Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 3
Part 3 out of 11
Austen wrote nothing save some fragments of 'Lady Susan' and 'The
Watsons,' neither of them of great importance. In 1809 the lessened
household, composed of the mother and her two daughters only, removed to
the village of Chawton, on the estate of Mrs. Austen's third son; and
here, in a rustic cottage, now become a place of pilgrimage, Jane Austen
again took up her pen. She rewrote 'Pride and Prejudice.' She revised
'Sense and Sensibility,' and between February 1811 and August 1816 she
completed 'Mansfield Park,' 'Emma,' and 'Persuasion.' At Chawton, as at
Steventon, she had no study, and her stories were written on a little
mahogany desk near a window in the family sitting-room, where she must
often have been interrupted by the prototypes of her Mrs. Allen, Mrs.
Bennet, Miss Bates, Mr. Collins, or Mrs. Norris. When at last she began
to publish, her stories appeared in rapid succession: 'Sense and
Sensibility' in 1811; 'Pride and Prejudice' early in 1813; 'Mansfield
Park' in 1814; 'Emma' in 1816; 'Northanger Abbey' and 'Persuasion' in
1818, the year following her death. In January 1813 she wrote to her
beloved Cassandra:--"I want to tell you that I have got my own darling
child 'Pride and Prejudice' from London. We fairly set at it and read
half the first volume to Miss B. She was amused, poor soul! ... but she
really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that _I_ think her
as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be
able to tolerate those who do not like _her_ at least, I do not know." A
month later she wrote:--"Upon the whole, however, I am quite vain
enough, and well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and
bright, and sparkling: it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here
and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of
solemn, specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story;
an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of
Bonaparte, or something that would form a contrast, and bring the reader
with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the
Thus she who laughed at everybody else laughed at herself, and set her
critical instinct to estimate her own capacity. To Mr. Clarke, the
librarian of Carlton House, who had requested her to "delineate a
clergyman" of earnestness, enthusiasm, and learning, she replied:--"I am
quite honored by your thinking me capable of drawing such a clergyman as
you gave the sketch of in your note. But I assure you I am not. The
comic part of the character I might be equal to, but not the good, the
enthusiastic, the literary.... I think I may boast myself to be, with
all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever
dared to be an authoress." And when the same remarkable bibliophile
suggested to her, on the approach of the marriage of the Princess
Charlotte with Prince Leopold, that "an historical romance, illustrative
of the august House of Coburg, would just now be very interesting," she
answered:--"I am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on
the House of Saxe-Coburg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or
popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I
deal in. But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could
not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive
than to save my life; and if it were indispensable to keep it up, and
never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure that I
should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No! I must keep
to my own style, and go on in my own way: and though I may never succeed
again in that, I am convinced that I shall totally fail in any other."
And again she writes: "What shall _I_ do with your 'strong, manly,
vigorous sketches, full of variety and glow'? How could I possibly join
them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work
with so fine a brush as produces little effect, after much labor?"
Miss Austen read very little. She "detested quartos." Richardson,
Johnson, Crabbe, and Cowper seem to have been the only authors for whom
she had an appreciation. She would sometimes say, in jest, that "if ever
she married at all, she could fancy being Mrs. Crabbe!" But her bent of
original composition, her amazing power of observation, her
inexhaustible sense of humor, her absorbing interest in what she saw
about her, were so strong that she needed no reinforcement of culture.
It was no more in her power than it was in Wordsworth's to "gather a
posy of other men's thoughts."
During her lifetime she had not a single literary friend. Other women
novelists possessed their sponsors and devotees. Miss Ferrier was the
delight of a brilliant Edinboro' coterie. Miss Edgeworth was feasted and
flattered, not only in England, but on the Continent; Miss Burney
counted Johnson, Burke, Garrick, Windham, Sheridan, among the admiring
friends who assured her that no flight in fiction or the drama was
beyond her powers. But the creator of Elizabeth Bennet, of Emma, and of
Mr. Collins, never met an author of eminence, received no encouragement
to write except that of her own family, heard no literary talk, and
obtained in her lifetime but the slightest literary recognition. It was
long after her death that Walter Scott wrote in his journal:--"Read
again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen's finely written
novel of _Pride and Prejudice_. That young lady had a talent for
describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life
which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow
strain I can do myself, like any now going; but the exquisite touch
which renders commonplace things and characters interesting from the
truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me." It was
still later that Macaulay made his famous estimate of her
genius:--"Shakespeare has neither equal nor second; but among those who,
in the point we have noticed (the delineation of character), approached
nearest the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen
as a woman of whom England may justly be proud. She has given us a
multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such
as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from
each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.... And
all this is done by touches so delicate that they elude analysis, that
they defy the powers of description, and that we know them to exist only
by the general effect to which they have contributed." And a new
generation had almost forgotten her name before the exacting Lewes
wrote:--"To make our meaning precise, we would say that Fielding and
Jane Austen are the greatest novelists in the English language.... We
would rather have written 'Pride and Prejudice' or 'Tom Jones,' than
any of the Waverley novels.... The greatness of Miss Austen (her
marvelous dramatic power) seems more than anything in Scott akin to
The six novels which have made so great a reputation for their author
relate the least sensational of histories in the least sensational way.
'Sense and Sensibility' might be called a novel with a purpose, that
purpose being to portray the dangerous haste with which sentiment
degenerates into sentimentality; and because of its purpose, the story
discloses a less excellent art than its fellows. 'Pride and Prejudice'
finds its motive in the crass pride of birth and place that characterize
the really generous and high-minded hero, Darcy, and the fierce
resentment of his claims to love and respect on the part of the clever,
high-tempered, and chivalrous heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. 'Northanger
Abbey' is a laughing skit at the school of Mrs. Radcliffe; 'Persuasion,'
a simple story of upper middle-class society, of which the most charming
of her charming girls, Anne Elliot, is the heroine; 'Mansfield Park' a
new and fun-loving version of 'Cinderella'; and finally 'Emma,'--the
favorite with most readers, concerning which Miss Austen said, "I am
going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,"--the
history of the blunders of a bright, kind-hearted, and really clever
girl, who contrives as much discomfort for her friends as stupidity or
ill-nature could devise.
Numberless as are the novelist's characters, no two clergymen, no two
British matrons, no two fussy spinsters, no two men of fashion, no two
heavy fathers, no two smart young ladies, no two heroines, are alike.
And this variety results from the absolute fidelity of each character to
the law of its own development, each one growing from within and not
being simply described from without. Nor are the circumstances which she
permits herself to use less genuine than her people. What surrounds them
is what one must expect; what happens to them is seen to be inevitable.
The low and quiet key in which her "situations" are pitched produces one
artistic gain which countervails its own loss of immediate intensity:
the least touch of color shows strongly against that subdued background.
A very slight catastrophe among those orderly scenes of peaceful life
has more effect than the noisier incidents and contrived convulsions of
more melodramatic novels. Thus, in 'Mansfield Park' the result of
private theatricals, including many rehearsals of stage love-making,
among a group of young people who show no very strong principles or
firmness of character, appears in a couple of elopements which break up
a family, occasion a pitiable scandal, and spoil the career of an able,
generous, and highly promising young man. To most novelists an incident
of this sort would seem too ineffective: in her hands it strikes us as
what in fact it is--a tragic misfortune and the ruin of two lives.
In a word, it is life which Miss Austen sees with unerring vision and
draws with unerring touch; so that above all other writers of English
fiction she seems entitled to the tribute which an Athenian critic gave
to an earlier and more famous realist,--
"O life! O Menander!
Which of you two is the plagiarist?"
AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE
From 'Pride and Prejudice'
The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr. Collins made his
declaration in form. Having resolved to do it without loss of time, as
his leave of absence extended only to the following Saturday, and having
no feelings of diffidence to make it distressing to himself even at the
moment, he set about it in a very orderly manner, with all the
observances which he supposed a regular part of the business. On finding
Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, and one of the younger girls together, soon
after breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words:--
"May I hope, madam, for your interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth,
when I solicit for the honor of a private audience with her in the
course of this morning?"
Before Elizabeth had time for anything but a blush of surprise, Mrs.
Bennet instantly answered: "Oh, dear. Yes; certainly. I am sure Lizzy
will be very happy--I am sure she can have no objection. Come, Kitty, I
want you upstairs." And, gathering her work together, she was hastening
away, when Elizabeth called out:--
"Dear ma'am, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins must excuse
me. He can have nothing to say to me that anybody need not hear. I am
going away myself."
"No, no; nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you will stay where you are." And
upon Elizabeth's seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed looks, about
to escape, she added, "Lizzy, I _insist_ upon your staying and hearing
Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction; and a moment's
consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get
it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again, and
tried to conceal by incessant employment the feelings which were divided
between distress and diversion. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty walked off; and as
soon as they were gone, Mr. Collins began:--
"Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from
doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You
would have been less amiable in my eyes had there _not_ been this little
unwillingness; but allow me to assure you that I have your respected
mother's permission for this address. You can hardly doubt the purport
of my discourse, however your natural delicacy may lead you to
dissemble: my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as
soon as I entered the house I singled you out as the companion of my
future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on this
subject, perhaps it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for
marrying--and moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of
selecting a wife, as I certainly did."
The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away
with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing that she could not
use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him further, and
"My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for
every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example
of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced it will add
very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly,--which perhaps I ought to
have mentioned earlier,--that it is the particular advice and
recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honor of calling
patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked,
too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I
left Hunsford--between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was
arranging Miss de Bourgh's footstool--that she said, 'Mr. Collins, you
must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. Choose properly, choose a
gentlewoman, for _my_ sake; and for your _own_, let her be an active,
useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small
income go a good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as
you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her!' Allow me, by the
way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and
kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the
advantages in my power to offer. You will find her manners beyond
anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity, I think, must be
acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect
which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus much for my general
intention in favor of matrimony; it remains to be told why my views are
directed to Longbourn instead of my own neighborhood, where, I assure
you, there are many amiable young women. But the fact is, that being, as
I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honored father
(who, however, may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself
without resolving to choose a wife from among his daughters, that the
loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event
takes place,--which, however, as I have already said, may not be for
several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter
myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now, nothing remains for
me but to assure you, in the most animated language, of the violence of
my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no
demand of that nature on your father, since I am well aware that it
could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the four per
cents., which will not be yours till after your mother's decease, is all
that you may ever be entitled to. On that head, therefore, I shall be
uniformly silent; and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous
reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married."
It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.
"You are too hasty, sir," she cried. "You forget that I have made no
answer. Let me do it without further loss of time. Accept my thanks for
the compliment you are paying me. I am very sensible of the honor of
your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than
"I am not now to learn," replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the
hand, "that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the
man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their
favor; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second, or even a
third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just
said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long."
"Upon my word, sir," cried Elizabeth, "your hope is rather an
extraordinary one, after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not
one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so
daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second
time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make _me_
happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who
would make _you_ so. Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I
am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the
"Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so," said Mr. Collins,
very gravely--"but I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at all
disapprove of you. And you may be certain that when I have the honor of
seeing her again, I shall speak in the highest terms of your modesty,
economy, and other amiable qualifications."
"Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise of me will be unnecessary. You must
give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of
believing what I say. I wish you very happy and very rich, and by
refusing your hand do all in my power to prevent your being otherwise.
In making me the offer, you must have satisfied the delicacy of your
feelings with regard to my family, and may take possession of Longbourn
estate whenever it falls, without any self-reproach. This matter may be
considered, therefore, as finally settled." And rising as she thus
spoke, she would have quitted the room had not Mr. Collins thus
"When I do myself the honor of speaking to you next on the subject, I
shall hope to receive a more favorable answer than you have now given
me: though I am far from accusing you of cruelty at present, because I
know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the
first application; and perhaps you have even now said as much to
encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the
"Really, Mr. Collins," cried Elizabeth, with some warmth, "you puzzle me
exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form
of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as
may convince you of its being one."
"You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your
refusal of my addresses is merely a thing of course. My reasons for
believing it are briefly these:--It does not appear to me that my hand
is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would
be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my
connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship to your
own, are circumstances highly in my favor; and you should take it into
further consideration that, in spite of your manifold attractions, it is
by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you.
Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo
the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must
therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I
shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by
suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."
"I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that kind
of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would
rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you
again and again for the honor you have done me in your proposals, but to
accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect
forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant
female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the
truth from her heart."
"You are uniformly charming!" cried he, with an air of awkward
gallantry; "and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express
authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of
To such perseverance in willful self-deception Elizabeth would make no
reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he
persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering
encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered
in such a manner as must be decisive, and whose behavior at least could
not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
From 'Pride and Prejudice'
[Lydia Bennet has eloped with the worthless rake Wickham, who has no
intention of marrying her.]
Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few minutes'
conversation together, received them exactly as might be expected: with
tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against the villainous
conduct of Wickham, and complaints of her own suffering and
ill-usage;--blaming everybody but the person to whose ill-judging
indulgence the errors of her daughter must be principally owing.
"If I had been able," said she, "to carry my point in going to Brighton
with all my family, _this_ would not have happened; but poor, dear Lydia
had nobody to take care of her. Why did the Forsters ever let her go out
of their sight? I am sure there was some great neglect or other on their
side, for she is not the kind of girl to do such a thing, if she had
been well looked after. I always thought they were very unfit to have
the charge of her; but I was overruled, as I always am. Poor, dear
child! And now here's Mr. Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight
Wickham, wherever he meets him, and then he will be killed, and what is
to become of us all? The Collinses will turn us out, before he is cold
in his grave; and if you are not kind to us, brother, I do not know what
we shall do."
They all exclaimed against such terrific ideas; and Mr. Gardiner, after
general assurances of his affection for her and all her family, told her
that he meant to be in London the very next day, and would assist Mr.
Bennet in every endeavor for recovering Lydia.
"Do not give way to useless alarm," added he: "though it is right to be
prepared for the worst, there is no occasion to look on it as certain.
It is not quite a week since they left Brighton. In a few days more, we
may gain some news of them; and till we know that they are not married,
and have no design of marrying, do not let us give the matter over as
lost. As soon as I get to town, I shall go to my brother, and make him
come home with me, to Grace-church-street, and then we may consult
together as to what is to be done."
"Oh! my dear brother," replied Mrs. Bennet, "that is exactly what I
could most wish for. And now do, when you get to town, find them out,
wherever they may be; and if they are not married already, _make_ them
marry. And as for wedding clothes, do not let them wait for that, but
tell Lydia she shall have as much money as she chooses to buy them,
after they are married. And above all things, keep Mr. Bennet from
fighting. Tell him what a dreadful state I am in--that I am frightened
out of my wits; and have such tremblings, such flutterings, all over me,
such spasms in my side, and pains in my head, and such beatings at
heart, that I can get no rest by night nor by day. And tell my dear
Lydia not to give any directions about her clothes till she has seen me,
for she does not know which are the best warehouses. Oh! brother, how
kind you are! I know you will contrive it all."
But Mr. Gardiner, though he assured her again of his earnest endeavors
in the cause, could not avoid recommending moderation to her, as well in
her hopes as her fears; and after talking with her in this manner till
dinner was on the table, they left her to vent all her feelings on the
housekeeper, who attended, in the absence of her daughters.
Though her brother and sister were persuaded that there was no real
occasion for such a seclusion from the family, they did not attempt to
oppose it, for they knew that she had not prudence enough to hold her
tongue before the servants, while they waited at table, and judged it
better that one only of the household, and the one whom they could most
trust, should comprehend all her fears and solicitude on the subject.
In the dining-room they were soon joined by Mary and Kitty, who had been
too busily engaged in their separate apartments to make their appearance
before. One came from her books, and the other from her toilette. The
faces of both, however, were tolerably calm; and no change was visible
in either, except that the loss of her favorite sister, or the anger
which she had herself incurred in the business, had given something more
of fretfulness than usual to the accents of Kitty. As for Mary, she was
mistress enough of herself to whisper to Elizabeth, with a countenance
of grave reflection, soon after they were seated at table:--
"This is a most unfortunate affair; and will probably be much talked of.
But we must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the wounded bosoms of
each other the balm of sisterly consolation."
Then, perceiving in Elizabeth no inclination of replying, she added,
"Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful
lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable--that one false
step involves her in endless ruin--that her reputation is no less
brittle than it is beautiful--and that she cannot be too much guarded in
her behavior towards the undeserving of the other sex."
Elizabeth lifted up her eyes in amazement, but was too much oppressed to
make any reply.
A LETTER OF CONDOLENCE
From 'Pride and Prejudice'
MR. COLLINS TO MR. BENNET, ON HIS DAUGHTER'S ELOPEMENT WITH A RAKE
_My Dear Sir_:
I feel myself called upon, by our relationship and my situation in life,
to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now suffering
under, of which we were yesterday informed by letter from Hertfordshire.
Be assured, my dear sir, that Mrs. Collins and myself sincerely
sympathize with you, and all your respectable family, in your present
distress, which must be of the bitterest kind, because proceeding from a
cause which no time can remove. No arguments shall be wanting, on my
part, that can alleviate so severe a misfortune; or that may comfort you
under a circumstance that must be of all others most afflicting to a
parent's mind. The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in
comparison of this. And it is the more to be lamented because there is
reason to suppose, as my dear Charlotte informs me, that this
licentiousness of behavior in your daughter has proceeded from a faulty
degree of indulgence; though at the same time, for the consolation of
yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think that her own
disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not be guilty of such an
enormity at so early an age. Howsoever that may be, you are grievously
to be pitied, in which opinion I am not only joined by Mrs. Collins, but
likewise by Lady Catherine and her daughter, to whom I have related the
affair. They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one
daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who,
as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves
with such a family? And this consideration leads me, moreover, to
reflect with augmented satisfaction on a certain event of last November;
for had it been otherwise, I must have been involved in all your sorrows
and disgrace. Let me advise you, then, my dear sir, to console yourself
as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your
affection forever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own
I am, dear sir, etc., etc.
A WELL-MATCHED SISTER AND BROTHER
From 'Northanger Abbey'
"My dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head
to-night? I am determined, at all events, to be dressed exactly like
you. The men take notice of _that_ sometimes, you know."
"But it does not signify if they do," said Catherine, very innocently.
"Signify! oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say.
They are very often amazingly impertinent, if you do not treat them with
spirit, and make them keep their distance."
"Are they? Well I never observed _that_. They always behave very well to
"Oh! they give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited
creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! By
the by, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always
forgot to ask you what is your favorite complexion in a man. Do you like
them best dark or fair?"
"I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I
think--brown: not fair, and not very dark."
"Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your
description of Mr. Tilney: 'a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather
dark hair.' Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes; and as to
complexion, do you know, I like a sallow better than any other. You must
not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance
answering that description."
"Betray you! What do you mean?"
"Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop
Catherine, in some amazement, complied; and after remaining a few
moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at
that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina's
skeleton, when her friend prevented her by saying, "For Heaven's sake!
let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two
odious young men who have been staring at me this half-hour. They really
put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals.
They will hardly follow us there."
Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it
was Catherine's employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming
"They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so
impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am
determined I will not look up."
In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that
she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the
"And which way are they gone?" said Isabella, turning hastily round.
"One was a very good-looking young man."
"They went towards the churchyard."
"Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now what say you
to going to Edgar's Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You
said you should like to see it."
Catherine readily agreed. "Only," she added, "perhaps we may overtake
the two young men."
"Oh! never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently,
and I am dying to show you my hat."
"But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our
seeing them at all."
"I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no
notion of treating men with such respect. _That_ is the way to
Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore,
to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling
the sex, they set off immediately, as fast as they could walk, in
pursuit of the two young men.
Half a minute conducted them through the Pump-yard to the archway,
opposite Union Passage; but here they were stopped. Everybody acquainted
with Bath may remember the difficulties of crossing Cheap Street at this
point; it is indeed a street of so impertinent a nature, so
unfortunately connected with the great London and Oxford roads, and the
principal inn of the city, that a day never passes in which parties of
ladies, however important their business, whether in quest of pastry,
millinery, or even (as in the present case) of young men, are not
detained on one side or other by carriages, horsemen, or carts. This
evil had been felt and lamented, at least three times a day, by Isabella
since her residence in Bath: and she was now fated to feel and lament it
once more; for at the very moment of coming opposite to Union Passage,
and within view of the two gentlemen who were proceeding through the
crowds and treading the gutters of that interesting alley, they were
prevented crossing by the approach of a gig, driven along on bad
pavements by a most knowing-looking coachman, with all the vehemence
that could most fitly endanger the lives of himself, his companion, and
"Oh, these odious gigs!" said Isabella, looking up, "how I detest them!"
But this detestation, though so just, was of short duration, for she
looked again, and exclaimed, "Delightful! Mr. Morland and my brother!"
"Good Heaven! 'tis James!" was uttered at the same moment by Catherine;
and on catching the young men's eyes, the horse was immediately checked
with a violence which almost threw him on his haunches; and the servant
having now scampered up, the gentlemen jumped out, and the equipage was
delivered to his care.
Catherine, by whom this meeting was wholly unexpected, received her
brother with the liveliest pleasure; and he, being of a very amiable
disposition, and sincerely attached to her, gave every proof on his side
of equal satisfaction, which he could have leisure to do, while the
bright eyes of Miss Thorpe were incessantly challenging his notice; and
to her his devoirs were speedily paid, with a mixture of joy and
embarrassment which might have informed Catherine, had she been more
expert in the development of other people's feelings, and less simply
engrossed by her own, that her brother thought her friend quite as
pretty as she could do herself.
John Thorpe, who in the mean time had been giving orders about the
horse, soon joined them, and from him she directly received the amends
which were her due; for while he slightly and carelessly touched the
hand of Isabella, on her he bestowed a whole scrape and half a short
bow. He was a stout young man, of middling height, who, with a plain
face and ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being too handsome unless he
wore the dress of a groom, and too much like a gentleman unless he were
easy where he ought to be civil, and impudent where he might be allowed
to be easy. He took out his watch:--"How long do you think we have been
running in from Tetbury, Miss Morland?"
"I do not know the distance." Her brother told her that it was
"_Three_-and-twenty!" cried Thorpe; "five-and-twenty if it is an inch."
Morland remonstrated, pleaded the authority of road-books, innkeepers,
and milestones: but his friend disregarded them all; he had a surer test
of distance. "I know it must be five-and-twenty," said he, "by the time
we have been doing it." "It is now half after one; we drove out of the
inn-yard at Tetbury as the town-clock struck eleven; and I defy any man
in England to make my horse go less than ten miles an hour in harness;
that makes it exactly twenty-five."
"You have lost an hour," said Morland: "it was only ten o'clock when we
came from Tetbury."
"Ten o'clock! it was eleven, upon my soul! I counted every stroke. This
brother of yours would persuade me out of my senses, Miss Morland. Do
but look at my horse: did you ever see an animal so made for speed in
your life?" (The servant had just mounted the carriage and was driving
off.) "Such true blood! Three hours and a half, indeed, coming only
three-and-twenty miles! Look at that creature, and suppose it possible,
if you can!"
"He _does_ look very hot, to be sure."
"Hot! he had not turned a hair till we came to Walcot Church: but look
at his forehand; look at his loins; only see how he moves: that horse
_cannot_ go less than ten miles an hour; tie his legs, and he will get
on. What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? A neat one, is it not?
Well hung; town built: I have not had it a month. It was built for a
Christ Church man, a friend of mine, a very good sort of fellow; he ran
it a few weeks, till, I believe, it was convenient to have done with it.
I happened just then to be looking out for some light thing of the kind,
though I had pretty well determined on a curricle too; but I chanced to
meet him on Magdalen Bridge, as he was driving into Oxford, last term:
'Ah, Thorpe,' said he, 'do you happen to want such a little thing as
this? It is a capital one of the kind, but I am cursed tired of it.'
'Oh! d----,' said I, 'I am your man; what do you ask?' And how much do
you think he did, Miss Morland?"
"I am sure I cannot guess at all."
"Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board,
lamps, silver molding, all, you see, complete; the ironwork as good as
new, or better. He asked fifty guineas: I closed with him directly,
threw down the money, and the carriage was mine."
"And I am sure," said Catherine, "I know so little of such things, that
I cannot judge whether it was cheap or dear."
"Neither one nor t'other; I might have got it for less, I dare say; but
I hate haggling, and poor Freeman wanted cash."
"That was very good-natured of you," said Catherine, quite pleased.
"Oh! d---- it, when one has the means of doing a kind thing by a friend,
I hate to be pitiful."
An inquiry now took place into the intended movements of the young
ladies; and on finding whither they were going, it was decided that the
gentlemen should accompany them to Edgar's Buildings, and pay their
respects to Mrs. Thorpe. James and Isabella led the way; and so well
satisfied was the latter with her lot, so contentedly was she
endeavoring to insure a pleasant walk to him who brought the double
recommendation of being her brother's friend and her friend's brother,
so pure and uncoquettish were her feelings, that though they overtook
and passed the two offending young men in Milsom Street, she was so far
from seeking to attract their notice that she looked back at them only
John Thorpe kept of course with Catherine, and after a few minutes'
silence renewed the conversation about his gig:--"You will find,
however, Miss Morland, it would be reckoned a cheap thing by some
people, for I might have sold it for ten guineas more the next day;
Jackson of Oriel bid me sixty at once; Morland was with me at the time."
"Yes," said Morland, who overheard this; "bet you forgot that your horse
"My horse! oh, d---- it! I would not sell my horse for a hundred. Are
you fond of an open carriage, Miss Morland?"
"Yes, very: I have hardly ever an opportunity of being in one; but I am
particularly fond of it."
"I am glad of it: I will drive you out in mine every day."
"Thank you," said Catherine, in some distress, from a doubt of the
propriety of accepting such an offer.
"I will drive you up Lansdown Hill to-morrow."
"Thank you; but will not your horse want rest?"
"Rest! he has only come three-and-twenty miles to-day; all nonsense:
nothing ruins horses so much as rest; nothing knocks them up so soon.
No, no: I shall exercise mine at the average of four hours every day
while I am here."
"Shall you, indeed!" said Catherine, very seriously: "that will be
forty miles a day."
"Forty! ay, fifty, for what I care. Well, I will drive you up Lansdown
to-morrow; mind, I am engaged."
"How delightful that will be!" cried Isabella, turning round; "my
dearest Catherine, I quite envy you; but I am afraid, brother, you will
not have room for a third."
"A third, indeed! no, no; I did not come to Bath to drive my sisters
about: that would be a good joke, faith! Morland must take care of you."
This brought on a dialogue of civilities between the other two; but
Catherine heard neither the particulars nor the result. Her companion's
discourse now sunk from its hitherto animated pitch to nothing more than
a short, decisive sentence of praise or condemnation on the face of
every women they met; and Catherine, after listening and agreeing as
long as she could, with all the civility and deference of the youthful
female mind, fearful of hazarding an opinion of its own in opposition to
that of a self-assured man, especially where the beauty of her own sex
is concerned, ventured at length to vary the subject by a question which
had been long uppermost in her thoughts. It was, "Have you ever read
'Udolpho,' Mr. Thorpe?"
"'Udolpho'! O Lord! not I: I never read novels; I have something else to
Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologize for her question;
but he prevented her by saying, "Novels are all so full of nonsense and
stuff! there has not been a tolerable decent one come out since 'Tom
Jones,' except the 'Monk'; I read that t'other day: but as for all the
others, they are the stupidest things in creation."
"I think you must like 'Udolpho,' if you were to read it: it is so very
"Not I, faith! No, if I read any, it shall be Mrs. Radcliffe's; her
novels are amusing enough: they are worth reading; some fun and nature
"'Udolpho' was written by Mrs. Radcliffe," said Catherine, with some
hesitation, from the fear of mortifying him.
"No, sure; was it? Ay, I remember, so it was; I was thinking of that
other stupid book, written by that woman they made such a fuss about;
she who married the French emigrant."
"I suppose you mean 'Camilla'?"
"Yes, that's the book: such unnatural stuff! An old man playing at
see-saw: I took up the first volume once, and looked it over, but I soon
found it would not do; indeed, I guessed what sort of stuff it must be
before I saw it; as soon as I heard she had married an emigrant, I was
sure I should never be able to get through it."
"I have never read it."
"You have no loss, I assure you; it is the horridest nonsense you can
imagine: there is nothing in the world in it but an old man's playing at
see-saw and learning Latin; upon my soul, there is not."
This critique, the justness of which was unfortunately lost on poor
Catherine, brought them to the door of Mrs. Thorpe's lodgings, and the
feelings of the discerning and unprejudiced reader of 'Camilla' gave way
to the feelings of the dutiful and affectionate son, as they met Mrs.
Thorpe, who had descried them from above, in the passage. "Ah, mother,
how do you do?" said he, giving her a hearty shake of the hand; "where
did you get that quiz of a hat? it makes you look like an old witch.
Here is Morland and I come to stay a few days with you; so you must look
out for a couple of good beds somewhere near." And this address seemed
to satisfy all the fondest wishes of the mother's heart, for she
received him with the most delighted and exulting affection. On his two
younger sisters he then bestowed an equal portion of his fraternal
tenderness, for he asked each of them how they did, and observed that
they both looked very ugly.
While they were thus comfortably occupied, Mr. Woodhouse was enjoying a
full flow of happy regrets and tearful affection with his daughter.
"My poor, dear Isabella," said he, fondly taking her hand, and
interrupting for a few moments her busy labors for some one of her five
children, "how long it is, how terribly long since you were here! And
how tired you must be after your journey! You must go to bed early, my
dear,--and I recommend a little gruel to you before you go. You and I
will have a nice basin of gruel together. My dear Emma, suppose we all
have a little gruel."
Emma could not suppose any such thing, knowing as she did that both the
Mr. Knightleys were as unpersuadable on that article as herself, and two
basins only were ordered. After a little more discourse in praise of
gruel, with some wondering at its not being taken every evening by
everybody, he proceeded to say, with an air of grave reflection:--
"It was an awkward business, my dear, your spending the autumn at South
End instead of coming here. I never had much opinion of the sea air."
"Mr. Wingfield most strenuously recommended it, sir, or we should not
have gone. He recommended it for all the children, but particularly for
the weakness in little Bella's throat,--both sea air and bathing."
"Ah, my dear, but Perry had many doubts about the sea doing her any
good; and as to myself, I have been long perfectly convinced, though
perhaps I never told you so before, that the sea is very rarely of use
to anybody. I am sure it almost killed me once."
"Come, come," cried Emma, feeling this to be an unsafe subject, "I must
beg you not to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable; I who
have never seen it! South End is prohibited, if you please. My dear
Isabella, I have not heard you make one inquiry after Mr. Perry yet; and
he never forgets you."
"Oh, good Mr. Perry, how is he, sir?"
"Why, pretty well; but not quite well. Poor Perry is bilious, and he has
not time to take care of himself; he tells me he has not time to take
care of himself--which is very sad--but he is always wanted all round
the country. I suppose there is not a man in such practice anywhere. But
then, there is not so clever a man anywhere."
"And Mrs. Perry and the children, how are they? Do the children grow? I
have a great regard for Mr. Perry. I hope he will be calling soon. He
will be so pleased to see my little ones."
"I hope he will be here to-morrow, for I have a question or two to ask
him about myself of some consequence. And, my dear, whenever he comes,
you had better let him look at little Bella's throat."
"Oh, my dear sir, her throat is so much better that I have hardly any
uneasiness about it. Either bathing has been of the greatest service to
her, or else it is to be attributed to an excellent embrocation of Mr.
Wingfield's, which we have been applying at times ever since August."
"It is not very likely, my dear, that bathing should have been of use to
her; and if I had known you were wanting an embrocation, I would have
"You seem to me to have forgotten Mrs. and Miss Bates," said Emma: "I
have not heard one inquiry after them."
"Oh, the good Bateses--I am quite ashamed of myself; but you mention
them in most of your letters. I hope they are quite well. Good old Mrs.
Bates. I will call upon her to-morrow, and take my children. They are
always so pleased to see my children. And that excellent Miss
Bates!--such thorough worthy people! How are they, sir?"
"Why, pretty well, my dear, upon the whole. But poor Mrs. Bates had a
bad cold about a month ago."
"How sorry I am! but colds were never so prevalent as they have been
this autumn. Mr. Wingfield told me that he had never known them more
general or heavy, except when it has been quite an influenza."
"That has been a good deal the case, my dear, but not to the degree you
mention. Perry says that colds have been very general, but not so heavy
as he has very often known them in November. Perry does not call it
altogether a sickly season."
"No, I do not know that Mr. Wingfield considers it _very_ sickly,
"Ah, my poor, dear child, the truth is, that in London it is always a
sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be. It is a
dreadful thing to have you forced to live there;--so far off!--and the
air so bad!"
"No, indeed, _we_ are not at all in a bad air. Our part of London is so
very superior to most others. You must not confound us with London in
general, my dear sir. The neighborhood of Brunswick Square is very
different from almost all the rest. We are so very airy! I should be
unwilling, I own, to live in any other part of the town; there is hardly
any other that I could be satisfied to have my children in: but _we_ are
so remarkably airy! Mr. Wingfield thinks the vicinity of Brunswick
Square decidedly the most favorable as to air."
"Ah, my dear, it is not like Hartfield. You make the best of it--but
after you have been a week at Hartfield, you are all of you different
creatures; you do not look like the same. Now, I cannot say that I think
you are any of you looking well at present."
"I am sorry to hear you say so, sir; but I assure you, excepting those
little nervous headaches and palpitations which I am never entirely free
from anywhere, I am quite well myself; and if the children were rather
pale before they went to bed, it was only because they were a little
more tired than usual from their journey and the happiness of coming. I
hope you will think better of their looks to-morrow; for I assure you
Mr. Wingfield told me that he did not believe he had ever sent us off,
altogether, in such good case. I trust at least that you do not think
Mr. Knightley looking ill," turning her eyes with affectionate anxiety
toward her husband.
"Middling, my dear; I cannot compliment you. I think Mr. John Knightley
very far from looking well."
"What is the matter, sir? Did you speak to me?" cried Mr. John
Knightley, hearing his own name.
"I am sorry to find, my love, that my father does not think you looking
well; but I hope it is only from being a little fatigued. I could have
wished, however, as you know, that you had seen Mr. Wingfield before you
"My dear Isabella," exclaimed he hastily, "pray do not concern yourself
about my looks. Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself and
the children, and let me look as I choose."
"I did not thoroughly understand what you were telling your brother,"
cried Emma, "about your friend Mr. Graham's intending to have a bailiff
from Scotland to look after his new estate. But will it answer? Will not
the old prejudice be too strong?"
And she talked in this way so long and successfully that, when forced to
give her attention again to her father and sister, she had nothing worse
to hear than Isabella's kind inquiry after Jane Fairfax; and Jane
Fairfax, though no great favorite with her in general, she was at that
moment very happy to assist in praising.
"That sweet, amiable Jane Fairfax!" said Mrs. John Knightley. "It is so
long since I have seen her, except now and then for a moment
accidentally in town. What happiness it must be to her good old
grandmother and excellent aunt when she comes to visit them! I always
regret excessively, on dear Emma's account, that she cannot be more at
Highbury; but now their daughter is married I suppose Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell will not be able to part with her at all. She would be such a
delightful companion for Emma."
Mr. Woodhouse agreed to it all, but added:--
"Our little friend Harriet Smith, however, is just such another pretty
kind of young person. You will like Harriet. Emma could not have a
better companion than Harriet."
"I am most happy to hear it; but only Jane Fairfax one knows to be so
very accomplished and superior, and exactly Emma's age."
This topic was discussed very happily, and others succeeded of similar
moment, and passed away with similar harmony; but the evening did not
close without a little return of agitation. The gruel came and supplied
a great deal to be said--much praise and many comments--undoubting
decision of its wholesomeness for every constitution, and pretty severe
philippies upon the many houses where it was never met with tolerably;
but unfortunately, among the failures which the daughter had to
instance, the most recent and therefore most prominent was in her own
cook at South End, a young woman hired for the time, who never had been
able to understand what she meant by a basin of nice smooth gruel, thin,
but not too thin. Often as she had wished for and ordered it, she had
never been able to get anything tolerable. Here was a dangerous opening.
"Ah," said Mr. Woodhouse, shaking his head, and fixing his eyes on her
with tender concern. The ejaculation in Emma's ear expressed, "Ah, there
is no end of the sad consequences of your going to South End. It does
not bear talking of." And for a little while she hoped he would not talk
of it, and that a silent rumination might suffice to restore him to the
relish of his own smooth gruel. After an interval of some minutes,
however, he began with--
"I shall always be very sorry that you went to the sea this autumn,
instead of coming here."
"But why should you be sorry, sir? I assure you it did the children a
great deal of good."
"And moreover, if you must go to the sea, it had better not have been to
South End. South End is an unhealthy place. Perry was surprised to hear
you had fixed upon South End."
"I know there is such an idea with many people, but indeed it is quite
a mistake, sir. We all had our health perfectly well there, never found
the least inconvenience from the mud, and Mr. Wingfield says it is
entirely a mistake to suppose the place unhealthy; and I am sure he may
be depended on, for he thoroughly understands the nature of the air, and
his own brother and family have been there repeatedly."
"You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went anywhere. Perry
was a week at Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best of all the
sea-bathing places. A fine open sea, he says, and very pure air. And by
what I understand, you might have had lodgings there quite away from the
sea--a quarter of a mile off--very comfortable. You should have
"But my dear sir, the difference of the journey: only consider how great
it would have been. A hundred miles, perhaps, instead of forty."
"Ah, my dear, as Perry says, where health is at stake, nothing else
should be considered; and if one is to travel, there is not much to
choose between forty miles and a hundred. Better not move at all, better
stay in London altogether than travel forty miles to get into a worse
air. This is just what Perry said. It seemed to him a very
Emma's attempts to stop her father had been vain; and when he had
reached such a point as this, she could not wonder at her
brother-in-law's breaking out.
"Mr. Perry," said he, in a voice of very strong displeasure, "would do
as well to keep his opinion till it is asked for. Why does he make it
any business of his to wonder at what I do at my taking my family to one
part of the coast or another? I may be allowed, I hope, the use of my
judgment as well as Mr. Perry. I want his directions no more than his
drugs." He paused, and growing cooler in a moment, added, with only
sarcastic dryness, "If Mr. Perry can tell me how to convey a wife and
five children a distance of a hundred and thirty miles with no greater
expense or inconvenience than a distance of forty, I should be as
willing to prefer Cromer to South End as he could himself."
"True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with most ready interposition, "very
true. That's a consideration, indeed. But, John, as to what I was
telling you of my idea of moving the path to Langham, of turning it more
to the right that it may not cut through the home meadows, I cannot
conceive any difficulty. I should not attempt it, if it were to be the
means of inconvenience to the Highbury people, but if you call to mind
exactly the present light of the path--The only way of proving it,
however, will be to turn to our maps. I shall see you at the Abbey
to-morrow morning, I hope, and then we will look them over, and you
shall give me your opinion."
Mr. Woodhouse was rather agitated by such harsh reflections on his
friend Perry, to whom he had in fact, though unconsciously, been
attributing many of his own feelings and expressions; but the soothing
attentions of his daughters gradually removed the present evil, and the
immediate alertness of one brother, and better recollections of the
other, prevented any renewal of it.
From 'Mansfield Park'
As her [Fanny Price's] appearance and spirits improved, Sir Thomas and
Mrs. Norris thought with greater satisfaction of their benevolent plan;
and it was pretty soon decided between them, that though far from
clever, she showed a tractable disposition, and seemed likely to give
them little trouble. A mean opinion of her abilities was not confined to
_them_. Fanny could read, work, and write, but she had been taught
nothing more; and as her cousins found her ignorant of many things with
which they had been long familiar, they thought her prodigiously stupid,
and for the first two or three weeks were continually bringing some
fresh report of it into the drawing-room.
"Dear mamma, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe
together"--or "my cousin cannot tell the principal rivers in Russia"--or
"she never heard of Asia Minor"--or "she does not know the difference
between water-colors and crayons! How strange! Did you ever hear
anything so stupid?"
"My dear," their aunt would reply, "it is very bad, but you must not
expect everybody to be as quick at learning as yourself."
"But, aunt, she is really so very ignorant! Do you know, we asked her
last night which way she would go to get to Ireland; and she said she
should cross to the Isle of Wight. She thinks of nothing but the Isle of
Wight, and she calls it _the Island_, as if there were no other island
in the world. I am sure I should have been ashamed of myself, if I had
not known better long before I was so old as she is. I cannot remember
the time when I did not know a great deal that she has not the least
notion of yet. How long ago it is, aunt, since we used to repeat the
chronological order of the kings of England, with the dates of their
accession, and most of the principal events of their reigns!"
"Yes," added the other; "and of the Roman emperors as low as Severus;
besides a great deal of the heathen mythology, and all the metals,
semi-metals, planets, and distinguished philosophers."
"Very true, indeed, my dears, but you are blessed with wonderful
memories, and your poor cousin has probably none at all. There is a vast
deal of difference in memories, as well as in everything else; and
therefore you must make allowance for your cousin, and pity her
deficiency. And remember that if you are ever so forward and clever
yourselves, you should always be modest, for, much as you know already,
there is a great deal more for you to learn."
"Yes, I know there is, till I am seventeen. But I must tell you another
thing of Fanny, so odd and so stupid. Do you know, she says she does not
want to learn either music or drawing?"
"To be sure, my dear, that is very stupid indeed, and shows a great want
of genius and emulation. But, all things considered, I do not know
whether it is not as well that it should be so: for though you know
(owing to me) your papa and mamma are so good as to bring her up with
you, it is not at all necessary that she should be as accomplished as
you are; on the contrary, it is much more desirable that there should be
Such were the counsels by which Mrs. Norris assisted to form her nieces'
minds; and it is not very wonderful that, with all their promising
talents and early information, they should be entirely deficient in the
less common acquirements of self-knowledge, generosity, and humility. In
everything but disposition, they were admirably taught. Sir Thomas did
not know what was wanting, because, though a truly anxious father, he
was not outwardly affectionate, and the reserve of his manner repressed
all the flow of their spirits before him.
From 'Mansfield Park'
Fanny looked on and listened, not unamused to observe the selfishness
which, more or less disguised, seemed to govern them all, and wondering
how it would end.
Three of the characters were now cast, besides Mr. Rushworth, who was
always answered for by Maria as willing to do anything; when Julia,
meaning, like her sister, to be Agatha, began to be scrupulous on Miss
"This is not behaving well by the absent," said she. "Here are not women
enough. Amelia and Agatha may do for Maria and me, but here is nothing
for your sister, Mr. Crawford."
Mr. Crawford desired _that_ might not be thought of; he was very sure
his sister had no wish of acting but as she might be useful, and that
she would not allow herself to be considered in the present case. But
this was immediately opposed by Tom Bertram, who asserted the part of
Amelia to be in every respect the property of Miss Crawford, if she
would accept it. "It falls as naturally as necessarily to her," said he,
"as Agatha does to one or other of my sisters. It can be no sacrifice on
their side, for it is highly comic."
A short silence followed. Each sister looked anxious; for each felt the
best claim to Agatha, and was hoping to have it pressed on her by the
rest. Henry Crawford, who meanwhile had taken up the play, and with
seeming carelessness was turning over the first act, soon settled
"I must entreat Miss _Julia_ Bertram," said he, "not to engage in the
part of Agatha, or it will be the ruin of all my solemnity. You must
not, indeed you must not [turning to her]. I could not stand your
countenance dressed up in woe and paleness. The many laughs we have had
together would infallibly come across me, and Frederick and his knapsack
would be obliged to run away."
Pleasantly, courteously, it was spoken; but the manner was lost in the
matter to Julia's feelings. She saw a glance at Maria, which confirmed
the injury to herself: it was a scheme, a trick; she was slighted, Maria
was preferred; the smile of triumph which Maria was trying to suppress
showed how well it was understood: and before Julia could command
herself enough to speak, her brother gave his weight against her too,
by saying, "Oh yes! Maria must be Agatha. Maria will be the best Agatha.
Though Julia fancies she prefers tragedy, I would not trust her in it.
There is nothing of tragedy about her. She has not the look of it. Her
features are not tragic features, and she walks too quick, and speaks
too quick, and would not keep her countenance. She had better do the old
countrywoman--the Cottager's wife; you had, indeed, Julia. Cottager's
wife is a very pretty part, I assure you. The old lady relieves the
high-flown benevolence of her husband with a good deal of spirit. You
shall be the Cottager's wife."
"Cottager's wife!" cried Mr. Yates. "What are you talking of? The most
trivial, paltry, insignificant part; the merest commonplace; not a
tolerable speech in the whole. Your sister do that! It is an insult to
propose it. At Ecclesford the governess was to have done it. We all
agreed that it could not be offered to anybody else. A little more
justice, Mr. Manager, if you please. You do not deserve the office if
you cannot appreciate the talents of your company a little better."
"Why, as to _that_, my good friends, till I and my company have really
acted, there must be some guesswork; but I mean no disparagement to
Julia. We cannot have two Agathas, and we must have one Cottager's wife;
and I am sure I set her the example of moderation myself in being
satisfied with the old Butler. If the part is trifling she will have
more credit in making something of it: and if she is so desperately bent
against everything humorous, let her take Cottager's speeches instead of
Cottager's wife's, and so change the parts all through; _he_ is solemn
and pathetic enough, I am sure. It could make no difference in the play;
and as for Cottager himself, when he has got his wife's speeches, _I_
would undertake him with all my heart."
"With all your partiality for Cottager's wife," said Henry Crawford, "it
will be impossible to make anything of it fit for your sister, and we
must not suffer her good nature to be imposed on. We must not _allow_
her to accept the part. She must not be left to her own complaisance.
Her talents will be wanted in Amelia. Amelia is a character more
difficult to be well represented than even Agatha. I consider Amelia as
the most difficult character in the whole piece. It requires great
powers, great nicety, to give her playfulness and simplicity without
extravagance. I have seen good actresses fail in the part. Simplicity,
indeed, is beyond the reach of almost every actress by profession. It
requires a delicacy of feeling which they have not. It requires a
gentlewoman--a Julia Bertram. You _will_ undertake it, I hope?" turning
to her with a look of anxious entreaty, which softened her a little; but
while she hesitated what to say, her brother again interposed with Miss
Crawford's better claim.
"No, no, Julia must not be Amelia. It is not at all the part for her.
She would not like it. She would not do well. She is too tall and
robust. Amelia should be a small, light, girlish, skipping figure. It is
fit for Miss Crawford, and Miss Crawford only. She looks the part, and I
am persuaded will do it admirably."
Without attending to this, Henry Crawford continued his supplication.
"You must oblige us," said he, "indeed you must. When you have studied
the character I am sure you will feel it suits you. Tragedy may be your
choice, but it will certainly appear that comedy chooses _you_. You will
have to visit me in prison with a basket of provisions; you will not
refuse to visit me in prison? I think I see you coming in with
The influence of his voice was felt. Julia wavered; but was he only
trying to soothe and pacify her, and make her overlook the previous
affront? She distrusted him. The slight had been most determined. He
was, perhaps, but at treacherous play with her. She looked suspiciously
at her sister; Maria's countenance was to decide it; if she were vexed
and alarmed--but Maria looked all serenity and satisfaction, and Julia
well knew that on this ground Maria could not be happy but at her
expense. With hasty indignation, therefore, and a tremulous voice, she
said to him, "You do not seem afraid of not keeping your countenance
when I come in with a basket of provisions--though one might have
supposed--but it is only as Agatha that I was to be so overpowering!"
She stopped, Henry Crawford looked rather foolish, and as if he did not
know what to say. Tom Bertram began again:--
"Miss Crawford must be Amelia. She will be an excellent Amelia."
"Do not be afraid of _my_ wanting the character," cried Julia, with
angry quickness: "I am _not_ to be Agatha, and I am sure I will do
nothing else; and as to Amelia, it is of all parts in the world the
most disgusting to me. I quite detest her. An odious little, pert,
unnatural, impudent girl. I have always protested against comedy, and
this is comedy in its worst form." And so saying, she walked hastily out
of the room, leaving awkward feelings to more than one, but exciting
small compassion in any except Fanny, who had been a quiet auditor of
the whole, and who could not think of her as under the agitations of
_jealousy_ without great pity....
The inattention of the two brothers and the aunt to Julia's
discomposure, and their blindness to its true cause, must be imputed to
the fullness of their own minds. They were totally preoccupied. Tom was
engrossed by the concerns of his theatre, and saw nothing that did not
immediately relate to it. Edmund, between his theatrical and his real
part--between Miss Crawford's claims and his own conduct--between love
and consistency, was equally unobservant: and Mrs. Norris was too busy
in contriving and directing the general little matters of the company,
superintending their various dresses with economical expedients, for
which nobody thanked her, and saving, with delighted integrity,
half-a-crown here and there to the absent Sir Thomas, to have leisure
for watching the behavior, or guarding the happiness, of his daughters.
FRUITLESS REGRETS AND APPLES OF SODOM
From 'Mansfield Park'
These were the circumstances and the hopes which gradually brought their
alleviation to Sir Thomas, deadening his sense of what was lost, and in
part reconciling him to himself; though the anguish arising from the
conviction of his own errors in the education of his daughters was never
to be entirely done away.
Too late he became aware how unfavorable to the character of any young
people must be the totally opposite treatment which Maria and Julia had
been always experiencing at home, where the excessive indulgence and
flattery of their aunt had been continually contrasted with his own
severity. He saw how ill he had judged, in expecting to counteract what
was wrong in Mrs. Norris by its reverse in himself, clearly saw that he
had but increased the evil, by teaching them to repress their spirits
in his presence so as to make their real disposition unknown to him,
and sending them for all their indulgences to a person who had been able
to attach them only by the blindness of her affection and the excess of
Here had been grievous mismanagement; but, bad as it was, he gradually
grew to feel that it had not been the most direful mistake in his plan
of education. Something must have been wanting _within_, or time would
have worn away much of its ill effect. He feared that principle, active
principle, had been wanting; that they had never been properly taught to
govern their inclinations and tempers, by that sense of duty which can
alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion,
but never required to bring it into daily practice. To be distinguished
for elegance and accomplishments--the authorized object of their
youth--could have had no useful influence that way, no moral effect on
the mind. He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed
to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the
necessity of self-denial and humility, he feared they had never heard
from any lips that could profit them.
Bitterly did he deplore a deficiency which now he could scarcely
comprehend to have been possible. Wretchedly did he feel, that with all
the cost and care of an anxious and expensive education, he had brought
up his daughters without their understanding their first duties, or his
being acquainted with their character and temper.
The high spirit and strong passions of Mrs. Rushworth especially were
made known to him only in their sad result. She was not to be prevailed
on to leave Mr. Crawford. She hoped to marry him, and they continued
together till she was obliged to be convinced that such hope was vain,
and till the disappointment and wretchedness arising from the conviction
rendered her temper so bad, and her feelings for him so like hatred, as
to make them for a while each other's punishment, and then induce a
She had lived with him to be reproached as the ruin of all his happiness
in Fanny, and carried away no better consolation in leaving him, than
that she _had_ divided them. What can exceed the misery of such a mind
in such a situation!
Mr. Rushworth had no difficulty in procuring a divorce; and so ended a
marriage contracted under such circumstances as to make any better end
the effect of good luck, not to be reckoned on. She had despised him,
and loved another--and he had been very much aware that it was so. The
indignities of stupidity, and the disappointments of selfish passion,
can excite little pity. His punishment followed his conduct, as did a
deeper punishment the deeper guilt of his wife. _He_ was released from
the engagement, to be mortified and unhappy till some other pretty girl
could attract him into matrimony again, and he might set forward on a
second, and it is to be hoped more prosperous trial of the state--if
duped, to be duped at least with good humor and good luck; while _she_
must withdraw with infinitely stronger feelings, to a retirement and
reproach which could allow no second spring of hope or character.
Where she could be placed, became a subject of most melancholy and
momentous consultation. Mrs. Norris, whose attachment seemed to augment
with the demerits of her niece, would have had her received at home and
countenanced by them all. Sir Thomas would not hear of it; and Mrs.
Norris's anger against Fanny was so much the greater, from considering
_her_ residence there as the motive. She persisted in placing his
scruples to _her_ account, though Sir Thomas very solemnly assured her
that had there been no young woman in question, had there been no young
person of either sex belonging to him, to be endangered by the society
or hurt by the character of Mrs. Rushworth, he would never have offered
so great an insult to the neighborhood as to expect it to notice her. As
a daughter--he hoped a penitent one--she should be protected by him, and
secured in every comfort and supported by every encouragement to do
right which their relative situations admitted; but farther than _that_
he would not go. Maria had destroyed her own character; and he would
not, by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, be
affording his sanction to vice, or, in seeking to lessen its disgrace,
be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man's family
as he had known himself....
Henry Crawford, ruined by early independence and bad domestic example,
indulged in the freaks of a cold-blooded vanity a little too long. Once
it had, by an opening undesigned and unmerited, led him into the way of
happiness. Could he have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable
woman's affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in
overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and
tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of
success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something.
Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her.
Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have
been obtained; especially when that marriage had taken place, which
would have given him the assistance of her conscience in subduing her
first inclination, and brought them very often together. Would he have
persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward--and a reward
very voluntarily bestowed--within a reasonable period from Edmund's
marrying Mary. Had he done as he intended, and as he knew he ought, by
going down to Everingham after his return from Portsmouth, he might have
been deciding his own happy destiny. But he was pressed to stay for Mrs.
Fraser's party: his staying was made of flattering consequence, and he
was to meet Mrs. Rushworth there. Curiosity and vanity were both
engaged, and the temptation of immediate pleasure was too strong for a
mind unused to make any sacrifice to right; he resolved to defer his
Norfolk journey, resolved that writing should answer the purpose of it,
or that its purpose was unimportant--and staid. He saw Mrs. Rushworth,
was received by her with a coldness which ought to have been repulsive,
and have established apparent indifference between them for ever: but he
was mortified, he could not bear to be thrown off by the woman whose
smiles had been so wholly at his command; he must exert himself to
subdue so proud a display of resentment: it was anger on Fanny's
account; he must get the better of it, and make Mrs. Rushworth Maria
Bertram again in her treatment of himself.
In this spirit he began the attack; and by animated perseverance had
soon re-established the sort of familiar intercourse--of gallantry--of
flirtation--which bounded his views: but in triumphing over the
discretion, which, though beginning in anger, might have saved them
both, he had put himself in the power of feelings on her side more
strong than he had supposed. She loved him; there was no withdrawing
attentions avowedly dear to her. He was entangled by his own vanity,
with as little excuse of love as possible, and without the smallest
inconstancy of mind towards her cousin. To keep Fanny and the Bertrams
from a knowledge of what was passing became his first object. Secrecy
could not have been more desirable for Mrs. Rushworth's credit than he
felt it for his own. When he returned from Richmond, he would have been
glad to see Mrs. Rushworth no more. All that followed was the result of
her imprudence; and he went off with her at last because he could not
help it, regretting Fanny even at the moment, but regretting her
infinitely more when all the bustle of the intrigue was over, and a very
few months had taught him, by the force of contrast, to place a yet
higher value on the sweetness of her temper, the purity of her mind, and
the excellence of her principles.
That punishment, the public punishment of disgrace, should in a just
measure attend _his_ share of the offense, is, we know, not one of the
barriers which society gives to virtue. In this world, the penalty is
less equal than could be wished; but without presuming to look forward
to a juster appointment hereafter, we may fairly consider a man of
sense, like Henry Crawford, to be providing for himself no small portion
of vexation and regret--vexation that must rise sometimes to
self-reproach, and regret to wretchedness--in having so requited
hospitality, so injured family peace, so forfeited his best, most
estimable, and endeared acquaintance, and so lost the woman whom he had
rationally as well as passionately loved.
Averroes (Abu 'l Walid Muhammad, ibn Achmad, ibn Muhammad, IBN RUSHD; or
more in English, Abu 'l Walid Muhammed, the son of Achmet, the son of
Muhammed, the son of Rushd) was born in 1126 at Cordova, Spain. His
father and grandfather, the latter a celebrated jurist and canonist, had
been judges in that city. He first studied theology and canon law, and
later medicine and philosophy; thus, like Faust, covering the whole
field of mediaeal science. His life was cast in the most brilliant period
of Western Muslim culture, in the splendor of that rationalism which
preceded the great darkness of religious fanaticism. As a young man, he
was introduced by Ibn Tufail (Abubacer), author of the famous 'Hayy
al-Yukdhan,' a philosophical 'Robinson Crusoe,' to the enlightened
Khalif Abu Ya'kub Yusuf (1163-84), as a fit expounder of the then
popular philosophy of Aristotle. This position he filled with so much
success as to become a favorite with the Prince, and finally his private
physician. He likewise filled the important office of judge, first at
Seville, later at Cordova.
He enjoyed even greater consideration under the next Khalif, Ya'kub
al-Mansur, until the year 1195, when the jealousy of his rivals and the
fanaticism of the Berbers led to his being accused of championing
philosophy to the detriment of religion. Though Averroes always
professed great respect for religion, and especially for Islam, as a
valuable popular substitute for science and philosophy, the charge could
hardly be rebutted (as will be shown later), and the Amir of the
Faithful could scarcely afford openly to favor a heretic. Averroes was
accordingly deprived of his honors, and banished to Lacena, a Jewish
settlement near Cordova--a fact which gives coloring to the belief that
he was of Jewish descent. To satisfy his fanatical subjects for the
moment, the Khalif published severe edicts not only against Averroes,
but against all learned men and all learning as hostile to religion. For
a time the poor philosopher could not appear in public without being
mobbed; but after two years, a less fanatical party having come into
power, the Prince revoked his edicts, and Averroes was restored to
favor. This event he did not long survive. He died on 10th December
1198, in Marocco. Here too he was buried; but his body was afterward
transported to Cordova, and laid in the tomb of his fathers. He left
several sons, more than one of whom came to occupy important positions.
Averroes was the last great Muslim thinker, summing up and carrying to
its conclusions the thought of four hundred years. The philosophy of
Islam, which flourished first in the East, in Basra and Bagdad
(800-1100), and then in the West, Cordova, Toledo, etc. (1100-1200), was
a mixture of Aristotelianism and Neo-Platonism, borrowed, under the
earlier Persianizing Khalifs, from the Christian (mainly Nestorian)
monks of Syria and Mesopotamia, being consequently a naturalistic
system. In it God was acknowledged only as the supreme abstraction;
while eternal matter, law, and impersonal intelligence played the
principal part. It was necessarily irreconcilable with Muslim orthodoxy,
in which a crudely conceived, intensely personal God is all in all.
While Persian influence was potent, philosophy flourished, produced some
really great scholars and thinkers, made considerable headway against
Muslim fatalism and predestination, and seemed in a fair way to bring
about a free and rational civilization, eminent in science and art. But
no sooner did the fanatical or scholastic element get the upper hand
than philosophy vanished, and with it all hope of a great Muslim
civilization in the East. This change was marked by Al-Ghazzali, and his
book 'The Destruction of the Philosophers.' He died in A.D. 1111, and
then the works of Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina, and the "Brothers of Purity,"
wandered out to the far West, to seek for appreciation among the Muslim,
Jews, and Christians of Spain. And for a brief time they found it there,
and in the twelfth century found also eloquent expounders at the
mosque-schools of Cordova, Toledo, Seville, and Saragossa. Of these the
most famous were Ibn Baja, Ibn Tufail, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
During its progress, Muslim philosophy had gradually been eliminating
the Neo-Platonic, mystic element, and returning to pure Aristotelianism.
In Averroes, who professed to be merely a commentator on Aristotle, this
tendency reached its climax; and though he still regarded the
pseudo-Aristotelian works as genuine, and did not entirely escape their
influence, he is by far the least mystic of Muslim thinkers. The two
fundamental doctrines upon which he always insisted, and which long made
his name famous, not to say notorious, the eternity of matter and of the
world (involving a denial of the doctrine of creation), and the oneness
of the active intellect in all men (involving the mortality of the
individual soul and the impossibility of resurrection and judgment), are
both of Aristotelian origin. It was no wonder that he came into conflict
with the orthodox Muslim; for in the warfare between Arab prophetism,
with its shallow apologetic scholasticism, and Greek philosophy, with
its earnest endeavor to find truth, and its belief in reason as the sole
revealer thereof, he unhesitatingly took the side of the latter. He held
that man is made to discover truth, and that the serious study of God
and his works is the noblest form of worship.
However little one may agree with his chief tenets, there can be no
doubt that he was the most enlightened man of the entire Middle Age, in
Europe at least; and if his spirit and work had been continued, Western
Islam might have become a great permanent civilizing power. But here
again, after a brief period of extraordinary philosophic brilliancy,
fanaticism got the upper hand. With the death of Averroes the last hope
of a beneficent Muslim civilization came to an end. Since then, Islam
has been a synonym for blind fanaticism and cruel bigotry. In many parts
of the Muslim world, "philosopher" is a term of reproach, like
But though Islam rejected its philosopher, Averroes's work was by no
means without its effect. It was through his commentaries on Aristotle
that the thought of that greatest of ancient thinkers became known to
the western world, both Jewish and Christian. Among the Jews, his
writings soon acquired almost canonical authority. His system found
expression in the works of the best known of Hebrew thinkers,
Maimonides (1135-1204), "the second Moses" works which, despite all
orthodox opposition, dominated Jewish thought for nearly three hundred
years, and made the Jews during that time the chief promoters of
rationalism. When Muslim persecution forced a large number of Jews to
leave Spain and settle in Southern France, the works of Averroes and
Maimonides were translated into Hebrew, which thenceforth became the
vehicle of Jewish thought; and thus Muslim Aristotelianism came into
direct contact with Christianity.
Among the Christians, the works of Averroes, translated by Michael
Scott, "wizard of dreaded fame," Hermann the German, and others, acted
at once like a mighty solvent. Heresy followed in their track, and shook
the Church to her very foundations. Recognizing that her existence was
at stake, she put forth all her power to crush the intruder. The Order
of Preachers, initiated by St. Dominic of Calahorra (1170-1221), was
founded; the Inquisition was legalized (about 1220). The writings of
Aristotle and his Arab commentators were condemned to the flames (1209,
1215, 1231). Later, when all this proved unavailing, the best intellects
in Christendom, such as Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), and Thomas Aquinas
(1227-74), undertook to repel the new doctrine with its own weapons;
that is, by submitting the thought of Aristotle and his Arab
commentators to rational discussion. Thus was introduced the second or
palmy period of Christian Scholasticism, whose chief industry, we may
fairly say, was directed to the refutation of the two leading doctrines
of Averroes. Aiming at this, Thomas Aquinas threw the whole dogmatic
system of the Church into the forms of Aristotle, and thus produced that
colossal system of theology which still prevails in the Roman Catholic
world; witness the Encyclical _AEterni Patris_ of Leo XIII., issued
By the great thinkers of the thirteenth century, Averroes, though
regarded as heretical and dangerous in religion, was looked up to as an
able thinker, and the commentator _par excellence_; so much so that St.
Thomas borrowed from him the very form of his own Commentaries, and
Dante assigned him a distinguished place, beside Plato and Aristotle, in
the limbo of ancient sages ('Inferno,' iv. 143). But in the following
century--mainly, no doubt, because he was chosen as the patron of
certain strongly heretical movements, such as those instigated by the
arch-rationalist Frederic II--he came to be regarded as the precursor of
Antichrist, if not that personage himself: being credited with the awful
blasphemy of having spoken of the founders of the three current
religions--Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad--as "the three impostors."
Whatever truth there may be in this, so much is certain, that
infidelity, in the sense of an utter disbelief in Christianity as a
revealed religion, or in any sense specially true, dates from the
thirteenth century, and is due in large measure to the influence of
Averroes. Yet he was a great favorite with the Franciscans, and for a
time exercised a profound influence on the universities of Paris and
Oxford, finding a strong admirer even in Roger Bacon. His thought was
also a powerful element in the mysticism of Meister Eckhart and his
followers; a mysticism which incurred the censure of the Church.
Thus both the leading forms of heresy which characterized the thirteenth
century--naturalism with its tendency to magic, astrology, alchemy,
etc., etc., and mysticism with its dreams of beatific visions, its
self-torture and its lawlessness (see Goerres, 'Die Christliche
Mystik')--were due largely to Averroes. In spite of this, his
commentaries on Aristotle maintained their credit, their influence being
greatest in the fourteenth century, when his doctrines were openly
professed. After the invention of printing, they appeared in numberless
editions,--several times in connection with the text of Aristotle. As
the age of the Renaissance and of Protestantism approached, they
gradually lost their prestige. The chief humanists, like Petrarch, as
well as the chief reformers, were bitterly hostile to them.
Nevertheless, they contributed important elements to both movements.
Averroism survived longest in Northern Italy, especially in the
University of Padua, where it was professed until the seventeenth
century, and where, as a doctrine hostile to supernaturalism, it paved
the way for the study of nature and the rise of modern science. Thus
Averroes may fairly be said to have had a share in every movement toward
freedom, wise and unwise, for the last seven hundred years. In truth,
free thought in Europe owes more to him than to any other man except
Abelard. His last declared follower was the impetuous Lucilio Vanini,
who was burned for atheism at Toulouse in 1619.
The best work on Averroes is Renan's 'Averroes et l'Averroisme' (fourth
edition, Paris, 1893). This contains, on pages 58-79, a complete list
both of his commentaries and his original writings.
(From about B.C. Sixth Century)
BY A.V. WILLIAMS JACKSON
Avesta, or Zend-Avesta, an interesting monument of antiquity, is the
Bible of Zoroaster, the sacred book of ancient Iran, and holy scripture
of the modern Parsis. The exact meaning of the name "Avesta" is not
certain; it may perhaps signify "law," "text," or, more doubtfully,
"wisdom," "revelation." The modern familiar designation of the book as
Zend-Avesta is not strictly accurate; if used at all, it should rather
be Avesta-Zend, like "Bible and Commentary," as _zand_ signifies
"explanation," "commentary," and _Avesta u Zand_ is employed in some
Persian allusions to the Zoroastrian scriptures as a designation
denoting the text of the Avesta accompanied by the Pahlavi version or
The story of the recovery of the Avesta, or rather the discovery of the
Avesta, by the enthusiastic young French scholar Anquetil du Perron, who
was the first to open to the western world the ancient records of
Zoroastrianism, reads almost like a romance. Du Perron's own account of
his departure for India in 1754, of his experiences with the _dasturs_
(or priests) during a seven years' residence among them, of his various
difficulties and annoyances, setbacks and successes, is entertainingly
presented in the introductory volume of his work 'Zend-Avesta, Ouvrage
de Zoroastre' (3 Vols., Paris, 1771). This was the first translation of
the ancient Persian books published in a European language. Its
appearance formed one of those epochs which are marked by an addition to
the literary, religious, or philosophical wealth of our time; a new
contribution was added to the riches of the West from the treasures of
the East. The field thus thrown open, although worked imperfectly at
first, has yielded abundant harvests to the hands of later gleaners.
Facsimile of a Page of the AVESTA; from the oldest preserved manuscript
containing the YACNA. A. D. 1325. In the Royal Library at Copenhagen.
The Zend-Avesta--more properly the Avesta-Zend, i.e., "Text and
Commentary" is the "Bible" of the Persians. The four parts into which it
is divided are called Yacna, Vispered, Vendidad, and Khordah-Avesta.
With the growth of our knowledge of the language of the sacred texts, we
have now a clear idea also of the history of Zoroastrian literature and
of the changes and chances through which with varying fortunes the
scriptures have passed. The original Zoroastrian Avesta, according to
tradition, was in itself a literature of vast dimensions. Pliny, in his
'Natural History,' speaks of two million verses of Zoroaster; to which
may be added the Persian assertion that the original copy of the
scriptures was written upon twelve thousand parchments, with gold
illuminated letters, and was deposited in the library at Persepolis. But
what was the fate of this archetype? Parsi tradition has an answer.
Alexander the Great--"the accursed Iskander," as he is called--is
responsible for its destruction. At the request of the beautiful Thais,
as the story goes, he allowed the palace of Persepolis to be burned, and
the precious treasure perished in the flames. Whatever view we may take
of the different sides of this story, one thing cannot be denied: the
invasion of Alexander and the subjugation of Iran was indirectly or
directly the cause of a certain religious decadence which followed upon
the disruption of the Persian Empire, and was answerable for the fact
that a great part of the scriptures was forgotten or fell into disuse.
Persian tradition lays at the doors of the Greeks the loss of another
copy of the original ancient texts, but does not explain in what manner
this happened; nor has it any account to give of copies of the prophet's
works which Semitic writers say were translated into nearly a dozen
different languages. One of these versions was perhaps Greek, for it is
generally acknowledged that in the fourth century B.C. the philosopher
Theopompus spent much time in giving in his own tongue the contents of
the sacred Magian books.
Tradition is unanimous on one point at least: it is that the original
Avesta comprised twenty-one _Nasks_, or books, a statement which there
is no good reason to doubt. The same tradition which was acquainted with
the general character of these Nasks professes also to tell exactly how
many of them survived the inroad of Alexander; for although the sacred
text itself was destroyed, its contents were lost only in part, the
priests preserving large portions of the precious scriptures. These met
with many vicissitudes in the five centuries that intervened between the
conquest of Alexander and the great restoration of Zoroastrianism in the
third century of our era, under the Sassanian dynasty. At this period
all obtainable Zoroastrian scriptures were collected, the compilation
was codified, and a detailed notice made of the contents of each of the
original Nasks compared with the portions then surviving. The original
Avesta was, it would appear, a sort of encyclopaedic work; not of
religion alone, but of useful knowledge relating to law, to the arts,
science, the professions, and to every-day life. If we may judge from
the existing table of contents of these Nasks, the zealous Sassanians,
even in the time of the collecting (A. D. 226-380), were able to restore
but a fragment of the archetype, perhaps a fourth part of the original
Avesta. Nor was this remnant destined to escape misfortune. The
Mohammedan invasion, in the seventh century of our era added a final and
crushing blow. Much of the religion that might otherwise have been
handed down to us, despite "the accursed Iskander's" conquest, now
perished through the sword and the Koran. Its loss, we must remember, is
in part compensated by the Pahlavi religious literature of
Fragmentary and disjointed as are the remnants of the Avesta, we are
fortunate in possessing even this moiety of the Bible of Zoroaster,
whose compass is about one tenth that of our own sacred book. A grouping
of the existing texts is here presented:--1. Yasna (including Gathas).
2. Visperad. 3. Yashts. 4. Minor Texts. 5. Vendidad. 6. Fragments.
Even these texts no single manuscript in our time contains complete. The
present collection is made by combining various Avestan codexes. In
spite of the great antiquity of the literature, all the existing
manuscripts are comparatively young. None is older than the thirteenth
century of our own era, while the direct history of only one or two can
be followed back to about the tenth century. This mere external
circumstance has of course no bearing on the actual early age of the
Zoroastrian scriptures. It must be kept in mind that Zoroaster lived at
least six centuries before the birth of Christ.
Among the six divisions of our present Avesta, the Yasna, Visperad, and
Vendidad are closely connected. They are employed in the daily ritual,
and they are also accompanied by a version or interpretation in the
Pahlavi language, which serves at the same time as a sort of commentary.
The three divisions are often found combined into a sort of prayer-book,
called Vendidad-Sadah (Vendidad Pure); i.e., Avesta text without the
Pahlavi rendering. The chapters in this case are arranged with special
reference to liturgical usage.
Some idea of the character of the Avesta as it now exists may be derived
from the following sketch of its contents and from the illustrative
1. _Yasna_ (sacrifice, worship), the chief liturgical work of the sacred
canon. It consists mainly of ascriptions of praise and of prayer, and
corresponds nearly to our idea of a prayer-book. The Yasna comprises
seventy-two chapters; these fall into three nearly equal parts. The
middle, or oldest part, is the section of Gathas below described.
The meaning of the word _yasna_ as above gives at once some conception
of the nature of the texts. The Yasna chapters were recited at the
sacrifice: a sacrifice that consisted not in blood-offerings, but in an
offering of praise and thanksgiving, accompanied by ritual observances.
The white-robed priest, girt with the sacred cord and wearing a veil,
the _paitidana_, before his lips in the presence of the holy fire,
begins the service by an invocation of Ahura Mazda (Ormazd) and the
heavenly hierarchy; he then consecrates the _zaothra_ water, the
_myazda_ or oblation, and the _baresma_ or bundle of sacred twigs. He
and his assistant now prepare the _haoma_ (the _soma_ of the Hindus), or
juice of a sacred plant, the drinking of which formed part of the
religious rite. At the ninth chapter of the book, the rhythmical
chanting of the praises of Haoma is begun. This deified being, a
personification of the consecrated drink, is supposed to have appeared
before the prophet himself, and to have described to him the blessings
which the _haoma_ bestows upon its pious worshiper. The lines are
metrical, as in fact they commonly are in the older parts of the Avesta,
and the rhythm somewhat recalls the Kalevala verse of Longfellow's
'Hiawatha.' A specimen is here presented in translation:--
At the time of morning-worship
Haoma came to Zoroaster,
Who was serving at the Fire
And the holy Psalms intoning.
"What man art thou (asked the Prophet),
Who of all the world material
Art the fairest I have e'er seen
In my life, bright and immortal?"
The image of the sacred plant responds, and bids the priest prepare the
Haoma then to me gave answer,
Haoma righteous, death-destroying:--
"Zoroaster, I am Haoma,
Righteous Haoma, death-destroying.
Do thou gather me, Spitama,
And prepare me as a potion;
Praise me, aye as shall hereafter
In their praise the Saviors praise me."
Zoroaster again inquires, wishing to know of the pious men of old who
worshiped Haoma and obtained blessings for their religious zeal. Among
these, as is learned from Haoma, one was King Yima, whose reign was the
time of the Golden Age; those were the happy days when a father looked
as young as his children.
In the reign of princely Yima,
Heat there was not, cold there was not,
Neither age nor death existed,
Nor disease the work of Demons;
Son and father walked together
Fifteen years old, each in figure,
Long as Vivanghvat's son Yima,
The good Shepherd, ruled as sovereign.
For two chapters more, Haoma is extolled. Then follows the Avestan Creed
(Yasna 12), a prose chapter that was repeated by those who joined in
the early Zoroastrian faith, forsook the old marauding and nomadic
habits that still characterize the modern Kurds, and adopted an
agricultural habit of life, devoting themselves peaceably to
cattle-raising, irrigation, and cultivation of the fields. The greater
part of the Yasna book is of a liturgic or ritualistic nature, and need
not here be further described. Special mention, however, must be made of
the middle section of the Yasna, which is constituted by "the Five
Gathas" (hymns, psalms), a division containing the seventeen sacred
psalms, sayings, sermons, or teachings of Zoroaster himself. These
Gathas form the oldest part of the entire canon of the Avesta. In them
we see before our eyes the prophet of the new faith speaking with the
fervor of the Psalmist of the Bible. In them we feel the thrill of ardor
that characterizes a new and struggling religious band; we are warmed by
the burning zeal of the preacher of a church militant. Now, however,
comes a cry of despondency, a moment of faint-heartedness at the present
triumph of evil, at the success of the wicked and the misery of the
righteous; but this gives way to a clarion burst of hopefulness, the
trumpet note of a prophet filled with the promise of ultimate victory,
the triumph of good over evil. The end of the world cannot be far away;
the final overthrow of Ahriman (Anra Mainyu) by Ormazd (Ahura Mazda) is
assured; the establishment of a new order of things is certain; at the
founding of this "kingdom" the resurrection of the dead will take place
and the life eternal will be entered upon.
The third Gatha, Yasna 30, may be chosen by way of illustration. This is
a sort of Mazdian Sermon on the Mount. Zoroaster preaches the doctrine
of dualism, the warfare of good and evil in the world, and exhorts the
faithful to choose aright and to combat Satan. The archangels Good
Thought (Vohu Manah), Righteousness (Asha), Kingdom (Khshathra), appear
as the helpers of Man (Maretan); for whose soul, as in the old English
morality play, the Demons (Daevas) are contending. Allusions to the
resurrection and final judgment, and to the new dispensation, are easily
recognized in the spirited words of the prophet. A prose rendering of
this metrical psalm is here attempted; the verse order, however, is
preserved, though without rhythm.
A PSALM OF ZOROASTER: YASNA 30
Now shall I speak of things which ye who seek them shall bear
in mind, Namely, the praises of Ahura Mazda and the worship
of Good Thought, And the joy of [_lit_. through]
Righteousness which is manifested through Light.
Hearken with your ears to what is best; with clear
understanding perceive it.
Awakening to our advising every man, personally, of the
distinction Between the two creeds, before the Great Event
[i.e., the Resurrection].
Now, Two Spirits primeval there were twins which became known
through their activity,
To wit, the Good and the Evil, in thought, word, and deed.
The wise have rightly distinguished between these two; not so
And, now, when these Two Spirits first came together, they
established Life and destruction, and ordained how the world
hereafter shall be, To wit, the Worst World [Hell] for the
wicked, but the Best Thought [Heaven] for the righteous.
The Wicked One [Ahriman] of these Two Spirits chose to do
evil, The Holiest Spirit [Ormazd]--who wears the solid
heavens as a robe--chose Righteousness [Asha], And [so also
those] who zealously gratified Ormazd by virtuous deeds.
Not rightly did the Demons distinguish these Two Spirits; for
Delusion came Upon them, as they were deliberating, so that
they chose the Worst Thought [Hell]. And away they rushed to
Wrath [the Fiend] in order to corrupt the life of Man
And to him [i.e., to Gaya Maretan] came Khshathra [Kingdom],
Vohu Manah [Good Thought] and Asha [Righteousness], And
Armaiti [Archangel of Earth] gave [to him] bodily endurance
unceasingly; Of these, Thy [creatures], when Thou earnest
with Thy creations, he [i.e., Gaya Maretan] was the first.
But when the retribution of the sinful shall come to pass,
Then shall Good Thought distribute Thy Kingdom, Shall fulfill
it for those who shall deliver Satan [Druj] into the hand of
And so may we be such as make the world renewed, And may
Ahura Mazda and Righteousness lend their aid, That our
thoughts may there be [set] where Faith is abiding.
For at the [final] Dispensation, the blow of annihilation to
Satan shall come to pass; But those who participate in a good
report [in the Life Record] shall meet together In the happy
home of Good Thought, and of Mazda, and of Righteousness.
If, O ye men, ye mark these doctrines which Mazda gave, And
[mark] the weal and the woe--namely, the long torment of the
wicked, And the welfare of the righteous--then in accordance
with these [doctrines] there will be happiness hereafter.
The _Visperad_ (all the masters) is a short collection of prosaic
invocations and laudations of sacred things. Its twenty-four sections
form a supplement to the Yasna. Whatever interest this division of the
Avesta possesses lies entirely on the side of the ritual, and not in the
field of literature. In this respect it differs widely from the book of
the Yashts, which is next to be mentioned.
The _Yashts_ (praises of worship) form a poetical book of twenty-one
hymns in which the angels of the religion, "the worshipful ones"
(_Yazatas, Izads_), are glorified, and the heroes of former days. Much
of the material of the Yashts is evidently drawn from pre-Zoroastrian
sagas which have been remodeled and adopted, worked over and modified,
and incorporated into the canon of the new-founded religion. There is a
mythological and legendary atmosphere about the Yashts, and Firdausi's
'Shah Nameh' serves to throw light on many of the events portrayed in
them, or allusions that would otherwise be obscure. All the longer
Yashts are in verse, and some of them have poetic merit. Chiefly to be
mentioned among the longer ones are: first, the one in praise of Ardvi
Sura Anahita, or the stream celestial (Yt. 5); second, the Yasht which
exalts the star Tishtrya and his victory over the demon of drought (Yt.
8); then the one devoted to the Fravashis or glorified souls of the
righteous (Yt. 13) as well as the Yasht in honor of Verethraghna, the
incarnation of Victory (Yt. 14). Selections from the others, Yt. 10 and
Yt. 19, which are among the noblest, are here given.
The first of the two chosen (Yt. 10) is dedicated to the great divinity
Mithra, the genius who presides over light, truth, and the sun (Yt.
Foremost he, the celestial angel,
Mounts above Mount Hara (Alborz)
In advance of the sun immortal
Which is drawn by fleeting horses;
He it is, in gold adornment
First ascends the beauteous summits
Thence beneficent he glances
Over all the abode of Aryans.
As the god of light and of truth and as one of the judges of the dead,
he rides out in lordly array to the battle and takes an active part in
the conflict, wreaking vengeance upon those who at any time in their
life have spoken falsely, belied their oath, or broken their pledge. His
war-chariot and panoply are described in mingled lines of verse and
prose, which may thus be rendered (Yt. 10, 128-132):--
By the side of Mithra's chariot,
Mithra, lord of the wide pastures,
Stand a thousand bows well-fashioned
(The bow has a string of cowgut).
By his chariot also are standing a thousand vulture-feathered,
gold-notched, lead-poised, well-fashioned arrows (the barb is of iron);
likewise a thousand spears well-fashioned and sharp-piercing, and a
thousand steel battle-axes, two-edged and well-fashioned; also a
thousand bronze clubs well-fashioned.
And by Mithra's chariot also
Stands a mace, fair and well-striking,
With a hundred knobs and edges,
Dashing forward, felling heroes;
Out of golden bronze 'tis molded.
The second illustrative extract will be taken from Yasht 19, which
magnifies in glowing strains the praises of the Kingly Glory. This
"kingly glory" (_kavaem hvareno_) is a sort of halo, radiance, or mark
of divine right, which was believed to be possessed by the kings and
heroes of Iran in the long line of its early history. One hero who bore
the glory was the mighty warrior Thraetaona (Feridun), the vanquisher of
the serpent-monster Azhi Dahaka (Zohak), who was depopulating the world
by his fearful daily banquet of the brains of two children. The victory
was a glorious triumph for Thraetaona (Yt. 19, 37):--
He who slew Azhi Dahaka,
Three-jawed monster, triple-headed,
With six eyes and myriad senses,
Fiend demoniac, full of power,
Evil to the world, and wicked.
Back to Full Books