and "Die
Zukunft vor dem Richterstuhl der Vergangenheit" (The Future before the
Judgment-Seat of the Past). Save the first fourteen pages, which are
given to Beethoven's sickness in 1802, the testament which he wrote at
that time, and some remarks upon the "Christ on the Mount of Olives,"
these chapters are devoted to the "Heroic Symphony,"--its history, its
explanation, and a polemical discourse directed against the views of
Wagner, Berlioz, Oulibichef, and others.
The circumstances under which this remarkable work was written, the
history of its origin and completion, are so clearly related by Ries
and Schindler, that it seems hardly possible to make any great blunder
in repeating them. Marx has, however, a very happy talent for getting
out of the path, even when it lies directly before him.
"When, therefore, Bernadotte," says he, "at that time French Ambassador
at Vienna, and sharer in the admiration which the Lichnowskis and
others of high rank felt for Beethoven, proposed to him to pay his
homage to the hero [Napoleon] in a grand instrumental work, he found
the artist in the best disposition thereto; perhaps such thoughts had
already occurred to his mind. In the year 1802, in autumn, he put his
hand already to the work, began first in the following year earnestly
to labor upon it, and, with many interruptions, and the production of
various compositions in the mean time, completed it in 1804."
From this passage, and from remarks in connection with it, it is clear
that Professor Marx supposes Bernadotte to have been in Vienna in
1802-3, and to have ordered this symphony of Beethoven. Schindler's
words, when speaking of his conversation with the composer in 1823, on
this topic, are,--"Beethoven erinnerte sich lebhaft, dass Bernadotte
wirklich zuerst die Idee zur Sinfonie Eroica in ihm rege gemacht hat"
(Beethoven remembered distinctly that it really was Bernadotte who
first awakened in him the idea of the "Heroic Symphony"). On turning to
the article on Bernadotte in the "Conversations-Lexicon," we find that
the period of his embassy embraced but a few months of the year 1798.
It seems to us a very suggestive and important fact toward the
comprehension of Beethoven's design in this work, that the conception
of it had been floating before his mind and slowly assuming definite
form during the space of four years, before he put hand to the
composition. Six years passed from the date of its conception before it
lay complete upon his table, with the single word "Bonaparte" in large
letters at the top of the title-page, and "L. Beethoven" at the bottom,
with nothing between. And what, according to Marx, is this product of
so much study and labor? A musical description of a battle; a funeral
march to the memory of the fallen; the gathering of the armies for
their homeward march; a description of the blessings of peace. A most
lame and impotent interpretation! Marx somewhere says, that Beethoven
never wrought twice upon the same idea; hence the funeral march of the
Symphony cannot have been originally intended in honor of a hero,--we
agree with him so far,--for this task he had once already accomplished
in the Sonata, Op. 26. But then, if the first movement of the Symphony
be a battle-piece, how came its author to compose another, and one so
entirely different, in 1812?
How any one--with the recollection of Beethoven's fondness for
describing character in music, even in youth upon the pianoforte,--with
the "Coriolanus Overture" before him, and the "Wellington's Victory at
Vittoria" at hand,--and, above all, with any knowledge of the
composer's love for the universal, the all-embracing, and his contempt
for minute musical painting, as shown by his sarcasms upon passages in
Haydn's "Creation"--can suppose the first movement of the "Heroic
Symphony" to be in the main intended as a battle-picture, passes our
comprehension. It may be so. It is but a matter of opinion. We have
nothing from Beethoven himself upon the point, unless we may suppose,
that, when, four years later, he printed upon the programme, at the
first performance of the "Pastoral Symphony," "Rather the expression of
feeling than musical painting," he was guarding against a mistake which
had been made as to the intent of the "Eroica."
We have no space to waste in following Marx, either through his
exposition of his battle theory, his explanations of the other
movements of the Symphony, or his polemics against previous writers.
His programme seems to us little, if at all, better than those which he
controverts. Instead of this, we venture to offer our own to the
reader's common sense, which, if it does not satisfy, at least shows
that Marx has not put the question forever at rest.
"Rather the expression of feeling than musical painting" seems to us a
key to the understanding of this, as well as of the "Pastoral
Symphony." Mere musical painting, and the composition of works to
order,--as is proved by the "Wellington's Victory," the "Coriolanus
Overture," the music to "Prometheus," to the "Ruins of Athens," the
"Glorreiche Augenblick," to say nothing of minor works, such as the
First and Second Concertos, the Horn Sonata, etc.,--Beethoven could and
did despatch with extreme rapidity; but works of a different order, for
which he could take his own time, and which were to be the expression
of the grand feelings of his own great heart,--the composition of these
was no light holiday-task. He could "make music" with all ease and
rapidity; and had this been his aim, the extreme productiveness of the
first years in Vienna shows that he might, perhaps, have rivalled
Father Haydn himself in the number of his instrumental compositions.
His difficulty was not in writing music, but in mastering the poetic
conception, and finding that tone-speech which should express in epic
progress, yet in obedience to the laws of musical form, the emotions,
feelings, sentiments to be depicted. Hence the great length of time
during which many of his works were subjects of meditation and study.
Hence the six years which elapsed between the conception and completion
of the "Heroic Symphony."
Beethoven passed his youth near the borders of France, under a
government which allowed a republican personal freedom to its subjects.
He was himself a strong republican, and old enough, when the crushed
people over the border at length arose in their terrible energy against
the King, to sympathize with them in their woe, perhaps in their
vengeance. What to us is the horrible history of those years was to him
the exciting news of the day; and it is not difficult to imagine the
changes of feeling with which he would follow the political changes in
France, the hopes of humanity now apparently lost in the gloom of the
Reign of Terror, and now the rising of the day-star, precursor of a
glorious day of republican freedom, in the marvellous successes of the
cool, determined, energetic, stoical young conqueror of Italy, living,
when Bernadotte fired his imagination by his descriptions of him, with
his wife, the widow of Beauharnais, in a small house in an obscure
street of the capital.
To us, then, the first movement of the "Heroic Symphony" is a study of
character. In the "Coriolanus Overture" we have one side of a hero
depicted: here we see lain, in all his aspects; we behold him in sorrow
and in joy, in weakness and in strength, in the struggle and in
victory,--overcoming opposition, and reducing all elements of discord
to harmony and order by the force of his energetic will. It may be
either a description of Napoleon, as Beethoven at that time understood
his character,--we are inclined to this opinion,--or it may be a more
general picture of a hero, to which the career of Napoleon had
furnished but the original conception. The second movement is to us the
wail of a nation ground to the dust by the iron heel of
despotism,--France under the old _regime_,--France in the Reign of
Terror,--France needing, as few nations have needed, the advent of a
hero. The scherzo, with its trio, is not a form for minute painting of
_how_ the hero comes and saves; nor is this necessary; it has been
sufficiently indicated in the first movement. _We_ hear in it the
awakening to new life, from the first whispers of hope, uttered
mysteriously and with trembling lips, to the bright and cheering
expression of a nation's joy,--not loudly and boisterously,--(Beethoven
never gives such a language to the depths of happiness,)--in the
exquisite passages for the horns in the trio. We agree with Marx
in feeling the finale to be a picture of the blessings of that peace
and quiet which the hero once more restores,--but peace and quiet where
liberty and law, justice and order reign.
One fact in relation to the finale of this symphony has caused
Professor Marx no little trouble. The movement is a theme and
variations, with a fugue, and was also published by Beethoven as a
"Theme and Variations for the Pianoforte," Op. 35, dedicated to Moritz
Lichnowsky. The theme is from the finale of the "Prometheus." Now what
could induce Beethoven to make this use of so important a work, as such
a finale to such a symphony, is to our Professor a puzzle. It troubles
him on page 70, (Vol. I.,) again on page 212, and finally on page 274.
The same theme three times employed,--he may say four, for it is one of
the six "Contredanses" by Beethoven, which appeared about that
time,--and the third time _so_ employed! Lenz happens to have
overlooked the fact,--and so has Marx,--that the Variations for the
Pianoforte, Op. 35, were advertised in the "Leipziger Musikalische
Zeitung," already in November, 1803. How long Beethoven had kept them
by him, how long it had taken them to make the then slow journey from
Vienna to Leipzig, to be engraved, corrected, and made ready for sale,
we are not informed. A very simple theory will account for all the
phenomena in this case.
A very beautiful theme in the finale of "Prometheus" is admired.
Beethoven composes variations upon it, and, to render it more worthy of
his friend Lichnowsky, adds the fugue. The work becomes a favorite, and,
the theme being originally descriptive of the happiness of man in a state
of culture and refinement, he decides to arrange it for orchestra, and
give it a place in the new symphony. How if Lichnowsky proposed it?
A large proportion of the three chapters under consideration, as,
indeed, of many others, is directed against Oulibichef,--
"Oulibichef-Thersites," as he names him in the Table of
Contents. The very different manner in which he treats this gentleman,
throughout his work, from that in which he speaks of Berlioz, Wagner,
Lenz, is striking; but Oulibichef is dead, and cannot reply. Some of
the Russian's contrapuntal objections to the "Heroic Symphony" are well
answered; but, as we are satisfied with the poetic explanation of the
work by neither, we must confess, that, after the crystalline clearness
of Oulibichef, the muddy wordiness of Marx is not to edification.
We turn now to the chapters devoted to the opera "Leonore," afterwards
"Fidelio,"--one of the most interesting topics in Beethoven's musical
history. Here, at length, we do find something beyond what Ries and
Schindler have recorded,--no longer the close coincidence in matters of
fact with Lenz; indeed, the account of the changes made in transforming
the three-act "Leonore" into the two-act "Fidelio" we consider the best
piece of historic writing in the volumes,--the one which gives us the
greatest number of new facts, and most clearly and chronologically
arranged. It is really quite unfortunate for Professor Marx, that
Professor Otto Jahn of Bonn gave us, some years since, in his preface
to the Leipzig edition of "Leonore," precisely the same facts, from
precisely the same sources, and in some cases, we had almost said, in
precisely the same words. The "coincidence" here is striking,--as we
cannot suppose Marx ever saw Jahn's publication, since he makes no
reference to it. In the errors with which Marx spices his narrative
occasionally, the coincidence ceases. Here are some instances.
--According to Marx, one reason of the ill success of the
opera at Vienna, in 1805-6, was the popularity of that upon the same
subject by Paer. The Viennese first heard the latter in 1809.--Again,
at the first production of the "Fidelio," in 1814, Marx says, the
Leonore Overture No. 3 was played because that in E flat was not
finished. Seyfried says expressly, the overture to the "Ruins of
Athens,"--Marx speaks of the proposals made to Beethoven in 1823 to
compose the "Melusine," and still another text,--and so speaks as to
leave the impression, that, from the "fall of the opera" in 1806, the
composer had purposely kept aloof from the stage. Does the Professor
know nothing of Beethoven's application in 1807 to the Theater-
Direktion of the imperial playhouses, to be employed as regular
operatic composer?--of the opera "Romulus?"--of his correspondence with
Koerner, Rellstab, and still others? It appears not.
We must close our article somewhere; it is already, perhaps, too long;
we add, therefore, but a general remark or two.
To many readers Marx's discussions of Beethoven's last works will be
found of interest and value, though written in that turgid, vague,
confused style--"words, words, words"--which the Germans denominate by
the expressive term, _Geschtwaetz_. This is especially the case with his
essays upon the great "Missa Solemnis," and the "Ninth Symphony."
We cannot rise from the perusal of this "Life of Beethoven" without
feeling something akin to indignation. Were it a possible supposition,
we should imagine it to be a thing manufactured to sell,--and, indeed,
in some such manner as this; The labors of Lenz taken without
acknowledgment for the skeleton of the work; Wegeler, Ries, Schindler,
and Seyfried at hand for citations, where Lenz fails to give more than
a reference; Oulibichef on the table to supply topics for polemical
discussion; a few periodicals and papers, which have come accidentally
into his possession, to afford here and there an anecdote or a letter;
the works of Professor A. B. Marx supplying the necessary authorities
upon points in musical science. As for any original research, that is
out of the question. Why stop to verify a fact, to decide a disputed
point, to search out new matter? The market waits,--the publisher
presses,--so, hurry-skurry, away we go,--and the book is done!
Seriously, such a book, from one with such opportunities at command, is
a disgrace to the institution in which its author occupies the station
When Schindler wrote, Johann van Beethoven, the brother, and Carl van
Beethoven, the nephew, were still alive, and feelings of delicacy led
him to do little more than hint at those domestic and family relations
and sorrows which for several years rendered the great composer much of
the time unfit for labor, and which at last brought him to the grave.
When Marx wrote, all had passed away, who could be wounded by a plain
statement of the facts in the case. Until we have such a statement,
none but he who has gone through the labor of studying the original
authorities, as they exist in Berlin, can know the real greatness,
perhaps also the weaknesses, of Beethoven in those last years. None can
know how his heart was torn,--how he poured out, concentrated all the
love of his great heart upon his adopted son, but to learn "how sharper
than the serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." Nothing of
all this in Marx. He quotes Schindler, and therewith enough.
Long as this article has become, we have referred to but the more
important of the passages which in reading we marked for
comment,--enough, however, we judge, to show that the biography of
Ludwig van Beethoven still remains to be written.
_The American Draught-Player_; or the Theory and Practice of the
Scientific Game of Chequers. By HENRY SPAYTH. Buffalo, New York.
Printed for the Author.
Almost everybody plays the game of draughts, but few have any insight
into its beauties; and many who look upon chess as a science rather
than an amusement regard draughts as a childish game, never suspecting
what eminent ability and painful research have been expended in
explaining a game which is inferior to chess only in variety and far
superior in scientific precision. Mr. Spayth's book is accordingly
addressed to a comparatively narrow circle of readers; but those who
are competent to judge of its merits will find it a work of great
value. The author, who is an enthusiastic votary of the game, and has
no superior among our American amateurs, offers a judicious selection
from the treatises of such foreign writers as the severe and critical
Anderson, the brilliant but capricious Drummond, Robert Martin, perhaps
the first of living players, Hay, Sinclair, and Wylie, besides many
valuable games from Sturges and Payne, who will never be rendered
obsolete by modern improvements,--together with the labors of such
acknowledged masters in America as Bethell, Mercer, Ash, Drysdale, and
Young, and the contributions of such rising players as Howard, Brooks,
Fisk, Boughton, Janvier, Hull, and Thwing. But his labors have not been
merely those of a compiler. Out of fifteen hundred games, more than
five hundred are the composition of Mr. Spayth himself.
The results of so much labor and skill cannot, of course, be fully
criticized by us. The merits of the volume can be fairly tested only by
long and constant use. We shall, however, venture to point out some
faults in Mr. Spayth's treatment, premising that his is by far the best
treatise upon the game yet published, and the only treatise worthy of
the name that has ever appeared in this country. Anderson's arrangement
of the games, which Mr. Spayth has adopted, is both clear and concise;
and we are glad to see that our author has adhered to the old system of
draught-notation, which is infinitely superior to any of the new plans.
The condensation and clear presentation of Paterson's somewhat abstruse
essay on "The Move and its Changes" is every way admirable, and many of
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