Atlantic Monthly, Volume 6, No. 38, December, 1860

Part 4 out of 5

that he could be tolerably sure of hitting a pane of glass at a distance
of thirty rods, more or less, and that, if there happened to be anything
behind it, the glass would not materially alter the force or direction
of the bullet.

About this time it occurred to him also that there was an old
accomplishment of his which he would be in danger of losing for want of
practice, if he did not take some opportunity to try his hand and regain
its cunning, if it had begun to be diminished by disuse. For his first
trial, he chose an evening when the moon was shining, and after the hour
when the Rockland people were like to be stirring abroad. He was so far
established now that he could do much as he pleased without
exciting remark.

The prairie horse he rode, the mustang of the Pampas, wild as he was,
had been trained to take part in at least one exercise. This was the
accomplishment in which Mr. Richard now proposed to try himself. For
this purpose he sought the implement of which, as it may be remembered,
he had once made an incidental use,--the lasso, or long strip of hide
with a slip-noose at the end of it. He had been accustomed to playing
with such a thong from his boyhood, and had become expert in its use in
capturing wild cattle in the course of his adventures. Unfortunately,
there were no wild bulls likely to be met with in the neighborhood, to
become the subjects of his skill. A stray cow in the road, an ox or a
horse in a pasture, must serve his turn,--dull beasts, but moving marks
to aim at, at any rate.

Never, since he had galloped in the chase over the Pampas, had Dick
Venner felt such a sense of life and power as when he struck the long
spurs into his wild horse's flanks, and dashed along the road with the
lasso lying like a coiled snake at the saddle-bow. In skilful hands, the
silent, bloodless noose, flying like an arrow, but not like that leaving
a wound behind it,--sudden as a pistol-shot, but without the tell-tale
explosion,--is one of the most fearful and mysterious weapons that arm
the hand of man. The old Romans knew how formidable, even in contest
with a gladiator equipped with sword, helmet, and shield, was the almost
naked _retiarius_ with his net in one hand and his three-pronged javelin
in the other. Once get a net over a man's head, or a cord round his
neck, or, what is more frequently done nowadays, _bonnet_ him by
knocking his hat down over his eyes, and he is at the mercy of his
opponent. Our soldiers who served against the Mexicans found this out
too well. Many a poor fellow has been lassoed by the fierce riders from
the plains, and fallen an easy victim to the captor who had snared him
in the fatal noose.

But, imposing as the sight of the wild huntsmen of the Pampas might have
been, Dick could not help laughing at the mock sublimity of his
situation, as he tried his first experiment on an unhappy milky mother
who had strayed from her herd and was wandering disconsolately along the
road, laying the dust, as she went, with thready streams from her
swollen, swinging udders. "Here goes the Don at the windmill!" said
Dick, and tilted full speed at her, whirling the lasso round his head as
he rode. The creature swerved to one side of the way, as the wild horse
and his rider came rushing down upon her, and presently turned and ran,
as only cows and--it wouldn't be safe to say it--can run. Just before he
passed,--at twenty or thirty feet from her,--the lasso shot from his
hand, uncoiling as it flew, and in an instant its loop was round her
horns. "Well cast!" said Dick, as he galloped up to her side and
dexterously disengaged the lasso. "Now for a horse on the run!"

He had the good luck to find one, presently, grazing in a pasture at the
roadside. Taking down the rails of the fence at one point, he drove the
horse into the road and gave chase. It was a lively young animal enough,
and was easily roused to a pretty fast pace. As his gallop grew more and
more rapid, Dick gave the reins to the mustang, until the two horses
stretched themselves out in their longest strides. If the first feat
looked like play, the one he was now to attempt had a good deal the
appearance of real work. He touched the mustang with the spur, and in a
few fierce leaps found himself nearly abreast of the frightened animal
he was chasing. Once more he whirled the lasso round and round over his
head, and then shot it forth, as the rattlesnake shoots his head from
the loops against which it rests. The noose was round the horse's neck,
and in another instant was tightened so as almost to stop his breath.
The prairie horse knew the trick of the cord, and leaned away from the
captive, so as to keep the thong tensely stretched between his neck and
the peak of the saddle to which it was fastened. Struggling was of no
use with a halter round his windpipe, and he very soon began to tremble
and stagger,--blind, no doubt, and with a roaring in his ears as of a
thousand battle-trumpets,--at any rate, subdued and helpless. That was
enough. Dick loosened his lasso, wound it up again, laid it like a pet
snake in a coil at his saddle-bow, turned his horse, and rode slowly
along towards the mansion-house.

The place had never looked more stately and beautiful to him than as he
now saw it in the moonlight. The undulations of the land,--the grand
mountain-screen which sheltered the mansion from the northern blasts,
rising with all its hanging forests and parapets of naked rock high
towards the heavens,--the ancient mansion, with its square chimneys, and
bodyguard of old trees, and cincture of low walls with marble-pillared
gateways,--the fields, with their various coverings,--the beds of
flowers,--the plots of turf, one with a gray column in its centre
bearing a sun-dial on which the rays of the moon were idly shining,
another with a white stone and a narrow ridge of turf,--over all these
objects, harmonized with all their infinite details into one fair whole
by the moonlight, the prospective heir, as he deemed himself, looked
with admiring eyes.

But while he looked, the thought rose up in his mind like waters from a
poisoned fountain, that there was a deep plot laid to cheat him of the
inheritance which by a double claim he meant to call his own. Every day
this ice-cold beauty, this dangerous, handsome cousin of his, went up to
that place,--that usher's girltrap. Every day,--regularly now,--it used
to be different. Did she go only to get out of his, her cousin's, reach?
Was she not rather becoming more and more involved in the toils of this
plotting Yankee?

If Mr. Bernard had shown himself at that moment a few rods in advance,
the chances are that in less than one minute he would have found himself
with a noose round his neck, at the heels of a mounted horseman.
Providence spared him for the present. Mr. Richard rode his horse
quietly round to the stable, put him up, and proceeded towards the
house. He got to his bed without disturbing the family, but could not
sleep. The idea had fully taken possession of his mind that a deep
intrigue was going on which would end by bringing Elsie and the
schoolmaster into relations fatal to all his own hopes. With that
ingenuity which always accompanies jealousy, he tortured every
circumstance of the last few weeks so as to make it square with this
belief. From this vein of thought he naturally passed to a consideration
of every possible method by which the issue he feared might be avoided.

Mr. Richard talked very plain language with himself in all these inward
colloquies. Supposing it came to the worst, what could be done then?
First, an accident might happen to the schoolmaster which should put a
complete and final check upon his projects and contrivances. The
particular accident which might interrupt his career must, evidently, be
determined by circumstances; but it must be of a nature to explain
itself without the necessity of any particular person's becoming
involved in the matter. It would be unpleasant to go into particulars;
but everybody knows well enough that men sometimes get in the way of a
stray bullet, and that young persons occasionally do violence to
themselves in various modes,--by fire-arms, suspension, and other
means,--in consequence of disappointment in love, perhaps, oftener than
from other motives. There was still another kind of accident which might
serve his purpose. If anything should happen to Elsie, it would be the
most natural thing in the world that his uncle should adopt him, his
nephew and only near relation, as his heir. Unless, indeed, Uncle Dudley
should take it into his head to marry again. In that case, where would
he, Dick, be? This was the most detestable complication which he could
conceive of. And yet he had noticed--he could not help noticing--that
his uncle had been very attentive to, and, as it seemed, very much
pleased with, that young woman from the school. What did that mean? Was
it possible that he was going to take a fancy to her?

It made him wild to think of all the several contingencies which might
defraud him of that good-fortune which seemed but just now within his
grasp. He glared in the darkness at imaginary faces: sometimes at that
of the handsome, treacherous schoolmaster; sometimes at that of the
meek-looking, but, no doubt, scheming, lady-teacher; sometimes at that
of the dark girl whom he was ready to make his wife; sometimes at that
of his much respected uncle, who, of course, could not be allowed to
peril the fortunes of his relatives by forming a new connection. It was
a frightful perplexity in which he found himself, because there was no
one single life an accident to which would be sufficient to insure the
fitting and natural course of descent to the great Dudley property. If
it had been a simple question of helping forward a casualty to any one
person, there was nothing in Dick's habits of thought and living to make
that a serious difficulty. He had been so much with lawless people, that
a life between his wish and his object seemed only as an obstacle to be
removed, provided the object were worth the risk and trouble. But if
there were two or three lives in the way, manifestly that altered
the case.

His Southern blood was getting impatient. There was enough of the
New-Englander about him to make him calculate his chances before he
struck; but his plans were liable to be defeated at any moment by a
passionate impulse such as the dark-hued races of Southern Europe and
their descendants are liable to. He lay in his bed, sometimes arranging
plans to meet the various difficulties already mentioned, sometimes
getting into a paroxysm of blind rage in the perplexity of considering
what object he should select as the one most clearly in his way. On the
whole, there could be no doubt where the most threatening of all his
embarrassments lay. It was in the probable growing relation between
Elsie and the schoolmaster. If it should prove, as it seemed likely,
that there was springing up a serious attachment tending to a union
between them, he knew what he should do, if he was not quite so sure how
he should do it.

There was one thing at least which might favor his projects, and which,
at any rate, would serve to amuse him. He could, by a little quiet
observation, find out what were the schoolmaster's habits of life:
whether he had any routine which could be calculated upon; and under
what circumstances a strictly private interview of a few minutes with
him might be reckoned on, in case it should be desirable. He could also
very probably learn some facts about Elsie: whether the young man was in
the habit of attending her on her way home from school; whether she
stayed about the school-room after the other girls had gone; and any
incidental matters of interest which might present themselves.

He was getting more and more restless for want of some excitement. A mad
gallop, a visit to Mrs. Blanche Creamer, who had taken such a fancy to
him, or a chat with the Widow Rowens, who was very lively in her talk,
for all her sombre colors, and reminded him a good deal of some of his
earlier friends, the _senoritas_,--all these were distractions, to be
sure, but not enough to keep his fiery spirit from fretting itself in
longings for more dangerous excitements. The thought of getting a
knowledge of all Mr. Bernard's ways, so that he would be in his power at
any moment, was a happy one.

For some days after this he followed Elsie at a long distance behind, to
watch her until she got to the school-house. One day he saw Mr. Bernard
join her: a mere accident, very probably, for it was only once this
happened. She came on her homeward way alone,--quite apart from the
groups of girls who strolled out of the school-house yard in company.
Sometimes she was behind them all,--which was suggestive. Could she
have stayed to meet the schoolmaster?

If he could have smuggled himself into the school, he would have liked
to watch her there, and see if there was not some understanding between
her and the master which betrayed itself by look or word. But this was
beyond the limits of his audacity, and he had to content himself with
such cautious observations as could be made at a distance. With the aid
of a pocket-glass he could make out persons without the risk of being
observed himself.

Mr. Silas Peckham's corps of instructors was not expected to be off duty
or to stand at ease for any considerable length of time. Sometimes Mr.
Bernard, who had more freedom than the rest, would go out for a ramble
in the day-time; but more frequently it would be in the evening, after
the hour of "retiring," as bed-time was elegantly termed by the young
ladies of the Apollinean Institute. He would then not unfrequently walk
out alone in the common roads, or climb up the sides of The Mountain,
which seemed to be one of his favorite resorts. Here, of course, it was
impossible to follow him with the eye at a distance. Dick had a hideous,
gnawing suspicion that somewhere in these deep shades the schoolmaster
might meet Elsie, whose evening wanderings he knew so well. But of this
he was not able to assure himself. Secrecy was necessary to his present
plans, and he could not compromise himself by over-eager curiosity. One
thing he learned with certainty. The master returned, after his walk one
evening, and entered the building where his room was situated. Presently
a light betrayed the window of his apartment. From a wooded bank, some
thirty or forty rods from this building, Dick Venner could see the
interior of the chamber, and watch the master as he sat at his desk, the
light falling strongly upon his face, intent upon the book or manuscript
before him. Dick contemplated him very long in this attitude. The sense
of watching his every motion, himself meanwhile utterly unseen, was
delicious. How little the master was thinking what eyes were on him!

Well,--there were two things quite certain. One was, that, if he chose,
he could meet the schoolmaster alone, either in the road or in a more
solitary place, if he preferred to watch his chance for an evening or
two. The other was, that he commanded his position, as he sat at his
desk in the evening, in such a way that there would be very little
difficulty,--so far as that went; of course, however, silence is always
preferable to noise, and there is a great difference in the marks left
by different casualties. Very likely nothing would come of all this
espionage; but, at any rate, the first thing to be done with a man you
want to have in your power is to learn his habits.

Since the tea-party at the Widow Rowens's, Elsie had been more fitful
and moody than ever. Dick understood all this well enough, you know. It
was the working of her jealousy against that young school-girl to whom
the master had devoted himself for the sake of piquing the heiress of
the Dudley mansion. Was it possible, in any way, to exasperate her
irritable nature against him, and in this way to render her more
accessible to his own advances? It was difficult to influence her at
all. She endured his company without seeming to enjoy it. She watched
him with that strange look of hers, sometimes as if she were on her
guard against him, sometimes as if she would like to strike at him as in
that fit of childish passion. She ordered him about with a haughty
indifference which reminded him of his own way with the dark-eyed women
whom he had known so well of old. All this added a secret pleasure to
the other motives he had for worrying her with jealous suspicions. He
knew she brooded silently on any grief that poisoned her comfort,--that
she fed on it, as it were, until it ran with every drop of blood in her
veins,--and that, except in some paroxysm of rage, of which he himself
was not likely the second time to be the object, or in some deadly
vengeance wrought secretly, against which he would keep a sharp
look-out, so far as he was concerned, she had no outlet for her
dangerous, smouldering passions.

Beware of the woman who cannot find free utterance for all her stormy
inner life either in words or song! So long as a woman can talk, there
is nothing she cannot bear. If she cannot have a companion to listen to
her woes, and has no musical utterance, vocal or instrumental,--then,
if she is of the real woman sort, and has a few heartfuls of wild blood
in her, and you have done her a wrong,--double-bolt the door which she
may enter on noiseless slipper at midnight,--look twice before you taste
of any cup whose draught the shadow of her hand may have darkened!

But let her talk, and, above all, cry, or, if she is one of the
coarser-grained tribe, give her the run of all the red-hot expletives in
the language, and let her blister her lips with them until she is tired,
she will sleep like a lamb after it, and you may take a cup of coffee
from her without stirring it up to look for its sediment. So, if she
can sing, or play on any musical instrument, all her wickedness will run
off through her throat or the tips of her fingers. How many tragedies
find their peaceful catastrophe in fierce roulades and strenuous
bravuras! How many murders are executed in double-quick time upon the
keys which stab the air with their dagger-strokes of sound! What would
our civilization be without the piano? Are not Erard and Broadwood and
Chickering the true humanizers of our time? Therefore do I love to hear
the all-pervading _tum tum_ jarring the walls of little parlors in
houses with double door-plates on their portals, looking out on streets
and courts which to know is to be unknown, and where to exist is not to
live, according to any true definition of living. Therefore complain I
not of modern degeneracy, when, even from the open window of the small
unlovely farm-house, tenanted by the hard-handed man of bovine flavors
and the flat-patterned woman of broken-down countenance, issue the same
familiar sounds. For who knows that Almira, but for these keys, which
throb away her wild impulses in harmless discords, would not have been
floating, dead, in the brown stream which runs through the meadows by
her father's door,--or living, with that other current which runs
beneath the gas-lights over the slimy pavement, choking with wretched
weeds that were once in spotless flower?

Poor Elsie! She never sang nor played. She never shaped her inner life
in words: such utterance was as much denied to her nature as common
articulate speech to the deaf mute. Her only language must be in action.
Watch her well by day and by night, Old Sophy! watch her well! or the
long line of her honored name may close in shame, and the stately
mansion of the Dudleys remain a hissing and a reproach till its roof is
buried in its cellar!



"Abel!" said the old Doctor, one morning, "after you've harnessed
Caustic, come into the study a few minutes, will you?"

Abel nodded. He was a man of few words, and he knew that the "will you"
did not require an answer, being the true New-England way of rounding
the corners of an employer's order,--a tribute to the personal
independence of an American citizen.

The hired man came into the study in the course of a few minutes. His
face was perfectly still, and he waited to be spoken to; but the
Doctor's eye detected a certain meaning in his expression, which looked
as if he had something to communicate.

"Well?" said the Doctor.

"He's up to mischief o' some kind, I guess," said Abel. "I jest happened
daown by the mansion-haouse last night, 'n' he come aout o' the gate on
that queer-lookin' creatur' o' his. I watched him, 'n' he rid, very
slow, all raoun' by the Institoot, 'n' acted as ef he was spyin' abaout.
He looks to me like a man that's calc'latin' to do some kind of ill-turn
to somebody. I shouldn't like to have him raoun' me, 'f there wa'n't a
pitchfork or an eel-spear or some sech weep'n within reach. He may be
all right; but I don't like his looks, 'n' I don't see what he's lurkin'
raoun' the Institoot for, after folks is abed."

"Have you watched him pretty close for the last few days?" said the

"W'll, yes,--I've had my eye on him consid'ble o' the time. I haf to be
pooty shy abaout it, or he'll find aout th't I'm on his tracks. I don'
want him to get a spite ag'inst me, 'f I c'n help it; he looks to me
like one o' them kind that kerries what they call slung-shot, 'n' hits
ye on the side o' th' head with 'em so suddin y' never know what
hurts ye."

"Why," said the Doctor, sharply,--"have you ever seen him with any
such weapon about him?"

"W'll, no,--I caan't say that I hev," Abel answered. "On'y he looks kin'
o' dangerous. May-be he's all jest 'z he ought to be,--I caan't say that
he a'n't,--but he's aout late nights, 'n' lurkin' raoun' jest 'z ef he
wuz spyin' somebody; 'n' somehaow I caan't help mistrustin' them
Portagee-lookin' fellahs. I caa'n't keep the run o' this chap all the
time; but I've a notion that old black woman daown't the mansion-haouse
knows 'z much abaout him 'z anybody."

The Doctor paused a moment, after hearing this report from his private
detective, and then got into his chaise, and turned Caustic's head in
the direction of the Dudley mansion. He had been suspicious of Dick from
the first. He did not like his mixed blood, not his looks, nor his ways.
He had formed a conjecture about his projects early. He had made a
shrewd guess as to the probable jealousy Dick would feel of the
schoolmaster, had found out something of his movements, and had
cautioned Mr. Bernard,--as we have seen. He felt an interest in the
young man,--a student of his own profession, an intelligent and
ingenuously unsuspecting young fellow, who had been thrown by accident
into the companionship or the neighborhood of two person, one of whom he
knew to be dangerous, and the other he believed instinctively might be
capable of crime.

The Doctor rode down to the Dudley mansion solely for the sake of
seeing Old Sophy. He was lucky enough to find her alone in her kitchen.
He began talking with her as a physician; he wanted to know how her
rheumatism had been. The shrewd old woman saw though all that with her
little beady black eyes. It was something quite different he had come
for, and Old Sophy answered very briefly for her aches and ails.

"Old folks' bones a'n't like young folks'," she said. "It's the Lord's
doin's, 'n' 't a'n't much matter. I sh'n't be long roun' this kitchen.
It's the young Missis, Doctor,--it's our Elsie,--it's the baby, as we
use' t' call her,--don' you remember, Doctor? Seventeen year ago, 'n'
her poor mother cryin' for her,--'Where is she? where is she? Let me see
her!'--'n' how I run up-stairs,--I could run then,--'n' got the coral
necklace 'n' put it round her little neck, 'n' then showed her to her
mother,--'n' how her mother looked at her, 'n' looked, 'n' then put out
her poor thin fingers 'n' lifted the necklace,--'n' fell right back on
her piller, as white as though she was laid out to bury?"

The Doctor answered her by silence and a look of grave assent. He had
never chosen to let Old Sophy dwell upon these matters, for obvious
reasons. The girl must not grow up haunted by perpetual fears and
prophecies, if it were possible to prevent it.

"Well, how has Elsie seemed of late?" he said, after this brief pause.

The old woman shook her head. Then she looked up at the Doctor so
steadily and searchingly that the diamond eyes of Elsie herself could
hardly have pierced more deeply.

The Doctor raised his head, by his habitual movement, and met the old
woman's look with his own calm and scrutinizing gaze, sharpened by the
glasses through which he now saw her.

Sophy spoke presently in an awed tone, as if telling a vision.

"We shall be havin' trouble before long. The' 's somethin' comin' from
the Lord. I've had dreams, Doctor. It's many a year I've been
a-dreamin', but now they're comin' over 'n' over the same thing. Three
times I've dreamed one thing, Doctor,--one thing!"

"And what was that?" the Doctor said, with that shade of curiosity in
his tone which a metaphysician would probably say is an index of a
certain tendency to belief in the superstition to which the
question refers.

"I ca'n' jestly tell y' what it was, Doctor," the old woman answered, as
if bewildered and trying to clear up her recollections; "but it was
somethin' fearful, with a great noise 'n' a great cryin' o'
people,--like the Las' Day, Doctor! The Lord have mercy on my poor
chil', 'n' take care of her, if anything happens! But I's feared she'll
never live to see the Las' Day, 'f 't don' come pooty quick." Poor
Sophy, only the third generation from cannibalism, was, not unnaturally,
somewhat confused in her theological notions. Some of the Second-Advent
preachers had been about, and circulated their predictions among the
kitchen-population of Rockland. This was the way in which it happened
that she mingled her fears in such a strange manner with their

The Doctor answered solemnly, that of the day and hour we knew not, but
it became us to be always ready.--"Is there anything going on in the
household different from common?"

Old Sophy's wrinkled face looked as full of life and intelligence, when
she turned it full upon the Doctor, as if she had slipped off her
infirmities and years like an outer garment. All those fine instincts of
observation which came straight to her from her savage grandfather
looked out of her little eyes. She had a kind of faith that the Doctor
was a mighty conjuror, who, if he would, could bewitch any of them. She
had relieved her feelings by her long talk with the minister, but the
Doctor was the immediate adviser of the family, and had watched them
through all their troubles. Perhaps he could tell them what to do. She
had but one real object of affection in the world,--this child that she
had tended from infancy to womanhood. Troubles were gathering thick
round her; how soon they would break upon her, and blight or destroy
her, no one could tell; but there was nothing in all the catalogue of
terrors that might not come upon the household at any moment. Her own
wits had sharpened themselves in keeping watch by day and night, and her
face had forgotten its age in the excitement which gave life to
its features.

"Doctor," Old Sophy said, "there's strange things goin' on here by night
and by day. I don' like that man,--that Dick,--I never liked him. He
giv' me some o' these things I' got on; I take 'em 'cos I know it make
him mad, if I no take 'em; I wear 'em, so that he needn' feel as if I
didn' like him; but, Doctor, I hate him,--jes' as much as a member o'
the church has the Lord's leave to hate anybody."

Her eyes sparkled with the old savage light, as if her ill-will to Mr.
Richard Venner might perhaps go a little farther than the Christian
limit she had assigned. But remember that her grandfather was in the
habit of inviting his friends to dine with him upon the last enemy he
had bagged, and that her grandmother's teeth were filed down to points,
so that they were as sharp as a shark's.

"What is it that you have seen about Mr. Richard Venner that gives you
such a spite against him, Sophy?" asked the Doctor.

"What I' seen 'bout Dick Venner?" she replied, fiercely. "I'll tell y'
what I' seen. Dick wan's to marry our Elsie,--that's what he wan's; 'n'
he don' love her, Doctor,--he hates her, Doctor, as bad as I hate him!
He wan's to marry our Elsie, 'n' live here in the big house, 'n' have
nothin' to do but jes' lay still 'n' watch Massa Venner 'n' see how long
't 'll take him to die, 'n' 'f he don' die fas' 'nuff, help him some way
t' die fasser!--Come close up t' me, Doctor! I wan' t' tell you
somethin' I tol' th' minister t'other day. Th' minister, he come down
'n' prayed 'n' talked good,--he's a good man, that Doctor Honeywood,
'n' I tol' him all 'bout our Elsie,--but he didn' tell nobody what to
do to stop all what I been dreamin' about happenin'. Come close up to
me, Doctor!"

The Doctor drew his chair close up to that of the old woman.

"Doctor, nobody mus'n' never marry our Elsie 's long 's she lives!
Nobody mus'n' never live with Elsie but Ol' Sophy; 'n' Ol' Sophy won't
never die 's long 's Elsie's alive to be took care of. But I 's feared,
Doctor, I 's greatly feared Elsie wan' to marry somebody. The' 's a
young gen'l'm'n up at that school where she go,--so some of 'em tells
me,--'n' she loves t' see him 'n' talk wi' him, 'n' she talks about him
when she's asleep sometimes. She mus'n' never marry nobody, Doctor! If
she do, he die, certain!"

"If she has a fancy for the young man up at the school there," the Doctor
said, "I shouldn't think there would be much danger from Dick."

"Doctor, nobody know nothin' 'bout Elsie but Ol' Sophy. She no like any
other creatur' th't ever drawed the bref o' life. If she ca'n' marry one
man cos she love him, she marry another man cos she hate him."

"Marry a man because she hates him, Sophy? No woman ever did such a
thing as that, or ever will do it."

"Who tol' you Elsie was a woman, Doctor?" said Old Sophy, with a flash
of strange intelligence in her eyes.

The Doctor's face showed that he was startled. The old woman could not
know much about Elsie that he did not know; but what strange
superstition had got into her head, he was puzzled to guess. He had
better follow Sophy's lead and find out what she meant.

"I should call Elsie a woman, and a very handsome one," he said. "You
don't mean that she has any ugly thing about her, except--you
know--under the necklace?"

The old woman resented the thought of any deformity about her darling.

"I didn' say she had nothin'--but jes' that--you know. My beauty have
anything ugly? She's the beautifullest-shaped lady that ever had a
shinin' silk gown drawed over her shoulders. On'y she a'n't like no
other woman in none of her ways. She don't cry 'n' laugh like other
women. An' she ha'n' got the same kind o' feelin's as other women.--Do
you know that young gen'l'm'n up at the school, Doctor?"

"Yes, Sophy, I've met him sometimes. He's a very nice sort of young man,
handsome, too, and I don't much wonder Elsie takes to him. Tell me,
Sophy, what do you think would happen, if he should chance to fall in
love with Elsie, and she with him, and he should marry her?"

"Put your ear close to my lips, Doctor, dear!" She whispered a little to
the Doctor, then added aloud, "He die,--that's all."

"But surely, Sophy, you a'n't afraid to have Dick marry her, if she
would have him for any reason, are you? He can take care of himself, if
anybody can."

"Doctor!" Sophy answered, "nobody can take care of hisself that live wi'
Elsie! Nobody never in all this worl' mus' live wi' Elsie but Ol' Sophy,
I tell you. You don' think I care for Dick? What do I care, if Dick
Venner die? He wan's to marry our Elsie so's to live in the big house
'n' get all the money 'n' all the silver things 'n' all the chists full
o' linen 'n' beautiful clothes! That's what Dick wan's. An' he hates
Elsie 'cos she don' like him. But if he marries Elsie, she'll make him
die some wrong way or other, 'n' they'll take her 'n' hang her, or he'll
get mad with her 'n' choke her.--Oh, I know his chokin' tricks!--he don'
leave his keys roun' for nothin'!"

"What's that you say, Sophy? Tell me what you mean by all that."

So poor Sophy had to explain certain facts not in all respects to her
credit. She had taken the opportunity of his absence to look about his
chamber, and, having found a key in one of his drawers, had applied it
to a trunk, and, finding that it opened the trunk, had made a kind of
inspection for contraband articles, and, seeing the end of a leather
thong, had followed it up until she saw that it finished with a noose,
which, from certain appearances, she inferred to have seen service of at
least doubtful nature. An unauthorized search; but Old Sophy considered
that a game of life and death was going on in the household, and that
she was bound to look out for her darling.

The Doctor paused a moment to think over this odd piece of information.
Without sharing Sophy's belief as to the kind of use this
mischievous-looking piece of property had been put to, it was certainly
very odd that Dick should have such a thing at the bottom of his trunk.
The Doctor remembered reading or hearing something about the _lasso_ and
the _lariat_ and the _bolas_, and had an indistinct idea that they had
been sometimes used as weapons of warfare or private revenge; but they
were essentially a huntsman's implements, after all, and it was not very
strange that this young man had brought one of them with him. Not
strange, perhaps, but worth noting.

"Do you really think Dick means mischief to anybody, that he has such
dangerous-looking things?" the Doctor said, presently.

"I tell you, Doctor. Dick means to have Elsie. If he ca'n' get her, he
never let nobody else have her. Oh, Dick's a dark man, Doctor! I know
him! I 'member him when he was little boy,--he always cunnin'. I think
he mean mischief to somebody. He come home late nights,--come in
softly,--oh, I hear him! I lay awake, 'n' got sharp ears,--I hear the
cats walkin' over the roofs,--'n' I hear Dick Venner, when he comes up
in his stockin'-feet as still as a cat. I think he mean mischief to
somebody. I no like his looks these las' days.--Is that a very pooty
gen'l'm'n up at the school-house, Doctor?"

"I told you he was good-looking. What if he is?"

"I should like to see him, Doctor,--I should like to see the pooty
gen'l'm'n that my poor Elsie loves. She mus'n' never marry nobody,--but,
oh, Doctor, I should like to see him, 'n' jes' think a little how it
would ha' been, if the Lord hadn' been so hard on Elsie."

She wept and wrung her hands. The kind Doctor was touched, and left her
a moment to her thoughts.

"And how does Mr. Dudley Venner take all this?" he said, by way of
changing the subject a little.

"Oh, Massa Venner, he good man, but he don' know nothin' 'bout Elsie, as
Ol' Sophy do. I keep close by her; I help her when she go to bed, 'n'
set by her sometime when she 'sleep; I come to her in th' mornin' 'n'
help her put on her things."--Then, in a whisper,--"Doctor, Elsie lets
Ol' Sophy take off that necklace for her. What you think she do, 'f
anybody else tech it?"

"I don't know, I'm sure, Sophy,--strike the person, perhaps."

"Oh, yes, strike 'em! but not with her hands, Doctor!"--The old woman's
significant pantomime must be guessed at.

"But you haven't told me, Sophy, what Mr. Dudley Venner thinks of his
nephew, nor whether he has any notion that Dick wants to marry Elsie."

"I tell you. Massa Venner, he good man, but he no see nothin' 'bout what
goes on here in the house. He sort o' broken-hearted, you know,--sort o'
giv' up,--don' know what to do wi' Elsie, 'xcep' say 'Yes, yes.' Dick
always look smilin' 'n' behave well before him. One time I thought Massa
Venner b'lieve Dick was goin' to take to Elsie; but now he don' seem to
take much notice;--he kin' o' stupid-like 'bout sech things. It's
trouble, Doctor; 'cos Massa Venner bright man naterally,--'n' he's got a
great heap o' books. I don' think Massa Venner never been jes' heself
sence Elsie's born. He done all he know how,--but, Doctor, that wa'n' a
great deal. You men-folks don' know nothin' 'bout these young gals; 'n'
'f you knowed all the young gals that ever lived, y' wouldn' know
nothin' 'bout our Elsie."

"No,--but, Sophy, what I want to know is, whether you think Mr. Venner
has any kind of suspicion about his nephew,--whether he has any notion
that he's a dangerous sort of fellow,--or whether he feels safe to have
him about, or has even taken a sort of fancy to him."

"Lor' bless you, Doctor, Massa Venner no more idee 'f any mischief 'bout
Dick than he has 'bout you or me. Y' see, he very fond o' the
Cap'n,--that Dick's father,--'n' he live so long alone here, 'long wi'
us, that he kin' o' like to see mos' anybody 't 's got any o' th' ol'
family-blood in 'em. He ha'n't got no more suspicions 'n a baby,--y'
never see sech a man 'n y'r life. I kin' o' think he don' care for
nothin' in this world 'xcep' jes' t' do what Elsie wan's him to. The
fus' year after young Madam die he do nothin' but jes' set at the window
'n' look out at her grave, 'n' then come up 'n' look at the baby's neck
'n' say, '_It's fadin', Sophy, a'n't it?_' 'n' then go down in the study
'n' walk 'n' walk, 'n' then kneel down 'n' pray. Doctor, there was two
places in the old carpet that was all threadbare, where his knees had
worn 'em. An sometimes,--you remember 'bout all that,--he'd go off up
into The Mountain 'n' be gone all day, 'n' kill all the Ugly Things he
could find up there.--Oh, Doctor, I don' like to think o' them
days!--An' by-'n'-by he grew kin' o' still, 'n' begun to read a little,
'n' 't las' he got's quiet 's a lamb, 'n' that's the way he is now. I
think he's got religion, Doctor; but he a'n't so bright about what's
goin' on, 'n' I don' believe he never suspec' nothin' till somethin'
happens;--for the' 's somethin' goin' to happen, Doctor, if the Las' Day
doesn' come to stop it; 'n' you mus' tell us what to do, 'n' save my
poor Elsie, my baby that the Lord hasn' took care of like all his
other childer."

The Doctor assured the old woman that he was thinking a great deal about
them all, and that there were other eyes on Dick besides her own. Let
her watch him closely about the house, and he would keep a look-out
elsewhere. If there was anything new, she must let him know at once.
Send up one of the men-servants, and he would come down at a
moment's warning.

There was really nothing definite against this young man; but the Doctor
was sure that he was meditating some evil design or other. He rode
straight up to the Institute. There he saw Mr. Bernard, and had a brief
conversation with him, principally on matters relating to his personal

That evening, for some unknown reason, Mr. Bernard changed the place of
his desk and drew down the shades of his windows. Late that night Mr.
Richard Venner drew the charge of a rifle, and put the gun back among
the fowling-pieces, swearing that a leather halter was worth a dozen
of it.


I observe, Messieurs of the "Atlantic," that your articles are commonly
written in the imperial style; but I must beg allowance to use the first
person singular. I cannot, like old Weller, spell myself with a We. Ours
is, I believe, the only language that has shown so much sense of the
worth of the individual (to himself) as to erect the first personal
pronoun into a kind of votive column to the dignity of human nature.
Other tongues have, or pretend, a greater modesty.


What a noble letter it is! In it every reader sees himself as in a
glass. As for me, without my I-s, I should be as poorly off as the great
mole of Hadrian, which, being the biggest, must be also, by parity of
reason, the blindest in the world. When I was in college, I confess I
always liked those passages best in the choruses of the Greek drama
which were well sprinkled with _ai ai_, they were so grandly simple.
The force of great men is generally to be found in their intense
individuality,--in other words, it is all in their I. The merit of this
essay will be similar.

What I was going to say is this.

My mind has been much exercised of late on the subject of two epidemics,
which, showing themselves formerly in a few sporadic cases, have begun
to set in with the violence of the cattle-disease: I mean Eloquence and
Statuary. They threaten to render the country unfit for human
habitation, except by the Deaf and Blind. We had hitherto got on very
well in Chesumpscot, having caught a trick of silence, perhaps from the
fish which we cured, _more medicorum_, by laying them out. But this
summer some misguided young men among us got up a lecture-association.
Of course it led to a general quarrel; for every pastor in the town
wished to have the censorship of the list of lecturers. A certain number
of the original projectors, however, took the matter wholly into their
own hands, raised a subscription to pay expenses, and resolved to call
their lectures "The Universal Brotherhood Course,"--for no other reason,
that I can divine, but that they had set the whole village by the ears.
They invited that distinguished young apostle of Reform, Mr. Philip
Vandal, to deliver the opening lecture. He has just done so, and, from
what I have heard about his discourse, it would have been fitter as the
introductory to a nunnery of Kilkenny cats than to anything like
universal brotherhood. He opened our lyceum as if it had been an oyster,
without any regard for the feelings of those inside. He pitched into the
world in general, and all his neighbors past and present in particular.
Even the babe unborn did not escape some unsavory epithets in the way of
vaticination. I sat down, meaning to write you an essay on "The Right of
Private Judgment as distinguished from the Right of Public
Vituperation"; but I forbear. It may be that I do not understand the
nature of philanthropy.

Why, here is Philip Vandal, for example. He loves his kind so much that
he has not a word softer than a brickbat for a single mother's son of
them. He goes about to save them by proving that not one of them is
worth damning. And he does it all from the point of view of an early (_a
knurly_) Christian. Let me illustrate. I was sauntering along Broadway
once, and was attracted by a bird-fancier's shop. I like dealers in
out-of-the-way things,--traders in bigotry and virtue are too
common,--and so I went in. The gem of the collection was a terrier,--a
perfect beauty, uglier than philanthropy itself, and hairier, as a
Cockney would say, than the 'ole British hairystocracy. "A'n't he a
stunner?" said my disrespectable friend, the master of the shop. "Ah,
you should see him worry a rat! He does it like a puffic Christian!"
Since then, the world has been divided for me into Christians and
perfect Christians; and I find so many of the latter species in
proportion to the former, that I begin to pity the rats. They (the rats)
have at least one virtue,--they are not eloquent.

It is, I think, a universally recognized truth of natural history, that
a young lady is sure to fall in love with a young man for whom she feels
at first an unconquerable aversion; and it must be on the same principle
that the first symptoms of love for our neighbor almost always manifest
themselves in a violent disgust at the world in general, on the part of
the apostles of that gospel. They give every token of hating their
neighbors consumedly; _argal_, they are going to be madly enamored of
them. Or, perhaps, this is the manner in which Universal Brotherhood
shows itself in people who wilfully subject themselves to infection as a
prophylactic. In the natural way we might find the disease inconvenient
and even expensive; but thus vaccinated with virus from the udders
(whatever they may be) that yield the (butter-)milk of human kindness,
the inconvenience is slight, and we are able still to go about our
ordinary business of detesting our brethren as usual. It only shows that
the milder type of the disease has penetrated the system, which will
thus be enabled to out-Jenneral its more dangerous congener. Before
long we shall have physicians of our ailing social system writing to the
"Weekly Brandreth's Pill" somewhat on this wise:--"I have a very marked
and hopeful case in Pequawgus Four Corners. Miss Hepzibah Tarbell,
daughter of that arch-enemy of his kind, Deacon Joash T., attended only
one of my lectures. In a day or two the symptoms of eruption were most
encouraging. She has already quarrelled with all her family,--accusing
her father of bigamy, her uncle Benoni of polytheism, her brother Zeno
C. of aneurism, and her sister Eudoxy Trithemia of the variation of the
magnetic needle. If ever hopes of seeing a perfect case of Primitive
Christian were well-founded, I think we may entertain them now."

What I chiefly object to in the general denunciation sort of reformers
is that they make no allowance for character and temperament. They wish
to repeal universal laws, and to patch our natural skins for us, as if
they always wanted mending. That while they talk so much of the godlike
nature of man, they should so forget the human natures of men! The
Flathead Indian squeezes the child's skull between two boards till it
shapes itself into a kind of gambrel-roof against the rain,--the
readiest way, perhaps, of uniforming a tribe that wear no clothes. But
does he alter the inside of the head? Not a hair's-breadth. You remember
the striking old gnomic poem that tells how Aaron, in a moment of
fanatical zeal against that member by which mankind are so readily led
into mischief, proposes a rhinotomic sacrifice to Moses? What is the
answer of the experienced lawgiver?

"Says Moses to Aaron,
''Tis the fashion to wear 'em!'"

Shall we advise the Tadpole to get his tail cut off, as a badge of the
reptile nature in him, and to achieve the higher sphere of the Croakers
at a single hop? Why, it is all he steers by; without it, he would be as
helpless as a compass under the flare of Northern Lights; and he no
doubt regards it as a mark of blood, the proof of his kinship with the
preadamite family of the Saurians. Shall we send missionaries to the
Bear to warn him against raw chestnuts, because they are sometimes so
discomforting to our human intestines, which are so like his own? One
sermon from the colic were worth the whole American Board.

Moreover, as an author, I protest in the name of universal Grub Street
against a unanimity in goodness. Not to mention that a Quaker world, all
faded out to an autumnal drab, would be a little tedious,--what should
we do for the villain of our tragedy or novel? No rascals, no
literature. You have your choice. Were we weak enough to consent to a
sudden homogeneousness in virtue, many industrious persons would be
thrown out of employment. The wife and mother, for example, with as
indeterminate a number of children as the Martyr Rogers, who visits me
monthly,--what claim would she have upon me, were not her husband
forever taking to drink, or the penitentiary, or Spiritualism? The
pusillanimous lapse of her lord into morality would not only take the
very ground of her invention from under her feet, but would rob her and
him of an income that sustains them both in blissful independence of the
curse of Adam. But do not let us be disheartened. Nature is strong; she
is persistent; she completes her syllogism after we have long been
feeding the roots of her grasses, and has her own way in spite of us.
Some ancestral Cromwellian trooper leaps to life again in Nathaniel
Greene, and makes a general of him, to confute five generations of
Broadbrims. The Puritans were good in their way, and we enjoy them
highly as a preterite phenomenon: but they were _not_ good at cakes and
ale, and that is one reason why they are a preterite phenomenon.

I suppose we are all willing to let a public censor like P.V. run amuck
whenever he likes,--so it be not down our street. I confess to a good
deal of tolerance in this respect, and, when I live in Number 21, have
plenty of stoicism to spare for the griefs of the dwellers in No. 23.
Indeed, I agreed with our young Cato heartily in what he said about
Statues. We must have an Act for the Suppression, either of Great Men,
or else of Sculptors. I have not quite made up my mind which are the
greater nuisances; but I am sure of this, that there are too many of
both. They used to be _rare_, (to use a Yankeeism omitted by Bartlett,)
but nowadays they are overdone. I am half-inclined to think that the
sculptors club together to write folks up during their lives in the
newspapers, quieting their consciences with the hope of some day making
them look so mean in bronze or marble as to make all square again. Or do
we really have so many? Can't they help growing twelve feet high in this
new soil, any more than our maize? I suspect that Posterity will not
thank us for the hereditary disease of Carrara we are entailing on him,
and will try some heroic remedy, perhaps lithotripsy.

Nor was I troubled by what Mr. Vandal said about the late Benjamin
Webster. I am not a Boston man, and have, therefore, the privilege of
thinking for myself. Nor do I object to his claiming for women the right
to make books and pictures and (shall I say it?) statues,--only this
last becomes a grave matter, if we are to have statues of all the great
women, too! To be sure, there will not be the trousers-difficulty,--at
least, not at present; what we may come to is none of my affair. I even
go beyond him in my opinions on what is called the Woman Question. In
the gift of speech, they have always had the advantage of us; and though
the jealousy of the other sex have deprived us of the orations of
Xantippe, yet even Demosthenes does not seem to have produced greater
effects, if we may take the word of Socrates for it,--as I, for one,
very gladly do.

No,--what I complain of is not the lecturer's opinions, but the
eloquence with which he expressed them. He does not like statues better
than I do; but is it possible that he fails to see that the one nuisance
leads directly to the other, and that we set up three images of Talkers
for one to any kind of man who was useful in his generation? Let him
beware, or he will himself be petrified after death. Boston seems to be
specially unfortunate. She has more statues and more speakers than any
other city on this continent. I have with my own eyes seen a book called
"The Hundred Boston Orators." This would seem to give her a fairer title
to be called the _tire_ than the _hub_ of creation. What with the
speeches of her great men while they are alive, and those of her
surviving great men about those aforesaid after they are dead, and those
we look forward to from her _ditto ditto_ yet to be upon her _ditto
ditto_ now in being, and those of her paulopost _ditto ditto_ upon her
_ditto ditto_ yet to be, and those--But I am getting into the house
that Jack built. And yet I remember once visiting the Massachusetts
State-House and being struck with the Pythagorean fish hung on high in
the Representatives' Chamber, the emblem of a silence too sacred, as
would seem, to be observed except on Sundays. Eloquent Philip Vandal, I
appeal to you as a man and a brother, let us two form (not an
Antediluvian, for there are plenty, but) an Antidiluvian Society against
the flood of milk-and-water that threatens the land. Let us adopt as our
creed these two propositions:--

I. _Tongues were given us to be held._

II. _Dumbness sets the brute below the man: Silence elevates the man
above the brute._

Every one of those hundred orators is to me a more fearful thought than
that of a hundred men gathering samphire. And when we take into account
how large a portion of them (if the present mania hold) are likely to be
commemorated in stone or some even more durable material, the conception
is positively stunning. Let us settle all scores by subscribing to a
colossal statue of the late Town-Crier in bell-metal, with the
inscription, "VOX ET PRAETEREA NIHIL," as a comprehensive tribute to
oratorical powers in general. _He_, at least, never betrayed his
clients. As it is, there is no end to it. We are to set up Horatius Vir
in effigy for inventing the Normal Schoolmaster, and by-and-by we shall
be called on to do the same ill-turn for Elihu Mulciber for getting
uselessly learned (as if any man had ideas enough for twenty languages!)
without any schoolmaster at all. We are the victims of a droll
antithesis. Daniel would not give in to Nebuchadnezzar's taste in
statuary, and we are called on to fall down and worship an image of
Daniel which the Assyrian monarch would have gone to grass again sooner
than have it in his back-parlor. I do not think lions are agreeable,
especially the shaved-poodle variety one is so apt to encounter;--I met
one once at an evening party. But I would be thrown into a den of them
rather than sleep in the same room with that statue. Posterity will
think we cut pretty figures indeed in the monumental line! Perhaps there
is a gleam of hope and a symptom of convalescence in the fact that the
Prince of Wales, during his late visit, got off without a single speech.
The cheerful hospitalities of Mount Auburn were offered to him, as to
all distinguished strangers, but nothing more melancholy. In his case I
doubt the expediency of the omission. Had we set a score or two of
orators on him and his suite, it would have given them a more
intimidating notion of the offensive powers of the country than West
Point and all the Navy-Yards put together.

In the name of our common humanity, consider, too, what shifts our
friends in the sculpin line (as we should call them in Chesumpscot) are
put to for originality of design, and what the country has to pay for
it. The Clark Mills (that turns out equestrian statues as the Stark
Mills do calico-patterns) has pocketed fifty thousand dollars for making
a very dead bronze horse stand on his hind-legs. For twenty-five cents I
have seen a man at the circus do something more wonderful,--make a very
living bay horse dance a redowa round the amphitheatre on his (it occurs
to me that _hind-legs_ is indelicate) posterior extremities to the
wayward music of an out-of-town (_Scotice_, out-o'-toon) band. Now, I
will make a handsome offer to the public. I propose for twenty-five
thousand dollars to suppress my design for an equestrian statue of a
distinguished general officer as he _would have_ appeared at the Battle
of Buena Vista. This monument is intended as a weathercock to crown the
new dome of the Capitol at Washington. By this happy contrivance, the
horse will be freed from the degrading necessity of touching the earth
at all,--thus distancing Mr. Mills by two feet in the race for
originality. The pivot is to be placed so far behind the middle of the
horse, that the statue, like its original, will always indicate which
way the wind blows by going along with it. The inferior animal I have
resolved to model from a spirited saw-horse in my own collection. In
this way I shall combine two striking advantages. The advocates of the
Ideal in Art cannot fail to be pleased with a charger which embodies, as
it were, merely the abstract notion or quality, Horse, and the attention
of the spectator will not be distracted from the principal figure. The
material to be pure brass. I have also in progress an allegorical group
commemorative of Governor Wise. This, like-Wise, represents only a
potentiality. I have chosen, as worthy of commemoration, the moment when
and the method by which the Governor meant to seize the Treasury at
Washington. His Excellency is modelled in the act of making one of his
speeches. Before him a despairing reporter kills himself by falling on
his own steel pen; a broken telegraph-wire hints at the weight of the
thoughts to which it has found itself inadequate; while the Army and
Navy of the United States are conjointly typified in a horse-marine who
flies headlong with his hands pressed convulsively over his ears. I
think I shall be able to have this ready for exhibition by the time Mr.
Wise is nominated for the Presidency,--certainly before he is elected.
The material to be plaster, made of the shells of those oysters with
which Virginia shall have paid her public debt. It may be objected, that
plaster is not durable enough for verisimilitude, since bronze itself
could hardly be expected to outlast one of the Governor's speeches. But
it must be remembered that his mere effigy cannot, like its prototype,
have the pleasure of hearing itself talk; so that to the mind of the
spectator the oratorical despotism is tempered with some reasonable hope
of silence. This design, also, is intended only _in terrorem_, and will
be suppressed for an adequate consideration.

I find one comfort, however, in the very hideousness of our statues. The
fear of what the sculptors will do for them after they are gone may
deter those who are careful of their memories from talking themselves
into greatness. It is plain that Mr. Caleb Cushing has begun to feel a
wholesome dread of this posthumous retribution. I cannot in any other
way account for that nightmare of the solitary horseman on the edge of
the horizon, in his Hartford Speech. His imagination is infected with
the terrible consciousness, that Mr. Mills, as the younger man, will, in
the course of Nature, survive him, and will be left loose to seek new
victims of his nefarious designs. Formerly the punishment of the wooden
horse was a degradation inflicted on private soldiers only; but Mr.
Mills (whose genius could make even Pegasus look wooden, in whatever
material) flies at higher game, and will be content with nothing short
of a general. Mr. Cushing advises extreme measures. He counsels us to
sell our real estate and stocks, and to leave a country where no man's
reputation with posterity is safe, being merely as clay in the hands of
the sculptor. To a mind undisturbed by the terror natural in one whose
military reputation insures his cutting and running, (I mean, of course,
in marble and bronze,) the question becomes an interesting one,--To
whom, in case of a general exodus, shall we sell? The statues will have
the land all to themselves,--until the Aztecs, perhaps, repeopling their
ancient heritage, shall pay divine honors to these images, whose
ugliness will revive the traditions of the classic period of Mexican
Art. For my own part, I never look at one of them now without thinking
of at least one human sacrifice.

I doubt the feasibility of Mr. Cushing's proposal, and yet something
ought to be done. We must put up with what we have already, I suppose,
and let Mr. Webster stand threatening to blow us all up with his pistol
pointed at the elongated keg of gunpowder on which his left hand
rests,--no bad type of the great man's state of mind after the
nomination of General Taylor, or of what a country member would call a
penal statue. But do we reflect that Vermont is half marble, and that
Lake Superior can send us bronze enough for regiments of statues? I go
back to my first plan of a prohibitory enactment. I had even gone so far
as to make a rough draught of an Act for the Better Observance of the
Second Commandment; but it occurred to me that convictions under it
would be doubtful, from the difficulty of satisfying a jury that our
graven images did really present a likeness to any of the objects
enumerated in the divine ordinance. Perhaps a double-barrelled statute
might be contrived that would meet both the oratorical and the
monumental difficulty. Let a law be passed that all speeches delivered
more for the benefit of the orator than that of the audience, and all
eulogistic ones of whatever description, be pronounced in the chapel of
the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, and all statues be set up within the grounds
of the Institution for the Blind. Let the penalty for infringement in
the one case be to read the last President's Message, and in the other
to look at the Webster statue one hour a day, for a term not so long as
to violate the spirit of the law forbidding cruel and unusual

Perhaps it is too much to expect of our legislators that they should
pass so self-denying an ordinance. They might, perhaps, make all oratory
but their own penal, and then (who knows?) the reports of their debates
might be read by the few unhappy persons who were demoniacally possessed
by a passion for that kind of thing, as girls are sometimes said to be
by an appetite for slate-pencils. _Vita brevis, lingua longa_. I protest
that among law-givers I respect Numa, who declared, that, of all the
Camenae, Tacita was most worthy of reverence. The ancient Greeks also
(though they left too much oratory behind them) had some good notions,
especially if we consider that they had not, like modern Europe, the
advantage of communication with America. Now the Greeks had a Muse of
Beginning, and the wonder is, considering how easy it is to talk and how
hard to say anything, that they did not hit upon that other and more
excellent Muse of Leaving-off. The Spartans, I suspect, found her out
and kept her selfishly to themselves. She were indeed a goddess to be
worshipped, a true Sister of Charity among that loquacious sisterhood!

Endlessness is the order of the day. I ask you to compare Plutarch's
lives of demigods and heroes with our modern biographies of deminoughts
and zeroes. Those will appear but tailors and ninth-parts of men in
comparison with these, every one of whom would seem to have had nine
lives, like a cat, to justify such prolixity. Yet the evils of print are
as dust in the balance to those of speech.

We were doing very well in Chesumpscot, but the Lyceum has ruined all.
There are now two debating-clubs, seminaries of multiloquence. A few of
us old-fashioned fellows have got up an opposition club and called it
"The Jolly Oysters." No member is allowed to open his mouth except at
high-tide by the calendar. We have biennial festivals on the evening of
election-day, when the constituency avenges itself in some small measure
on its Representative elect by sending a baker's dozen of orators to
congratulate him.

But I am falling into the very vice I condemn,--like Carlyle, who has
talked a quarter of a century in praise of holding your tongue. And yet
something should be done about it. Even when we get one orator safely
under-ground, there are ten to pronounce his eulogy, and twenty to do it
over again when the meeting is held about the inevitable statue. I go to
listen: we all go: we are under a spell. 'Tis true, I find a casual
refuge in sleep; for Drummond of Hawthornden was wrong when he called
Sleep the child of Silence. Speech begets her as often. But there is no
sure refuge save in Death; and when my life is closed untimely, let
there be written on my headstone, with impartial application to these
Black Brunswickers mounted on the high horse of oratory and to our
equestrian statues,--

_Os sublime_ did it!


_Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quaedam hactenus inedita_. Vol. I, Containing,
I. _Opus Tertium_,--II. _Opus Minus_,--III. _Compendium Philosophiae_.
Edited by J.S. BREWER, M.A., Professor of English Literature, King's
College, London, and Reader at the Rolls. Published by the Authority of
the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, under the Direction
of the Master of the Rolls. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and
Roberts. 1859. 8vo. pp. c., 573.

Sir John Romilly has shown good judgment in including the unpublished
works of Roger Bacon in the series of "Chronicles and Memorials of Great
Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages," now in course of
publication under his direction. They are in a true sense important
memorials of the period at which they were written, and, though but
incidentally illustrating the events of the time, they are of great
value in indicating the condition of thought and learning as well as the
modes of mental discipline and acquisition during the thirteenth century.

The memory of Roger Bacon has received but scant justice. Although long
since recognized as one of the chief lights of England during the Middle
Ages, the clinging mist of popular tradition has obscured his real
brightness and distorted its proportions, while even among scholars he
has been more known by reputation than by actual acquaintance with his
writings. His principal work, his "Opus Majus," was published for the
first time in London in 1733, in folio, and afterwards at Venice in
1750, in the same form. Down to the publication of the volume before us,
it was the only one of his writings of much importance which had been
printed complete, if indeed it is to be called complete,--the Seventh
Part having been omitted by the editor, Dr. Jebb, and never having since
been published.

The facts known concerning Roger Bacon's life are few, and are so
intermingled with tradition that it is difficult wholly to separate them
from it. Born of a good family at Ilchester, in Somersetshire, near the
beginning of the thirteenth century, he was placed in early youth at
Oxford, whence, after completing his studies in grammar and logic, "he
proceeded to Paris," says Anthony Wood, "according to the fashion
prevalent among English scholars of those times, especially among the
members of the University of Oxford." Here, under the famous masters of
the day, he devoted himself to study for some years, and made such
progress that he received the degree of Doctor in Divinity. Returning to
Oxford, he seems soon to have entered into the Franciscan Order, for the
sake of securing a freedom from worldly cares, that he might the more
exclusively give himself to his favorite pursuits. At various times he
lectured at the University. He spent some later years out of England,
probably again in Paris. His life was embittered by the suspicions felt
in regard to his studies by the brethren of his order, and by their
opposition, which proceeded to such lengths that it is said he was cast
into prison, where, according to one report, he died wretchedly. However
this may have been, his death took place before the beginning of the
fourteenth century. The scientific and experimental studies which had
brought him into ill-favor with his own order, and had excited the
suspicion against him of dealing in magic and forbidden arts, seem to
have sown the seed of the popular traditions which at once took root
around his name. Friar Bacon soon became, and indeed has remained almost
to the present day, a half-mythical character. To the imagination of the
common people, he was a great necromancer; he had had dealings with the
Evil One, who had revealed many of the secrets of Nature to him; he had
made a head of brass that could speak and foretell future events; and to
him were attributed other not less wonderful inventions, which seem to
have formed a common stock for popular legends of this sort during the
Middle Ages, and to have been ascribed indiscriminately to one
philosopher or another in various countries and in various times.[9] The
references in our early literature to Friar Bacon, as one who had had
familiarity with spirits and been a master in magic arts, are so
numerous as to show that the belief in these stories was wide-spread,
and that the real character of the learned Friar was quite given over to
oblivion. But time slowly brings about its revenges; and the man whom
his ignorant and stupid fellows thought fit to hamper and imprison, and
whom popular credulity looked upon with that half-horror and
half-admiration with which those were regarded who were supposed to have
put their souls in pawn for the sake of tasting the forbidden fruit, is
now recognized not only as one of the most profound and clearest
thinkers of his time, but as the very first among its experimental
philosophers, and as a prophet of truths which, then neglected and
despised, have since been adopted as axioms in the progress of science.
"The precursor of Galileo," says M. Haureau, in his work on Scholastic
Philosophy, "he learned before him how rash it is to offend the
prejudices of the multitude, and to desire to give lessons to the

The range of Roger Bacon's studies was encyclopedic, comprehending all
the branches of learning then open to scholars. Brucker, in speaking of
him in his History of Philosophy, has no words strong enough to express
his admiration for his abilities and learning. "Seculi sui indolem
multum superavit," "vir summus, tantaque occultioris philosophiae
cognitione et experientia nobilis, ut merito Doctoris Mirabilis titulum
reportaverit."[10] The logical and metaphysical studies, in the
intricate subtilties of which most of the schoolmen of his time involved
themselves, presented less attraction to Bacon than the pursuits of
physical science and the investigation of Nature. His genius, displaying
the practical bent of his English mind, turning with weariness from the
endless verbal discussions of the Nominalists and Realists, and
recognizing the impossibility of solving the questions which divided the
schools of Europe into two hostile camps, led him to the study of
branches of knowledge that were held in little repute. He recognized the
place of mathematics as the basis of exact science, and proceeded to the
investigation of the facts and laws of optics, mechanics, chemistry, and
astronomy. But he did not limit himself to positive science; he was at
the same time a student of languages and of language, of grammar and of
music. He was versed not less in the arts of the _Trivium_ than in the
sciences of the Quadrivium.[11]

But in rejecting the method of study then in vogue, and in opposing the
study of facts to that of questions which by their abstruseness fatigued
the intellect, which were of more worth in sharpening the wit than in
extending the limits of knowledge, and which led rather to vain
contentions than to settled conclusions,--in thus turning from the
investigation of abstract metaphysics to the study of Nature, Roger
Bacon went so far before his age as to condemn himself to solitude, to
misappreciation, and to posthumous neglect. Unlike men of far narrower
minds, but more conformed to the spirit of the times, he founded no
school, and left no disciples to carry out the system which he had
advanced, and which was one day to have its triumph. At the end of the
thirteenth century the scholastic method was far from having run its
career. The minds of men were occupied with problems which it alone
seemed to be able to resolve, and they would not abandon it at the will
of the first innovator. The questions in dispute were embittered by
personal feeling and party animosities. Franciscans and Dominicans were
divided by points of logic not less than by the rules of their
orders.[12] Ignorance and passion alike gave ardor to discussion, and it
was vain to attempt to convince the heated partisans on one side or the
other, that the truths they sought were beyond the reach of human
faculties, and that their dialectics and metaphysics served to bewilder
more than to enlighten the intellect. The disciples of subtile
speculatists like Aquinas, or of fervent mystics like Bonaventura, were
not likely to recognize the worth and importance of the slow processes
of experimental philosophy.

The qualities of natural things, the limits of intellectual powers, the
relations of man to the universe, the conditions of matter and spirit,
the laws of thought, were too imperfectly understood for any man to
attain to a comprehensive and correct view of the sources and methods of
study and discovery of the truth. Bacon shared in what may he called,
without a sneer, the childishnesses of his time, childishnesses often
combined with mature powers and profound thought. No age is fully
conscious of its own intellectual disproportions; and what now seem mere
puerilities in the works of the thinkers of the Middle Ages were perhaps
frequently the result of as laborious effort and as patient study as
what we still prize in them for its manly vigor and permanent worth. In
a later age, the Centuries of the "Sylva Sylvarum" afford a curious
comment on the Aphorisms of the "Novum Organum."

The "Opus Majus" of Bacon was undertaken in answer to a demand of Pope
Clement IV. in 1266, and was intended to contain a review of the whole
range of science, as then understood, with the exception of logic.
Clement had apparently become personally acquainted with Bacon, at the
time when, as legate of the preceding Pope, he had been sent to England
on an ineffectual mission to compose the differences between Henry III.
and his barons, and he appears to have formed a just opinion of the
genius and learning of the philosopher.

The task to which Bacon had been set by the Papal mandate was rapidly
accomplished, in spite of difficulties which might have overcome a less
resolute spirit; but the work extended to such great length in his
hands, that he seems to have felt a not unnatural fear that Clement,
burdened with the innumerable cares of the Pontificate, would not find
leisure for its perusal, much less for the study which some part of it
demanded. With this fear, fearful also that portions of his work might
be deficient in clearness, and dreading lest it might be lost on its way
to Rome, he proceeded to compose a second treatise, called the "Opus
Minus," to serve as an abstract and specimen of his greater work, and to
embrace some additions to its matter. Unfortunately, but a fragment of
this second work has been preserved, and this fragment is for the first
time published in the volume just issued under the direction of the
Master of the Rolls. But the "Opus Minus" was scarcely completed before
he undertook a third work, to serve as an introduction and preamble to
both the preceding. This has been handed down to us complete, and this,
too, is for the first time printed in the volume before us. We take the
account of it given by Professor Brewer, the editor, in his

"Inferior to its predecessors in the importance
of its scientific details and the illustration
it supplies of Bacon's philosophy, it is
more interesting than either, for the insight
it affords of his labors, and of the numerous
obstacles he had to contend with in the execution
of his work. The first twenty chapters
detail various anecdotes of Bacon's personal
history, his opinions on the state of
education, the impediments thrown in his
way by the ignorance, the prejudices, the
contempt, the carelessness, the indifference
of his contemporaries. From the twentieth
chapter to the close of the volume he pursues
the thread of the Opus Majus, supplying what
he had there omitted, correcting and explaining
what had been less clearly or correctly
expressed in that or in the Opus Minus. In
Chapter LII. he apologizes for diverging from
the strict line he had originally marked out,
by inserting in the ten preceding chapters his
opinions on three abstruse subjects, Vacuum,
Motion, and Space, mainly in regard to their
spiritual significance. 'As these questions,'
he says,' are very perplexing and difficult, I
thought I would record what I had to say
about them in some one of my works. In the
Opus Majus and Opus Minus I had not studied
them sufficiently to prevail on myself to
commit my thoughts about them to writing;
and I was glad to omit them, owing to the
length of those works, and because I was
much hurried in their composition.' From the
fifty-second chapter to the close of the volume
he adheres to his subject without further digression,
but with so much vigor of thought
and freshness of observations, that, like the
Opus Minus, the Opus Tertium may be fairly
considered an independent work."--pp.

The details which Bacon gives of his personal history are of special
interest as throwing light upon the habits of life of a scholar in the
thirteenth century. Their autobiographic charm is increased by their
novelty, for they give a view of ways of life of which but few
particulars have been handed down.

Excusing himself for the delay which had occurred, after the reception
of the Pope's letter, before the transmission of the writings he had
desired, Bacon says that he was strictly prohibited by a rule of his
Order from communicating to others any writing made by one of its
members, under penalty of loss of the book, and a diet for many days of
bread and water. Moreover, a fair copy could not be made, supposing that
he succeeded in writing, except by scribes outside of the Order; and
they might transcribe either for themselves or others, and through their
dishonesty it very often happened that books were divulged at Paris.

"Then other far greater causes of delay occurred, on account of which I
was often ready to despair; and a hundred times I thought to give up the
work I had undertaken; and, had it not been for reverence for the Vicar
of the only Saviour, and [regard to] the profit to the world to be
secured through him alone, I would not have proceeded, against these
hindrances, with this affair, for all those who are in the Church of
Christ, however much they might have prayed and urged me. The first
hindrance was from those who were set over me, to whom you had written
nothing in my favor, and who, since I could not reveal your secret
[commission] to them, being bound not to do so by your command of
secrecy, urged me with unutterable violence, and with other means, to
obey their will. But I resisted, on account of the bond of your precept,
which obliged me to your work, in spite of every mandate of my

"But I met also with another hindrance, which was enough to put a stop
to the whole matter, and this was the want of [means to meet] the
expense. For I was obliged to pay out in this business more than sixty
livres of Paris,[14] the account and reckoning of which I will set forth
in their place hereafter. I do not wonder, indeed, that you did not
think of these expenses, because, sitting at the top of the world, you
have to think of so great and so many things that no one can estimate
the cares of your mind. But the messengers who carried your letters were
careless in not making mention to you of these expenses; and they were
unwilling to expend a single penny, even though I told them that I would
write to you an account of the expenses, and that to every one of them
should be returned what was his. I truly have no money, as you know, nor
can I have it, nor consequently can I borrow, since I have nothing
wherewith to repay. I sent then to my rich brother, in my country, who,
belonging to the party of the king, was exiled with my mother and my
brothers and the whole family, and oftentimes being taken by the enemy
redeemed himself with money, so that thus being ruined and
impoverished, he could not assist me, nor even to this day have I had an
answer from him.

"Considering, then, the reverence due to you, and the nature of your
command, I solicited many and great people, the faces of some of whom
you know well, but not their minds; and I told them that a certain
affair of yours must he attended to by me in France, (but I did not
disclose to them what it was,) the performance of which required a large
sum of money. But how often I was deemed a cheat, how often repulsed,
how often put off with empty hope, how often confused in myself, I
cannot express. Even my friends did not believe me, because I could not
explain to them the affair; and hence I could not advance by this way.
In distress, therefore, beyond what can be imagined, I compelled
serving-men and poor to expend all that they had, to sell many things,
and to pawn others, often at usury; and I promised them that I would
write to you every part of the expenses, and would in good faith obtain
from you payment in full. And yet, on account of the poverty of these
persons, I many times gave up the work, and many times despaired and
neglected to proceed; and indeed, if I had known that you would not
attend to the settling of these accounts, I would not for the whole
world have gone on,--nay, rather, I would have gone to prison. Nor could
I send special messengers to you for the needed sum, because I had no
means. And I preferred to spend whatever I could procure in advancing
the business rather than in despatching a messenger to you. And also, on
account of the reverence due to you, I determined to make no report of
expenses before sending to you something which might please you, and by
ocular proof should give witness to its cost. On account, then, of all
these things, so great a delay has occurred in this matter."[15]

There is a touching simplicity in this account of the trials by which he
was beset, and it rises to dignity in connection with a sentence which
immediately follows, in which he says, the thought of "the advantage of
the world excited me, and the revival of knowledge, which now for many
ages has lain dead, vehemently urged me forward." Motives such as these
were truly needed to enable him to make head against such difficulties.

The work which he accomplished, remarkable as it is from its intrinsic
qualities, is also surprising from the rapidity with which it was
performed, in spite of the distractions and obstacles that attended it.
It would seem that in less than two years from the date of Clement's
letter, the three works composed in compliance with its demand were
despatched to the Pope. Bacon's diligence must have been as great as his
learning. In speaking, in another part of the "Opus Tertium," of the
insufficiency of the common modes of instruction, he gives incidentally
an account of his own devotion to study. "I have labored much," he says,
"on the sciences and languages; it is now forty years since I first
learned the alphabet, and I have always been studious; except two years
of these forty, I have been always engaged in study; and I have expended
much, [in learning,] as others generally do; but yet I am sure that
within a quarter of a year, or half a year, I could teach orally, to a
man eager and confident to learn, all that I know of the powers of the
sciences and languages; provided only that I had previously composed a
written compend. And yet it is known that no one else has worked so hard
or on so many sciences and tongues; for men used to wonder formerly that
I kept my life on account of my excessive labor, and ever since I have
been as studious as I was then, but I have not worked so hard, because,
through my practice in knowledge, it was not needful."[16] Again he
says, that in the twenty years in which he had specially labored in the
study of wisdom, neglecting the notions of the crowd, he had spent more
than two thousand pounds [livres] in the acquisition of secret books,
and for various experiments, instruments, tables, and other things, as
well as in seeking the friendship of learned men, and in instructing
assistants in languages, figures, the use of instruments and tables,
and many other things. But yet, though he had examined everything that
was necessary for the construction of a preliminary work to serve as a
guide to the wisdom of philosophy, though he knew how it was to be done,
with what aids, and what were the hindrances to it, still he could not
proceed with it, owing to the want of means. The cost of employing
proper persons in the work, the rarity and costliness of books, the
expense of instruments and of experiments, the need of infinite
parchment and many scribes for rough copies, all put it beyond his power
to accomplish. This was his excuse for the imperfection of the treatise
which he had sent to the Pope, and this was a work worthy to be
sustained by Papal aid.[17]

The enumeration by Bacon of the trials and difficulties of a scholar's
life at a time when the means of communicating knowledge were difficult,
when books were rare and to be obtained only at great cost, when the
knowledge of the ancient languages was most imperfect, and many of the
most precious works of ancient philosophy were not to be obtained or
were to be found only in imperfect and erroneous translations, depicts a
condition of things in vivid contrast to the present facilities for the
communication and acquisition of learning, and enables us in some degree
to estimate the drawbacks under which scholars prosecuted their studies
before the invention of printing. That with such impediments they were
able to effect so much is wonderful; and their claim on the gratitude
and respect of their successors is heightened by the arduous nature of
the difficulties with which they were forced to contend. The value of
their work receives a high estimate, when we consider the scanty means
with which it was performed.

Complaining of the want of books, Bacon says,--"The books on philosophy
by Aristotle and Avicenna, by Seneca and Tully and others, cannot be had
except at great cost, both because the chief of them are not translated
into Latin, and because of others not a copy is to be found in public
schools of learning or elsewhere. For instance, the most excellent books
of Tully De Republica are nowhere to be found, so far as I can hear, and
I have been eager in the search for them in various parts of the world
and with various agents. It is the same with many other of his books.
The books of Seneca also, the flowers of which I have copied out for
your Beatitude, I was never able to find till about the time of your
mandate, although I had been diligent in seeking for them for twenty
years and more."[18] Again, speaking of the corruption of translations,
so that they are often unintelligible, as is especially the case with
the books of Aristotle, he says that "there are not four Latins [that
is, Western scholars] who know the grammar of the Hebrews, the Greeks,
and the Arabians; for I am well acquainted with them, and have made
diligent inquiry both here and beyond the sea, and have labored much in
these things. There are many, indeed, who can speak Greek and Arabic and
Hebrew, but scarcely any who know the principles of the grammar so as to
teach it, for I have tried very many."[19]

In his treatise entitled "Compendium Studii Philosophiae," which is
printed in this volume for the first time, he adds in relation to this
subject,--"Teachers are not wanting, because there are Jews everywhere,
and their tongue is the same in substance with the Arabic and the
Chaldean, though they differ in mode.... Nor would it be much, for the
sake of the great advantage of learning Greek, to go to Italy, where the
clergy and the people in many places are purely Greek; moreover, bishops
and archbishops and rich men and elders might send thither for books,
and for one or for more persons who know Greek, as Lord Robert, the
sainted Bishop of Lincoln,[20] did indeed do,--and some of those [whom
he brought over] still survive in England."[21] The ignorance of the
most noted clerks and lecturers of his day is over and over again the
subject of Bacon's indignant remonstrance. They were utterly unable to
correct the mistakes with which the translations of ancient works were
full. "The text is in great part horribly corrupt in the copy of the
Vulgate at Paris, ...and as many readers as there are, so many
correctors, or rather corruptors, ...for every reader changes the text
according to his fancy."[22] Even those who professed to translate new
works of ancient learning were generally wholly unfit for the task.
Hermann the German knew nothing of science, and little of Arabic, from
which he professed to translate; but when he was in Spain, he kept
Saracens with him who did the main part of the translations that he
claimed. In like manner, Michael Scot asserted that he had made many
translations; but the truth was, that a certain Jew named Andrew worked
more than he upon them.[23] William Fleming was, however, the most
ignorant and most presuming of all.[24] "Certain I am that it were
better for the Latins that the wisdom of Aristotle had not been
translated, than to have it thus perverted and obscured, that the
more men study it the less they know, as I have experienced with all who
have stuck to these books. Wherefore my Lord Robert of blessed memory
altogether neglected them, and proceeded by his own experiments, and
with other means, until he knew the things concerning which Aristotle
treats a hundred thousand times better than he could ever have learned
them from those perverse translations. And if I had power over these
translations of Aristotle, I would have every copy of them burned; for
to study them is only a loss of time and a cause of error and a
multiplication of ignorance beyond telling. And since the labors of
Aristotle are the foundation of all knowledge, no one can estimate the
injury done by means of these bad translations."[25]

Bacon had occasion for lamenting not only the character of the
translations in use, but also the fact that many of the most important
works of the ancients were not translated at all, and hence lay out of
the reach of all but the rare scholars, like himself and his friend
Grostete, who were able, through their acquaintance with the languages
in which they were written, to make use of them, provided manuscripts
could be found for reading. "We have few useful works on philosophy in
Latin. Aristotle composed a thousand volumes, as we read in his Life,
and of these we have but three of any notable size, namely,--on Logic,
Natural History, and Metaphysics; so that all the other scientific works
that he composed are wanting to the Latins, except some tractates and
small little books, and of these but very few. Of his Logic two of the
best books are deficient, which Hermann had in Arabic, but did not
venture to translate. One of them, indeed, he did translate, or caused
to be translated, but so ill that the translation is of no sort of value
and has never come into use. Aristotle wrote fifty excellent books about
Animals, as Pliny says in the eighth book of his Natural History, and I
have seen them in Greek, and of these the Latins have only nineteen
wretchedly imperfect little books. Of his Metaphysics the Latins read
only the ten books which they have, while there are many more; and of
these ten which they read, many chapters are wanting in the translation,
and almost infinite lines. Indeed, the Latins have nothing worthy; and
therefore it is necessary that they should know the languages, for the
sake of translating those things that are deficient and needful. For,
moreover, of the works on secret sciences, in which the secrets and
marvels of Nature are explored, they have little except fragments here
and there, which scarcely suffice to excite the very wisest to study and
experiment and to inquire by themselves after those things which are
lacking to the dignity of wisdom; while the crowd of students are not
moved to any worthy undertaking, and grow so languid and asinine over
these ill translations, that they lose utterly their time and study and
expense. They are held, indeed, by appearances alone; for they do not
care what they know, but what they seem to know to the silly

These passages may serve to show something of the nature of those
external hindrances to knowledge with which Bacon himself had had to
strive, which he overcame, and which he set himself with all his force
to break down, that they might no longer obstruct the path of study.
What scholar, what lover of learning, can now picture to himself such
efforts without emotion,--without an almost oppressive sense of the
contrast between the wealth of his own opportunities and the penury of
the earlier scholar? On the shelves within reach of his hand lie the
accumulated riches of time. Compare our libraries, with their crowded
volumes of ancient and modern learning, with the bare cell of the
solitary Friar, in which, in a single small cupboard, are laid away a
few imperfect manuscripts, precious as a king's ransom, which it had
been the labor of years to collect. This very volume of his works, a
noble monument of patient labor, of careful investigation, of deep
thought, costs us but a trivial sum; while its author, in his poverty,
was scarcely able, without begging, to pay for the parchment upon which
he wrote it, as, uncheered by the anticipation that centuries after his
death men would prize the works he painfully accomplished, he leaned
against his empty desk, half-discouraged by the difficulties that beset
him. All honor to him! honor to the schoolmen of the Middle Ages! to the
men who kept the traditions of wisdom alive, who trimmed the wick of the
lamp of learning when its flame was flickering, and who, when its light
grew dim and seemed to be dying out, supplied it with oil hardly
squeezed by their own hands, drop by drop, from the scanty olives which
they had gathered from the eternal tree of Truth! In these later days
learning has become cheap. What sort of scholar must he now be, who
should be worthy to be put into comparison with the philosopher of the
thirteenth century?

The general scheme of Bacon's system of philosophy was at once simple
and comprehensive. The scope of his thought had a breadth uncommon in
his or in any time. In his view, the object of all philosophy and human
learning was to enable men to attain to the wisdom of God; and to this
end it was to be subservient absolutely, and relatively so far as
regarded the Church, the government of the state, the conversion of
infidels, and the repression of those who could not be converted. All
wisdom was included in the Sacred Scriptures, if properly understood and
explained. "I believe," said he, "that the perfection of philosophy is
to raise it to the state of a Christian law." Wisdom was the gift of
God, and as such it included the knowledge of all things in heaven and
earth, the knowledge of God himself, of the teachings of Christ, the
beauty of virtue, the honesty of laws, the eternal life of glory and of
punishment, the resurrection of the dead, and all things else.[27]

To this end all special sciences were ordained. All these, properly
speaking, were to be called speculative; and though they each might be
divided into two parts, the practical and the speculative, yet one
alone, the most noble and best of all, in respect to which there was no
comparison with the others, was in its own nature practical: this was
the science of morals, or moral philosophy. All the works of Art and
Nature are subservient to morals, and are of value only as they promote
it. They are as nothing without it; as the whole wisdom of philosophy is
as nothing without the wisdom of the Christian faith. This science of
morals has six principal divisions. The first of these is theological,
treating of the relations of man to God and to spiritual things; the
second is political, treating of public laws and the government of
states; the third is ethical, treating of virtue and vice; the fourth
treats of the revolutions of religious sects, and of the proofs of the
Christian faith.

"This is the best part of all philosophy." Experimental science and the
knowledge of languages come into use here. The fifth division is
hortatory, or of morals as applied to duty, and embraces the art of
rhetoric and other subsidiary arts. The sixth and final division treats
of the relations of morals to the execution of justice.[28] Under one
or other of these heads all special sciences and every branch of
learning are included.

Such, then, being the object and end of all learning, it is to be
considered in what manner and by what methods study is to be pursued, to
secure the attainment of truth. And here occurs one of the most
remarkable features of Bacon's system. It is in his distinct statement
of the prime importance of experiment as the only test of certainty in
the sciences. "However strong arguments may be, they do not give
certainty, apart from positive experience of a conclusion." "It is the
prerogative of experiment to test the noble conclusions of all sciences
which are drawn from arguments." All science is ancillary to it.[29] And
of all branches of learning, two are of chief importance: languages are
the first gate of wisdom; mathematics the second.[30] By means of
foreign tongues we gain the wisdom which men have collected in past
times and other countries; and without them the sciences are not to be
pursued, for the requisite books are wanting in the Latin tongue. Even
theology must fail without a knowledge of the original texts of the
Sacred Writings and of their earliest expositors. Mathematics are of
scarcely less importance; "for he who knows not mathematics cannot know
any other physical science,--what is more, cannot discover his own
ignorance or find its proper remedies." "The sciences cannot be known by
logical and sophistical arguments, such as are commonly used, but only
by mathematical demonstrations."[31] But this view of the essential
importance of these two studies did not prevent Bacon from rising to the
height from which he beheld the mutual importance and relations of all
knowledge. We do not know where to find a clearer statement of the
connection of the sciences than in the following words:--"All sciences
are connected, and support each other with mutual aid, as parts of the
same whole, of which each performs its work, not for itself alone, but
for the others as well: as the eye directs the whole body, and the foot
supports the whole; so that any part of knowledge taken from the rest is
like an eye torn out or a foot cut off."[32]

Such, then, in brief, appears to have been Bacon's general system of
philosophy. He has nowhere presented it in a compact form; and his style
of writing is often so corrupt, and his use of terms so inexact, that
any exposition of his views, exhibiting them in a methodical
arrangement, is liable to the charge of possessing a definiteness of
statement beyond that which his opinions had assumed in his own mind.
Still, the view that has now been given of his philosophy corresponds as
nearly as may be with the indications afforded by his works. The details
of his system present many points of peculiar interest. He was not
merely a theorist, with speculative views of a character far in advance
of those of the mass of contemporary schoolmen, but a practical
investigator as well, who by his experiments and discoveries pushed
forward the limits of knowledge, and a sound scholar who saw and
displayed to others the true means by which progress in learning was to
be secured. In this latter respect, no parts of his writings are more
remarkable than those in which he urges the importance of philological
and linguistic studies. His remarks on comparative grammar, on the
relations of languages, on the necessity of the study of original texts,
are distinguished by good sense, by extensive and (for the time) exact
scholarship, and by a breadth of view unparalleled, so far as we are
aware, by any other writer of his age. The treatise on the Greek
Grammar--which occupies a large portion of the incomplete "Compendium
Studii Philosophiae," and which is broken off in the middle by the
mutilation of the manuscript--contains, in addition to many curious
remarks illustrative of the learning of the period, much matter of
permanent interest to the student of language. The passages which we
have quoted in regard to the defects of the translations of Greek
authors show to how great a degree the study of Greek and other ancient
tongues had been neglected. Most of the scholars of the day contented
themselves with collecting the Greek words which they found interpreted
in the works of St. Augustine, St. Jerome, Origen, Martianus Capella,
Boethius, and a few other later Latin authors; and were satisfied to use
these interpretations without investigation of their exactness, or
without understanding their meaning. Hugo of Saint Victor, (Dante's "Ugo
di Sanvittore e qui con elli,") one of the most illustrious of Bacon's
predecessors, translates, for instance, _mechanica_ by _adulterina_, as
if it came from the Latin _moecha_, and derives _economica_ from
_oequus_, showing that he, like most other Western scholars, was
ignorant even of the Greek letters.[33] Michael Scot, in respect to
whose translations Bacon speaks with merited contempt, exhibits the
grossest ignorance, in his version from the Arabic of Aristotle's
History of Animals, for example, a passage in which Aristotle speaks of
taming the wildest animals, and says, "Beneficio enim mitescunt, veluti
crocodilorum genus afficitur erga sacerdotem a quo enratur ut alantur,"
("They become mild with kind treatment, as crocodiles toward the priest
who provides them with food,") is thus unintelligibly rendered by him:
"Genus autem karoluoz et hirdon habet pacem lehhium et domesticatur cum
illo, quoniam cogitat de suo cibo." [34] Such a medley makes it certain
that he knew neither Greek nor Arabic, and was willing to compound a
third language, as obscure to his readers as the original was to him.
Bacon points out many instances of this kind; and it is against such
errors--errors so destructive to all learning--that he inveighs with the
full force of invective, and protests with irresistible arguments. His
acquirements in Greek and in Hebrew prove that he had devoted long labor
to the study of these languages, and that he understood them far better
than many scholars who made more pretence of learning. Nowhere are the
defects of the scholarship of the Middle Ages more pointedly and ably
exhibited than in what he has said of them.

But, although his knowledge in this field was of uncommon quality and
amount, it does not seem to have surpassed his acquisitions in science.
"I have attempted," he says in a striking passage, "with great
diligence, to attain certainty as to what is needful to be known
concerning the processes of alchemy and natural philosophy and
medicine.... And what I have written of the roots [of these sciences]
is, in my judgment, worth far more than all that the other natural
philosophers now alive suppose themselves to know; for in vain, without
these roots, do they seek for branches, flowers, and fruit. And here I
am boastful in words, but not in my soul; for I say this because I
grieve for the infinite error that now exists, and that I may urge you
[the Pope] to a consideration of the truth."[35] Again he says, in
regard to his treatise "De Perspectiva," or On Optics,--"Why should I
conceal the truth? I assert that there is no one among the Latin
scholars who could accomplish, in the space of a year, this work; no,
nor even in ten years."[36] In mathematics, in chemistry, in optics, in
mechanics, he was, if not superior, at least equal, to the best of his
contemporaries. His confidence in his own powers was the just result of
self-knowledge and self-respect. Natural genius, and the accumulations
of forty years of laborious study pursued with a method superior to that
which guided the studies of others, had set him at the head of the
learned men of his time; and he was great enough to know and to claim
his place. He had the self-devotion of enthusiasm, and its ready, but
dignified boldness, based upon the secure foundation of truth.

In spite of the very imperfect style in which he wrote, and the usually
clumsy and often careless construction of his sentences, his works
contain now and then noble thoughts expressed with simplicity and force.
"Natura est instrumentum Divinae operationis," might be taken as the
motto for his whole system of natural science. In speaking of the value
of words, he says,--"Sed considerare debemus quod verba habent maximam
potestatem, et omnia miracula facta a principio mundi fere facta sunt
per verba. Et opus animae rationalis praecipuum est verbum, et in quo
maxime delectatur." In the "Opus Tertium," at the point where he begins
to give an abstract of his "Opus Majus," he uses words which remind one
of the famous "Franciscus de Verulamio sic cogitavit." He
says,--"Cogitavi quod intellectus humanus habet magnam debilitationem ex
se.... Et ideo volui excludere errorum corde hominis impossible est
ipsum videre veritatem." This is strikingly similar to Lord Bacon's
"errores qui invaluerunt, quique in aeternum invalituri sunt, alii post
alios, si mens sibi permittatur." Such citations of passages remarkable
for thought or for expression might be indefinitely extended, but we
have space for only one more, in which the Friar attacks the vices of
the Roman court with an energy that brings to mind the invectives of the
greatest of his contemporaries. "Curia Romana, quae solebat et debet
regi sapientia Dei, nunc depravatur.... Laceratur enim illa sedes sacra
fraudibus et dolis injustorum. Pent justitia; pax omnis violatur;
infinita scandala suscitantur. Mores enim sequuntur ibidem
perversissimi; regnat superbia, ardet avaritia, invidia corrodit
singulos, luxuria diffamat totam illam curiam, gula in omnibus
dominatur." It was not the charge of magic alone that brought Roger
Bacon's works into discredit with the Church, and caused a nail to be
driven through their covers to keep the dangerous pages closed
tightly within.

There is no reason to doubt that Bacon's investigations led him to
discoveries of essential value, but which for the most part died with
him. His active and piercing intellect, which employed itself on the
most difficult subjects, which led him to the formation of a theory of
tides, and brought him to see the need and with prophetic anticipation
to point out the means of a reformation of the calendar, enabled him to
discover many of what were then called the Secrets of Nature. The
popular belief that he was the inventor of gunpowder had its origin in
two passages in his treatise "On the Secret Works of Art and Nature, and
on the Nullity of Magic,"[37] in one of which he describes some of its
qualities, while in the other he apparently conceals its composition
under an enigma.[38] He had made experiments with Greek fire and the
magnet; he had constructed burning-glasses, and lenses of various power;
and had practised with multiplying-mirrors, and with mirrors that
magnified and diminished. It was no wonder that a man who knew and
employed such wonderful things, who was known, too, to have sought for
artificial gold, should gain the reputation of a wizard, and that his
books should be looked upon with suspicion. As he himself says,--"Many
books are esteemed magic, which are not so, but contain the dignity of
knowledge." And he adds,--"For, as it is unworthy and unlawful for a
wise man to deal with magic, so it is superfluous and unnecessary."[39]

There is a passage in this treatise "On the Nullity of Magic" of
remarkable character, as exhibiting the achievements, or, if not the
actual achievements, the things esteemed possible by the inventors of
the thirteenth century. There is in it a seeming mixture of fancy and of
fact, of childish credulity with more than mere haphazard prophecy of
mechanical and physical results which have been so lately reached in the
progress of science as to be among new things even six centuries after
Bacon's death. Its positiveness of statement is puzzling, when tested by
what is known from other sources of the nature of the discoveries and
inventions of that early time; and were there reason to question Bacon's
truth, it would seem as if he had mistaken his dreams for facts. As it
stands, it is one of the most curious existing illustrations of the
state of physical science in the Middle Ages. It runs as follows:--"I
will now, in the first place, speak of some of the wonderful works of
Art and Nature, that I may afterwards assign the causes and methods of
them, in which there is nothing magical, so that it may be seen how
inferior and worthless all magic power is, in comparison with these
works. And first, according to the fashion and rule of Art alone. Thus,
machines can be made for navigation without men to row them; so that
ships of the largest size, whether on rivers or the sea, can be carried
forward, under the guidance of a single man, at greater speed than if
they were full of men [rowers]. In like manner, a car can be made which
will move, without the aid of any animal, with incalculable impetus;
such as we suppose the scythed chariots to have been which were
anciently used in battle. Also, machines for flying can be made, so that
a man may sit in the middle of the machine, turning an engine, by which
wings artificially disposed are made to beat the air after the manner of
a bird in flight. Also, an instrument, small in size, for raising and
depressing almost infinite weights, than which nothing on occasion is
more useful: for, with an instrument of three fingers in height, and of
the same width, and of smaller bulk, a man might deliver himself and his
companions from all danger of prison, and could rise or descend. Also,
an instrument might be easily made by which one man could draw to
himself a thousand men by force and against their will, and in like
manner draw other things. Instruments can be made for walking in the sea
or in rivers, even at the bottom, without bodily risk: for Alexander the
Great made use of this to see the secrets of the sea, as the Ethical
Astronomer relates. These things were made in ancient times, and are
made in our times, as is certain; except, perhaps, the machine for
flying, which I have not seen, nor have I known any one who had seen
it, but I know a wise man who thought to accomplish this device. And
almost an infinite number of such things can be made; as bridges across
rivers without piers or any supports, and machines and unheard-of
engines." Bacon goes on to speak of other wonders of Nature and Art, to
prove, that, to produce marvellous effects, it is not necessary to
aspire to the knowledge of magic, and ends this division of his subject
with words becoming a philosopher:--"Yet wise men are now ignorant of
many things which the common crowd of students [_vulgus studentium_]
will know in future times."[40]

It is much to be regretted that Roger Bacon does not appear to have
executed the second and more important part of his design, namely, "to
assign the causes and methods" of these wonderful works of Art and
Nature. Possibly he was unable to do so to his own satisfaction;
possibly he may upon further reflection have refrained from doing so,
deeming them mysteries not to be communicated to the vulgar;--"for he
who divulges mysteries diminishes the majesty of things; wherefore
Aristotle says that he should be the breaker of the heavenly seal, were
he to divulge the secret things of wisdom."[41] However this may have
been, we may safely doubt whether the inventions which he reports were
in fact the result of sound scientific knowledge, whether they had
indeed any real existence, or whether they were only the half-realized
and imperfect creations of the prophetic soul of the wide world dreaming
of things to come.

The matters of interest in the volume before us are by no means
exhausted, but we can proceed no farther in the examination of them, and
must refer those readers who desire to know more of its contents to the
volume itself. We can assure them that they will find it full of vivid
illustrations of the character of Bacon's time,--of the thoughts of men
at an epoch of which less is commonly known than of periods more
distant, but less connected by intellectual sympathy and moral relations
with our own. But the chief interest of Bacon's works lies in their
exhibition to us of himself, a man foremost in his own time in all
knowledge, endowed by Nature with a genius of peculiar force and
clearness of intuition, with a resolute energy that yielded to no
obstacles, with a combination so remarkable of the speculative and the
practical intellect as to place him in the ranks of the chief
philosophers to whom the progress of the world in learning and in
thought is due. They show him exposed to the trials which the men who
are in advance of their contemporaries are in every age called to meet,
and bearing these trials with a noble confidence in the final prevalence
of the truth,--using all his powers for the advantage of the world, and
regarding all science and learning of value only as they led to
acquaintance with the wisdom of God and the establishment of Christian
virtue. He himself gives us a picture of a scholar of his times, which
we may receive as a not unworthy portrait of himself. "He does not care
for discourses and disputes of words, but he pursues the works of
wisdom, and in them he finds rest. And what others dim-sighted strive to
see, like bats in twilight, he beholds in its full splendor, because he
is the master of experiments; and thus he knows natural things, and the
truths of medicine and alchemy, and the things of heaven as well as
those below. Nay, he is ashamed, if any common man, or old wife, or
soldier, or rustic in the country knows anything of which he is
ignorant. Wherefore he has searched out all the effects of the fusing of
metals, and whatever is effected with gold and silver and other metals
and all minerals; and whatever pertains to warfare and arms and the
chase he knows; and he has examined all that pertains to agriculture,
and the measuring of lands, and the labors of husbandmen; and he has
even considered the practices and the fortune-telling of old women, and
their songs, and all sorts of magic arts, and also the tricks and
devices of jugglers; so that nothing which ought to be known may lie hid
from him, and that he may as far as possible know how to reject all that
is false and magical. And he, as he is above price, so does he not value
himself at his worth. For, if he wished to dwell with kings and princes,
easily could he find those who would honor and enrich him; or, if he
would display at Paris what he knows through the works of wisdom, the
whole world would follow him. But, because in either of these ways he
would be impeded in the great pursuits of experimental philosophy, in
which he chiefly delights, he neglects all honor and wealth, though he
might, when he wished, enrich himself by his knowledge."

* * * * *

_Popular Music of the Olden Time_. A Collection of Ancient Songs,
Ballads, and Dance-Tunes, Illustrative of the National Music of England.
With Short Introductions to the Different Reigns, and Notices of the
Airs from Writers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Also, a
Short Account of the Minstrels. By W. Chappel, F.S.A. The whole of the
Airs harmonized by G. A. McFarren. 2 vols. pp. 384, 439. London: Cramer,
Beale, & Chappell. New York: Webb & Allen.

In tracing the history of the English nation, no line of investigation
is more interesting, or shows more clearly the progress of civilization,
than the study of its early poetry and music. Sung alike in the royal
palaces and in the cottages and highways of the nation, the ballads and
songs reflect most accurately the manners and customs, and not a little
of the history of the people; while, as indicating the progress of
intellectual culture, the successive changes in language, and the steady
advance of the science of music, and of its handmaid, poetry, they
possess a value peculiarly their own.

The industry and learning of Percy, Warton, and Ritson have rendered a
thorough acquaintance with early English poetry comparatively easy;
while in the work whose comprehensive title heads this article the
research of Chappell presents to us all that is valuable of the "Popular
Music of the Olden Time," enriched by interesting incidents and
historical facts which render the volumes equally interesting to the
general reader and to the student in music. Chappell published his
collection of "National English Airs" about twenty years ago. Since that
time, he tells us in his preface, the increase of material has been so
great, that it has been advisable to rewrite the entire work, and to
change the title, so that the present edition has all the freshness of a
new publication, and contains more than one hundred and fifty
additional airs.

The opening chapters are devoted to a concise historical account of
English minstrelsy, from the earliest Saxon times to its gradual
extinction in the reigns of Edward IV. and Queen Elizabeth; and while
presenting in a condensed form all that is valuable in Percy and others,
the author has interwoven in the narrative much curious and interesting
matter derived from his own careful studies. Much of romantic interest
clusters around the history of the minstrels of England. They are
generally supposed to have been the successors of the ancient bards, who
from the earliest times were held in the highest veneration by nearly
all the people of Europe, whether of Celtic or Gothic origin. According
to Percy, "Their skill was considered as something divine; their persons
were deemed sacred; their attendance was solicited by kings; and they
were everywhere loaded with honors and rewards." Our Anglo-Saxon
ancestors, on their migration into Britain, retained their veneration
for poetry and song, and minstrels continued in high repute, until their
hold upon the people gradually yielded to the steady advance of
civilization, the influence of the printing-press, and the consequent
diffusion of knowledge. It is to be borne in mind that the name,
minstrel, was applied equally to those who sang, and accompanied their
voices with the harp, or some other instrument, and to those who were
skilled in instrumental music only. The harp was the favorite and indeed
the national instrument of the Britons, and its use has been traced as
far back as the first invasion of the country by the Saxons. By the laws
of Wales, no one could pretend to the character of a freeman or
gentleman, who did not possess or could not play upon a harp. Its use
was forbidden to slaves; and a harp could not be seized for debt, as the
simple fact of a person's being without one would reduce him to an
equality with a slave. Other instruments, however, were in use by the
early Anglo-Saxons, such as the Psaltery, the Fiddle, and the Pipe. The
minstrels, clad in a costume of their own, and singing to their quaint
tunes the exploits of past heroes or the simple love-songs of the times,
were the favorites of royalty, and often, and perhaps usually, some of
the better class held stations at court; and under the reigns of Henry
I. and II., Richard I., and John, minstrelsy flourished greatly, and the
services of the minstrels were often rated higher than those of the
clergy. These musicians seem to have had easy access to all places and
persons, and often received valuable grants from the king, until, in the
reign of Edward II., (1315,) such privileges were claimed by them, that
a royal edict became necessary to prevent impositions and abuses.

In the fourteenth century music was an almost universal accomplishment,
and we learn from Chaucer, in whose poetry much can be learned of the
music of his time, that country-squires could sing and play the lute,
and even "songes make and well indite." From the same source it appears
that then, as now, one of the favorite accomplishments of a young lady
was to sing well, and that her prospects for marriage were in proportion
to her proficiency in this art. In those days the bass-viol
(_viol-de-gamba_) was a popular instrument, and was played upon by
ladies,--a practice which in these modern times would be considered a
violation of female propriety, and even then some thought it "an
unmannerly instrument for a woman." In Elizabeth's time vocal music was
held in the highest estimation, and to sing well was a necessary
accomplishment for ladies and gentlemen. A writer of 1602 says to the
ladies, "It shall be your first and finest praise to sing the note of
every new fashion at first sight." That some of the fair sex may have
carried their musical practice too far, like many who have lived since
then, is perhaps indicated in some verses of that date which run in the
following strain:--

"This is all that women do:
Sit and answer them that woo;
Deck themselves in new attire,
To entangle fresh desire;
After dinner sing and play,
Or, dancing, pass the time away."

To many readers one of the most interesting features of Chappell's work
will be the presentation of the original airs to which were sung the
ballads familiar to us from childhood, learned from our English and
Scotch ancestors, or later in life from Percy's "Reliques" and other
sources; and the musician will detect, in even the earliest
compositions, a character and substance, a beauty of cadence and
rhythmic ideality, which render in comparison much of our modern
song-music tamer, if possible, than it now seems. Here are found the
original airs of "Agincourt," "All in the Downs," "Barbara Allen," "The
Barley-Mow," "Cease, rude Boreas," "Derry Down," "Frog he would a-wooing
go," "One Friday morn when we set sail," "Chanson Roland," "Chevy
Chace," and scores of others which have rung in our ears from

The ballad-mongers took a wide range in their writings, and almost every
subject seems to have called for their rhymes. There is a curious little
song, dating back to 1601, entitled "O mother, a Hoop," in which the
value of hoop-skirts is set forth by a fair damsel in terms that would
delight a modern belle. It commences thus:--

"What a fine thing have I seen to-day!
O mother, a Hoop!
I must have one; you cannot say Nay;
O mother, a Hoop!"

Another stanza shows the practical usefulness of the hoop:--


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