Atlantic Monthly, Vol. XI., April, 1863, No. LXVI.
Part 3 out of 5
same, but representative types. The Ibex of the Alps differs, for
instance, from that of the Pyrenees, that of the Pyrenees from those of
the Caucasus and Himalayas, these again from each other and from that of
But perhaps the most conclusive proof that we must seek for the origin
of organic life outside of physical causes consists in the permanence of
the fundamental types, while the species representing these types have
differed in every geological period. Now what we call typical features
of structure are in themselves no more stable or permanent than specific
features. If physical causes, such as light, heat, moisture, food,
habits of life, etc., acting upon individuals, have gradually in
successive generations changed the character of the species to which
they belong, why not that of the class and the branch also? If we judge
this question from the material side at all, we must, in order to judge
it fairly, look at it wholly from that point of view. If these specific
changes are brought about in this way, it is because external causes
have positive permanent effects upon the substances of which animals are
built: they have power to change their hair, to change their skin, to
change certain external appendages or ornamentations, and any other of
those ultimate features which naturalists call specific characters.
Now I would ask what there is in the substances out of which class
characters are built that would make them less susceptible to such
external influences than these specific characters. In many instances
the former are more delicate, more sensitive, far more fragile and
transient in their material nature than the latter. And yet never, in
all the chances and changes of time, have we seen any alteration in the
mode of respiration, of reproduction, of circulation, or in any of the
systems of organs which characterize the more comprehensive groups of
the Animal Kingdom, although they are quite as much under the immediate
influence of physical causes as those structural features which have
been constantly changing.
The woody fibre of the Pine-trees has had the same structure from the
Carboniferous age to this day, while their mode of branching and the
forms of their cones and leaves have been different in each period
according to their respective species. The combination of rings, the
structure of the wings, and the articulations of the legs are the same
in the Cockroaches of the Carboniferous age as in those which infest our
ships and our dwellings to-day, while the proportion of their parts is
on quite another scale. The tissue of the Corals in the Silurian age is
identical in chemical combination and organic structure with that of the
Corals of our modern reefs, and yet the extensive researches upon this
class for which we are indebted to Milne Edwards and Haime have not
revealed a single species extending through successive geological ages,
but show us, on the contrary, that every age has had its own kinds,
differing among themselves in the same way as those of the Gulf of
Mexico differ now from those of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. The
scales of the oldest known fishes in the Silurian beds have the same
microscopic structure as those of their representative types today, and
yet I have never seen a single fossil fish presenting the same specific
characters in the successive geological epochs. The teeth of the oldest
Sharks show the same microscopic structure as those of the present time,
and we do not lack opportunities for comparison, since the former are as
common in the mountain-limestone of Ireland as are those of the living
Sharks on any beach where our fishermen boil them for the sake of their
oil, and yet the Sharks appear under different generic and specific
forms in each geological age.
But without multiplying examples, which might be adduced _ad infinitum_,
to show permanence of type combined with repeated changes of species,
suffice it to say, that, while the general features in the framework of
the organic world and the materials of which that framework is
built, though quite as subject to the influence of physical external
circumstances as any so-called specific-features, have remained
perfectly intact from the beginning of Creation till now, so that not
the smallest difference is to be discerned in these respects between the
oldest representatives of the oldest types in the oldest Silurian rocks
and their successors through all the geological ages up to the present
day, the species have been different in each epoch. It is surely a fair
question to ask the advocates of the transmutation theory, whether they
attribute to physical laws the discernment that would lead them to
change the specific features, but to respect all those characters by
which the higher structural combinations of the Animal Kingdom are
preserved without alteration,--in other words, to maintain the organic
plan, while constantly diversifying the mode of expressing it. If so, it
would perhaps be as well to call them by another name, since they show
all the comprehensive wisdom of an intelligent Creator. Until they can
tell us why certain features of animals and plants are permanent under
conditions which, according to their view, have power to change certain
other features no more perishable or transient in themselves, the
supporters of the development theory will have failed to substantiate
their peculiar scientific doctrine.
But this discussion has led us far away from our starting point, and
interrupted our walk along the Silurian beach; let us return to gather a
few specimens there, and compare them with the more familiar ones of our
own shores. I have said that the beach was a shelving one, and covered
of course with shoal waters; but as I have no desire to mislead my
readers, or to present truths as generally accepted which are still
subject to dispute, I would state here that the parallel ridges across
the State of New York, considered by some geologists as the successive
shores of a receding ocean, are believed by others to be the
inequalities on the bottom of a shallow sea. Not only, however, does the
general character of these successive terraces suggest the idea that
they must have been shores, but the ripple-marks upon them are as
distinct as upon any modern beach. The regular rise and fall of the
water is registered there in waving, undulating lines as clearly as on
the sand-beaches of Newport or Nahant; and we can see on any one of
those ancient shores the track left by the waves as they rippled back at
ebb of the tide thousands of centuries ago. One can often see where some
obstacle interrupted the course of the water, causing it to break around
it; and such an indentation even retains the soft, muddy, plastic look
that we observe on the present beaches, where the resistance made by any
pebble or shell to the retreating wave has given it greater force at
that point, so that the sand around the spot is soaked and loosened.
There is still another sign, equally familiar to those who have watched
the action of water on a beach. Where a shore is very shelving and flat,
so that the waves do not recede in ripples from it, but in one unbroken
sheet, the sand and small pebbles are dragged and form lines which
diverge whenever the water meets an obstacle, thus forming sharp angles
on the sand. Such marks are as distinct on the oldest Silurian rocks as
if they had been made yesterday. Nor are these the only indications of
the same fact. There are certain animals living always upon sandy or
muddy shores, which require for their well-being that the beach should
be left dry a part of the day. These animals, moving about in the sand
or mud from which the water has retreated, leave their tracks there; and
if, at such a time, the wind is blowing dust over the beach, and the sun
is hot enough to bake it upon the impressions so formed, they are left
in a kind of mould. Such trails and furrows, made by small Shells or
Crustacea, are also found in plenty on the oldest deposits.
Admitting it, then, to be a beach, let us begin with the lowest type of
the Animal Kingdom, and see what Radiates are to be found there. There
are plenty of Corals, but they are not the same kinds of Corals as those
that build up our reefs and islands now. The modern Coral animals are
chiefly Polyps, but the prevailing Corals of the Silurian age were
Acalephian Hydroids, animals which indeed resemble Polyps in certain
external features, and have been mistaken for them, but which are
nevertheless Acalephs by their internal structure; for, instead of
having the vertical partitions dividing the body into chambers, so
characteristic of the Polyps, they are divided by tubes corresponding to
the radiating tubes of the Acalephs proper, these tubes being themselves
divided at regular distances by horizontal floors, so that they never
run uninterruptedly from top to bottom of the body. I subjoin a woodcut
of a Silurian Coral, which does not, however, show the peculiar internal
structure, but gives some idea of the general appearance of the old
Hydroid Corals. We have but one Acalephian Coral now living, the
Millepore; and it was by comparing that with these ancient ones that I
first detected their relation to the Acalephs. For the true Acalephs or
Jelly-Fishes we shall look in vain; but the presence of the Acalephian
Corals establishes the existence of the type, and we cannot expect to
find those kinds preserved which are wholly destitute of hard parts. I
do not attempt any description of the Polyps proper, because the early
Corals of that class are comparatively few, and do not present features
sufficiently characteristic to attract the notice of the casual
Of the Echinoderms, the class of Radiates represented now by our
Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins, we may gather any quantity, though the old
fashioned forms are very different from the living ones. I have dwelt at
such length in a former article[A] on the wonderful beauty and variety
of the Crinoids, or "Stone Lilies," as they have been called, from their
resemblance to flowers, that I will only briefly allude to them here.
The subjoined wood-cut represents one with a closed cup; but the number
of their different patterns is hardly to be counted, and I would invite
any one who questions the abundant expression of life in those days to
look at some slabs of ancient limestone in the Zooelogical Museum at
Cambridge, where the stems of the Crinoids are tangled together as
thickly as sea-weed on the shore. Indeed, some of our rock-deposits
consist chiefly of the fragments of their remains.
[Footnote A: See _Methods of Study in Natural History, Atlantic
Monthly_, No. LVII., July, 1862.]
The Mollusks were also represented then, as now, by their three
classes,--Acephala, Gasteropoda, and Cephalopoda. The Acephala or
Bivalves we shall find in great numbers, but of a very different pattern
from the Oysters, Clams, and Mussels of recent times. The annexed
wood-cut represents one of these Brachiopods, which form a very
characteristic type of the Silurian deposits. The square cut of the
upper edge, where the two valves meet along the back and are united by
a hinge, is altogether old-fashioned, and unknown among our modern
Bivalves. The wood-cut does not show the inequality of the two valves,
also a very characteristic feature of this group,--one valve being flat
and fitting closely into the other, which is more spreading and much
fuller. These, also, were represented by a great variety of species, and
we find them crowded together as closely in the ancient rocks as Oysters
or Clams or Mussels on any of our modern shores. Besides these, there
were the Bryozoa, a small kind of Mollusk allied to the Clams, and very
busy then in the ancient Coral work. They grew in communities, and the
separate individuals are so minute that a Bryozoan stock looks like
some delicate moss. They still have their place among the Reef-Building
Corals, but play an insignificant part in comparison with that of their
Of the Silurian Univalves or Gasteropods there is not much to tell, for
their spiral shells were so brittle that scarcely any perfect specimens
are known, though their broken remains are found in such quantities as
to show that this class also was very fully represented in the earliest
creation. But the highest class of Mollusks, the Cephalopods or
Chambered Shells, or Cuttle-Fishes, as they are called when the animal
is unprotected by a shell, are, on the contrary, very well preserved,
and they are very numerous. Of these I will speak somewhat more in
detail, because their geological history is a very curious one.
The Chambered Nautilus is familiar to all, since, from the exquisite
beauty of its shell, it is especially sought for by conchologists;
but it is nevertheless not so common in our days as the Squids and
Cuttle-Fishes, which are the most numerous modern representatives of the
class. In the earliest geological days, on the contrary, those with a
shell predominated, differing from the later ones, however, in having
the shell perfectly straight instead of curved, though its internal
structure was the same as it is now and has ever been. Then, as now, the
animal shut himself out from his last year's home, building his annual
wall behind him, till his whole shell was divided into successive
chambers, all of which were connected by a siphon. Some of the shells of
this kind belonging to the Silurian deposits are enormous: giants of the
sea they must have been in those days. They have been found fifteen
feet long, and as large round as a man's body. One can imagine that the
Cuttle-Fish inhabiting such a shell must have been a formidable animal.
These straight-chambered shells of the Silurian and Devonian seas are
called Orthoceratites (see wood-cut below). We shall meet them again
hereafter, under another name and with a different form; for, as they
advance in the geological ages, they not only assume the curved outline
with ever closer whorls till it culminates in the compact coil of the
Ammonites of the middle periods, but the partitions, which are perfectly
plain walls in these earlier forms, become scalloped and involuted along
the edges in the later ones, making the most delicate and exquisite
tracery on the surface of the shell.
Of Articulates we find only two classes, Worms and Crustacea. Insects
there were none,--for, as we have seen, this early world was wholly
marine. There is little to be said of the Worms, for their soft bodies,
unprotected by any hard covering, could hardly be preserved; but,
like the marine Worms of our own times, they were in the habit of
constructing envelopes for themselves, built of sand, or sometimes from
a secretion of their own bodies, and these cases we find in the earliest
deposits, giving us assurance that the Worms were represented there.
I should add, however, that many impressions described as produced by
Worms are more likely to have been the tracks of Crustacea.
But by far the most characteristic class of Articulates in ancient times
were the Crustaceans. The Trilobites stand in the same relation to the
modern Crustacea as the Crinoids do to the modern Echinoderms. They were
then the sole representatives of the class, and the variety and richness
of the type are most extraordinary. They were of nearly equal breadth
for the whole length of the body, and rounded at the two ends, so as
to form an oval outline. To give any adequate idea of the number and
variety of species would fill a volume, but I may enumerate some of
the more striking differences: as, for instance, the greater or less
prominence of the anterior shield,--the preponderance of the posterior
end in some, while in others the two ends are nearly equal,--the
presence or absence of prongs on the shield and of spines along the
sides of the body,--appendages on the head in some species, of which
others are entirely destitute,--and the smooth outline of some, while
in others the surface is broken by a variety of external ornamentation.
Such are a few of the more prominent differences among them. But the
general structural features are the same in all. The middle region of
the body is always divided in uniform rings, lobed in the middle so as
to make a ridge along the back with a slight depression on either side
of it. It is from this three-lobed division that they receive their
name. The subjoined wood-cut represents a characteristic Silurian
There is no group more prominent in the earliest creations than this one
of the Trilobites, and so exclusively do they belong to them, that, as
we shall see, in proportion as the later representatives of the class
come in, these old-world Crustaceans drop out of the ranks, fall behind,
as it were, in the long procession of animals, and are left in the
ancient deposits. Even in the Carboniferous period but few are to
be found: they had their day in the Silurian and Devonian ages. In
consequence of their solid exterior, the preservation of these animals
is very complete; and their attitudes are often so natural, and the
condition of all their parts so perfect, that one would say they had
died yesterday rather than countless centuries ago.
Their geological history has been very thoroughly studied; not only are
we familiar with all their adult characters, but even their embryology
is well known to naturalists. It is, indeed, wonderful that the mode of
growth of animals which died out in the Carboniferous period should
be better known to us than that of many living types. But it is
nevertheless true that their embryonic forms have been found perfectly
preserved in the rocks, and Barrande, in his "Systeme Silurien de la
Boheme," gives us all the stages of their development, from the time
when the animal is merely sketched out as a simple furrow in the embryo
to its mature condition. So complete is the sequence, that the plate on
which their embryonic changes are illustrated contains more than thirty
figures, all representing different phases of their growth. There is not
a living Crab represented so fully in any of our scientific works as is
that one species of Trilobite whose whole story Barrande has traced from
the egg to its adult size. Such facts should make those who rest
their fanciful theories of the origin and development of life on the
imperfection of the geological record, filling up the supposed lapses to
suit themselves, more cautious as to their results.
We have found, then, Radiates, Mollusks, and Articulates in plenty;
and now what is to be said of Vertebrates in these old times,--of the
highest and most important division of the Animal Kingdom, that to which
we ourselves belong? They were represented by Fishes alone; and the Fish
chapter in the history of the early organic world is a curious, and,
as it seems to me, a very significant one. We shall find no perfect
specimens; and he would be a daring, not to say a presumptuous thinker,
who would venture to reconstruct a fish of the Silurian age from any
remains that are left to us. But still we find enough to indicate
clearly the style of those old fishes, and to show, by comparison with
the living types, to what group of modern times they belong. We should
naturally expect to find the Vertebrates introduced in their simplest
form; but this is by no means the case: the common fishes, as Cod,
Herring, Mackerel, and the like, were unknown in those days.
But there are two groups of so-called fishes, differing from these by
some marked features, among which we may find the modern representatives
of these earliest Vertebrates. Of these two groups one consists chiefly
now of the Gar-Pikes of our Western waters, though the Sturgeons share
also in some of their features. In these fishes there is a singular
union of reptilian with fish-like characters. The systems of circulation
and of respiration in them are more complicated than in the common
fishes; the structure of the skull resembles that of the skull in
reptiles, and they have other reptilian characters, such as their
ability to move the head upon the neck independently of the body, and
the connection of the vertebrae by ball-and-socket joint, instead of
by inverted cones, as in the ordinary fishes. Their scales are also
peculiar, being covered by enamel so hard, that, if struck with steel,
they will emit sparks like flint. It is on account of this peculiarity
that the whole group has been called Ganoid. Now, though we have
not found as yet any complete specimens of Silurian fishes, their
disconnected remains are scattered profusely in the early deposits. The
scales, parts of the backbone, parts of the skull, the teeth, are found
in a tolerable state of preservation; and these indications, fragmentary
as they are, give us the clue to the character of the most ancient
fishes. A large proportion of them were no doubt Ganoids; for they had
the same peculiar articulation of the vertebrae, the flexibility of the
neck, and the hard scales so characteristic of our Gar-Pikes.
There is another type of these ancient Vertebrates, which has also
its representatives among our modern fishes. These are the Sharks and
Skates, or, as the Greeks used to call them, the Selachians,--making a
very appropriate distinction between them and common fishes, on account
of the difference in the structure of the skeleton. In Selachians the
quality of the bones is granular, instead of fibrous, as in fishes; the
arches above and below the backbone are formed by flat plates, instead
of the spines so characteristic of all the fish proper; and the skull
consists of a solid box, instead of being built of overlapping pieces
like the true fish-skull. They differ also in their teeth, which,
instead of being implanted in the bone by a root, as in fishes, are
loosely set in the gum without any connection with the bone, and are
movable, being arranged in several rows one behind another, the back
rows moving forward to take the place of the front ones when the latter
are worn off. They are unlike the common fishes also in having the
backbone continued to the very end of the tail, which is cut in uneven
lobes, the upper lobe being the longer of the two, while the terminal
fin, so constant a feature in fishes, is wanting. The Selachians
resemble higher Vertebrate types not only in the small number of their
eggs, and in the closer connection of the young with the mother, but
also in their embryological development, which has many features in
common with that of birds and turtles. Of this group, also, we find
numerous remains in the ancient geological deposits; and though we have
not the means of distinguishing the species, we have ample evidence for
determining the type.
This combination of higher with lower features in the earlier organic
forms is very striking, and becomes still more significant when we find
that many of the later types recall the more ancient ones. I have called
these more comprehensive groups of former times, combining characters of
different classes, synthetic or prophetic types; and we might as fitly
give the name of retrospective types to many of the later groups, for
they recall the past, as the former anticipate the future. And it is not
only among the Fishes and the Reptiles that we find these combinations.
The most numerous of the ancient Radiates are the Acalephlan Corals,
combining, in the Hydroid form, the Polyp-like mode of life, habits, and
general appearance with the structure of Acalephs. The Crinoids, with
the closed cups in some, and the open, star-like crowns in others, unite
features of the present Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins, and, by their stem
attaching them to the ground, include also a Polyp-like character; while
the Trilobites, with their uniform rings and their prominent anterior
shield, unite characters of Worms and Crustacea.
These early types seem to sketch in broad, general characters the
Creative purpose, and to include in the first average expression of the
plan all its structural possibilities. The Crinoid forms include the
thought of the modern Star-Fishes and Sea-Urchins; the simple chambered
shells of the Silurian anticipate the more complicated structure of the
later ones; the Trilobites give the most comprehensive expression of the
Articulate type; while the early Fishes not only prophesy the Reptiles
which are to come, but also hint at Birds and even at Mammalia by their
embryonic development and their mode of reproduction.
Looked at from this point of view, the animal world is an intellectual
Creation, complete in all its parts, and coherent throughout; and when
we find, that, although these ancient types have become obsolete and
been replaced by modern ones, yet there are always a few old-fashioned
individuals, left behind, as it were, to give the key to the history
of their race, as the Gar-Pike, for instance, to explain the ancient
Fishes, the Millepore to explain the old Acalephian Corals, the Nautilus
to be the modern exponent of the Ammonites and Orthoceratites of past
times, we cannot avoid the impression that this Creative work has been
intended also to be educational for Man, and to teach him his own
relation to the organic world. The embryology of the modern types
confirms this idea, for here we find an epitome of their geological
history. The embryo of the present Star-Fishes recalls the Crinoids;
the embryo of the Crab recalls the Trilobites; the embryo of the
Vertebrates, including even that of the higher Mammalia, recalls the
ancient Fishes. Does not this fact, that the individual animal in its
growth recalls the history of its type, prove that the Creative Thought
in its immediate present action embraces all that has gone before, as
its first organic expression included all that was to come? The study of
Nature in its highest meaning shows us the present doubly rich with all
the past, and the past linked and interwoven with the present, not lying
divorced and dead behind it.
I have spoken of the Silurian beach as if there were but one, not only
because I wished to limit my sketch, and to attempt at least to give
it the vividness of a special locality, but also because a single such
shore will give us as good an idea of the characteristic fauna of the
time as if we drew our material from a wider range. There are, however,
a great number of parallel ridges belonging to the Silurian and Devonian
periods, running from east to west, not only through the State of New
York, but far beyond, through the States of Michigan and Wisconsin into
Minnesota; one may follow nine or ten such successive shores in unbroken
lines, from the neighborhood of Lake Champlain to the Far West. They
have all the irregularities of modern sea-shores, running up to form
little bays here, and jutting out in promontories there; and upon each
one are found animals of the same kind, but differing in species from
those of the preceding.
Although the early geological periods are more legible in North America,
because they are exposed over such extensive tracts of land, yet they
have been studied in many other parts of the globe. In Norway, in
Germany, in France, in Russia, in Siberia, in Kamtchatka, in parts of
South America, in short, wherever the civilization of the white race has
extended, Silurian deposits have been observed, and everywhere they
bear the same testimony to a profuse and varied creation. The earth was
teeming then with life as now, and in whatever corner of its surface the
geologist finds the old strata, they hold a dead fauna as numerous as
that which lives and moves above it. Nor do we find that there was any
gradual increase or decrease of any organic forms at the beginning and
close of the successive periods. On the contrary, the opening scenes of
every chapter in the world's history have been crowded with life, and
its last leaves as full and varied as its first.
I think the impression that the faunae of the early geological periods
were more scanty than those of later times arises partly from the fact
that the present creation is made a standard of comparison for all
preceding creations. Of course, the collections of living types in any
museum must be more numerous than those of fossil forms, for the simple
reason that almost the whole of the present surface of the earth, with
the animals and plants inhabiting it, is known to us, whereas the
deposits of the Silurian and Devonian periods are exposed to view only
over comparatively limited tracts and in disconnected regions. But let
us compare a given extent of Silurian or Devonian sea-shore with an
equal extent of sea-shore belonging to our own time, and we shall
soon be convinced that the one is as populous as the other. On the
New-England coast there are about one hundred and fifty different kinds
of fishes, in the Gulf of Mexico two hundred and fifty, in the Red Sea
about the same. We may allow in present times an average of two hundred
or two hundred and fifty different kinds of fishes to an extent of ocean
covering about four hundred miles. Now I have made a special study of
the Devonian rocks of Northern Europe, in the Baltic and along the shore
of the German Ocean. I have found in those deposits alone one hundred
and ten kinds of fossil fishes. To judge of the total number of species
belonging to those early ages by the number known to exist now is about
as reasonable as to infer that because Aristotle, familiar only with the
waters of Greece, recorded less than three hundred kinds of fishes in
his limited fishing-ground, therefore these were all the fishes then
living. The fishing-ground of the geologist in the Silurian and Devonian
periods is even more circumscribed than his, and belongs, besides, not
to a living, but to a dead world, far more difficult to decipher.
But the sciences of Geology and Palaeontology are making such rapid
progress, now that they go hand in hand, that our familiarity with past
creations is daily increasing. We know already that extinct animals
exist all over the world: heaped together under the snows of
Siberia,--lying thick beneath the Indian soil,--found wherever English
settlers till the ground or work the mines of Australia,--figured in the
old Encyclopaedias of China, where the Chinese philosophers have drawn
them with the accuracy of their nation,--built into the most beautiful
temples of classic lands, for even the stones of the Parthenon are full
of the fragments of these old fossils, and if any chance had directed
the attention of Aristotle towards them, the science of Palaeontology
would not have waited for its founder till Cuvier was born,--in short,
in every corner of the earth where the investigations of civilized men
have penetrated, from the Arctic to Patagonia and the Cape of Good Hope,
these relics tell us of successive populations lying far behind our own,
and belonging to distinct periods of the world's history.
* * * * *
In my next article I shall give some account of the marshes and forests
of the Carboniferous age, with their characteristic vegetation and
That quiver in the quick turn of the brook,
And thou, dim nook,--
Dimmer in twilight,--call again to me
Visions of life and glory that were ours,
When first she led me here, young Coralie!
No longer blest,
Yet standing here in silence, may not we
Fancy or feign
That little flowers do fall about thy rest
In silver mist and tender-dropping rain,
And that thy world is peace, loved Coralie?
Our friendships flee,
And, darkening all things with her mighty shade,
No longer look the faces that we see,
With the old eyes; and Woe itself shall fade,
Nor even this be left us, Coralie!
Feelings and fears
That once were ours have perished in the mould,
And grief is cold:
Hearts may be dead to grief; and if our tears
Are failing or forgetful, there will be
Mourners about thy bed, lost Coralie!
The brook-flowers shine,
And a faint song the falling water has,--
But not for thee!
The dull night weepeth, and the sorrowing pine
Drops his dead hair upon thy young grave-grass,
My Coralie! my Coralie!
* * * * *
I took from its glass a flower,
To lay on her grave with dull accusing tears;
But the heart of the flower fell out as I handled the rose,
And my heart is shattered, and soon will wither away.
I watch the changing shadows,
And the patch of windy sunshine upon the hill,
And the long blue woods; and a grief no tongue can tell
Breaks at my eyes in drops of bitter rain.
I hear her baby-wagon,
And the little wheels go over my heart;
Oh, when will the light of the darkened house return?
Oh, when will she come who made the hills so fair?
I sit by the parlor-window,
When twilight deepens, and winds get cold without;
But the blessed feet no more come up the walk,
And my little girl and I cry softly together.
* * * * *
SOJOURNER TRUTH, THE LIBYAN SIBYL.
Many years ago, the few readers of radical Abolitionist papers must
often have seen the singular name of Sojourner Truth, announced as a
frequent speaker at Anti-Slavery meetings, and as travelling on a
sort of self-appointed agency through the country. I had myself often
remarked the name, but never met the individual. On one occasion, when
our house was filled with company, several eminent clergymen being our
guests, notice was brought up to me that Sojourner Truth was below, and
requested an interview. Knowing nothing of her but her singular name, I
went down, prepared to make the interview short, as the pressure of many
other engagements demanded.
When I went into the room, a tall, spare form arose to meet me. She was
evidently a full-blooded African, and though now aged and worn with many
hardships, still gave the impression of a physical development which
in early youth must have been as fine a specimen of the torrid zone as
Cumberworth's celebrated statuette of the Negro Woman at the Fountain.
Indeed, she so strongly reminded me of that figure, that, when I recall
the events of her life, as she narrated them to me, I imagine her as a
living, breathing impersonation of that work of art.
I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with any one who had
more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence
than this woman. In the modern Spiritualistic phraseology, she would
be described as having a strong sphere. Her tall form, as she rose up
before me, is still vivid to my mind. She was dressed in some stout,
grayish stuff, neat and clean, though dusty from travel. On her head
she wore a bright Madras handkerchief, arranged as a turban, after the
manner of her race. She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her
ease,--in fact, there was almost an unconscious superiority, not unmixed
with a solemn twinkle of humor, in the odd, composed manner in which she
looked down on me. Her whole air had at times a gloomy sort of drollery
which impressed one strangely.
"So, this is _you_," she said.
"Yes," I answered.
"Well, honey, de Lord bless ye! I jes' thought I'd like to come an' have
a look at ye. You's heerd o' me, I reckon?" she added.
"Yes, I think I have. You go about lecturing, do you not?"
"Yes, honey, that's what I do. The Lord has made me a sign unto this
nation, an' I go round a-testifyin', an' showin' on 'em their sins agin
So saying, she took a seat, and, stooping over and crossing her arms on
her knees, she looked down on the floor, and appeared to fall into a
sort of reverie.
Her great gloomy eyes and her dark face seemed to work with some
undercurrent of feeling; she sighed deeply, and occasionally broke
"O Lord! O Lord! Oh, the tears, an' the groans, an' the moans! O Lord!"
I should have said that she was accompanied by a little grandson of ten
years,--the fattest, jolliest woolly-headed little specimen of Africa
that one can imagine. He was grinning and showing his glistening white
teeth in a state of perpetual merriment, and at this moment broke out
into an audible giggle, which disturbed the reverie into which his
relative was falling.
She looked at him with an indulgent sadness, and then at me.
"Laws, Ma'am, _he_ don't know nothin' about it,--_he_ don't. Why, I've
seen them poor critters, beat an' 'bused an' hunted, brought in all
torn,--ears hangin' all in rags, where the dogs been a-bitin' of 'em!"
This set off our little African Puck into another giggle, in which he
seemed perfectly convulsed.
She surveyed him soberly, without the slightest irritation.
"Well, you may bless the Lord you _can_ laugh; but I tell you, 't wa'n't
no laughin' matter."
By this time I thought her manner so original that it might be worth
while to call down my friends; and she seemed perfectly well pleased
with the idea. An audience was what she wanted,--it mattered not whether
high or low, learned or ignorant. She had things to say, and was ready
to say them at all times, and to any one.
I called down Dr. Beecher, Professor Allen, and two or three other
clergymen, who, together with my husband and family, made a roomful. No
princess could have received a drawing-room with more composed dignity
than Sojourner her audience. She stood among them, calm and erect, as
one of her own native palm-trees waving alone in the desert. I presented
one after another to her, and at last said,--
"Sojourner, this is Dr. Beecher. He is a very celebrated preacher."
"_Is_ he?" she said, offering her hand in a condescending manner, and
looking down on his white head. "Ye dear lamb, I'm glad to see ye! De
Lord bless ye! I loves preachers. I'm a kind o' preacher myself."
"You are?" said Dr. Beecher. "Do you preach from the Bible?"
"No, honey, can't preach from de Bible,--can't read a letter."
"Why, Sojourner, what do you preach from, then?"
Her answer was given with a solemn power of voice, peculiar to herself,
that hushed every one in the room.
"When I preaches, I has jest one text to preach from, an' I always
preaches from this one. _My_ text is, 'WHEN I FOUND JESUS.'"
"Well, you couldn't have a better one," said one of the ministers.
She paid no attention to him, but stood and seemed swelling with her own
thoughts, and then began this narration:--
"Well, now, I'll jest have to go back, an' tell ye all about it. Ye see,
we was all brought over from Africa, father an' mother an' I, an' a lot
more of us; an' we was sold up an' down, an' hither an' yon; an' I can
'member, when I was a little thing, not bigger than this 'ere," pointing
to her grandson, "how my ole mammy would sit out o' doors in the
evenin', an' look up at the stars an' groan. She'd groan an' groan, an'
says I to her,--
"'Mammy, what makes you groan so?'
"An' she'd say,--
"'Matter enough, chile! I'm groanin' to think o' my poor children: they
don't know where I be, an' I don't know where they be; they looks up at
the stars, an' I looks up at the stars, but I can't tell where they be.
"'Now,' she said, 'chile, when you're grown up, you may be sold away
from your mother an' all your ole friends, an' have great troubles come
on ye; an' when you has these troubles come on ye, ye jes' go to God,
an' He'll help ye.'
"An' says I to her,--
"'Who is God, anyhow, mammy?'
"An' says she,--
"'Why, chile, you jes' look up _dar_! It's Him that made all _dem_!'
"Well, I didn't mind much 'bout God in them days. I grew up pretty
lively an' strong, an' could row a boat, or ride a horse, or work round,
an' do 'most anything.
"At last I got sold away to a real hard massa an' missis. Oh, I tell
you, they _was_ hard! 'Peared like I couldn't please 'em, nohow. An'
then I thought o' what my old mammy told me about God; an' I thought I'd
got into trouble, sure enough, an' I wanted to find God, an' I heerd
some one tell a story about a man that met God on a threshin'-floor, an'
I thought, 'Well an' good, I'll have a threshin'-floor, too.' So I went
down in the lot, an' I threshed down a place real hard, an' I used to go
down there every day, an' pray an' cry with all my might, a-prayin' to
the Lord to make my massa an' missis better, but it didn't seem to do no
good; an' so says I, one day,--
"'O God, I been a-askin' ye, an' askin' ye, an' askin' ye, for all this
long time, to make my massa an' missis better, an' you don't do it, an'
what _can_ be the reason? Why, maybe you _can't._ Well, I shouldn't
wonder ef you couldn't. Well, now, I tell you, I'll make a bargain with
you. Ef you'll help me to git away from my massa an' missis, I'll agree
to be good; but ef you don't help me, I really don't think I can be.
Now,' says I, 'I want to git away; but the trouble's jest here: ef I try
to git away in the night, I can't see; an' ef I try to git away in the
daytime, they'll see me, an' be after me.'
"Then the Lord said to me, 'Git up two or three hours afore daylight,
an' start off.'
"An' says I, 'Thank 'ee, Lord! that's a good thought.'
"So up I got, about three o'clock in the mornin', an' I started an'
travelled pretty fast, till, when the sun rose, I was clear away from
our place an' our folks, an' out o' sight. An' then I begun to think I
didn't know nothin' where to go. So I kneeled down, and says I,--
"'Well, Lord, you've started me out, an' now please to show me where to
"Then the Lord made a house appear to me, an' He said to me that I was
to walk on till I saw that house, an' then go in an' ask the people to
take me. An' I travelled all day, an' didn't come to the house till late
at night; but when I saw it, sure enough, I went in, an' I told the
folks that the Lord sent me; an' they was Quakers, an' real kind they
was to me. They jes' took me in, an' did for me as kind as ef I'd been
one of 'em; an' after they'd giv me supper, they took me into a room
where there was a great, tall, white bed; an' they told me to sleep
there. Well, honey, I was kind o' skeered when they left me alone with
that great white bed; 'cause I never had been in a bed in my life. It
never came into my mind they could mean me to sleep in it. An' so I jes'
camped down under it, on the floor, an' then I slep' pretty well. In the
mornin', when they came in, they asked me of I hadn't been asleep; an' I
said, 'Yes, I never slep' better.' An' they said, 'Why, you haven't been
in the bed!' An' says I, 'Laws, you didn't think o' sech a thing as my
sleepin' in dat 'ar' _bed_, did you? I never heerd o' sech a thing in my
"Well, ye see, honey, I stayed an' lived with 'em. An' now jes' look
here: instead o' keepin' my promise an' bein' good, as I told the Lord I
would, jest as soon as everything got a-goin' easy, _I forgot all about
"Pretty well don't need no help; an' I gin up prayin.' I lived there two
or three years, an' then the slaves in New York were all set free, an'
ole massa came to our house to make a visit, an' he asked me ef I didn't
want to go back an' see the folks on the ole place. An' I told him I
did. So he said, ef I'd jes' git into the wagon with him, he'd carry me
over. Well, jest as I was goin' out to git into the wagon, _I met God_!
an' says I, 'O God, I didn't know as you was so great!' An' I turned
right round an' come into the house, an' set down in my room; for 't was
God all around me. I could feel it burnin', burnin', burnin' all around
me, an' goin' through me; an' I saw I was so wicked, it seemed as ef it
would burn me up. An' I said, 'O somebody, somebody, stand between God
an' me! for it burns me!' Then, honey, when I said so, I felt as it were
somethin' like an _amberill_ [umbrella] that came between me an' the
light, an' I felt it was _somebody_,--somebody that stood between me an'
God; an' it felt cool, like a shade; an' says I, 'Who's this that stands
between me an' God? Is it old Cato?' He was a pious old preacher; but
then I seemed to see Cato in the light, an' he was all polluted an'
vile, like me; an' I said, 'Is it old Sally?' an' then I saw her, an'
she seemed jes' so. An' then says I, '_Who_ is this?' An' then, honey,
for a while it was like the sun shinin' in a pail o' water, when it
moves up an' down; for I begun to feel 't was somebody that loved me;
an' I tried to know him. An' I said, 'I know you! I know you! I know
you!'--an' then I said, 'I don't know you! I don't know you! I don't
know you!' An' when I said, 'I know you, I know you,' the light came;
an' when I said, 'I don't know you, I don't know you,' it went, jes'
like the sun in a pail o' water. An' finally somethin' spoke out in me
an' said, '_This is Jesus _!' An' I spoke out with all my might, an'
says I, '_This is Jesus_! Glory be to God!' An' then the whole world
grew bright, an' the trees they waved an' waved in glory, an' every
little bit o' stone on the ground shone like glass; an' I shouted an'
said, 'Praise, praise, praise to the Lord!' An' I begun to feel sech
a love in my soul as I never felt before,--love to all creatures. An'
then, all of a sudden, it stopped, an' I said, 'Dar's de white folks,
that have abused you an' beat you an' abused your people,--think o'
them!' But then there came another rush of love through my soul, an' I
cried out loud,--'Lord, Lord, I can love _even de white folks_!'
"Honey, I jes' walked round an' round in a dream. Jesus loved me! I
knowed it,--I felt it. Jesus was my Jesus. Jesus would love me always. I
didn't dare tell nobody; 't was a great secret. Everything had been got
away from me that I ever had; an' I thought that ef I let white folks
know about this, maybe they'd get _Him_ away,--so I said, 'I'll keep
this close. I won't let any one know.'"
"But, Sojourner, had you never been told about Jesus Christ?"
"No, honey. I hadn't heerd no preachin',--been to no meetin'. Nobody
hadn't told me. I'd kind o' heerd of Jesus, but thought he was like
Gineral Lafayette, or some o' them. But one night there was a Methodist
meetin' somewhere in our parts, an' I went; an' they got up an' begun
for to tell der 'speriences; an' de fust one begun to speak. I started,
'cause he told about Jesus. 'Why,' says I to myself, 'dat man's found
him, too!' An' another got up an' spoke, an' I said, 'He's found him,
too!' An' finally I said, 'Why, they all know him!' I was so happy! An'
then they sung this hymn": (Here Sojourner sang, in a strange, cracked
voice, but evidently with all her soul and might, mispronouncing the
English, but seeming to derive as much elevation and comfort from bad
English as from good):--
"There is a holy city,
A world of light above.
Above the stairs and regions,[A]
Built by the God of love.
"An everlasting temple,
And saints arrayed in white
There serve their great Redeemer
And dwell with him in light.
"The meanest child of glory
Outshines the radiant sun;
But who can speak the splendor
Of Jesus on his throne?
"Is this the man of sorrows
Who stood at Pilate's bar,
Condemned by haughty Herod
And by his men of war?
"He seems a mighty conqueror,
Who spoiled the powers below,
And ransomed many captives
From everlasting woe.
"The hosts of saints around him
Proclaim his work of grace,
The patriarchs and prophets,
And all the godly race,
"Who speak of fiery trials
And tortures on their way;
They came from tribulation
To everlasting day.
"And what shall be my journey,
How long I'll stay below,
Or what shall be my trials,
Are not for me to know.
"In every day of trouble
I'll raise my thoughts on high,
I'll think of that bright temple
And crowns above the sky."
[Footnote A: Starry regions.]
I put in this whole hymn, because Sojourner, carried away with her own
feeling, sang it from beginning to end with a triumphant energy that
held the whole circle around her intently listening. She sang with
the strong barbaric accent of the native African, and with those
indescribable upward turns and those deep gutturals which give such a
wild, peculiar power to the negro singing,--but above all, with such an
overwhelming energy of personal appropriation that the hymn seemed to be
fused in the furnace of her feelings and come out recrystallized as a
production of her own.
It is said that Rachel was wont to chant the "Marseillaise" in a manner
that made her seem, for the time, the very spirit and impersonation of
the gaunt, wild, hungry, avenging mob which rose against aristocratic
oppression; and in like manner, Sojourner, singing this hymn, seemed to
impersonate the fervor of Ethiopia, wild, savage, hunted of all nations,
but burning after God in her tropic heart, and stretching her scarred
hands towards the glory to be revealed.
"Well, den ye see, after a while I thought I'd go back an' see de folks
on de ole place. Well, you know, de law had passed dat de culled folks
was all free; an' my old missis, she had a daughter married about dis
time who went to live in Alabama,--an' what did she do but give her my
son, a boy about de age of dis yer, for her to take down to Alabama?
When I got back to de ole place, they told me about it, an' I went right
up to see ole missis, an' says I,--
"'Missis, have you been an' sent my son away down to Alabama?'
"'Yes, I have,' says she; 'he's gone to live with your young missis.'
"'Oh, Missis,' says I, 'how could you do it?'
"'Poh!' says she, 'what a fuss you make about a little nigger! Got more
of 'em now than you know what to do with.'
"I tell you, I stretched up. I felt as tall as the world!
"'Missis,' says I, '_I'll have my son back agin!_'
"'_You_ will, you nigger? How you goin' to do it? You ha'n't got no
"'No, Missis,--but _God_ has,--an' you'll see He'll help me!'--an' I
turned round an' went out.
"Oh, but I _was_ angry to have her speak to me so haughty an' so
scornful, as ef my chile wasn't worth anything. I said to God, 'O Lord,
render unto her double!' It was a dreadful prayer, an' I didn't know how
true it would come.
"Well, I didn't rightly know which way to turn; but I went to the Lord,
an' I said to Him, 'O Lord, ef I was as rich as you be, an' you was as
poor as I be, I'd help you,--you _know_ I would; and, oh, do help me!'
An' I felt sure then that He would.
"Well, I talked with people, an' they said I must git the case before a
grand jury. So I went into the town when they was holdin' a court, to
see ef I could find any grand jury. An' I stood round the
court-house, an' when they was a-comin' out, I walked right up to the
grandest-lookin' one I could see, an' says I to him,--
"'Sir, be you a grand jury?'
"An' then he wanted to know why I asked, an' I told him all about it;
an' he asked me all sorts of questions, an' finally he says to me,--
"'I think, ef you pay me ten dollars, that I'd agree to git your son for
you.' An' says he, pointin' to a house over the way, 'You go 'long an'
tell your story to the folks in that house, an' I guess they'll give you
"Well, I went, an' I told them, an' they gave me twenty dollars; an'
then I thought to myself, 'Ef ten dollars will git him, twenty dollars
will git him _sartin_.' So I carried it to the man all out, an' said,--
"'Take it all,--only be sure an' git him'
"Well, finally they got the boy brought back; an' then they tried to
frighten him, an' to make him say that I wasn't his mammy, an' that he
didn't know me; but they couldn't make it out. They gave him to me,
an' I took him an' carried him home; an' when I came to take off his
clothes, there was his poor little back all covered with scars an' hard
lumps, where they'd flogged him.
"Well, you see, honey, I told you how I prayed the Lord to render unto
her double. Well, it came true; for I was up at ole missis' house not
long after, an' I heerd 'em readin' a letter to her how her daughter's
husband had murdered her,--how he'd thrown her down an' stamped the life
out of her, when he was in liquor; an' my ole missis, she giv a screech,
an' fell flat on the floor. Then says I, 'O Lord, I didn't mean all
that! You took me up too quick.'
"Well, I went in an' tended that poor critter all night. She was out of
her mind,--a-cryin', an' callin' for her daughter; an' I held her poor
ole head on my arm, an' watched for her as ef she 'd been my babby. An'
I watched by her, an' took care on her all through her sickness after
that, an' she died in my arms, poor thing!"
"Well, Sojourner, did you always go by this name?"
"No, 'deed! My name was Isabella; but when I left the house of bondage,
I left everything behind. I wa'n't goin' to keep nothin' of Egypt on me,
an' so I went to the Lord an' asked Him to give me a new name. And the
Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up an' down the land,
showin' the people their sins, an' bein' a sign unto them. Afterwards
I told the Lord I wanted another name, 'cause everybody else had two
names; and the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to
"Ye see some ladies have given me a white satin banner," she said,
pulling out of her pocket and unfolding a white banner, printed with
many texts, such as, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all
the inhabitants thereof," and others of like nature. "Well," she said,
"I journeys round to camp-meetins, an' wherever folks is, an' I sets up
my banner, an' then I sings, an' then folks always comes up round me,
an' then I preaches to 'em. I tells 'em about Jesus, an' I tells 'em
about the sins of this people. A great many always comes to hear me; an'
they 're right good to me, too, an' say they want to hear me agin."
We all thought it likely; and as the company left her, they shook hands
with her, and thanked her for her very original sermon; and one of the
ministers was overheard to say to another, "There's more of the gospel
in that story than in most sermons."
Sojourner stayed several days with us, a welcome guest. Her conversation
was so strong, simple, shrewd, and with such a droll flavoring of humor,
that the Professor was wont to say of an evening, "Come, I am dull,
can't you get Sojourner up here to talk a little?" She would come up
into the parlor, and sit among pictures and ornaments, in her simple
stuff gown, with her heavy travelling-shoes, the central object of
attention both to parents and children, always ready to talk or to sing,
and putting into the common flow of conversation the keen edge of some
"Sojourner, what do you think of Women's Rights?"
"Well, honey, I 's ben to der meetins, an' harked a good deal. Dey
wanted me fur to speak. So I got up. Says I,--'Sisters, I a'n't clear
what you'd be after. Ef women want any rights more 'n dey 's got, why
don't dey jes' _take 'em_, an' not be talkin' about it?' Some on 'em
came round me, an' asked why I didn't wear Bloomers. An' I told 'em I
had Bloomers enough when I was in bondage. You see," she said, "dey used
to weave what dey called nigger-cloth, an' each one of us got jes' sech
a strip, an' had to wear it width-wise. Them that was short got along
pretty well, but as for me"--She gave an indescribably droll glance at
her long limbs and then at us, and added,--"Tell _you_, I had enough of
Bloomers in them days."
Sojourner then proceeded to give her views of the relative capacity of
the sexes, in her own way.
"S'pose a man's mind holds a quart, an' a-woman's don't hold but a pint;
ef her pint is _full_, it's as good as his quart."
Sojourner was fond of singing an extraordinary lyric, commencing,--
"I'm on my way to Canada,
That cold, but happy land;
The dire effects of Slavery
I can no longer stand.
O righteous Father,
Do look down on me
And help me on to Canada,
Where colored folks are free!"
The lyric ran on to state, that, when the fugitive crosses the Canada
"The Queen comes down unto the shore,
With arms extended wide,
To welcome the poor fugitive
Safe onto Freedom's side."
In the truth thus set forth she seemed to have the most simple faith.
But her chief delight was to talk of "glory," and to sing hymns whose
"O glory, glory, glory,
Won't you come along with me?"
and when left to herself, she would often hum these with great delight,
nodding her head.
On one occasion, I remember her sitting at a window singing and
fervently keeping time with her bead, the little black Puck of a
grandson meanwhile, amusing himself with ornamenting her red-and-yellow
turban with green dandelion-curls, which shook and trembled with her
emotions, causing him perfect convulsions of delight.
"Sojourner," said the Professor to her, one day, when he heard her
singing, "you seem to be very sure about heaven."
"Well, I be," she answered, triumphantly.
"What makes you so sure there is any heaven?"
"Well, 'cause I got such a hankerin' arter it in here," she
said,--giving a thump on her breast with her usual energy.
There was at the time an invalid in the house, and Sojourner, on
learning it, felt a mission to go and comfort her. It was curious to see
the tall, gaunt, dusky figure stalk up to the bed with such an air of
conscious authority, and take on herself the office of consoler
with such a mixture of authority and tenderness. She talked as from
above,--and at the same time, if a pillow needed changing or any office
to be rendered, she did it with a strength and handiness that inspired
trust. One felt as if the dark, strange woman were quite able to take up
the invalid in her bosom, and bear her as a lamb, both physically and
spiritually. There was both power and sweetness in that great warm soul
and that vigorous frame.
At length, Sojourner, true to her name, departed. She had her mission
elsewhere. Where now she is I know not; but she left deep memories
To these recollections of my own I will add one more anecdote, related
by Wendell Phillips.
Speaking of the power of Rachel to move and bear down a whole audience
by a few simple words, he said he never knew but one other human being
that had that power, and that other was Sojourner Truth. He related a
scene of which he was witness. It was at a crowded public meeting in
Faneuil Hall, where Frederick Douglas was one of the chief speakers.
Douglas had been describing the wrongs of the black race, and as he
proceeded, he grew more and more excited, and finally ended by saying
that they had no hope of justice from the whites, no possible hope
except in their own right arms. It must come to blood; they must fight
for themselves, and redeem themselves, or it would never be done.
Sojourner was sitting, tall and dark, on the very front seat, facing the
platform; and in the hush of deep feeling, after Douglas sat down, she
spoke out in her deep, peculiar voice, heard all over the house,--
"Frederick, is _God dead_?"
The effect was perfectly electrical, and thrilled through the whole
house, changing as by a flash the whole feeling of the audience. Not
another word she said or needed to say; it was enough.
It is with a sad feeling that one contemplates noble minds and bodies,
nobly and grandly formed human beings, that have come to us cramped,
scarred, maimed, out of the prison-house of bondage. One longs to know
what such beings might have become, if suffered to unfold and expand
under the kindly developing influences of education.
It is the theory of some writers, that to the African is reserved,
in the later and palmier days of the earth, the full and harmonious
development of the religious element in man. The African seems to seize
on the tropical fervor and luxuriance of Scripture imagery as something
native; he appears to feel himself to be of the same blood with those
old burning, simple souls, the patriarchs, prophets, and seers, whose
impassioned words seem only grafted as foreign plants on the cooler
stock of the Occidental mind.
I cannot but think that Sojourner with the same culture might have
spoken words as eloquent and undying as those of the African Saint
Augustine or Tertullian. How grand and queenly a woman she might have
been, with her wonderful physical vigor, her great heaving sea of
emotion, her power of spiritual conception, her quick penetration, and
her boundless energy! We might conceive an African type of woman so
largely made and moulded, so much fuller in all the elements of life,
physical and spiritual, that the dark hue of the skin should seem only
to add an appropriate charm,--as Milton says of his Penseroso, whom he
"Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister might beseem,
Or that starred Ethiop queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
But though Sojourner Truth has passed away from among us as a wave of
the sea, her memory still lives in one of the loftiest and most original
works of modern art, the Libyan Sibyl, by Mr. Story, which attracted
so much attention in the late World's Exhibition. Some years ago, when
visiting Rome, I related Sojourner's history to Mr. Story at a breakfast
at his house. Already had his mind begun to turn to Egypt in search of
a type of art which should represent a larger and more vigorous
development of nature than the cold elegance of Greek lines. His
glorious Cleopatra was then in process of evolution, and his mind was
working out the problem of her broadly developed nature, of all that
slumbering weight and fulness of passion with which this statue seems
charged, as a heavy thunder-cloud is charged with electricity.
The history of Sojourner Truth worked in his mind and led him into the
deeper recesses of the African nature,--those unexplored depths of being
and feeling, mighty and dark as the gigantic depths of tropical forests,
mysterious as the hidden rivers and mines of that burning continent
whose life-history is yet to be. A few days after, he told me that he
had conceived the idea of a statue which he should call the Libyan
Sibyl. Two years subsequently, I revisited Rome, and found the gorgeous
Cleopatra finished, a thing to marvel at, as the creation of a new style
of beauty, a new manner of art. Mr. Story requested me to come and
repeat to him the history of Sojourner Truth, saying that the conception
had never left him. I did so; and a day or two after, he showed me the
clay model of the Libyan Sibyl. I have never seen the marble statue; but
am told by those who have, that it was by far the most impressive work
of art at the Exhibition.
A notice of the two statues from the London "Athenaeum" must supply a
description which I cannot give.
"The Cleopatra and the Sibyl are seated, partly draped, with the
characteristic Egyptian gown, that gathers about the _torso_ and falls
freely around the limbs; the first is covered to the bosom, the second
bare to the hips. Queenly Cleopatra rests back against her chair in
meditative ease, leaning her cheek against one hand, whose elbow the
rail of the seat sustains; the other is outstretched upon her knee,
nipping its forefinger upon the thumb thoughtfully, as though some firm,
wilful purpose filled her brain, as it seems to set those luxurious
features to a smile as if the whole woman 'would.' Upon her head is
the coif, bearing in front the mystic _uraeus_, or twining basilisk of
sovereignty, while from its sides depend the wide Egyptian lappels, or
wings, that fall upon her shoulders. The _Sibilla Libica_ has crossed
her knees,--an action universally held amongst the ancients as
indicative of reticence or secrecy, and of power to bind. A
secret-keeping looking dame she is, in the full-bloom proportions of
ripe womanhood, wherein choosing to place his figure the sculptor has
deftly gone between the disputed point whether these women were blooming
and wise in youth, or deeply furrowed with age and burdened with the
knowledge of centuries, as Virgil, Livy, and Gellius say. Good artistic
example might be quoted on both sides. Her forward elbow is propped upon
one knee; and to keep her secrets closer, for this Libyan woman is the
closest of all the Sibyls, she rests her shut mouth upon one closed
palm, as if holding the African mystery deep in the brooding brain that
looks out through mournful, warning eyes, seen under the wide shade
of the strange horned (ammonite) crest, that bears the mystery of the
Tetragrammaton upon its upturned front. Over her full bosom, mother of
myriads as she was, hangs the same symbol. Her face has a Nubian cast,
her hair wavy and plaited, as is meet."
We hope to see the day when copies both of the Cleopatra and the Libyan
Sibyl shall adorn the Capitol at Washington.
Horticulture in the United States has, except in a commercial sense,
been subordinate to the pursuit of wealth. Before man can indulge in
objects of elegance and refinement, he must have secured the comforts of
life: the _utile_ must lead the _dulce_, a well-stocked kitchen-garden
precede the parterre. We have now, however, in the older sections of the
Union, at least, passed through the ordeal of a young nation: elegance
is following the plain and practical; the spacious mansion, with its
luxurious appurtenances, is succeeding the cottage, as this in turn
was the successor of the cabin. The perception of the picturesque is a
natural result of earlier steps in the path of refinement: man may build
from a vulgar ambition for distinction, but he seldom plants unless
prompted by love of Nature and elevated impulses. Lord Bacon, in his
essay "Of Gardens," says, "When ages grow to civility and elegancy, men
come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were
the greater perfection." A case which seems to confirm this position
occurs to us. The site of a noble building, erected for our Government,
was adorned by wide-spreading trees, the growth of generations, which,
after the building was completed, the architect cut down before his axe
could be arrested. On being reproached for his Vandalism, he retorted,--
"Trees may be seen everywhere, but such a Grecian portico as
Among a young people like ourselves, the nursery and the market-garden
hold prominent places in horticultural pursuits; the latter yields a
prompt return for the investment of capital and labor, and just in
proportion as demand increases, so will be the exertion to meet it. Thus
we find the markets of the cities amply supplied with every luxury of
fruit and vegetable: the seasons are anticipated by artificial means,
glass is brought into requisition, and the tables of the wealthy are
furnished with a profusion unknown to royalty in an earlier age.
The capacity of Americans to mould circumstances to themselves rather
than adapt themselves to circumstances, to remove obstacles, to
accomplish by the aid of machinery much that other peoples reach through
toil alone, has passed into a proverb: hence it need hardly cause
surprise, if unexampled success attend efforts at market-gardening,
bringing to the very doors of the comparatively poor vegetables and
fruits which in Europe are enjoyed only by the higher classes. As an
illustration,--where but in America are peaches planted by a single
individual by tens of thousands, and carried to market on steamboats
chartered for the special purpose, in quantities of one or two thousand
bushels at a trip?
The earlier American nurseries were few in number, and, compared with
some now existing, of quite limited extent,--though equal, perhaps, in
proportion to population. The first of which there is any record, and
probably the earliest established, was that of John Bartram, near
Philadelphia, about the year 1730. Here were congregated many of the
prominent native plants and trees, preparatory to exportation to
Europe,--also the fruits and plants of the other hemisphere, obtained
in exchange for American productions. The specimen trees planted by the
elder Bartram and his descendants still adorn the grounds, classic
to the botanist and the lover of Nature: long may they stand, living
memorials of generations passed away, our earliest evidence of a taste
The next nursery in the order of date is that of Prince, in Flushing,
New York, established, we believe, prior to the Revolution, and
continued by the family to the present day. Flushing has become a centre
in the nursery-trade, and many acres thereabout are covered with young
trees intended for transplantation. A stroll round the village would
lead one to suppose the chief interest of the inhabitants was bound up
in the nursery-business, as is that of Lynn in shoes, and of Lowell
in cotton goods. Prominent among the Flushing nurseries are those of
Parsons, which, though of comparatively recent origin, abound in rich
The nurseries of the brothers David and Cuthbert Landreth appear to have
been the third in the order of succession. They were established at
Philadelphia shortly after the Revolution, and within the limits of the
city. The increase of population and their expanding trade caused a
removal to another and more ample field of culture, which, for nearly
half a century, was the resort of most people of taste who visited
Nurseries are now found everywhere. The Far West has some which count
the young trees by millions, and fruit-trees of single kinds by the
hundred thousand. The Hoveys, of Boston, have long been prominent, not
only as nurserymen, but as writers on horticulture. Elwanger and Barry,
of Rochester, New York, have a large breadth of land, we forbear to
state our impression of the number of acres, covered by nursery-stock.
Professional florists also have multiplied to an unlimited
extent, exhibiting the growth of refining taste. Plants suited
to window-culture, and bouquets of choice flowers, are sold on
street-corners, and carried from door to door. Cameilias, of which
we recollect single flowers having been sold at a dollar, can now be
purchased at fifty cents the plant.
It might be curious, in reference to this subject of horticulture, to
institute an inquiry as to cause and effect. Have the increased means of
gratifying taste expanded it, or has taste rapidly developed created the
means of supply? Doubtless there has been reaction from both directions,
each operating on the other. One striking exhibition of pure taste
among us is the formation of picturesque arboretums, especially of
terebinthinate trees, and others allied to the Coniferae. This taste, so
diligently cultivated in England, has found zealous worshippers among
us, and some admirable collections have been formed. The cemetery of
Laurel Hill, at Philadelphia, under the critical eye and taste of the
proprietor, Mr. John Jay Smith, that of Mount Auburn, in Cambridge, of
Greenwood, New York, and the cemetery in Cincinnati, have afforded fine
specimens of rare trees, though, from the nature of their purposes,
picturesque effect could not be reached, except so far as aided by
irregularity of surface. And here we would remark, in connection with
this subject, that one regulation of the Cincinnati cemetery is worthy
of imitation. No arbitrary railings or ill-kept hedges bound the
individual lots; all is open, and the visitor, as he drives through the
grounds, is charmed by the effect,--a park studded with monuments: the
social distinctions, which, perhaps, necessarily separated in life, have
disappeared in death.
In connection with landscape-gardening, one American name stands
conspicuous,--the name of one who, if not, in point of time, the first
teacher of the art in this country, has at least done more than
any other to direct attention to it,--to exhibit defects, suggest
improvements, create beauties, and invest his subject with such a charm
and interest as to captivate many minds which might otherwise have been
long insensible to the dormant beauty within their reach, or that which
they themselves had the power to produce: we refer, of course, to the
late Andrew J. Downing. With naturally fine artistic perceptions, his
original occupation of a nurseryman gave direction to his subsequent
pursuits. Under different circumstances, his taste might, perhaps, have
been turned to painting, sculpture, or architecture: indeed, to the last
he paid no inconsiderable attention; and as the result, many a rural
homestead, which might otherwise have been a bleak house, is conspicuous
as the abode of taste and elegance.
Among the prominent private arboretums in our country may be mentioned
that of Mr. Sargent at Wodeneshe. Mr. Sargent, as may be seen by his
supplement to Downing's "Landscape-Gardening," is an enthusiast in the
culture of conifers; he is reputed to have made liberal importations,
and the results of his attempts at acclimation, given to the public,
have aided others in like endeavors. Judge Field, of Princeton, New
Jersey, has a pinetum of much value; some of his specimens are of rare
excellence. He, also, has been a diligent importer.
* * * * *
Though our sketch of the present state of horticulture among us is quite
imperfect, affording but an indistinct glimpse of the ample field which
invites our view, it would scarcely be pardonable, were we to overlook a
branch of rural industry in which horticultural success is interested,
and without which the practical pleasures and family-comfort of rural
homes would be greatly abridged. We refer to garden-seed culture. It may
be that the purchaser of a paper of seed for the kitchen-garden seldom
stops to consider the minute care which has been required to secure its
purity; most probably, in many cases, he makes the purchase as though it
were the mere product of mechanical skill, which, after the machinery is
perfected, and the steam-engine has been set in motion, turns out the
finished article, of use or ornament, with scarcely an effort of mind to
direct its movements. Not so in the production of seeds: many are the
hours of watchful care to be bestowed upon it, and stern and unyielding
are its demands on the skilled eye and the untiring hand. It is because
in some cases the eye is not skilled, and the hand often tires, that
so many seeds of more than doubtful worth are imposed upon the
market, filling the village and cross-road shops with the germs of
disappointment. The history of the seed-culture in the United States is
not without interest to those who, like many readers of the "Atlantic,"
reside in the quiet country; to every family thus situated the certainty
of obtaining seeds of trustworthy quality--certain to vegetate, and sure
to prove true to name--is of more importance than can be appreciated by
those who rely upon the city-market, and have at all times and seasons
ample supplies of vegetables within easy reach. On looking round for
some individual establishment which we may use as the representative of
this branch of industry, we naturally turn to Bloomsdale, as the most
prominent and widest-known of seed-farms; and if the reader will join us
in a trip thither, we shall be pleased with his company, and perchance
he may not wholly regret the time occupied in the excursion. The period
we shall choose for the visit is the close of the month of June.
On a bright day we take our seats in the cars at Jersey City, provided
with the talisman to insure an attentive reception. Onward we whirl
through fertile fields and smiling villages; Newark, Brunswick,
Princeton, are successively passed; shortly we reach the Delaware at
Trenton; a run of a few miles through Penn's Manor, the garden-spot of
the Proprietary Governor, brings us to Bristol, the station from which
we most readily reach our destination. As we approach the grounds from
the front, a prominent object meets the eye, a noble white pine of
gigantic proportions, somewhat the worse for many a winter's storm, but
which still stands in all its majestic grandeur, as it has stood whilst
generations have come and passed away. On entering the premises, we find
ourselves in the midst of a lawn of ten acres in the English style. To
enumerate the various trees, in groups or single specimens, which most
invite our notice, would interfere with the main object of our visit. We
have come for a special purpose, and we can only allude to a very few
of the species to which our attention may be supposed to be directed. A
white spruce, in rich luxuriance, measuring, as the branches trail upon
the sward, upwards of sixty feet in circumference; the Himalayan white
pine, with its deep fringe-like foliage, twenty-five feet in height; the
Cephalonian fir, with leaves as pungent as an Auricaria, twenty feet
high, and many specimens of the same kind of nearly equal magnitude;
yews, of more than half a century's growth; a purple beech, of thirty
feet in height, its branches as many in circumference, contrasting with
the green around; numerous specimens of balm of Gilead, silver firs, and
Norway spruces, unsurpassed in beauty of form, the last presenting every
variety of habit in which it delights to sport: these are some of the
gems of the lawn. But we must hurry onward to the practical business in
The harvest, which, in seed-culture, lasts for many consecutive weeks,
has just commenced. The first important crop that ripens is the
turnip,--which is now being cut. The work is performed by the use of
grass-hooks or toothless sickles; stem after stem is cut, until the hand
is full, when they are deposited in canvas sheets; as these are filled,
boys stand ready to spread others; men follow to tie up those which have
been filled; others succeed, driving teams, and loading wagons, with
ample shelvings, with sheet-full piled on sheet-full, until the sturdy
oxen are required to test their strength in drawing them to the
drying-houses; arrived there, each sheet-full is separately removed by
rope and tackle, and the contents deposited on the skeleton scaffolding
within the building, there to remain until the seed is sufficiently
cured and dry enough to thresh. These drying-houses are buildings
of uniform character, two stories in height and fifty feet square,
constructed so as to expose their contents to sun and air, and each
provided with a carefully laid threshing-floor, extending through the
building, with pent-house for movable engine. When the houses are full
and the hulm in a fit state for threshing, the engine is started and
the work begun. One man, relieved by others from time to time, (for the
labor requires activity, and consequently is exhausting,) feeds the
thresher, which, with its armed teeth, moves with such velocity as to
appear like a solid cylinder. Here there is no stopping for horses
to take breath and rest their weary limbs,--puff, puff, onward the
work,--steam as great a triumph in threshing as in printing or spinning.
Men and boys are stationed at the rear of the thresher to remove the
straw, and roughly separate the seed from the shattered hulm,--others
again being engaged in thrusting the dried crop from the scaffolds, and
placing it in suitable position for the feeders. When one drying-house
has thus been emptied, the engine is removed to another; the same
process is pursued until the circuit of the buildings has been made, and
thus the ceaseless round (ceaseless at least for a season) is continued.
As soon as the crop in the first house has been threshed, the work of
winnowing is commenced, and skilled hands thus engaged follow on in the
track of the engine. As each crop is cleaned and put in merchantable
order, it is placed in bags of two bushels each and carried to the
storehouses and granaries, there to await a requisition from the
We have just witnessed the process of saving the crop of turnip-seed.
And how much may that reach? is a natural inquiry. Of all the varieties,
including the ruta-baga, about one thousand bushels, is the response. We
should have thought a thousand pounds would supply the entire Union; but
we are reminded it is in part exported to far distant lands. And what is
the crop so much like turnip, but still green, and apparently of more
vigorous growth? That is one of the varieties of cabbage, of which
several standard kinds are under cultivation. Another adjoining is
radish; still another, beet; and thus we pass from kind to kind, until
we have exhausted a long catalogue of sorts.
Let us stop our walk over the grounds for a few moments, taking seats
under the shadow of a tree, and make some inquiries as to the place
itself, its extent, the course of culture, the description of manures
used, etc. Our cicerone assents to the proposal, and proceeds to answer
our general inquiries. Bloomsdale contains in round numbers four hundred
acres; it has a frontage on the Delaware of upwards of a mile, is
bounded on the west by the Delaware Canal, and is divided into two
nearly equal parts by the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad. The soil is
a light loam, easily worked, suited to rapid percolation, admitting of
labor immediately after heavy rain, and not liable to suffer by drought.
The manures used are principally crude, obtained from the city, and
landed on the premises from shallops continually plying, laden with the
"sinews of farming." Street-scrapings are more used than stable-manure;
bone-dust and guano enter largely into the account; and the aggregate
annual expenditure foots up a sum almost equivalent to the fee-simple of
an ordinary farm. The culture is that denominated drill; but of course
much of it is simply straight lines drawn by the plough, in which the
roots for seeding are planted by hand. The ground, with the exception of
the lawn and a portion occupied from time to time by grass for home use,
is divided by wagon-roads into squares and parallelograms; cross fences
are not used; and each crop forms a distinct feature, accessible at any
stage of growth. The several varieties of each kind, as, for instance,
those of turnip, cabbage, beet, lettuce, are planted widely apart, to
guard against possible admixture; but the chances of that result must
be much less than is popularly supposed, efforts having been used
experimentally to test its practicability, and that between kindred
closely allied, without success. Although the extent of the grounds
would appear to be formidable, even for a farm conducted in the usual
mode, it is insufficient for the demands on the proprietors, without
diligent exertion and prompt recropping,--two crops in each year being
exacted, only a small part of the land escaping double duty, the extent
annually ploughed thus amounting to nearly twice the area of the farm.
The heavy hauling is performed by oxen, the culture principally by
mules, which are preferred to horses, as being less liable to injury,
and better adapted to the narrow drill culture practised.
The seeds of Bloomsdale have attained a world-wide reputation, and, to
quote an expression used in reference to them, "are almost as well
known on the Ganges as on the Mississippi or Ohio." They are regularly
exported to the British possessions in India, to the shores of the
Pacific, throughout the West Indies, and occasionally to Australia.
The drier atmosphere of this country ripens them better than the humid
climate of England, adapting them to exportation; and it is no slight
triumph to see them preferred by Englishmen on English soil. At home,
thousands of hamlets, south and west of Philadelphia, until interrupted
by the war, were supplied with Landreth's seeds. The business, founded
nearly three-quarters of a century ago, is now conducted by the second
and third generations of the family with which it originated. Thus
has success been achieved through long and patient industry steadily
directed to the same pursuit, and a reputation built up for American
seeds, despite the want of national protection.
THE EAST AND THE WEST.
[This poem was written by THEODORE WINTHROP seven years ago, and after
his death was found among his unpublished papers.]
We of the East spread our sails to the sea,
You of the West stride over the land;
Both are to scatter the hopes of the Free,
As the sower sheds golden grain from his hand.
'Tis ours to circle the stormy bends
Of a continent, yours its ridge to cross;
We must double the capes where a long world ends,
Lone cliffs where two limitless oceans toss.
They meet and are baffled 'mid tempest and wrath,
Breezes are skirmishing, angry winds roar,
While poised on some desperate plunge of our path
We count up the blackening wrecks on the shore.
And you through dreary and thirsty ways,
Where rivers are sand and winds are dust,
Through sultry nights and feverish days,
Move westward still as the sunsets must:
Where the scorched air quivers along the slopes,
Where the slow-footed cattle lie down and die,
Where horizons draw backward till baffled hopes
Are weary of measureless waste and sky.
Yes, ours to battle relentless gales,
And yours the brave and the patient way;
But we hold the storms in our trusty sails,
And for you the life-giving fountains play.
There are stars above us, and stars for you,--
Rest on the path, and calm on the main:
Storms are but zephyrs, when hearts are true;
We are no weaklings, quick to complain,
When lightnings flash bivouac-fires into gloom,
And with crashing of forests the rains sheet down,--
Or when ships plunge onward where night-clouds loom,
Defiant of darkness and meeting its frown.
These are the days of motion and march;
Now we are ardent, and young, and brave:
Let them that come after us build the arch
Of our triumph, and plant with the laurel our grave.
Time enough to rear temples when heroes are dead,
Time enough to sing paeans after the fight:
Prophets urge onward the future's tread;
We,--_we_ are to kindle its beacon-light.
Our sires lit torches of quenchless flame
To illumine our darkness, if night should be;
But day is a friend to our standards, and shame
Be ours, if we win not a victory!
Man is nobler than men have been,
Souls are vaster than souls have dreamed;
There are broader oceans than eyes have seen,
Noons more glowing than yet have beamed.
Creeping shadows cower low on our land;
These shall not dim our grander day:
Stainless knights must be those who stand
Full in the van of a world's array!
When shall we cease our meagre distrust?
When to each other our true hearts yield?
To make this world an Eden, we must
Fling away each weapon and shield,
And meet each man as a friend and mate,
Trample and spurn and forget our pride,
Glad to accept an equal fate,
Laboring, conquering side by side.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF THE LATE HENRY THOMAS BUCKLE.
_Cairo, Egypt, February 6th, 1862._ I am afraid I repeat myself in
talking about the beauty of the climate here, but to-day is so lovely
that I cannot refrain from recurring to the subject. While you are
shivering under the blasts of winter, we have a genuine June morning:
the air soft and pure, the atmosphere clear, innumerable birds chirping
in the trees opposite the windows, (for the Arabs never interfere with
birds,) and the aspect of things from our balcony overlooking the
Esbekieh, or public square, as pleasant as one could wish. The beautiful
weather, too, is constant.
But I must tell you of my dining yesterday with Mrs. R., to meet Mr.
Buckle, the author of the History of Civilization, who has just returned
from his two or three months' voyage upon the Nile, in which he pushed
as far as Nubia. He is now staying for a little while in Cairo, or
rather in his _dahabieh_, or boat, (which he says is more comfortable
than any hotel,) moored in the river at Boolak, the port of the town.
Mrs. R., the daughter of Lady Duff Gordon, and granddaughter of Mrs.
Austin, is a most attractive and accomplished young lady; her husband is
the manager in Egypt of the great banking-house of Briggs and Company,
in which he is a partner. Their usual residence is at Alexandria; but
at this season "all the world" of Egypt comes to Cairo, to enjoy the
beautiful weather here, while it is raining incessantly in Alexandria,
only a hundred and thirty miles distant. Mrs. R. in asking Mr. Thayer,
our Consul-General, to meet Mr. Buckle, with very great kindness
included me in the invitation. The only other lady present was Miss
P., a niece of the late Countess of Blessington, herself the author
of several pleasant stories, and of a poem which gained a prize in
competition with one by Mrs. Browning and another by Owen Meredith: she
is spending the winter with Mrs. R. There were also present C., who
conducts the house of Briggs and Company in Cairo; O., another banker;
and Hekekyan Bey, an Armenian, a well-read and intelligent man, formerly
Minister of Public Instruction under Mehemet Ali, and still, I believe,
in receipt of a pension from the Viceroy's government, in consideration
of his public services, which have been valuable.
The dinner was at an hotel called the Restaurant d'Auric. We assembled
in Mrs. R.'s drawing-room, an apartment in the banking-house at a little
distance, and walked to the hotel. The company fell into two groups,
each lighted by a swarthy _boab_ or lackey carrying a _mushal_ or
lantern; and I happened to walk with Mr. Buckle, so that I had a brief
talk with him in the street, before the general conversation began at
the table. He remarked upon the extraordinary devotion exhibited by
Delane of the London Times to the interests and politics of Lord
Palmerston. Becoming interested in our conversation, we strayed away
from the rest, and were walking about a quarter of a mile down the
_bazaar_, when (are you surprised to hear?) Mr. Buckle was missed,
the two _boabs_ came running after us, and we were cited to the
Buckle, of course, was the card. He talked with a velocity and fulness
of facts that was wonderful. The rest of us could do little but listen
and ask questions. And yet he did not seem to be lecturing us; the
stream of his conversation flowed along easily and naturally. Nor was it
didactic; Buckle's range of reading has covered everything in elegant
literature, as well as the ponderous works whose titles make so
formidable a list at the beginning of his History, and, as he remembers
everything he has read, he can produce his stores upon the moment for
the illustration of whatever subject happens to come up.
In the first place, let me say how delightful it was to discover his
cordial interest in our own country. He expresses a strong hope that
England will take no part against us, and do nothing to break the
blockade. He is going to write about America; indeed, his next volume,
besides containing a complete view of the German philosophy, will treat
of the United States. But he will visit us before he writes. Although
appreciating the great work of De Tocqueville, he complains of the
general inadequacy of European criticism upon America. Gasparin's books,
by the way, he has not seen. For his own part, he considers the subject
too vast, he says, and the testimony too conflicting, to permit him
to write upon it before he has seen the country; and meanwhile he
scrupulously refrains from forming any conclusive opinions.
Subject to this reservation of judgment, however, he remarked that
he was inclined to think that George III forced us prematurely into
democracy, although the natural tendency of things both in America and
England was towards it; and he thought that perhaps we had established
a political democracy without having yet achieved an intellectual
democracy: the two ought to go hand in hand together. The common people
in England, he said, are by far the most useful class of society. He had
been especially pleased by the numerous letters he had received from
working-men who had read his book. These letters often surprised him
by the acuteness and capacity displayed by their writers. The nobility
would perish utterly, if it were not constantly recruited from
commoners. Lord Brougham was the first member of the secular peerage who
continued after his elevation to sign his name in full, "H. Brougham,"
which he did to show his continued sympathy with the class from which he
sprang. Buckle remarked that the history of the peasantry of no European
country has ever been written, or ever can be written, and without it
the record of the doings of kings and nobles is mere chaff. Surnames
were not introduced until the eleventh century, and it is only since
that period that genealogy has become possible.
Another very pleasant thing is Mr. Buckle's cordial appreciation of
young men. He repeated the story, which I believe is in his book,
that, when Harvey announced to the world his great discovery of the
circulation of the blood, among the physicians who received it was none
above the age of forty. Mr. Thayer described to Buckle some of our
friends who have read his book with especial satisfaction. He evidently
took pleasure in this proof of appreciation, and said that this was the
class of readers he sought. "In fact, the young men," he said, "are the
only readers of much value; it is they who shape the future." He said
that Thackeray and Delane had told him he would find Boston very like
England. He knows but few Bostonians. He had corresponded with Theodore
Parker, whom he considered a remarkable man; he had preserved but one of
his letters, which he returned to Mrs. Parker, in answer to her request
for materials to aid her in preparing the memoir of her late
husband. Buckle says that he does not generally preserve other than
Mr. Buckle gave an amusing account of the origin of the wigs which the
lawyers wear in England, and which, by the way, struck me as infinitely
ludicrous when I saw them on the heads of the judges and counsel in
Westminster Hall. Originally the clergy were forbidden to practise law,
and, as they were the best lawyers, the wig was worn to conceal the
tonsure. He had anecdotes to tell of Johnson, Lamb, Macaulay, Voltaire,
Talleyrand, etc., and quoted passages from Burke and from Junius at
length in the exact words. Junius he considers proved to be Sir Philip
Francis. He told a good story against Wordsworth, contained in a letter
from Lamb to Talfourd, which the latter showed to Buckle, but had
considered among the things too personal to be published. Wordsworth
was decrying Shakspeare. "Pooh!" he said, "it is all very easy: I could
write like Shakspeare myself, if I had a mind to!" "Precisely so,"
rejoined Lamb,--"_if you had a mind to_."
Mr. Buckle does not think much of the ancient Egyptian civilization,
differing in this respect _toto caelo_ from Hekekyan Bey, who finds
in the monuments proofs of the existence of an expansive popular
government. Buckle declares that the machines, as figured in the
hieroglyphics, are of the most primitive kind,--and that the learning,
by all accounts, was confined to the priests, and covered a very narrow
range, exhibiting no traces of acquaintance with the higher useful arts.
He says it is a fallacy to suppose that savages are bodily superior to
civilized men. Captain Cook found that his sailors could outwork the
islanders. I remarked, in confirmation, that our Harvard boat-clubs
won the prizes in rowing-matches against all comers. Buckle seemed
interested, and asked for a more particular account, which, of course, I
took great pleasure in giving. C., like a true Englishman, doubted
the general fact, and said the Thames watermen out-rowed their
For Turkish civilization Mr. Buckle has not the slightest respect,--said
he could write the whole of it on the back of his hand; and here
Hekekyan Bey cordially agreed with him. Buckle is very fond of chess,
and can play two games at once blindfold. He inquired very particularly
about a native here who it is said can play four or six in this manner,
and said he should like to try a game with him. He had seen Paulsen, but
Mr. Thayer asked him if in England he had been subjected to personal
hostility for his opinions, or to anything like social ostracism. He
said, generally not. A letter from a clergyman to an acquaintance in
England, expressing intense antipathy to him, although he had never seen
the writer, was the only evidence of this kind of opposition. "In fact,"
said he, naively, "the people of England have such an admiration of any
kind of _intellectual splendor_ that they will forgive for its sake the
most objectionable doctrines." He told us that the portion of his book
which relates to Spain, although by no means complimentary to that
country, has been translated and published separately there. T. remarked
that to this circumstance, no doubt, we may ascribe some part of the
modern regeneration of Spain, the leading statesmen being persuaded to a
more liberal policy; but this view Buckle disclaimed with an eagerness
seeming to be something more than the offspring of modesty.
After dinner we returned to Mrs. R.'s apartments, where we had tea.
Buckle and Hekekyan now got into an animated discussion upon the ancient
Egyptian civilization, which scarcely gave the rest of us a chance to
put in a single word. It was, however, exceedingly interesting to sit
and listen. Indeed, although there was nothing awful about Buckle, one
felt a little abashed to intrude his own remarks in such a presence. You
will be amused to hear that Mrs. R., who had seen me but once before,
told T. that she did not think I seemed to have much to say for myself.
Pray tell this in circles where they accuse me of monopolizing the
conversation. We stayed until nearly midnight, and then, taking our
leave, Buckle accompanied T. and myself as far as the door of our hotel.
Buckle received most kindly all suggestions made to him of books to be
read upon American affairs, and people to be seen in the United States.
_February 7th_. To-day we made a party to drive to see the Howling
Dervishes, who howl on Fridays. Friday is sometimes called "the
Mahometan Sunday," which is a correct phrase, if the especial
celebration of religious services is meant; but it is not at all a day
of rest: we found the people continuing their various avocations as
usual. At the mosque we met Mr. Buckle, a little careless in his
dress,--in this respect affording a not disagreeable contrast to
the studied jauntiness which Englishmen are apt to affect in their
travelling-gear. Nobody is allowed to press the floor of the mosque with
shoes upon the feet. T. and I, warned by our former experience, had
brought pieces of cotton cloth to tie over our shoes; and some cloth
slippers of a bright orange color, such as the Arabs are fond of
using, had been provided, which Miss P. slipped directly over her
walking-boots. Buckle, with careless indifference, pulled off his shoes
and walked in in his stockinged feet. His figure is tall and slender,
although he is a large man; he stoops a little in standing; his head,
well-shaped, is partly bald; and although his features are not striking
in themselves, they are rendered so by his animated expression. The
photograph which I have seen is a wretched caricature.
The performances of the Dervishes were precisely the same as those which
I witnessed in the same place a fortnight ago, and may be found most
exactly described by Mr. Trollope (who saw them two or three years
since) in his admirable novel of "The Bertrams," Chapter 38. If I
desired to tell you what we saw, I could not do better than to adopt
Mr. Trollope's language without alteration. This will prove to you the
sameness of this singular religious rite. Driving back, Miss P. helped
us to recall some of the incidents of the dinner of the preceding day.
She used to see almost all the distinguished literary characters at the
house of her aunt; but she told us that she never met anybody whose
conversation could bear comparison with that of Buckle, excepting Lord
Brougham and Alexander Dumas. The latter disgusts by his insufferable
egotism. Miss P. also gave us a very entertaining account of an Arab
wedding which she attended a day or two ago in company with Mrs. R.
As soon as they were inside the house they were separated from their
escort, and were admitted to the apartment where the bride was obliged
to sit in state for three days, covered with jewelry, clusters of
diamonds literally plastered upon her cheeks and forehead.
_February 10th_. Yesterday Mr. Thayer entertained Mr. Buckle at dinner.
The party included Mrs. R. and some of the guests whom we had met at her
table. We had hoped also for the presence of Mr. R., who was expected to
come up from Alexandria; but the train failed to bring him. Mr. Thayer
also invited Sir James Outram, but he is too unwell to come, although
expressing himself pleased with the invitation. The landlord of the
hotel where the consul-general is staying (Hotel des Ambassadeurs) was
very proud of the occasion, and the entertainment, although simple,
was elegant. An oval table was found of exactly the right size to seat
eight. Buckle was in excellent spirits, and, as before, was the life of
the party. We had been terribly afraid lest he and Hekekyan should get
into another long disputation, for the excellent Bey has fortified
himself with new materials; but the ladies were taken into our
confidence to aid in turning the conversation, if it should be
necessary, all of which made a great deal of entertainment; but there
proved to be no occasion for anything of the sort.
Buckle told some capital stories: among them, one against Alison, almost
too good to be true, namely, that in the first edition of his History he
mentioned among the causes of the French Devolution "the timber-duty,"
because he had read in a French pamphlet that there were popular
discontents about the _droits de timbre_.[A] Alison's History, he said,
is the very worst that ever was written. He cited a good definition,
(Addison's, I believe,) that "fine writing is that which is true without
being obvious." In the course of the conversation, in which, as before,
Buckle touched points in the whole circle of literature and science,
giving us quotations even in Hebrew from the Talmud and the Bible, he
made a very pretty compliment to our host, introduced as adroitly as
from the lips of a professed courtier, but evidently spoken on the
moment. It was something in this way. Hekekyan and Buckle were in an
argument, and Buckle said, "Ah, you mistake a necessary condition for
the cause." "What is cause but necessary condition?" asked Hekekyan.
"Very different: two men can't fight a duel without meeting, but every
two men who meet don't fight a duel." "But they couldn't fight a duel
without meeting," persisted Hekekyan. "Yes," rejoined Buckle; "but
the meeting isn't the cause of the duel. Why, there could not be a
dinner-party, unless the company met; but our meeting here to-day isn't
the cause of the dinner: the cause of the dinner is the kindness of our
host." "Or rather, of the landlord," said N. "Oh, no! of the American
government," said C. "Ah," said Buckle, "those things are not the
cause: the cause of our good dinner, I maintain, is only the charming
hospitality of the consul-general." Is not this metaphysics made easy,
and prettily employed?
[Footnote A: It is fair to say that an examination of the chapter on
the causes of the French Revolution, in several editions of Alison's
History, including the first, gives this story no support.]
After dinner we had tea and coffee; the ladies, in Egypt, could scarcely
do less than allow tobacco, and Mr. Buckle particularly enjoyed some
choice cigars which T. was able to offer him. The party did not break up
until nearly midnight, when all the guests retired together.
_February 11th_. To my pleasure, the train from Alexandria yesterday
afternoon brought Mr. B., of New York, and his very agreeable family,
with whom I crossed the Atlantic in the Persia last October. They went
at first to another hotel, but to-day they have determined to come to
that at which we are staying. I called upon them on their arrival, and
asked the gentlemen to join us at dinner, and afterwards in going, in
company with Mr. Buckle, whom Mr. Thayer had previously invited, to
attend a _fantasia_, or exhibition of singing and dancing, by Arab
professionals, at the house of Mr. Savallan, a wealthy French banker,
who has lived a long time in the Levant and has in some degree adopted
Oriental customs. He has lately sold to the Viceroy a tooth-brush, comb,
and hair-brush, for the handsome price of fourteen thousand dollars.
They were doubtless richly set with jewels; but the profit on these
transactions is immense. Mr. B. accepted the invitation for dinner, and
Mr. W. joined us afterwards.
At dinner I was seated next to Mr. Buckle, and thus had an opportunity
for private conversation. He asked about American books, and told me his
opinion of those he had read. He said that Quincy's History of Harvard
University was the latest book on America he received before leaving
England. He preferred Kent's exposition of the United States
Constitution to Story's, although this also he had consulted and used.
He had not seen Mr. Charles Francis Adams's complete edition of the
works of his grandfather, nor Parton's Life of Jackson, both of which I
begged him to read, particularly the chapters in the former in which are
traced the steps in the progress of making the American Constitutions.
He told me about his library in London, which is surpassed (among
private libraries) only by that belonging to Mr. Van de Weyer, the
Belgian Minister, whose wife is the daughter of our Bostonian Mr. Bates,
of Barings. Buckle has twenty-two thousand volumes, all selected by
himself; and he takes great pleasure in them. He spends eight or nine
hundred pounds a year upon his library. He owns copies of all the books
referred to in his History; some of them are very old and rare. He
also possesses a considerable collection, made likewise by himself, of
curiosities in natural history; he has added largely to it in Egypt,
where, in fact, he has been buying with open hands. He said he could not
be perfectly happy in leaving the country, if obliged to go away without
a crocodile's egg, a trophy which as yet he has been unable to obtain.
He told me his plan of travel in America. He will not set out until our
domestic troubles are composed, for he desires to see the practical
working of our institutions in their normal state, not confused and
disturbed by the excitements of war. He would go first to Boston and
New York, the intellectual and commercial heads (as he said) of the
republic,--and to Washington, the political capital. He would then like
to pass from the Northern into the Southern States, but asked if he
could travel safely in the latter, in view of his extreme opinions in
detestation of slavery. I assured him that nobody would dare to molest
one so well known, even if our war did not abate forever the nuisance
of lynching, to say nothing of its probable effect in promoting the
extinction of slavery. From the Southern States he said he would wish to
pass into Mexico, thence to Peru and to Chili; then to cross the Pacific
Ocean to Japan, to China, to India, and so back by the overland route
to England. This magnificent scheme he has seriously resolved upon, and
proposes to devote to it two or three years. He undertakes it partly for
information and partly for relaxation of his mental faculties, which he
has injured by overwork, and which imperatively demand repose. He asked
many questions with regard to matters of detail,--whether he would find
conveyance by steamers in the Pacific, and of what sort would be the
accommodations in them and in sailing-vessels. He asked at what season
he had best arrive in the United States, and whether he had better
land at New York or at Boston. Boston he said he regarded as "the
intellectual head of the country, and New York, you know, for trade." I
answered his questions as well as I could, and told him he must not omit
seeing our Western country, and some of the new cities, like Chicago. He
asked me if I knew "a Mrs. Child," who had written him a letter and sent
him her book about the history of religion. I knew of course that he
meant "The Progress of Religious Ideas," by Mrs. L. Maria Child. He had
been pleased with the letter, and with the book.
The conversation becoming general, Mr. B., of New York, told a story of
an old Congressional debate in which John Randolph derisively compared
Edward Everett to Richelieu: Buckle at once said he should regard it as
a compliment of the very highest kind to be compared to Richelieu. You
will smile, perhaps, if I tell you that I could not resist asking Buckle
if he had read Dumas's historical novels, and he said he had not,
although he had felt an inclination to do so. He asked one or two
questions about them, and gave a rapid generalization of the history of
France at that time.
This conversation at the dinner-table of course was by far the
pleasantest part of the evening, for the _fantasia_ did not amount to
much, although the house was a fine one, the host most cordial, and the
novelty of the entertainment was enjoyable.
_February 12th_. Mr. Buckle called upon T. and myself in the
afternoon, and sat talking between two and three hours. I wish I could
give you a full report of all that he said. He told us of the only
lecture he ever delivered; it was before the Royal Institution, March
19, 1858, and was printed in "Fraser's Magazine" for April, just
afterwards. It may be found reprinted in America in "Littell's Living
Age," No. 734. The subject was "The Influence of Women on the Progress
of Knowledge." Murchison, Owen, and Faraday told him afterwards,
separately, that they were perfectly satisfied with it, which is
certainly a strong combination of authority. He told us all about his
education, which is interesting, for he has been most truly self-taught.
When he was a boy, he was so delicate that it was thought he could not
live; the celebrated Dr. Abernethy, who was a particular friend of his
father, saw how important it was to keep him from mental excitement, and
begged that he might not be troubled by lessons. Accordingly, he was
never sent to school at any time, except for a brief period to a
clergyman who had directions not to make him study; and he was never
regularly taught anything. Until eight years of age he hardly knew his
letters. At the age of fifteen he found out Shakespeare and read it with
great zest. At seventeen he conceived the plan of his book, and resolved
to do two things to make himself fit to write it: first, he resolved to
devote four hours a day to the study of physical science, in order that
he might be able fully to understand and to unfold its relations with
history; secondly, he resolved to devote an equal portion of each day to
the study of English composition and practice in writing, in order that
he might be able to set forth his opinions with force and perspicuity.
To these resolutions he adhered for twelve years. Every day, after
breakfast, he shut himself up for four hours with his experiments and
his investigations; and afterwards devoted four hours to analyzing the
style of the best English authors, inquiring (as he said) "where it was
that I wrote worse than they." He studied not only in England, but in
Germany and other European countries. He learned all the languages which
he knows (and he knows nearly all I ever heard of) without the aid of a
master in any, excepting German, in which he began with a master, but
soon dismissed him, because he hindered more than he helped. He read
Hebrew with a Jewish rabbi, but that was after he had learned the
language. He considers the knowledge of languages valuable only as the
stepping-stone to other learning, and spoke with contempt of a person in
Egypt who was mentioned to him as speaking eight languages familiarly.
"Has he done anything?"
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